Actions

Work Header

Of Queens, Knights, and Pawns

Chapter Text

Leia awoke to a brisk “Get up, your Highness.” and a shove at her shoulder.

She mumbled an instinctive protest “General.”

A harsh laugh filled her ears “The rebels so desperate they put you in charge?”

Her eyes flew open. She was in a cargo hold.  There were stormtroopers all around her. The inherent strangeness of this took a few moments to settle in her mind before warning alarms went off. She was on an Imperial shuttle. There was a long bench in front of her stretching out along the side. She was sitting up, sandwiched between two stormtroopers. The one on her right, the one who had been talking pulled her up to her feet.

She looked down. Her hands were cuffed together.  They were also a lot smoother than they had been last night. When she laid down, on her own bed, on D'Qar. She was wearing that ridiculous ceremonial white dress from her youth. She looked back up and noticed the company of stormtroopers in the back of the interior of the shuttle. There were at least fifteen of them, all who were wearing the old Imperial style armor. They were quietly talking among themselves and Leia could smell the faint aroma of the cleaning oil they used on their weapons in the air.

“What?” she asked out loud, the sheer impossibility of what she was seeing stealing her wits.

The stormtrooper on her left chose to answer her. “Have a nice nap your highness?” She tilted her face in his direction. He didn’t disappear in a poof of smoke. He remained distressingly real and smug “You won’t be so relaxed after he’s done with you.”

She opened herself to the Force. This had to be a vision or a nightmare of some kind. Han’s death and the destruction of the Hapan system had clearly done something to cause her to hallucinate. She needed an anchor to guide her out of this.

She felt at first that there was another presence here. It was close to her, distressingly close, with it’s dark and imposing aura. A blackness that ate everything around it. But the quiet desolation, the helplessness, the apathy, underneath all that anger puzzled her. Who was on this ship with her? It was no one she knew, therefore no one she could trust.

“Luke,” she whispered, reaching out with the Force. There was no response.  He hadn’t answered her call in years. But instead of the impression of a door not being answered, there was a feeling of vagueness around him. That bright flame was there, he wasn’t dead. But it was diffuse somehow. Leia wondered what the hell she had fallen into this time.

The door to the cockpit opened and Leia turned her head, curious about the other Force user that was here. The tall figure emerged from the entrance and Leia felt her world give out underneath her.

“Lord Vader,” the stormtrooper who held her arm stated. “The prisoner is ready.” Leia’s breath whooshed out of her body as her mind started yelling at her to run, run, run. She had forgotten the eerie breathing, unconnected to his voice.  She had forgotten how the armor gleamed under the lights like a dark reflection.  She could only stare in horror at her worst nightmare made flesh.

“Take her to cell block on level 5 for processing, while I give my report.” He glanced at her for a moment, then stalked away down the gangplank.

“Come along.” the trooper pulled her after him towards the hanger heading to an elevator on the right side. Leia wasn’t sure how her legs were moving, it was all she could do not to fall to the ground and scream her denial.  

   

 

The walk into the elevator and hallways passed by her in a haze. She offered no resistance and perhaps more telling no snide comments to the troopers increasingly escalating taunts. It wasn’t until she was escorted into her cell that Leia managed to shake off her shock.

In the confines of her prison, Leia began to pace the small space. This felt real. It was completely impossible and she had never even heard of such a thing happening. But this was no vision. She touched the walls, the smooth cold implacability of them. The background chatter she had heard on the way here. And the smells around her. Men in armor and being confined in to a small area with only recycled air.  Generally, force visions didn't have smells associated with them. She punched her fist into the durasteel wall. Her hand immediately began to ache and pulse in pain. Not a dream.  

She looked around, it was just as she saw it in her nightmares. The black walls with mica flecks. The top three feet of the ceiling in the front and back, leaning in to make the space feel even smaller than it was.  There were the grates on the ceiling with the faint red light glow to them to be paralleled with the grates on the floor with the soft white light. There was the bench along the length of the far wall. No blankets or pillows to sleep on. The toiletries were in the corner.  She shivered, the air was biting cold. Every detail, every scrap of this was meticulously correct.

“Think,” she whispered to herself. Panic wouldn't get her out of this. Making and implementing plans would get her out of this. Treat this as real. Believe it is real because everything around you says it is. Break this down into its component parts. She had no clue as to why she was here. Then it was irrelevant. Next problem. If she didn’t know how she got here she didn’t know how to get back. She would learn nothing here in this station about anything, so she needed to escape. What is your next step in order to do that? Vader will come along shortly and interrogate you for the location of the rebel base. You won’t give it. Tarkin will threaten Alderaan and….

Save Alderaan! Leia’s breath caught, she felt herself fall back onto the seat on the power of that realization. Her home was still here. It was still out there in the galaxy, she could save it.  If this was real she could save them all.  If this was real, she would be altering the timeline as she knew it in a fairly large way. She pondered this for all of two seconds. The damage was done, she realized. The timeline is already altered by her mere presence. There was no way she could stand by passively and let what happened unspool in front of her again. All she needed was time anyway. Luke, Obi-Wan, and Han... Her mind skittered away from that name, the pain so fresh her breath caught. Move on, if this is real he is alive, they were all still alive, and they were coming for her. Her presence here would have no effect on that sequence of events. She just needed to wait it out.

She could give Vader Dantooine, like she had to Tarkin so long ago. After a bit of his mind probing let him see that information “accidentally”. No, she realized with a sinking dread, that wouldn’t work. The shields in her mind. The ones she had reluctantly let Luke teach her how to build. She had seen the sense at the time. Being able to keep out any unknown Dark side users certainly had its advantages. But now, they would doom her. Her shields were too good for an amateur, and she wasn’t skilled enough to hide them. Vader would know she had been trained. And his next question would be by whom.

Dropping them wasn’t an option either. There was so much she needed to keep from him. Both of the Death Star’s fates, all the future plans of the alliance, General Kenobi, Yoda, Han, Ben, Luke, and herself. Yes, she had kept him out before, but then she was only trying to keep one thing from him. It had been like trying to keep a drop of water steady while someone was pushing her.  Now she would be trying to keep a pool of water in her hands without spilling a drop. So, no torture, avoid torture by any means necessary.

So just tell him the name of the base when he walks in here. What would happen then? Vader was thorough, he wouldn’t just simply take her word for it. The moment his mind touched hers to confirm what she told him, Vader would know about the training she had gotten from Luke. She would be right back where she started. How to avoid that? The answer was there is no way to avoid it. She frowned, so what if she went the opposite way? What if she told him about them?

Yes,” a voice in the back of her head that sounded of Han “Brilliant plan. Tell him you're thirty-four years from the future and in that time some Jedi will teach you. I’m sure he’ll believe that .” She laughed at the ridiculousness of Vader’s reaction to that statement. Then she thought the scenario through fully. Why wouldn’t he believe her?  She wasn’t lying, he would sense that. It definitely wouldn’t be anything he was expecting. Shock and curiosity might intrigue him enough to play along. She would have to be very careful and very clever to keep him away from subjects that would be dangerous to discuss, but it was doable. So buy for time, until Luke and Obi-Wan came for her. Do not get tortured, do not reveal anything important, do not lose your focus.

So, stick to telling the truth. From a certain point of view.

 

 

When he did come, Leia was forewarned by that dark cloud of power surrounding him. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise the closer he came. She stood up from the bench, where she had been meditating to steady her mind, and chose a position in the center of it. She wouldn’t cower in the corner this time.

The door opened and for a moment Leia forgot every lofty idea and thing she planned as his presence overwhelmed her. Earlier, on the flight deck, she hadn’t been this close to him. And she had been in such shock she hadn’t been paying attention to the details of him. They were coming back to her now. As he descended the stairs and came to meet her she wondered on how she could have forgotten that he actually was that tall. It wasn’t just her fear amplifying how he loomed over everyone. His mask, shaped to resemble a death head, with its sharp angles and inky black eyes, was close enough to a face, with an eerie lifeless look, to give anyone nightmares. Then there was the breathing, that steady and imposing sound that boomed even louder than normal in the small room. The noise of it sent shudders down her spine. She had forgotten,  the steady rhythm of it. It was enough to drown out the increasing high pitch of the interrogation droid.

“And now your highness we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base.” The door thumped closed behind him, in perfect time to his words. The theatricality of the gesture snapped Leia’s focus. She had to be here, not then. Then she noticed the two guards, dressed in black, standing at attention on either side of the door. She had forgotten about them, in her rush to prepare for the larger threat that Vader was.

“Is it still Imperial procedure that these ‘sessions” she sneered the word “aren’t recorded?”

There was a pause “What?” Bafflement, she was off to an excellent start.

“Is this being recorded?” she asked again.

“No,” he informed her, speaking slowly “this is not.”

“Good,” she stated firmly. Now there was a sense of puzzlement. As if he was trying to guess what game she was playing. Yeah, he’ll have good luck with that, the voice of Han whispered on her mind.  

“You are going to want to send them away.” she put on her best imperious voice that politics had taught her, as she waved at the guards.

“I will?” he seemed to be on surer footing.

“Yes, I have several things to say that you won’t want Tarkin to hear.”

“Blackmail?” now he seemed amused. “I thought the standards of a member of the Imperial Senate would preclude such an act.” Was the sarcasm really necessary, she wondered to herself.

“You are going to want them to leave,” she stated again. She didn’t need witnesses to this little dance, and the fewer people in the Empire who knew what she was going to say the better.

“Very well.” he dismissed them with a wave of his hand. The second one pulled out a small remote and the door whooshed open. Vader watched her, clearly trying to see if she was going to rush the door, but she merely stood and waited for the door to close before speaking again.

She pointed to the droid, which was beginning to hurt her ears with it’s high pitched tone. “That won’t work,” she stated flatly.

“I assure you, Princess, that it will.” that deep voice boomed.

She took a deep breath, centering her mind, and allowing her instinctive irritation at the title of Princess fall away. “When I say that it won't work I speak from experience, not conviction.  This won’t work. Your droid pumps me full of drugs, that fails. You bang at my mental walls, that fails.  Tarkin threatens Alderaan with this mechanical abomination. That also fails. I am not telling you where the base is.”   

There was a pause “Experience?”

She snorted  “Yes, I went to sleep on the worst day of my life and woke to find myself in the past on the second worst day of my life.  As experiences go, I don’t recommend it.” She began to speak louder to compensate for the increasingly louder torture droid.

There was uncertainty around him now. He tilted his head studying her for a moment. Then he made a gesture and the droid ceased its insistent high-pitched whine. Leia sighed internally with relief. He had decided he wanted to play along.

“This is an interesting approach to avoiding interrogation.” he said.

“You think I am lying?”

“No,” he replied “You believe you are telling the truth.  But a weak mind can find refuge in many different ways.”

She raised her eyebrow “You think I am weak minded?”

He paced three steps in front of her then the size of the cell forced him to stop and turn and face her.  His arms clasped behind his back he stared at her “No,” he admitted, “I do not.”

She shrugged. “An impasse then.”

“What you claim is not possible.” he informed her.

She bit back her first response, took a calming breath, and settled for “Yet here I am.” she gestured to the cell around her.

“Why confess such a thing to me?  If this is true, you have the events of the future at your disposal.  That would make you a more valuable source of intelligence, not less.”

Well yes, but the alternative was worse. “You would have figured out something was wrong the minute you touched my mind.”

He huffed, and she felt the absent-minded feel of that power touch up against her shields. Then rage, bitter, sharp, and cutting, filled the Force. He straightened to his full height, and stalked up to her, his boots eating up the small space. Leia forced herself not to cower back as he came to a stop inches from her.

“You are a Jedi!”  he hissed. Such loathing in that one word.

“No.”

“Your lies will not save you, your highness.  Not here.”

“I am no Jedi.” she gave a short bitter laugh “But the Force is strong in my family.” She looked over his shoulder at the now quiet droid. She lifted a finger and it spun in a gentle circle, squealing in protest. She returned her gaze to his mask. “I will not be left defenseless on any battlefield Lord Vader. I was taught how to shield myself and to move small objects, no more.  A few small tricks only.”

She could feel his rage cooling slightly and he pulled back, giving her a bit more space. “And who taught you?”

Now a real smile crossed her face “A very wise loved one.”

“The name of this Jedi? “ he demanded.

She shook her head. “No. There are many things I’ll tell you, but not that.”

He did that abortive walk again, clearly trying to think. She took a few breaths to calm herself, while he was distracted. Keep him off balance, keep him angry, but do not provoke that full throated rage. He would charge ahead and she would lose what little control she had in this situation.

“I am clearly dead in this future of yours.” he finally settled on.

She breathed out of her nose, “Yes.” trying to keep the triumph out her voice

“How?” he seemed resigned more than anything else.

She considered that for a moment, weighing the damage this could do. Then she mentally shrugged.  Let the bastard know “Palpatine killed you.”

“I see.” he didn’t seem shocked by her answer. He continued his pacing.

Her eyebrow shot up. “You don’t seem surprised?” Mentally Leia berated herself. Stupid. Don’t ask questions, just answer.

Now he shrugged “It is the sith way. There is a Master, and an apprentice. To achieve mastery the apprentice kills the Master. Failure to do so leads to the death of the apprentice.”

She stared at him “That is a horrible way to live.” Why was she still talking? She didn’t care about any of this.

“You wouldn’t understand the ways of the Dark side.” he intoned gravely “It's true power is only for the strong.” She cocked her head, something was off about that statement. He wasn’t lying, not directly. He believed it. No, he said it like he should believe it. That was interesting. Let’s pull on this thread a little further.

“I was told that only the weak fell.”

He waved his hand dismissively “A lie the Jedi tell themselves. It is only the strong who survive the sith way.” He sounded like Ben then, in that last frantic conversation she had with him before he ran off. For a moment Leia felt the cell she was in closing in on her as her thoughts strayed to her son. He had sounded so lost and determined. She couldn’t make sense of the rambling monolog he had given her, and then the transmission had been cut off. By him, she later learned. Then, of course, she learned just what he had done before he placed that call to her.

She shook herself mentally.  She hadn't expected these particular echoes in everything around her. Not here and now. In a conversation with Vader, of all people. But maybe that was the point. Maybe it wasn't just Alderaan she could save.

He had gone back to his pacing, still clearly trying to figure out what to do next. “Why did you fall?” she asked, hoping her voice was steady. This wasn’t initially where she imagined this conversation going, but needs must.

He stopped, and his head tilted to the side “What?” Confusion radiated off him.

“Why did you fall? What were you thinking?”

“You can not possibly be interested in joining me.”

So he clearly did understand that about her at least. But he could possibly have answers to some of the questions she had about Ben. There wasn’t anyone else she could ask, even in her own time. She had to be gentle here, though. Luke had told her how badly he reacted to being called by his old name. “You had another name, another life.” she clarified “Why walk away from that?”

Panic, sheer clawing panic. “You know who I was?” He was suddenly walking back from her as if she was unexpectedly a much more dangerous foe than he expected and he needed the distance.

She frowned. This wasn’t expected. She was expecting anger, or perhaps denial, not this overwhelming sense of helplessness. “Yes?” she answered uncertainly, not understanding the cause of his mood change.    

The feeling only intensified. She found herself in the odd position of offering reassurance. Him panicking over this wouldn’t help her here. “I am not going to tell anyone.  Who would believe me?”

His posture relaxed, a little. The pacing resumed, however, so he clearly believed her, but was uneasy that she knew. “I ask you again, who is your tutor?” Well, that was one of the least subtle subject changes she had heard. But until she understood the source of his panic she would play along.

“No one you have met yet.” she retorted.

“But I will meet them.” he pressed

“If I had my way, no. Their first encounter with you did not go well.”

“If I did not kill them on the first meeting then it went very well for them.” he informed her “There has only been one Jedi that has escaped me.”

She blinked in surprise and worked hard to keep it from showing on her face or in the Force. He was lying to her. That part was irrelevant. The more interesting issue was the subject of this lie. General Kenobi was, at this time, the only Jedi she knew who had escaped him. There were there others?

“Did the second encounter go better for them?” he followed up.

She thought of Luke’s haunted eyes and the nightmares that followed Endor. He had achieved one form of peace, but he paid a heavy price in other areas. “No”

“Because they will fail in trying to kill me?”

She snorted. “Who says they tried?”

“You were not lying before. The Emperor will kill me. So clearly this ‘wised loved one’ failed.” Again with the sarcasm.

She gave out a small laugh “Oh, no. Succeed in exactly what they were aiming for. Big goals, big heart, and a clear vision will get someone far in this life.”

“You love them. Dearly.” he seemed surprised. Was she somehow deemed incapable of love by some weird Sith metric?

She gave a small wan smile “My other half. And again I state, you will not learn their identity from me, no matter how many questions you ask around the edges.”

“Who taught them then? Or does this fanatic loyalty extend to everyone?”

“I find that life is often the best teacher.” she informed him primly.

There was a noise of irritation “Don't play word games with me.” There was a pause, as he was clearly thinking of likely possibilities “Was it Jarrus?”

Damn, now he was getting specific.  “No, it was many people.“

“The Jedi are all but extinct. There are not many of them left that aren’t accounted for.” He paused for a moment, seeming to gather himself. “Ahsoka Tano?”

“No,” she said, surprised into giving a straight answer. She hadn’t know Fulcrum was a Jedi.

There was a long silence “Was it Obi-Wan Kenobi?” That name was said with a sense of anticipation. And there was a sense of longing? Yes, it was longing, swirling in the Force. Longing for what? Anticipation at the thought of killing Kenobi Leia understood, but longing?

While interesting, this line of thought was irrelevant. She didn’t see any way she could wiggle out of this one. She didn’t want to disrupt this delicate dance between them by lying directly to him, and giving him Yoda’s name was out of the question. It didn’t much matter, in the long run, Kenobi was coming and the difference of a few hours wouldn’t mean much. She had known going in that he would probably come up.

“Yes.”  she conceded.

There was an ugly sneer in his voice “He lives?”

“Do you feel that I am lying?” she sneered back.

“No.” He walked away from her, to the door as if he wanted to go out now and start the hunt. Leia blinked, just like that and the Rebel base was no longer important? Well if she had known that it was that important to him she would have told him about it first thing and sent him on his way to Tatooine. It would have bought her those hours she needed without having to endure his presence. By the time Vader reached that dustball, Kenobi and Luke would have been long gone.

He reached the door and then stopped. “Do you know where Kenobi is now?” So not so distracted that he didn't want directions.

“No.” She had a good idea vaguely where he was, but not the particulars.

“Do you know where he has been hiding the last twenty years?”

Leia hesitated. Vader was from Tatooine.  He might wonder the why of the General’s chosen planet of exile “Some outer rim world.”

“Like the one, we caught your ship circling?” he inquired.

Damn, he had put that together. “Yes.”

“Obi-Wan Kenobi spent the last twenty years on Tatooine?” he asked incredulously. “If I had designed a prison to hold him it couldn’t have been worse than that.” There was malicious glee in his voice now. Clearly, he held no love for his home world.  Having been there Leia found herself in the odd position of agreeing with him. Between the Hutts, sand, and the hostile natives it was not a planet one spent time on voluntarily.

“What did he do to you?” she asked, curious despite herself.

“He is the reason I am in this suit.”  So Luke had been told the truth about that. They had wondered. Well, she had wondered aloud and Luke hadn’t chastised her about questioning the veracity of it.

“His mistake then. He should have let you burn, then killed you.” she nearly bit her tongue. Where had that come from? Well, she knew where it had come from. It was just a lot harder than she anticipated being in this room with him. She took a breath, she had to stay focused.  She could not let this get personal.

“Such hatred your highness. I wonder why?” He pondered this a moment. “The force is strong in your family. Your parents?” he murmured, looking to her for confirmation, “One of them was a Jedi?” Now he was venturing into it.

A deep breath in. This is the truth, let him hear it, no matter how it stung personally. “My father.”

“Ahh, that would explain why Bail knew to forge your test results.”  She shrugged. Truthfully she had no idea how her father had gotten her around it.  The blood test was mandatory for all Imperial citizens. This was safer ground to be on. She had nothing to say.

"And did I kill this man, Princess?” She cocked her head, startled, why had he jumped to that conclusion?  “Is that the source of this rage towards me? Your long lost Jedi father?”   

That was a little too close to the truth for comfort. She embraced the rage this question provoked and let the ice into her veins “You torture me, twice.  Ripped apart my family, hunted down almost everyone I love, and left a poisonous legacy in your wake.  Isn’t that enough?”

There was a snort of derision, for all that it was distorted by his vocoder. “Not for this, no.  This is deeply personal for you, this hatred.  I can sense it all around you.”

She hissed “Yes, in a way I suppose you did destroy him.” Let him sit on that.

"I can tell you I probably took no pleasure in the act.”

“And can I tell you what a great comfort that is to me.” she answered snidely.

“It was a necessary evil, the Jedi had lost their way. You would found your father a poor substitute to Organa.”

She laughed bitterly “On the whole, you're probably right about his fitness as a parent. That doesn't mean you were justified in what you did. My family isn’t the only one who was ripped asunder by you. The whole galaxy has paid for your decisions and I want to know why!”

“I owe you nothing. But why does this concern you so much?” his condescending tone grating on her nerves. Owed her nothing? He owed her everything.

“My son fell.” she shot back, losing control of her temper, and giving him the truth before she thought better of it. He paused, visibly surprised.  

His head cocked “Then he is lost.”  He didn't sound gleeful or triumphant, just matter of fact.

She shook her head in denial. “No,” she stated firmly “he is not.”

“It is not possible to return.”

“It is.” she insisted.

“Your highness, this is not a case where you can apply your will and make it happen.  It is not possible.” he lectured.

But it is. You did it.  She bit her tongue, that was not a revelation she could disclose without disastrous consequences.

“Are you afraid of the powers he has embraced?”

Was he being deliberately slow?  Did he ever wonder about them? Plan and hope for hers and Luke’s future. “No,” she said slowly as if talking to an especially obtuse politician  “He is my son. I want him to be happy.  To fall in love. To laugh. To have joy. None of these things are what the Dark side offers.”

His sudden stillness at that statement was unsettling “Then he is fortunate indeed for such a mother.” There was a twinge there as if she struck something deep within him. Leia considered the basics of what Luke had known about their paternal grandmother. Shmi Skywalker had been a slave. She had been freed and married her former master.  She had been murdered by sandpeople.  She had been held in high regard by Luke’s aunt.  But Leia had never delved into any more than that with Luke. Now she was regretting that decision. Without knowing more she was reluctant to go forward on that point.

“How did he fall?” Vader asked. He genuinely seemed curious.

“Why do think I keep asking you?” she huffed.

“I have no answers for you. I fell when the Jedi betrayed the Republic.“

Oh, that was rich. “You betrayed the Republic.“

“You speak of things you do not understand.” he chided her.

“Because you won’t answer my questions. I don’t ask for my own amusement.” To buy time yes, but not for fun.

“You should ask your son.” he shot back, annoyed.

She gave him a disbelieving look  “I would, but he doesn't exist yet so that would be difficult.”

“Don’t be obtuse. You should have asked him then.” His anger was growing again, and she found hers rising to meet it at his deliberate evasion of her questions.  

“I tried,” she hissed through gritted teeth “but all he said was he was embracing his destiny and he ran away.”

“Ran to where?”

She opened her mouth to answer and shut it closed when she realized she almost told him about the First Order. She had been so focused on following this thread that she almost forgot the point.

“Ah” he murmured “he found the Emperor didn't he?”

“A lecherous old man poured poison into his brain, yes.” she flung back.

“He has embraced the truth. You should too.” Darth Vader was lecturing her about personal truths? Han would have fallen out of his seat laughing if he had known.

‘“Yes, how noble, a government of thugs and tyrants. We should all aspire to such lofty heights.” she sneered.

“The Empire brings order. It brings peace.” he insisted.

“According to the Sith peace is a lie. That it's about power.” she retorted, using the little knowledge of Sith philosophy she possessed.

“There is no order without power.” he intoned, neatly sidestepping the thorny issues with Sith ideology “Without power, there is only chaos.”

Who exactly was he trying to convince with that line? “And the people who won’t and can't fall in line?  Are they simply the collateral damage to your quest for order?”

“If they will not obey then yes, they brought it upon themselves.” Did he truly believe this nonsense? That even the smallest defiance brought about wholesale destruction? That this was the price to be paid for galactic order?

She hissed “How convenient for you.  Anything that opposes you is the enemy of peace, instead of simply wanting to live their lives and be left alone.  And who are you to decide what is best for the entire galaxy?”

“Not me.” he said slightly mockingly “Someone wise.”

Her mouth fell open “Palpatine! Palpatine! You thought he would be a good choice for a dictator? Someone who cares for nothing but himself? You looked around a galaxy of sentient creatures and thought he was what was best for the galaxy?”

“He was all I was left with.” Her eyes narrowed, there was something there. Some thread of despair and grief that teased the edge of her senses. She shook herself mentally. No, that was not was she wanted or needed answered right now. It was time to bring this conversation back to its original question.

“I am not interested in a philosophical debate about tyranny versus democracy. I want to know why you fell.”

“You do have an extreme interest in events that happened long ago. Why do you care?” now exasperation was joining the anger from him.

“Do you see a plethora of fallen people around? Is there an abundance of Force users in this galaxy that I missed somehow? As much as it galls me, you are the only one I can ask. I need to understand what happened to my son.”

His hands fell to his belt as he considered this. “That isn't the whole truth.”

“You don’t have children,” Was that a flinch from him? “so maybe you can’t understand why I want him back. If I understand why you walked away from everything you had, maybe I can understand why he did too. Why he hurt me so badly?“

“You said you didn't talk to him after he fell. What did he do afterward to cause you such pain?” Of course, now he chooses to pay attention to what she told him. Then ask the most painful question of them all in the bargain. Her pain, the pain she had lived with since Luke told her about him since she had understood what had been stolen from her, since Ben fell to the same madness, since that madness had cost her everything she worked for, spilled over its dam in her mind. And with it came it’s twin emotion, her anger. She stared at the man who started all of this  He had thrown them away for some power mad sith and some skewed philosophy about order, power, and acceptable losses. Choices that everyone she loved were still paying for thirty years later.

“He killed his father!!” she howled, her frustration with him freeing her tongue. “He killed him and half a galaxy away I felt my heart being ripped out and couldn’t breathe from the pain. And I want to know why he turned his back on everyone who loved him. Betrayed everyone who loved him for the false promises of a deranged old man who did nothing but lie to him!”

His answering rage in the Force was shocking in its abruptness. She had gone too far. Something she had said ripped away his control and that simmered anger was now in full force. The voice coming through the vocoder dripped disdain and loathing “Your hatred of me pours through those of those oh so careful Jedi shields my lady. To you, I am the clearly the unredeemable monster and he is only ‘lost’. Yet what have I done that he has not? You ask and ask why I fell, but I tell you this your highness, the answer will not save your son. Not now and certainly not then.”  He leaned down, his mask almost touching her. Leia felt her a tendril of fear travel down her spine, worried for the first time that he might actually kill her before he learned anything useful from her.  She wasn’t sure if he was aware of anything but of his desire to hurt her.  “He is dead. What is walking in his place is not anyone you would give an ounce of compassion to under any other circumstances. Are you willing to extend the ‘mercy’ of your forgiveness simply because he is your blood? How hypocritical.”

Because he was her blood? It was because of her blood that the whole damn mess had started. Because of this towering dark mechanical half droid of a man. Who had killed her father, her mother, her planet. The amount of pain he had inflicted on the galaxy and the legacy of pain and betrayal he had left for her, Luke, and most especially for Ben. For a moment Leia was voiceless in her fury.  And he dared to compare himself to Ben? It was his fault her son was even a target. Her snarled words were spit in his face, caution discarded as she went for the most damage she could inflict. “Jealous there was no one to forgive you for killing your wife?”

The Force contracted so sharply around Vadar it hurt to feel the whiplash of it. Then it snaked out and wrapped around her throat.  Leia, in her panic, instinctively scrambled for the hands that weren’t there. “No,” she thought and forced her hands to drop. The left one formed a fist and for a moment she focused everything she was into it. With a definite gesture, she punched as hard as she could into the air in front of her. Vader cried out as the Force hit him in the solar plexus, shoving him clear across the room. Those invisible hands suddenly stopped. Gasping Leia sank to her knees, breathing in air and trying to ignore the fine tremors brought on by her rage.

“Why did you fall?” she rasped, her throat ached. There would be a ring of deep bruises around her neck later.

He didn’t answer her. Just leaned against the wall, orienting himself.

"Why?” she repeated as she slowly climbed back to her feet.

He shook his head in a silent denial.

Damn him. Damn him. Damn him.  For once in his miserable existence, could he give her something besides loss and betrayal. “Why?” she wailed.        

“FOR HER!!” he screamed, loss and pain coming through even through the monotone, almost garbled into incoherency.  “All I saw everywhere was her death. No matter what choice I made!! The Jedi only told me to accept the loss and let go. But Palpatine, he promised he could save her!! I lost my mother, I wouldn’t lose her!” Then the rage simply vanished as his head fell, exhausted, from its wake. “And it was for nothing.”

Leia knew this fear. Knew it in her bones, like an old unwanted ache. She had borne it through the long years of fighting the Empire. Through the years of ‘peace’ of the New Republic. Through the bitter slog with the First Order. When your entire world is taken from you, it leaves you with that fear. With that constant voice telling you to hold on as tight as you can, to those you love, for they will be taken away.  Or worse, they will be used against you. Like Ben had been used against her. Like she had been used against Luke. Oh yes, she knew this, all too well. It was to live, driven by loss and pain so sharp you would do anything to make it go away.

“I failed.” he continued on “All I had left was me, Palpatine, and a galaxy in chaos. The Jedi made me a weapon, so a weapon in full I became. I would bring order to the galaxy.  And I let nothing stand in my way.”

“You went back to what you knew,” Leia said hollowly.

“Yes.“ he agreed dully, not reacting to her dawning horror about this facet of her personality. Maybe that wasn’t so surprising. The pain and grief that was around him scorched her mind. Had he ever truly mourned this loss? Had he ever confronted it at all in the last nineteen years? Or had he done the same as her, burying herself so deep so that she only had to dance around the edges of it?

For a moment, Leia felt sorry for him.  For Vader, of all the people in the galaxy. Then the word “her” snagged in her mind, and the rage and pain came again.  He hadn’t thought of them, hadn’t seen them.

“You bargained for her but not the child.” she spat, righteous indignation filling her.

Vader's head turned “The child?”

“Yes the child.” she repeated, annoyed at this dimness on his part.

“No,” he said in a slow measured way “I did not because Palpatine did not know.”

That was not the expected answer. Leia wasn’t sure how to process this. Vader hadn’t told Palpatine? Why?  

He continued in that strange thoughtful way. “I didn’t tell anyone and neither did my wife.” Leia blinked. Why was it a secret? Why wouldn’t they tell anyone? Possible blackmail?  Safety protocol? There was a war on. He had been a high profile General, and Padme had been as equally high profile in the political sphere. Leia knew, better than anyone, the vulnerabilities of having a young force sensitive child.  “I am left to wonder how you know about my child. Or that I had a wife. It was forbidden among the Jedi, and neither of us told anyone.”  Oh, no. She had misstepped. Badly. Luke hadn’t told her this bit about Jedi doctrine.

Leia’s heart jumped “My father told me.” she improvised. “He said she died with a child.”

He rose to his full height abruptly “That is a lie.”

Too close, too close, too close, the Force sang.

“Was it Obi-Wan?” uttered with such confidence. He thought she was protecting his former teacher. Well maybe in his eagerness to hunt the old Jedi down he would believe.

“Yes.”

He paused, clearly surprised “That is also a lie.” He crossed the room again, cape nipping at his heels. “You contain a font of information about me that almost no one knows. Even after my death, I can think of no reason you would go searching for this, or why.  And when I ask for your source, this half honesty you have been dealing in dries up and you spit out lie after lie.” He grabbed the sides of her head between those strong metal hands, forcing her to look at him.   She could feel no give beneath the leather gloves.

“I didn’t go searching,” she protested “After your death, I wanted nothing to do with you or anything about you.”

His head tilted “That is the truth.” She let out a small breath of relief, but he continued relentlessly “Someone felt you did need to know.  Who was this person and why did they tell you?” Leia could feel those cybernetic fingers flex against her head in frustration. Her mind spun and she focused her eyes over his shoulder in a desperate attempt to avoid his gaze. The truth could not be said. Yoda was a name she could give.  In the shock of that revelation maybe he would buy it. She discarded that thought. It wasn’t even close enough to the truth for him to believe her. She had hit some deeply personal spots for him and he clearly wanted to eliminate the person who had such vulnerabilities on him.  Maybe Mon Mothma would work. She had told them about Padme.  As long as she avoided why Mon felt the need to tell her, Leia wouldn't be putting her in any more danger than she was already in.  She opened her mouth and the fingers around her head abruptly stopped their punishing pressure.  

Her eyes flew back to his mask.  He hadn’t released her, his hands still cupped her head but he was so still, except for his breathing. The Force, which had been swirling around them with his emotions just stopped. Leia felt like she had been taken out of a hot summer day and emerged into the stillest pool imaginable. Gently, he pushed her head from one side to another, examining her.  She could feel his focus, laser sharp, and for a second, just a second, she thought she saw a shadow of where his eyes were.

No. A voice, not her’s and not Luke’s, rang in her mind, filled with horror.

His hands released her head. They gently, so gently, reached down and they traced her neck. Exactly where he had only moments before been throttling her.

No. It said again, filled with denial now.

He backed away, stumbling in his haste. The Force, outside of that calm pool, was a maelstrom of too many emotions for Leia to identify.

NoNotAgainNoNotAgainNoNotAgainNoNotAgain. Was the wail of despair that echoed in her mind.

Leia flinched at the loud crack sound as it reverberated in the room.  She looked around at the walls as a spider web of cracks spread out along them.

“Did he know?” he choked out in a weird stuttering rhythm.

Oh Force please, please, please. Too late... “Did who know?”

“My alternate, did he know you were his daughter?”

Leia shut down. She sat blindly down on the bench behind her and curled in on herself as she simultaneously made herself as small as she could in the Force. Waiting for the blow to come.

“I see.” is all he said. Then he turned around and motioned for the door to open and walked out.

Chapter Text

Leia sat on the bench trembling. She tried to focus on breathing as she didn’t seem to be taking in enough air. She looked down to see her hands shaking uncontrollably and her leg bouncing up and down. Adrenaline surge, she thinks distantly, brought on by the fight or flight reflex. Trouble was there was no one here to fight, and she most definitely couldn’t take flight.  

Cold sweat broke out all over her body, making the cold room feel like it was freezing as her skin temperature cooled even further. What had she done? Where had she gone wrong?  He would tell the Emperor, she would be taken to Coruscant. Then everything would fall apart. Luke had told her once that the Emperor was far more skilled then Vader at probing one's mind.  Palpatine would learn everything she knew. Everything! Luke, Obi-wan, Yoda, all the future plans of the Alliance. Hell, there were probably details that she had forgotten that he could extract that would prove vitally important.

She needed to get out. She was trapped here. There was nowhere to go and Vader knew about her. The second best kept secret of the galaxy and Vader knew! How had he figured it out? She had been so careful! Hadn’t she? That didn’t matter. She needed a plan. Then she thought of her last plan and her mind circled back to the question of what had she done? And the whole vicious cycle repeated itself in her head.

“Focus,” she whispered to herself. “Dammit focus.” She stood up and began pacing the cell, in an effort to use the energy the adrenaline surge had given her. She needed to save the rest of this break down for later. Vader knew, soon the Emperor would know, and she had gambled everything for nothing, her panicky thoughts reminded her. How was she suppose to focus on anything but that?

That was not the problem at hand. She would worry about that later because focusing on that part now would do her no good. Later, when she was free of here, she would deal with the fallout of this. Right now her best option, hell her only option, lay in escaping. Modify the plan she had. She had no plan. Then she needed to come up with one. What were her assets right now in this cell? Leia sat back down on the bench and began taking deep breaths, trying to force her breathing to fall back into a more natural rhythm as she tried to somewhat get a hold of herself. Assess the situation, this is no different than any battle where everything has gone to hell and you need to make major adjustments on the fly. Treat this as a scenario you know and are familiar with.

She was in a cell on the Death Star. Disadvantage. Vader wasn’t currently torturing her. Advantage. He also wouldn’t be telling Tarkin that it was taking too long. Advantage. Tarkin would not be heading to Alderaan. Advantage. That part had gone according to plan, Alderaan wasn’t in any immediate danger. Even the disaster that conversation had turned into, there had been one objective that had been achieved. Vader’s unexpected departure had caused another problem, though. The interrogation had been too short, which meant Luke and Obi-Wan weren’t due for hours. Her entire world might have been rocked to its very foundation, but she doubted if that it had been more than thirty minutes since Vader had entered her cell.

She didn’t have hours, and that estimation was based on her remembering correctly.  Something niggled at the back of her mind at that thought. She leaned back against the cell and tried to center herself. Closing her eyes she began to focus on her surroundings. The hard bench beneath her, the biting cold air that was making her shiver, the unevenness of the grate beneath her feet. After a few moments, she felt the technique work as her mind began to exit its spiral of recrimination. What was she not remembering correctly? What had she overlooked when she threw this together? Recreate the events, from another perspective then. Luke’s family bought the droids. R2 had escaped, Luke and C3PO followed, they all ran into Obi-wan. Luke’s family had been killed, they hired Han to bring them to Alderaan. They found the Death Star instead.

Leia’s eyes flew open and she sat straight up. They had been heading to Alderaan. That is how they ended up at the Death Star. A planet that the Death Star was not currently orbiting or even heading to, thanks to her alteration. Leia had no idea where it was, but that didn’t matter. They weren’t coming here. In her fear and panic of finding herself here, she had overlooked the most basic element to her initial escape from the Death Star.

Is that where she had made her fatal mistake with Vader? Thinking she knew more than she did? Or worse yet, not accounting for the extra thirty years to fuzz the edges of her memory? She knew this room, intimately, it had featured in her nightmares for years. She had not forgotten one single horrible thing about it. But as to the rest of it? If so, she was paying for her hubris now. This was her worst nightmare come to life, Vader was alive and he knew, and she was stuck here. She felt her breath began to shorten again as that thought once again echoed loudly in her mind.

If she couldn’t trust her own memories of what happened, could she trust anything? If she was capable of forgetting a major detail as that, what else was she missing? Her fear began once again to eat at her mind, and she desperately fought for her self-control. She didn’t have time for this.  

When the door opened her head whirled so fast she almost saw stars. Then she cursed herself for not paying attention. But the action was enough for her instincts to come to the forefront. With something else to focus on, it was enough to break her mind once again out of its spiral. She braced herself, only to find three imperial officers standing at the entrance instead of Vader. She let out a small sigh of relief, then berated herself for, once again, letting her fear eat at her good sense. She would have felt Vader approaching.  He did not have the most subtle of presences.

They entered the room quickly and again the door came down with that ominous thump. The one in front was a lieutenant, ISB, if she was reading his bars correctly. He was dressed in the drab olive gray uniform of a commissioned officer.  He was flanked by two non-commissioned officers, dressed in black, their faces slightly obscured by their elongated round helmets.

“What did you say to him?” the officer in charge asked without any preamble.

“Excuse me?” She sat up straighter, tense and wary. This wasn’t how she expected any conversation at this point would go.

“What did you say to him? Lord Vader is barely in here, then comes stamping out, killing the two guards on the door and left the detention area.” He was watching her face intently, for her reactions. Then his eyes widened in shock and moved off her face to the wall behind her.  She was puzzled to what he found so fascinating about the walls until her eyes fell on the ones on either side of the door opposite of her. Those strong walls that were probably built to withstand laser tools, looked oddly pretty with the cracked damage. The amount of power it had taken to do something like that was not something to be dismissed. Leia shivered as she realized how easy it would have been for him to turn that rage onto her. The lieutenant was clearly coming to the same conclusion. His face ashen, he turned slowly in a circle, surveying the room, noting how extensive the damage spread. His voice wavered as he continued “Even for him, this is extreme behavior.”

Why in the hell would they care? It couldn’t be about the troopers. Vader had a reputation of killing his subordinates who failed him, this behavior couldn’t be that uncommon? Well no, the guards in the hallway hadn’t failed in anything. She was still here wasn’t she? Think this through as an Imperial. Why would Lord Vader kill them? Were they potential witness? Convenient targets for his rage? Practice? There had to be a reason for this impulsive action. And someone, somewhere, had decided they wanted to know that reason. Especially if they were already on the lookout for a soft spot or a bit of leverage on Vader.

“Not this one,” she thought, taking in his nervous body language “he is too far down the chain of command to take such a risk.” That left only one other option that was here on this station. “Tarkin sent you,” she said flatly.

“Yes,” he answered uneasily, clearly not liking the position this fishing expedition had placed him in. Caught between the two most ruthless commanders in the Imperial hierarchy. Vader would kill him if he found out he had been digging. Tarkin would kill him if he failed to get an answer.

“The Grand Moff is quite curious to what subject you brought up that has Lord Vader so angry.” He pointed to the device still hanging in the air mute, the solution of drugs still clearly visible in its needle “And since it’s clear that Vader didn’t use the droid, there are a whole host of subjects you and I will be discussing besides that one.” The color was returning to his face and his tone had slid into gleeful by the end. Clearly, this was someone who enjoyed the dirtier aspects of his work.

Wonderful, torture was back on the agenda. Well, she wasn’t going to tell this overconfident nitwit anything. That’s all she needed, Tarkin to find out about her parentage and weigh in on this fiasco. The fates only knew what he would do. Although it would be interesting what Vader would do to him in return, the cold analytical part of her mind whispered at her. If this whole situation hadn’t involved her life, she would have been delighted to have sown such dissension in the highest of the imperial ranks.

Then Leia focused behind her interrogator to the two guards flanking him. Their body posture was loose and relaxed. They clearly were here as a matter of protocol, not because they believed she was any danger to them. She frowned, it had been years since anyone hadn’t taken her as a real physical threat. Well, why would they? She was a spy, yes, but also a politician, and a very young one at that. She wouldn’t read to them as someone who would have enough training or knowledge to pose any real danger to them. They had no idea at all that Leia had spent years with the Rebellion, and then the Resistance. She was trained, experienced, and most of all desperate to get off this hell forsaken base.

Leia eyed the two soldiers, considered her options, and picked the one on her right as the best choice. She got up slowly from the bench, purposely keeping her posture loose and relaxed. She walked into the Lieutenant’s personal space and tilted her head up to look him directly in the eyes “Do you really want to know what I said to him?”

“Yes, traitor, I would.”

She gave the intelligence officer her best sunny smile and figured the truth would be enough to buy her the reaction she needed. “Lord Vader figured out that I am his biological daughter.”

The officer actually took a step back in his shock. More importantly, at least to her, the two guards swung their heads to her and seemed momentarily stunned. “What now?” the Lieutenant asked in a high pitched voice.

Leia took advantage of that precious moment of confusion and rammed her fist into the officer’s face. He cried out, backing away from her as his hands instinctively went for his nose, the blood already beginning to gush. Leia quickly grabbed the gun from the guard on her right and brought it up to fire at his companion on the other side of the room. The guard dropped to the ground as the blaster bolt hit him straight through the heart.

The guard whose gun she stole, managed to regain his wits and grab the arm holding the blaster. She dropped it immediately and twisted into his grip, bringing herself forward so they were face to face. She brought herself closer in so she could ram her knee into his crotch. He gave out a cry and his hand instinctively loosened the grip on her arm. He crouched over in front of her and Leia quickly grabbed his chin and the back of his helmet. With a quick jerk, she snapped his neck. Letting him fall to the ground she recalled her stolen blaster using the Force. The officer was just recovered enough to start reaching for his own weapon. Without hesitation, she shot him in the chest and he too slumped to the ground.

Panting, this body was not in the best physical shape, she waited to see if the soundproofing held. When there were no alarms or pounding footsteps she placed the blaster on the bench and got to work undressing the shorter guard. She undid her side buns and quickly wrapped her hair into a bun sitting low on her head. That finished she stripped off her ceremonial white dress.  

She ripped a strip of cloth from the bottom of her dress to make a makeshift breast binder. While females weren’t unheard of in the Imperial ranks, they were rare and they were almost never troopers of any kind. Hopefully, the ridiculously shaped helmet would hide her face from too close of an inspection. And it would give her the illusion of being several inches taller than she was.

The uniform wasn’t a great fit, too long in the leg and arms. The boots were bit bigger than she would prefer, but it would take a while for any blisters to form and she hoped to procure a replacement uniform before it came to that. The extra room on the sides of her leg did help as she stuffed the extra length of the pants down them. Hopefully, the ill-fitting uniform would give her some necessary padding to hide her slim build.

The sleeves were a bit too long but she would just walk with them clasped behind her. For someone who only wore black bare boned robes, the Emperor was fond of making the people around him parade in ridiculous outfits. Leia had no fond memories of the parties of the Imperial senate and court. The outfits were over the top, usually had enough feathers to kill a small flock of birds.  Or so much fabric the person in them could barely exit a room without a personal entourage to help them.  And these uniforms were the height of impractical. Looked scary as hell, a real liability in the field. This helmet reduced her visibility by at least a third.  Even if the uniform had fit her correctly, the sleek lines and super close fitting would cut down her motion range.  Even if they were very professional looking Leia preferred soldiers who could move.

She searched the officer's pockets for the remote access key. Imperial prisons didn’t have any interior panels to access the door. There was always a remote key on the highest ranked official, in case a quick exit was needed. She found it in his right pocket. She straightened up and headed a little left to the door, giving herself the smallest profile she could from the outside. She took a deep breath, released it slowly and brought the blaster up.  As ready as she could be she signaled the door to open.

There were no guards. She really hadn’t expected there to be any. Tarkin was limiting the amount of people who would be questioned by Vader about this “interrogation”. Given how much time the people at the top spent sabotaging each other’s efforts it was a wonder anything got done. The New Republic might have been hampered by bureaucratic infighting but the Empire was no better. And at least in the new government odds were good you would walk away from a screw up alive. Well, it had. She shoved thoughts of the fate of the Hosnian system out of her mind. It was fine, Alderaan was fine, Han was alive. If you want it to stay that way get moving.

She entered into the pentagon shaped alley, holstering the blaster as she walked, heading for the monitoring station. She kept her stride purposeful, but slow. Odds were fifty-fifty there would still be guards out there too. But there were definitely cameras in the room and any quick movements and running would catch someone’s attention somewhere. When she came to it, she let out a sigh of relief. For the first time since she had woken up, luck was on her side, there was no one here. She scooted around to the middle console and quickly brought up the footage of her cell. She needed to erase the last five minutes of footage….and apparently, the trio of agents had already taken care of that. She was staring at herself, sitting on the bench, looking pale and wan. She mentally notched up the interest Tarkin had in this. He clearly had gone to a lot of effort to hide from bureaucratic eyes that he sent those men into her cell. She wondered idly if he would have killed all three of them even if they had gotten her to talk. She shrugged, not her concern. The clock in her head was warning her to go and she walked to the elevators, leaving the level she was on.

 

Leia was too practiced at walking through places where she didn’t belong to let the fact that she didn’t belong here throw her. She strode forward as if this was the corridors of the Resistance base on D’Quar. No, her problem was the damn architecture. She wanted to gawk at the decor, with its black shiny floors, gray walls in it’s three exciting shades, with the circular red emergency lights along the hallway. The retro feeling of everything was casting a sheen of unreality to this. She understood she was in the past, but now she felt like she was walking into it, and it was unnerving as hell. When she came across a group of officers, she consciously had to avert her eyes, as she realized she was gawking. The imperial uniforms of drab gray-green were the same as her now dead lieutenant, but it had been years since she had seen this many in one place. The stormtroopers in their shiny white armor were also reading as fake to her. It wasn’t until she realized she was expecting the First Order’s version, with its subtle difference in design, did she understand why they were also contributing to the unreality of all of this.

She walked down the hallways, aiming to move outwards. She needed a hanger bay and she needed a terminal near it. Perhaps it was petty, but shortly after his death, the Alliance had cracked several Imperial routines. Tarkin’s last authorization code had been among the info dump. Leia had memorized it as a reminder to herself that even the most powerful could be brought down. She was somewhat smug in the fact that if she did make it off this base, it would be with Tarkin’s help. Being petty could sometimes save your life.

After about five minutes she found a port window, overlooking a hanger bay. There were three Lambda-class shuttles, sitting in the hanger.  It was a vehicle capable of lightspeed jumps. They weren’t fast, but Leia couldn’t afford to be choosy at this point. Grinning to herself she moved along the passage till she found a small alcove with a small bank of terminals for general use. Sitting in front of the terminal closest to the door she quickly entered into the system and looked for a floor plan of where she was. There was a supply closet not far from her that contained overstock of uniforms. Memorizing the location she then switched to the flight logs and selected the ship in the hangar that had been most recently been refueled. Creating an order, with Tarkin’s code as the authorized override, she set it for a departure in twenty minutes.  She then wiped the logs as best she could. She stood up, and then made her way down the corridors until she found the supply closet.

When she entered the closet she found it unoccupied, much to her relief. She grabbed an olive gray officer's uniform, quickly changed her clothes, and placed the black uniform, folded, in a pile with the others. Placing the helmet on a shelf lined with them she wished there was a shiny surface where she could check the neatness of her bun. She pulled the collar up, as high as it could go, hoping it would cover the bruises that were beginning to make their presence felt. Hopefully, the skin was just red, not blue and black yet, but she was running out of time on that problem. Leia snorted, she was running out of time on a lot of problems. She pulled the standard cap over her head and headed to the hanger.

When she arrived she gave the flight number to the mechanic on duty. After checking his orders, he waved her to the ship. Allowing herself a little more speed than necessary she hurried over to the open ramp.“Wait a minute.” a voice called out from behind her, full of authority. Leia swallowed her groan. Great, the deck officer wanted to chat.

“Yes sir.” she answered as respectfully as she could muster as she turned around to face him.

He was, as far as Leia could tell, in his mid-forties.  Average height for a human, with mousy brown hair, had a few burn scars across his left cheek, and an attitude that he didn’t appreciate anyone messing in his little fiefdom.

“Where do you think you are going in such a rush?” he asked.

Leia inwardly groaned. The honest answer was “Well you see officer I need to get out of here before anyone realizes I’ve broken out of my cell.”  She replied with “I was ordered to fly this shuttle to the Caamas Sector.”

“Yeah, I got the order. Still, doesn’t explain you moving out of here so quick,” he grumbled, clearly affronted by this disruption of his day.

“Look, sir, on any other day I would be more than happy to let you give me a hard time and dress me down and do whatever you want, but by any chance did you see who sent the orders down for this flight?” she asked, playing the part of harried minion.  

He gave an indignant huff as he looked down at his flight manifest “I don’t care what uppity Admiral thinks that he can just snap his fingers and…” his voice trailed off as he registered Tarkin's authorization on the order.

“Exactly sir,” she said, putting a little bit of pleading in her tone “look this is my first post, I was ordered to do this and got pulled out of my meal break. I was told put a hustle, move fast, and don’t ask questions.  I’m just trying to avoid the boot coming down on my head if I can at all help it.”

He swallowed, sympathy replacing his earlier irritation. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. Get going, I’ll tell the tower to clear your path.”

“Thank you.” she said, letting her gratitude suffuse her voice ”I owe you a drink when I get back.”

“Yeah yeah.” he said jogging off, Leia continued her ascent up the ramp.

She ran through the preflight routine and switched on the comms “Control tower this is flight alpha-delta-eighteen requesting permission to depart.”

“Departure granted flight alpha-delta-eighteen. Your path is clear to the meridian point where you are clear to enter hyperspace.”

“Acknowledged.” Leia fired up the engines and left the Death Star behind her, nothing but relief in her.

 

In hyperspace, Leia sat trembling for a few minutes as the adrenalin surge she had been fighting off and on for hours finally was allowed to move through her system. She had a bit of time before she reached Caamas and she could use every precious minute of it to calm the hell down. She removed the cap from her hair and threw it onto the console. She could feel the worry and the fear building and she took a few centering breaths. This was not the time, she still had a while to go before she could give into her shock, but on the plus side, she was no longer on the Death Star. So there was that bit of good news to cling to.

She couldn’t go to Yavin, not yet. Vader was going to get over his shock at her parentage soon if he hadn’t already.  With her no longer available for questioning he would go to the next best thing, Bail. Not to mention that without its destruction Obi-Wan, Luke and Han- and on that name her grief came rushing to the surface. He’s alive, dammit, focus on that.

They would all be there. That was a disaster waiting to happen. She had chosen the Caamas system for it’s proximity to Alderaan, it would only add an hour to the total trip time, hopefully, she would beat him there. Since she had used Tarkin’s own personal code, there would be no shuttle logged as stolen. They could spend hours in a futile attempt to find her on the station.    

So that left her with a plan that hopefully wouldn’t lead Vader, or Tarkin, to think that home is where she had run too. Drop into the planned destination, program the navicomputer for Alderaan, destroy the tracking transponder and jump out. Without anyone actually looking at her trajectory it would be hard for them to pinpoint where the ship had fled to.  

She darted underneath the flight console to check and yes, the standard transponder was there.  She would wait until she arrived at her jump point to yank it out.  Some of the newer models had alarms that went off if tampered with and she couldn’t get a good look it from this angle to determine which kind she was dealing with. No matter, it could wait.  Shoving herself back up to her feet she wondered if there was any food on this ship.  Her stomach was growling and she needed something to do so her mind wouldn’t dwell on the last two days.

She was surprised by the sob that broke out of her. “Not yet.” she talked to herself, as her chest constricted with the feeling of immense pressure. “No breakdowns until we are heading to Yavin.” There was an increasing amount of items on that breakdown list, but she shoved it aside. She needed to focus, get to Alderaan, get everyone she loved off it, and head to Yavin. It was the safest place in the Galaxy she could think of, a place where Vader couldn’t find her. She had been a soldier for too long not to take this opportunity to eat and rest and she moved to the back of the shuttle in search of just that.

 

When the console beeped with the proximity alarm, she awoke groggy and confused. She was looking up at a gray dull ceiling in what her muddled brain swore was an Imperial shuttle. This was not a nightmare she was familiar with having. Puzzled, she started to straighten up, only to find none of the expected aches and complaints from her back in payment for sleeping on a hard floor. Leia bolted straight upright as the details came flooding back. That beeping was the proximity alarm to Caamas, it was time to get to work.

It was somewhat anti-climatic. Leia had dropped into the system, and she had been hailed. Gave her flight code, and was given a wait time and vector to approach the planet. She had seen the green light of the navicomputer blink on, dropped under the console ripped out the transponder and destroyed it with a satisfying crunch. She hadn’t even heard a call from control as she punched it out of there. Only twenty minutes left and she would be home.

Leia felt herself fidgeting and barely able to hold still in her chair. Her thoughts were whirling in a confusing mixture of hope and disbelief. What if Tarkin had come here immediately after discovering her missing and demanded she show herself or he would destroy the planet? What if Vader decided to come here to grab Bail before continuing to talk to her? What if this was not her timeline but one very similar to hers and everyone was already dead? What if, despite all mounting evidence aside, this was a dream and she would wake up just when she got there? When the console beeped again with its approach warning Leia, with no little feeling of apprehension, dropped out of hyperspace.

Alderaan filled her viewscreen. It hung there, a shining orb of blue and white. The mountain ranges, that were so famous throughout the galaxy for their beauty topped with snow. The wide oceans, with their deep blue, framed the continents. The Isatabith rain forest, with its light green canopy, that she could see the entirety of from space. Leia didn’t even try to suppress the sob that came out of her mouth.  She tentatively reached out a hand to the glass, stroking the image that she could see there, in all its wonderful full dimensional glory. This was no holo-recreation. This was real, it was here, and she was home. After thirty-four years of exile, she was getting to come home. It was not a field of asteroids that was even now starting to form a ring around the sun. Or will start forming a ring. Or, and her breath caught on this, or never become that desolate sight if she succeeded in this.  

She shook herself out of her euphoria, this was only the first step. She could revel in all of this later. For now, she had a mission that needed to be filled or this was all for naught. She was hailed by the local control tower.

“Unidentified shuttle, please state your name and purpose.”

“This is phoneix eight two nine. I am here to see the Prince consort and Queen. It’s a surprise package they have been expecting.”

There was a long pause at the other end as her phrase, identifying her as a friendly in a hostile ship, and identity code as the princess was absorbed. Then the voice came back on “The path is clear. I’ll inform them.”

She turned her controls to the main continent and the mountain range where the royal palace was located. As she approached her tension mounted up. They were here. Papa and Mama were here. She didn’t know what to do with the riot of emotion rolling through her. As she approached the landing pad, located south of the palace, she noticed the other familiar vehicle parked there.  It was the Millenium Falcon. Leia was surprised by the feeling of tears forming in her eyes. They were all here. Except for Ben, her entire family were here and so gloriously alive.

She landed and quickly shut the shuttle down. She ran into the bay, lowering the exit ramp, cursing under her breath at its slowness. Even before it completed it’s journey down she was moving, and as soon as she hit the ground she was running towards the entrance to the main building on the far side.

Mid-way there two figures came out of the door. Bail was first, and the moment he saw her he started running his long legs eating up the ground. Breha gathered the front of her skirt in one hand and followed. Leia continued to run until her father’s arms were around her. “Papa,” she whispered brokenly, returning the embrace as tightly as she could. Her mother's arms wrapped around her from her back, and she cried. The feeling of them pressed so close, she could touch them, was touching them, was almost more than Leia could bear.

Please don’t let this be a dream.” As she clutched them tighter to her, she prayed to whatever had improbably brought her here, “Please, please, let me keep this.”

Chapter Text

Leia wanted nothing more in the world to stay here. This, right here, was a place that she had so longed for, dreamed for, to have it suddenly available to her was almost too much. If this impossible thing could happen, maybe she needn't worry about anything else. Just for this moment. It was that thought that broke through her joy. She knew better, her long life had taught her better. If she wanted to keep this she needed to gather her wits and fight for it. She pulled back from her parents and they both faced her concern written on their faces.

Bail, his voice shaking, asked  “Leia, what happened? The last official word we heard was your ship had been raided and all aboard were killed. Then General Kenobi arrived, not twenty minutes ago and told us that you had been taken by the Empire. How did you escape?”

She shook her head “That doesn’t matter. We need to leave.” She turned from them, intending to start the walk to the palace to get Kenobi and her brother.

“Leia” Bail said soothingly, catching her arm “I understand you’ve probably had a very trying experience. But I need to know what happened. Did you reveal anything to the Empire?” And just like that, the concerned parent was overtaken by the Rebellion leader. She had done the same thing too often in her own life to take offense.

“Vader caught me, took me to the Death Star, and I escaped.” She avoided answering about how she escaped, she didn't have the time now to go into this. She pulled her arm, trying to escape his grip. “All you need to know is we need to leave, and we need to leave now.”

“No Leia,” Bail shook his head “You need to leave. Preferably with General Kenobi as an escort. Your mother and I need to stay here and mitigate the damage to our people.” Now his voice changed to his lecturing tone “I appreciate, as your father, that when you ran you first thought to come here. But I had thought you knew better, you should have jumped to a more neutral location and then headed to Yavin. You have placed us all in danger.”

For a moment Leia was flabbergasted. While she understood, from his point of view, it did look like she had made a rookie mistake, she was irritated that her father would think she would ever make such an error. Yes, the first thing most people do when fleeing for safety is to run to a place that was known to them. But she would have never made such an error, not even when she actually had been nineteen. He trained her better than that. “You don’t understand,” her fear was catching up with her now, making her voice shriller “All of us need to leave this planet. You need to give the order for all the servants to scatter and burn everything. This is not a guess on my part, Vader is coming. And he’s coming for both you and Mama.”

Breha spoke up in a soothing voice “You can’t know that Leia.”

“I can and I do. I don’t have time to explain. Just please trust me.” She couldn’t tell them everything, they think she had run mad. Hell, she was living it and she wasn’t a hundred percent certain she could trust her sanity. And they didn’t have time to argue about any of it.

Bail’s face revealed his skepticism “You're letting your fear of him rule over your sense. Why would Vader come here looking for me? Especially since it sounds if he didn’t have time to interrogate you?”

She gritted her teeth, they weren’t listening to her. All they saw was their nineteen-year-old daughter who had a traumatic experience and was babbling at them. She had no idea if a bit of the truth would be faster, but it might be enough of a shock to get them to go.

“Vader knows Papa.”

Bail frowned “Knows what?”

“He knows that I’m his biological daughter.” she said flatly.

Bail paled, “What?” Breha let out a sharp gasp.

“I came here for you.” she pointed at her father for emphasis “I couldn’t trust this intel over the comms. I came here to tell you to flee. Once he realizes I am no longer on the Death Star, you are his best option for information.”

Bail swayed, shock written all over his features. Breha stepped towards Leia, tentatively asking “He told you that you were his daughter. And you believed him?

Leia felt disbelief bleed through her. She had just told them their worst nightmare had come true and her mother's first reaction was to lie to her? For what, to protect her? It was too late for that, thirty-four-years too late. “It’s not a question of believing him or disbelieving him.” she told Breha flatly “I know it’s the truth.”

Bail made a pained noise “When did you find out?”

“Does that matter right now?” she asked exasperatedly.

Bail shook his head “No Leia,” he said shakily “It matters. This matters more than you can possibly know. It is the most heavily guarded secret in the galaxy. How did you learn it?”

She glared at him, that wasn’t even close to the truth. “I thought that was Luke. Although, if that's the case, letting him keep the last name Skywalker was putting a giant target on his back. Knowing how Vader feels about Tatooine you might have been smart leaving him there, but overall I’m not sure how much thought you and Kenobi put into this whole plan.”

Breha admonished “Leia!” at her scathing tone but her father’s face drew in itself “You know about Luke?” he asked

“I know a lot of things. The most important being we do not have time to spend arguing about this. We have to go.

Bail nodded quickly “You are right, Vader will come. We will discuss the rest of this latter.” He turned around and quickly headed back to the entrance to the palace. She followed with her mother close behind her.

She followed her father down the corridors of her childhood home. For a second the sensation of vertigo overcame her and she couldn't figure out where she was. She fought down the panic. This was home, this is where she wanted to be. It was here, whole and in one piece. This was a long-denied dream then why was she feeling like a stranger, a ghost really, walking among its familiar passages?

They entered the great stateroom of the palace. She stopped at the edge of the grand arch leading into the room and stared in wonder. She had forgotten, how had she forgotten, the sheer scope of the room, with it’s two-story high arched ceiling. The clear windows that lined the four walls reached almost as high, bathing the room in the natural light of the setting sun. The warm clear marble that lay on the floor was the work of master craftsmen, laid out with contrasting patterns in various shades of blue. It was wide and welcoming, the work of generations of Alderaanian rulers. It was the history of her people, bright, open, welcoming, with innate grace and power, writ large.

Breha gave Bail a quick glance and said hurriedly, “I’ll handle the evacuation order and get our affairs in order.” She sailed past them, going on into the hallway leading further into the palace.

As Leia stared in wonder at a sight she never thought to see again, her roving eyes landed on the occupants standing in the middle of the room. There, within the confines of her home, were General Kenobi, C3PO, R2 and Luke. She slipped into the shadows of the room, not sure she could trust herself right then on her reactions That’s all that was needed now, her sobbing all over everyone.

Luke, she studied first. Her brother was a bright beacon in the slowly fading light, with his all white tunic, and matching pants. His blonde hair shined in the light and he was discussing something with Obi-Wan before Bail pulled the older man away. Luke stood there, looking a little lost as stood alone in the huge imposing room. Luke was here. Luke with his presence in the force soothing her in a way that was difficult to explain. She had often wondered what their bond would have looked like if they hadn’t been separated, another cost Vader had imposed on her life.

Then Han entered the room, Chewie at his heels and she couldn’t breathe. The cocky grin, tight pants, and black vest were like a vision to her. A familiar, beloved, if much younger, vision, as familiar to her as her own reflection. He was here, and her heart leaped to see him safe. Then he turned to face Luke and for a moment she caught the expression on his face has he acknowledged that she was in the room, and moved on as if she wasn’t important. The reality of where she was was came up and hit her like a cold splash of water.  

This wasn’t Han. Leia felt her heart sink as she realized she was nothing but a stranger to him. It was Han, not a doppelganger or some weird variation that the timeline had spat out at her. But it wasn’t her Han. He was young, younger than Ben, and his eyes still held that cynical light that said he was out to screw the galaxy as much as it had screwed him. It was a look that had eased the longer he was with her. With Luke. Even Lando helped with that. And Ben, especially Ben. The look of wonder when the midwife had placed Ben in Han’s arms for the first time had made her cry tears of joy for the first time in years.

This Han didn’t have that. He had Chewie, but that was it. On soul among the billions in the galaxy that loved him for him, and wanted nothing more from him than him. This was the Han who was the cynical smuggler, who would bite off your hand of friendship, convinced you were going to strike him. Even later, after all, that had happened, her Han had never lost hope. He would never have confronted Ben if he hadn’t.

Han was dead. Because their son had killed him. Leia swallowed the wail that wanted to come at that thought. She had forgotten, over the chaos of the last two days, for such precious moments, that harrowing reality.

Bail finished with his conversation with Obi-wan, turned to Han “We are appreciative of your help Captain Solo, but we are no longer in need of your serves.”

Her mind retreated into a kind of numb detachment. Should she let him go? Would it be better in the long run for him? And her? She hadn’t thought the full ramifications of this. She had been so focused on Han being alive, that she had missed the fact that this too was open to change. She wasn’t young anymore, she knew the particulars of how they would fall apart. Was she even capable of risking her heart to this Han at all? Would it be better, for both of them, if she and Han never come together at all? Her Han had hope, yes, and he had learned to trust again, but Ben had broken all their hearts. Would it be fair to subject him to that again? Leia shoved that thought aside, that was a question for later.

Mentally she shook herself, now wasn't the time for this. Right here and now, this wishy-washy debate was pointless. They actually did need Han. There was no telling how long it would take them to find another ship that the Empire wouldn’t immediately flag as possibly containing them if it was an Alderaanian model. Han could be trusted, he was here, and any minute they could save was precious.

Leia spoke up for her shadowed corner in a firm voice. “Yes, we do.” All the men turned and looked at her in surprise. Her father, for her public contradiction, Han for her statement, and Obi-Wan for...was that amusement in the Force? Well, she was glad someone was finding laughter in all this.

Then there was Luke. He was radiating surprise and embarrassment because she had startled him. He hadn’t known she was there. Leia couldn’t even remember the last time her brother wasn’t intimately aware of where she was and what she was feeling. This was Luke, clearly excited to see her, drawn to her like she was to him, but it wasn’t her Luke. He hadn’t walked with her, he didn’t know the sorrows she did. She was alone. She was in a room surrounded by her family and Leia had never felt such crushing isolation. She shoved past it, escape now, breakdown later, she reminded herself.

Bail looked over at her and frowned “Leia…” he said warningly, shooting a worried look at Han. He didn’t trust him. The thought was so ludicrous Leia almost laughed. Well, she knew Han Solo’s mettle and to what length one could trust him, even this young brittle version of himself. She laid out her case. “They won’t be looking for his ship, he’s here, and no friend to the Empire. I’m sure we can pay whatever ludicrous price he’s sure to set.”

Her father opened his mouth to argue “We don’t have time, and we can’t take the one I stole. That will definitely be on all Imperial watchlists. It needs to be scuttled.”

Breha entered the room at a brisk pace. “I’ve given the order for everyone to depart. Captain Salano had agreed to take the Imperial ship to the base.” They all stared at her “Waste not, want not.” she explained “An Imperial shuttle is an Imperial shuttle. I’m sure someone will find a use for it, and he’s willing to take the risk to fly it out of here.”

Han’s face went smooth and easy as he slipped into his bargaining persona, as it dawned on him how tight of a bind they were in. “It will be an extra ten thousand.”

“Done.” Leia agreed. She could have gotten him to eight, but she didn’t have the time to barter. Or the heart.

His eyes shot up at her easy agreement “Well, you all are in a big hurry.” he commented wryly.

“More than likely there is going to be an entire Imperial garrison here in less than an hour tearing this place apart looking for me. We’ll pay your inflated price.”

He gave her a disbelieving smirk “You're an awfully little thing for such a fuss.” as he eyed her slowly from head to toe.

Beside him, Luke have an indignant squawk “Don’t you have any manners? She’s a princess!”

She eyed Han right back, thought he was playing with a pampered spoiled brat did he? “And you are in possession of one hell of a scrap heap to be that cocky.”

“Hey!” he said indignity, rising to the defense of his ship  “She’s got it where it counts.”

“That’s what all men say.” she sniffed delicately.

“Leia!” Bail barked out, reproach in his tone for her manners.

Chewie let out a bark of laughter. <She has you their pup> he informed Han gravely. Leia felt her face turn red as the implications of her flirting in front of her father, her father, sank in. That hadn’t been an issue last time around.

“I believe in showing not telling.” Han muttered “Transfer the funds now. I have a feeling most of your legit accounts are about to be seized.” Leia couldn’t contain the wince that his mistrust struck in her. It was stupid, she knew it was stupid, he had no reason to trust her. But that didn’t remove the hurt his words provoked. Bail noticing her discomfort opened his mouth to rebuke Han, but she beat him to the punch.

“We honor our debts Captain,” she told him, internally wincing at how frigid she sounded right then. She wasn’t sure she could manage anything else, though. “It is the Alderaan way.”

“It is also our way to give respect to those who give it.” Bail’s voice was of frosty disapproval. Wonderful, now her father didn’t approve of Han.  

Breha, in a quiet firm voice that brooked no argument stated, “I’ll see to your payment.” to Han. Clearly deciding the matter settled she turned to her daughter “While we have the chance you might want to change out of that.” she waved her hand over the Imperial uniform. Leia nodded her assent and walked out of the room, deliberately not introducing herself to Luke. Right now she could only handle one loved stranger at a time.

 

Leia walked into her closet and selected the most practical outfit she owned for Yavin’s moist atmosphere. A pair of practical brown trousers with a light fabric off white tunic to go over it. With its sturdy fabric and clean lines it would give her the movement she needed. Pulling on her boots she walked to her dresser to survey the knick knacks clutter on its top. Leia had been on the run too often in her life to really miss things, but this feeling of sadness as she was surrounded by tokens and mementos of her childhood wouldn’t leave her.  It was likely to be overrun with Imperial forces in a matter of hours, a day if they were lucky.  

She grabbed her to go bag and then quickly grabbed the photo holo in her dresser.  In her youth, she had never considered anything but the practical in her survival bag. Extra clothes, a few blasters, credits, all standard fare. But now with the hindsight afforded by her strange circumstances, she knew these holos were to be her greatest treasures. There were so many loved ones whose faces were blurred in her memory. So many places here on Alderaan that had lost their crispness in her recollections. Even if all went well, it would be years before she could return here. She slung her bag and walked once more out of her home.

 

She met her father in the hallway, and together they exited the palace.

Striding up to the Falcon, she was dismayed to see Han leaning against the ascent ramp, hands in his pockets. She wasn’t ready for this. Bail, picking up on her hesitation murmured softly “We can find another ship if he bothers you that much.” She shook her head in denial.

“We need to go, he’s here. It will be fine Papa,” she assured him. He gave her a reassuring smile, then continued on as Leia paused momentarily to gather her courage. She never had this issue in actual fights, why did it have to sneak up on her when her heart was involved? As her father walked up the familiar ramp, she shook herself. Now was not the time to wallow. She jutted her chin up and strode up to the Falcon.

“Well I’m sure the interior is not up to your exacting standards your worship, but she’ll get you where you need to go.” Han greeted her as he straightened up from his slouch.

“You wouldn’t know a thing about my standards Captain.” she tried to keep her voice even on that bitter truth. She kept her pace firm and brisk. Just keep going, one step in front of the other.

“My name is Han Solo. In all the fuss of you coming in and bossing everyone around I didn’t catch your name?” he asked from behind her.

Leia froze at that very logical question. How many times could her heart break today? Leia had the sinking feeling she was about to find out. “It’s Leia Organa.” she managed, turning to face him.

“Not Princess Leia Organa? I hate to offend your sense of decorum.” he offered with mock politeness.

“No.” He’s trying to get a rise out of you. Do not take the bait.

At the lack of explanation, he shrugged “Well everybody else is on board, so if we could move along I would like to avoid another Imperial blockade today.”

She didn’t even have to think before her pride was answering for her. “Was that supposed to impress me?” So old patterns were definitely harder to break then Leia thought. The problem was it was only her side that knew this playing field.

“Yes. It’s not every day that occurs, I should know. Tell me, what did you do today that was so much more impressive?” He leaned against the bulkhead, smirking. So goddamn sure of himself. Screw it. Let’s take him down a notch. He could use some humility.

“Well,” she said, tapping her forefinger on her chin in mock consideration “I was interrogated by Darth Vader, escaped an imperial battle station, stole a shuttle, and managed to find my way home with no one tailing me.” She gave him a wide mocking smile. ” But sure, if you want we can compare that to you running a small blockade on some no name outer rim world. That especially deserves praise since you are a smuggler, and I would have thought you do that all the time.” She left him dumbfounded in her wake.

Han’s fears were ungrounded because it’s only when he’s sure nothing can go wrong, everything does. They left Alderaan's orbit, without an Imperial in sight.

 

Once they had entered hyperspace her father turned to Luke and said in a quiet voice, “My apologies, but I need to steal General Kenobi for a moment. There are things that we need to discuss with him privately.” Luke gave a bemused nod and wandered over to the cockpit.

Leia, walked down the corridor, headed for the secondary hold. Her parents, and Kenobi following in her wake. This room would do, there was seating, as long as you didn’t mind it was crates, and it had a door. She settled herself against the far right wall, leaning against it for support. This was not a conversation she wanted to have sitting down. Her parents followed her into the space and settled themselves on the long high crate, her mother looking faintly bemused as she took in the mess around her. Kenobi chose to stand near the wall opposite to her, a questioning look in his face, as he examined her.

“What did you wish to discuss that was so urgent and in privacy?” the Jedi addressed the room. So her father had decided to leave the telling to her.

“Vader knows I’m his child,” Leia said flatly, crossing her arms over her chest.

Obi-Wan’s face was more schooled than her father’s but the surprise was still clearly there. “What?”

“Vader knows about me. But he doesn’t know about Luke, I made sure that of that. You are going to need to speed up my brother’s training.”

Obi-Wan shook his head as if to clear it. “I’m sorry your highness, but how do you know any of this?”

A human male appeared suddenly in the room, next to Kenobi. He was tall, with a long face, hair, and a large nose. He was dressed very similarly to Kenobi. He was also slightly blue. “Tread carefully Obi-Wan, there is something odd about the Force around her.”

Leia started out her position leaning on the wall, her hand instinctively going for the blaster at her side, remembering just in time that shooting a ghost would do her no good. “Who the hell are you?” she demanded.

Both the ghost and Obi-Wan’ focus sharpened in on her. “You can see him?” Obi-Wan asked.

“He’s standing right there.” She gestured to the man.

Bail, an intense look of worry on his face said gently. “Leia, there is no one there.”

“That is not entirely correct,” the ghost contradicted mildly. Bail and Breha both jumped to their feet, as presumably, their unwanted visitor made himself visible to them. “When I make an effort I can be visible to those without training,” he explained to Leia and her parents, then those sharp eyes came back to her. “Which leads me to some very interesting questions about where you received your Jedi training, your Highness?”

Bail frowned “She hasn’t had any. We didn’t want to draw attention to her.”

Obi-Wan shook his head “She can see him Bail, that says otherwise.” She felt the lightest of touches brush across her shields and Obi-Wan’s frown deepened. “You also are aware of your connection to Vader and Luke. Do you have an explanation, your highness?”

“Leia.” she said, biting her tongue on the automatic correction to General.

He smiled softly “Leia, then.” he acknowledged “When and how did you learn any of this?”

Leia sighed and rubbed her forehead. This was going to be fun. ““I’m from thirty-four years in the future.” The looks of disbelief on their faces wasn’t a shock. But after the day she had, she wasn’t sure she could sustain any questions of her sanity. Looking to the door, to avoid reading their expressions, she began reciting the facts as she understood them

“I went to sleep, on my own bed, and everything was perfectly normal. I woke up on an Imperial shuttle with absolutely no explanation. The when I learned is four years from now, or thirty years ago from my perspective. The how I know is Luke told me. He learned that Vader was our father and the fact that we are siblings, from Yoda. Who, as far as I know, is currently living in exile on Dagobah. Luke is also the one who gave me my limited, and I cannot stress this enough, limited training in the Force.”

Obi-Wan’s voice was full of bafflement and disbelief “I’m sorry. Did I hear you say you're from the future?”

Leia swung her gaze to meet his eyes calmly “Yes.”

Breha made a small noise. When Leia looked over inquiring her mother looked at her sadly “You’re telling the truth aren't you?” she asked, hope and fear warring on her face. “That is how you know all this.”

Leia nodded her head “Yes, I am. I know how insane it sounds. I’m living it and I can’t wrap my head around it, but it is the truth.”

Her mother gave a small sob. Concerned Leia started to approach her, but she was waved off “Thirty-four years I’ve missed,” she explained “It’s a lot to take in.” Leia felt her heart ache. Her mother thought that she was staring at younger versions of her parents, instead of the frozen versions they would forever be. No not forever, she had changed that, they were here, not dead with their world.

Obi-Wan gestured towards her, disbelief clear in his voice. “That is not possible.” His ghost companion merely looked thoughtful, though.

She could have laughed at the irony. “Vader said almost the exact same thing when I told him too.”

Bail came forward at that “If all of this is true, and that is a big if, why would you tell him that Leia? You just made yourself more valuable to him, not less.”

Leia shrugged “I didn’t have many cards to play, and a lot to conceal. I thought if I told him the truth he would be intrigued enough to keep to questions about the future.”

Bail sputtered “So the first thing you tell him is you are his daughter?”

“I am not his daughter,” Leia snarled, this rejection cutting her to the core. “I am your daughter.”

Breha came to her, sweeping her into a hug “Of course you are.” she whispered “You are our Leia. That was never in doubt.”

She closed her eyes at the feel of her mother’s pain. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice muffled by Breha's shoulder. Then pulling away she turned to her father and repeated herself “I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that. It’s just been,” and here she rubbed her forehead “a really long two days for me.”

Bail got up and enveloped her in his own hug “Leia,“ he whispered “of course, of course”

She shook her head and moved away from her parents embrace. If she stayed she would just end up sobbing uncontrollably. And this was a conversation that needs to be had here, in the relative privacy of the Falcon. Besides they had so many pitfalls in the coming conversation that if she cried at every one they would never get through everything. Starting with their dead guest.

She faced their unnamed ghost “But I have to say in all that time you never came up.”

His mouth twitched as if he wasn’t sure to be displeased or amused “Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn at your service my lady.” he gave a smooth bow.

“General Leia Organa.” she said by way of introduction, tilting her head to return the courtly gesture.

“General,” Breha questioned “Not Princess or Queen?”

“No” she made the statement as curt as possible, this was not the time to get into that. “So I have a name Jedi Master Jinn. But that still doesn’t explain who you are and why you are here?”

“I am an interested party,” he answered cryptically. Wonderful, either talking in riddles was a Jedi thing, or it was a force ghost thing.

“He was my master,” Obi-Wan explained “and while I was on Tatooine he continued in that role” So cryptic was a force ghost thing.

“Wait,” Leia frowned. “I thought Yoda was your master.”

“Yoda trained most of the younglings before they were accepted by an individual master.”

She gave out a frustrated sigh “Did you tell Luke anything that was true?” she demanded.

He gave her a startled look “If I am to believe you, then I have no idea. I don’t know what my alternate told him.”

“Anything you have said up to this point falls into that category Master Jedi.” she pointed out.

“Obi-Wan.” he insisted.

“Obi-Wan.” she agreed out of politeness.

He looked thoughtful as he gave her question some consideration. “Everything I have told him about the Force is true. I did train Anakin, he was a Jedi knight. The lightsaber I gave him did belong to your father. Anakin never mentioned it was for his children, I figured one of you should have it.” That damn lightsaber. The one Rey said Ben was obsessed with. She shoved thoughts of her son aside. He was a problem for a different day. A different decade even.

“Everything else being true from a certain point of view?” she asked sarcastically.

His smile was wry “That’s actually quite clever. Who said it?”

“You did.”

Qui-Gon snorted his amusement. She eyed him, but he offered no further comment. Then the thought occurred to her that he might know more about what had happened to her then he was letting on.

“You are one with the Force, correct?” Whatever the hell that meant. Luke had gotten terrifyingly vague about that concept.

“Yes General,” he answered. “I died long ago on Naboo.”

“Do you know what happened to me? Have you ever heard of anything like this?”

His somber eyes regard her “I’m dead, not omnipotent. And what I sense around you,” he waved his hands in the air, vaguely drawing her outline with the gesture  “The Force curls around you in odd angles, like it is trapping you here,” He paused clearly thinking on how to explain this to her “Time doesn’t move for me like it does for you. Like the Force itself, time is everywhere and nowhere. They are bound together in ways that are very hard to put into concrete concepts the living can understand. And since I am part of the Force, and it’s a part of time, I can move along that line backward and forward to a limited degree.”

“How limited?” she asked.

“Too limited to travel as far forward as you seem to have come. I retain an essence of myself in the Force, and that is the leash that binds me. There is no power in this galaxy that comes without a price your highness, and this is the one I pay. If I let myself go fully into the Force, I could, of course see that far ahead, but there would no longer be enough of me to care. And I’ve never seen a living being able to go backward and forward like this at all. My training master was considered one of the finest historians on the odder legends surrounding the Force in all it’s uses. He never mentioned anything like this to me. ”

Leia’s heart plummeted “You don’t think I can get back.”

He shook his head “No, I don’t. I don’t know why this has happened or how, but I don’t think there is any way for you to return while you are among the living.”

She swallowed. She couldn’t focus on this now. She hadn’t had much hope really that anyone could help her, but to hear it in such finite terms was disheartening. She had only looked at the positives of what she was facing, it hadn’t occurred to her that the costs were just as high.

“Wonderful,” she muttered. Bail looked at her with dawning comprehension. She could see the thoughts pass over his face.  If a long ago dead Jedi Master was standing in front of him, explaining metaphysics of all things, it was certainly in the realm of possibility that what she said was the truth.

Obi-Wan cleared his throat “While I don’t want to trivialize your situation Leia, I do have more questions about your conversation with Vader.” he said gently.

Leia focused back on him. He was right, she knew he was right. If she was truly stuck here, they needed to know what amount of damage they were dealing with. She nodded at him to continue.

“I doubt you would be foolish enough to tell Vader of your parentage. I assume he tortured that information out of you?”

Her parents looked at her horrified. “No,” she said emphatically, trying to reassure them. “There was no torture. He figured it out. I thought I was being careful, but apparently not enough.”

“Forgive me General” Qui-Gon stated. “but those marks around your neck speak otherwise.”

Leia had forgotten about them. Turing, she spotted a reflective surface and winced when she saw how dark the bruising had become. She gave a bitter smile. “No this wasn’t him trying to torture me. I’ve been tortured by Vader, I know what that entails.”

Bail looked horrified “He did torture you?” he asked disbelieving.

Leia frowned as she realized she had slipped in her words. “Not this one. The other one. The one in my past.” She got looks of bafflement, even the ghost looked confused. Force be damned, but tenses were very confusing right now. “The Vader from when I was actually nineteen, he did torture me.” She ran her fingers lightly around the bruises “The Vader here and now, he was trying to kill me at this point.”

“What did you say to him?” Obi-Wan asked. “What brought this on?”

“Obi-Wan!” Bail snapped, clearly defensive at the thought the the Jedi thought she deserved what had been done to her.

Obi-Wan waved his hands in the air, a look of dismay on his face. “I’m sorry. Too much time alone in the desert without talking to other people. I am clearly out of practice at it. I wasn’t trying to imply blame. What I meant was how did you provoke him to that? Vader is no fool, you are clearly an asset worth keeping alive.”

Leia grimaced, this would not look good in the eyes of her parents. “I lost my temper, and told him that he was jealous that there was no one there to forgive him for killing his wife.”

“Leia” Bail breathed horrified, “how could you be so foolish?”

“And cruel?” her mother asked disappointed “If we are to be as mean as our enemies are we no better than them?”

Given everything she had suffered at that creature’s hands, Leia wasn’t much in a forgiving mood. Ever. Breha meant well, she knew that, but that didn’t coverage the twinge of discomfort that gently chiding brought. Her mother had no idea what Leia had endured because of Vader. She had a right to her anger, and not even her mother would shame her in parting with it. Offering him compassion was not something Leia would do. Her father, on the other hand, was entirely correct on criticizing her for the extreme foolishness of her statement.

“That would have done it,” Obi-Wan muttered. “How did you escape his grip?”

Leia frowned “I punched him.” she explained, thinking it was rather plain on the how.

Bail “With your fist?” he asked puzzled.

She shook her head “No, with the Force.”

Obi-Wan stared at her before asking “And he let go because he was startled?”

She frowned “No because it threw him across the room.” the older man just continued to stare at her. “What? It’s not hard to do. Luke showed me years ago how to backup a punch with the Force. I can see why the choking trick works on non-Force sensitives, but it’s easy to break it if you know what you are doing and don’t panic.”

“Easy.” Obi-wan said, with a wry chuckle, shaking his head in disbelief “Easy to do she says. Leia I think you have a very skewed idea of what easy is.”

“I don’t understand.”

Bail interjected “Leia, he has killed full Jedi knights with that little ‘trick’ as you call it.”

“What? How?” The Jedi of old had been highly trained warriors. Why had none of them tried this?

Obi-wan’s voice was filled with amusement “Well teaching Luke is certainly going to be even more of an adventure than I anticipated.” Then it faded as he regarded her again “You said he figured it out?”

“Yes.” She was going to leave it at that, no need to go into the particulars of that conversation.

“I’m sorry to say that punch you threw was more than likely how he deduced your parentage. Leia, even at the height of the Jedi, there were very few beings in the Force that were powerful enough to do what you did.” She looked at him, uncomprehending. It wasn't that difficult, was it?

“Meet him in the Force head on and push back.” he elaborated “I only managed it once, and he was half out of his mind during that fight. Even Master Yoda couldn’t, and it is probably beyond Palpatine's power to do so as well. With trickery and distraction yes, it could be managed. But pure power versus power, he is quite beyond most in that regard.”

If that were true, why was he serving the Emperor? Why not simply overwhelm him and take control. This didn’t matter, move on.

“Oh,” she bit her lip “I didn't realize that was the case.” Is this where things had gone wrong with the new Jedi order. Luke not understanding the true scope of that power? She and Luke knew they were strong in the Force. It had been drummed into Luke’s head often enough with Yoda’s gimer stick. But did the problem start with how powerful he was and having unrealistic expectations of how everyone should be able to keep up?  Was that what had built the resentment and bitterness in her son?

Bail shook himself “Then we need a plan to deal with him.”

She shook her head “No, Vader’s not the main problem right now. The Death Star is our more immediate concern.”

Obi-Wan’s eyebrow rose at that “What’s a Death Star?”

“It’s a battle station” Bail explained, jumping in before Leia could answer “One capable of destroying planets.”

Qui-Gon visibly started at this “Whole planets?”

Bail grimaced “We know it’s capable of destroying entire cities. In theory, it can destroy planets.”

“In fact.” Leia retorted.

Her father turned to her “Are you sure?”

She saw, in her mind’s eyes, Alderaan exploding into dust and swallowed her anger. “Yes.”

Breha looked horrified “The Empire used it?”

Leia, not trusting her voice nodded an affirmative.

Obi-wan groaned and put his face in his hands. “I truly am too old for this. Those are the plans that are in R2.”

“Yes.” Bail answered. “We can only hope that the engineer, Galen Erso, really did put in a weakness to exploit.”

“He did.” Leia assured him “There is an exhaust port that leads to the main reactor. One direct hit and the station will explode.”

They all stared at her “I did do this once before.” she said defensively, not liking the looks she was getting.

“Yes,” Obi-Wan said slowly “and it occurs to me that if you give us a rundown of what happened that would make things considerably easier.”

Leia opened her mouth to tell him how the battle of Yavin had gone then snapped it shut. It would be easy, so easy to tell them everything she knew and let them take over. But hadn’t that disastrous conversation with Vader shown her the danger of that kind of thinking? She didn’t have all the angles. These were events that happened thirty years in the past to her. And she had already made significant changes, what she knew could never come to pass. Could she trust them to make the right decisions with this?

“No,” she said.

“Excuse me?” Kenobi asked.

“No, I won’t tell you.”

“Leia,” Bail warned. “I think we have more experience in these matters than you.”

“No,” she answered on firmer ground here “you don’t know that. That’s the point. I have decades worth of experience, both in battle and political. I earned that rank of General, it wasn’t given to me as a sop or there wasn’t anyone else. This is too dangerous for you to know. It’s too dangerous for anyone to know, even me. But I’m stuck with it and for now, I’m keeping my silence.”

There were shocked faces staring at her from around the room. Qui-Gon interjected. “If you could explain your logic in refusing? I would have thought you would have jumped at the chance of ensuring a victory?”

She thought hard for a moment, trying to phrase this in a way that would make them understand. “The more we deviate from the timeline I know, the less valuable my intelligence becomes. But will anybody be able to resist relying on it anyway? I already fell into that trap, thinking I could stay on top of everything and look how that turned out. I will say something if I know we are heading into obvious problems, but I’m not going to give anyone a full briefing this. It is too tempting to use.”

“I understand your concerns, but surely not everything you remembered happening was bad?” Obi-Wan asked

“No.” she conceded. “Not all of it.”

Bail’s face brightened “We won, didn’t we?’ he asked.

Leia thought of the final signing of the Galactic Concordance, they had all such hope then. Then she looked at the man who had set so much of that into motion. Who never lived to see that victory. She could give that to him now.  “Yes, we did,” she said with a fond smile. There was no need to tell them of the shadow of the evil they fought had reared its head again and within her lifetime. Besides, there were steps she could take, here and now, to help prevent that.

Breha asks “So what if we try to stick as close as we can to the events as you originally remember them? To ensure that victory?”

She shook her head “That’s not possible. Vader knows about me. I can guess, based off his alternate’s actions, what he is going to do, but I can’t know that for sure. That fact alone is going to alter what is coming. I escaped the Death Star much earlier than before. There are going to be major consequences for that action.” her father opened his mouth to question her about them and she shook her head. “No, I won’t tell you now what happened, not until the danger has passed. But trust me when I tell you they probably won’t be recreated. It’s already far too late to move the timeline back.”

Obi-Wan stated. “So you are going to decide what is best for the whole galaxy?”

“With this knowledge, yes.”

“Even though there is a good likelihood you can make the future worse.” he pressed.

Leia squared her shoulders. “Yes.”

“You are so like your father,” Qui-Gon remarked and vanished. She frowned, yes Bail was secretive, but as a leader of an insurgent group against a tyrannical empire, one had to be. What exactly had he meant by that?

Bail sighed, rubbing his forehead. “All right, we will table this discussion for now.” Which was her father’s polite way of stating he didn't agree with her and that later, when he had marshaled his arguments, they would be returning to the subject “But to return to the distasteful subject of Vader, did you tell him anything else about the future?”

I told him about my son. I told him about Han. This is why her parents had been right about keeping a rein on her temper. Not that this was the scenario they had envisioned about the consequences of losing control over it. “That Palpatine kills him,” Obi-Wan’s face had a fleeting look of pain cross it. “But not about the fall of the Empire. Not that Palpatine died. He didn’t even ask,” her forehead wrinkled as she pondered that aloud “I don’t even think it occurred for him to ask.” How sad is that, to be so devoted to something to assume it will last forever and have it crumble around you so quickly.

“That would have been a short conversation.” Obi-Wan offered.

Now Leia did feel regret creeping up. He deserved the warning, she knew that. But she wasn’t sure if he could understand the necessity of her deciding that the knowledge she had of his survival was a card she had willingly played.

“I also told him about you.” she said.

He quirked an eyebrow. “May I ask as to why?”

“I was counting on the fact that you were going to show up on the Death Star in a few hours anyway.” she explained. “I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference and I had to tell him something.”

“Well, clearly that event didn’t happen.” He gave her a wry smile “Don’t worry yourself, Leia. It’s a moot point. Luke’s training in earnest now and that would have drawn his attention regardless.” Then, the thought occurred to him of why he was so expendable to her. ”I died shortly after arriving on that station didn't I?”

“Yes, you did. Vader cut you down and your body disappeared.”

Bail asked disbelieving “Disappeared?”

“Yes, it was all very dramatic.” She grimaced, thinking of Luke's pain on that day, then continued her tale.  “After Vader figured out our...connection he left the interrogation room. I got lucky, Tarkin took an interest in his reaction and sent some of his men to question me about it. I killed them and made my way out.”

“The future is always in motion. Although in your case it is the past.” Obi-Wan didn’t look angry about her disclosure, just thoughtful.

She noticed her father’s pale face “Papa?” she asked concerned.

“I never wanted you to be a soldier,” he explained, “and you casually talking about killing those Imperials prove that is exactly what you ended up being.”

“Not for all of it,” she assured him. He gave her a small sad smile but didn’t comment further.

“I suppose you have no desire to train with Luke?” Obi-Wan asked.

“No.”

“Ahh, well I suppose I will continue on then as planned.”

That sentence brought Leia up short. In the original plan, they hadn’t known they were related. No. Oh no, they were going to avoid that damn awkward business in this time. “I’m going to tell him I’m his sister,” she announced.

Obi-Wan frowned “Why?”

Leia squirmed. She and Luke hadn’t really ever discussed this beyond that one time Han had sat them down and got them really drunk. “Let’s just say it will avoid any difficult situations rising in the future.”

Obi-wan’s frown only deepened. “I understand you miss your brother your highness, but I don’t see how telling Luke now will do anything but distract him.”

She glared at him, tiring of not being listened to the first time around. It was this baby face, they kept forgetting that she was actually near their ages. “You have two young people who meet in a highly charged atmosphere where they could die at any time. These two people feel incredibly close to each other like they were meant to be side by side. That destiny meant for them to be together. What do you think will happen then?”

His eyes widened in horror as he comprehended her meaning “You didn’t.”

She shook her head “No.” Then feeling in this at least she owed them the complete truth “But it was close, though. Far too close for my comfort, and I need to be very drunk if I am going to talk about this further.”

Now he looked embarrassed “Yes, of course.” He looked around the room. “Is there anything else I need to know before we arrive at Yavin?” All three of them shook their heads. “Then if you don’t mind I feel the need to meditate. This is a lot to process.”

Bail waited until Obi-Wan left the room “We didn’t tell you? I can’t believe I wouldn’t have said anything.”

She looked at him helplessly. But it was her mother, who understood first. “We died, didn’t we?”

Leia nodded, her grief was an old wound, but it still hurt. Which was ridiculous. They were talking to her right now.

Bail’s face fell “Oh, Leia.” Then he gathered himself “Can you tell us how?”

“No.” It was an automatic denial. She thought of his reaction to learning of the death of their planet, their way of life. Then she looked him straight in the eyes, seeing as always the calm man who had methodically done what was need to be done for justice. She didn’t need to protect him. Not from this. She just wasn’t sure how many life altering conversations she had left in her for today. “Not yet.” she amended.

Breha spoke up “Well I suggest we all take this time to rest. I imagine things will be quite busy on Yavin.”

Bail nodded and started to the door “Are you sure we can trust this smuggler?”

“Yes.” No hesitation and no doubt colored her voice.

He gave her a disbelieving look “His presence clearly disturbs you.”

“That is not his fault Papa.” He didn’t look reassured.

“Why do you trust him so much?”

“I married him.” The reply slipped out before she thought better of it.

Bail look shaken. “You married that mercenary?” She opened her mouth to defend Han, but he shook his head, cutting her off “I’m sorry. This is a lot to take in, I need a moment.” and he walked out of the room.

Breha came forward “He’s not angry with you Leia, he’s just upset. Give him time, this is a lot of information we have been given.”

“I know,” she whispered sadly. She had wondered, over the years, what her parents would have thought of her choice of husband. Well, she knew now.

Her mother took her hand and squeezed it gently “I’m sure the Captain is a very nice man, once you get to know him.”

Leia gave a small laugh, even as the tears began welling in her eyes “No he’s not. He’s really, really not.” She gave a half sob “He’s a scoundrel. But he was my scoundrel.”

“Oh.” She felt her mother’s hesitancy and then gently “Can I ask what he did that has you so rattled when you look at him?”

The tears spilled down her cheeks. “He died.”

Breha gave a small gasp “Oh, my love. I am so sorry. When?”

Leia felt herself crumbling “From my perspective?” her mother nodded “Yesterday.”

Breha gave her a small comforting sound and Leia broke. There was no one here. No one she had to be strong for. It was just her mother, and with her, she could sob in her arms and not feel weak. And she cried and sobbed out every hurt of the last two days in the only place in the world where she felt it was safe.

Chapter Text

Leia cried like she hadn't allowed herself in years. She cried for her parents, even though they were right here. She cried for her Luke and all his lost dreams. For Ben, her son who was so lost that he had killed Han. Ben, who until yesterday, she was sure that could be saved. She had been wrong on that, so wrong, and Han had paid the price. It hit her here and now crying in her mother’s arms that Han was dead. Her Han, not the young man in the cockpit, so angry and bitter. The Han with who she had built a life, both the good and bad. She had told Vader, but the truth of what she said hadn’t been absorbed. The events of the last two days had somewhat numbed her to it, but there was no running from it now. Could she ever forgive her son now? Worse, because of where, no when she was, could she ever even contemplate the risk of even having him? These thoughts chased in her head, and she was horrified at herself for even thinking them.

Would it be better for the galaxy as a whole if her son weren’t alive to wreck such havoc on it? She wanted him back, of course, she wanted Ben back. But that wasn’t the situation that was being put in front of her. This wasn't her pursuing her son in order to get him to stop what he was doing. This was asking could even take the risk of his existence? Was it irresponsible of her to ignore the harm he could cause simply because all she could think of was her little boy staring up at her with wide brown eyes saying in his soft childish voice “Mama.” Or the bright child, who was so serious and awkward about everything? Then she thought of how lost her son had become. Maybe Vader was right, damn his soul, maybe there was no way to reach him.

And lastly, she cried for herself. She didn’t know what to do with any of them, Luke, Han, Chewie, her parents. She had saved Alderaan, yes, but she had been so dazzled by this opportunity put in front of her, that she hadn’t realized, for all the promise this timeline offered, it would come with its own terrible costs. She was alone, she had been left by so many people that she loved she thought she had understood how biting that could be. She had been so wrong about that. Having all that history good and bad erased with everyone, she was a stranger to all of them. 

Her mother continued to hold her, rocking her gently back and forth, singing a soft lullaby. Leia felt a tentative stroke in the Force, hesitant and unsure, trying to get a gauge on her mood. It was probably Luke, practicing in the Force with Kenobi. The gentle touch was filled with concern but was very hesitant. It drew away quickly as she turned her focus to it. Luke was probably just baffled by the storm of emotion, she reasoned. There was no else on this ship who could reach out to her like that or care too. Leia began to feel the sobs lessen at that sympathetic sign of support, drawing strength from it. She was alone, yes, but she most certainly did not have to stay that way. She lifted her head to face her mother’s concerned face. She didn't feel better precisely, just purged for now.

“Oh Leia,” she whispered “is this the first time you cried for him?”

She nodded her head. “I just went to sleep, thinking I would have a good cry in the morning about it when the shock had worn off and I woke up on that damn shuttle.”

Breha’s face was full of sympathy and shared grief. She cupped Leia’s face in her hands. Leia closed her eyes and savored this one victory out of the mess her life had just become.

“Leia, I can’t possibly know how far you’ve come, when I think about how things were for me thirty-four years ago to now, well,” she gave a gentle smile “I doubt I would be as calm as you. But know this, I am so so so very proud of the women I see before me.”

Leia felt panic rising. “You can’t know that.” she insisted.

“Can’t I?”

“You don’t know how often I failed in the future. Look how badly I just failed now. If I had just held my tongue-”

“Leia, Leia.” her mother interrupted, with a gentle shake of her head.  “Listen to me. While I don’t know the particulars of what has occurred in your life, I do see a woman who has faced immeasurable evil and came out triumphant. I see a woman who was put in an impossible situation, one that would most certainly break lesser beings. Who had the courage and wherewithal to come up with a solution to get out of it? Yes, Vader knows, and you see that as a great failure on your part. But love, think of everything you did keep from him. The rebel base is safe. Your brother is safe. These are not small things.”

Leia opened her mouth to voice a denial but her mother cut her off. “You are always so impossibly hard on yourself. Pushing yourself further and further, always for some ever expanding goal. I worried, oh how I worried, that without your father and I here to tether you, you would spin yourself into nothingness. But you haven’t. You are here, still caring, still fighting, and not consumed by bitterness by what fate has left at your feet. You still love Leia.” and here her mother’s fingers began tracing the tear tracks still on Leia’s face. “Here is the proof. You still value that, and I can only marvel at the strength that must have taken.”

Leia’s felt a smile grow on her face at her mother’s reassurance. She laid her hands atop her mother’s “Oh I have missed you Mama.”

Her mother gave her a wide grin of love. “Well, I shall do my best to see that you don’t in the future.”

Leia’s smile wobbled, but she held onto that foolish promise. She was too heart sore to contemplate losing her mother again so soon. She squeezed her mother’s hands again and dropped them. Her mother did the same. Leia was reluctant to break this mood, but now that she was calmer a question was nagging her.

“Why did you lie to me?  About him?”

Her mother’s face filled with surprise “About Vader? Leia, you were too young to know. Your father and I always intended to tell you.”

She already knew that. That damn music box that had brought everything down around her. She knew the message had been meant for after Vader’s death, by Luke’s hand or hers. Leia shoved the thought away. It was ungracious and unkind, they had good reasons for not disclosing the truth. She shook her head “No, I meant today. When I told you Vader knew, you lied to me.”

Her mother’s face clouded with comprehension. “Oh. Then.” She shook her head ruefully “Habit, I suppose. It’s a long-held reflex to protect you from that knowledge. And it was a rather large secret to keep for so long, we had to be so careful.” She laced her fingers together in front of her and squared her shoulders. “With what I know now I suppose it looks like a foolish action on my part, but I was trying to protect you. The daughter I remember talking to two weeks ago would not have handled that information well.”

Her mother’s rebukes were always worse than her father’s. They were always delivered kindly, but that only made the cut that much sharper for her. Leia tried to remember herself at nineteen, then imagining herself then learning about her parentage. She grimaced, that would have been a disaster. Even at twenty-three, with all she had learned about loss and betrayal, it was a hard blow. And that had been with her brother at her side supporting her as he was the only person in the galaxy to know what that burden was.  Alone, she would have spun into a self-destructive rage.

“Enough of this Leia,” her mother chided gently, reading her face. “It’s done. You came through and survived. There is no sense of dealing with what might have been.”

Leia felt her hackles rise, and forced herself to calm down. Her mother wasn’t deliberately trying to be condescending. “Mama, right now all I am dealing with is might have beens.” she reminded her.

Breha’s face now reflected embarrassment “Well, yes. I suppose I never thought of it like that.”

Leia let it go. There was nothing she could do but be patient with her parents. They were taking the revelation of circumstances quite well, but it would take time for them to adjust to the fact she was now much older then she appeared.

“I have a question for you if you don’t mind.”

Leia nodded her assent. She was fairly confident her mother wouldn’t venture into topics Leia wouldn’t feel comfortable in answering.

Breha’s grin was warm and welcoming “I spent years wondering about this.” she leaned in and whispered conspiratorially “What is your brother like?”

Leia laughed clear and free for the first time in what felt like forever. “I’ll let you make that discovery on your own. But, I think you’ll like him.”

 

She was sitting at the dejarik table in the main hold, running her fingers absently across the board. Her mother had wandered away to the crew quarters, seeking her rest. They had time yet before arriving at Yavin and she had wanted a moment alone with her thoughts. This place was home to her too and all she felt sitting here were the echoes of the conversations, dinners, and fights that had happened here. Ben’s laughter as Han chased him through these very halls. Chewie rebuking Han for some “improvement” to the Falcon that had gone wrong. Luke, silently laughing as R2 and Threepio indulged in one of their many bickering disagreements. And now all those events only existed in her mind. The ghosts of what might have been instead of what once was.

Alderaan was a home she might yet restore to herself. Could she say the same about the Falcon? Should she restore it? She felt a flick of irritation at her own indecision with this. For once could she let it go, and let things happen as they will?

Then she felt Luke’s presence at the edge of the hall and coming closer. She debated walking away and putting this conversation off. No, he would take it the wrong way. He was clearly looking for her and she didn't want their relationship to start on the wrong foot. The revelation of their blood ties could wait though. She was calmer, that was certain, but she didn’t trust herself fully yet to have another conversation about the situation she was in. For now, until she had gained more of her equilibrium from the shocks of the last two days she would hold her tongue. Maybe it was cowardly, but Leia felt that she had earned a breather.

He entered in through the door and saw her sitting at the table. He made his way over. She stared at him, curious how this would play out. He was radiating nervousness and she was clearly not seeking company. 

“Hello, I am Luke Skywalker.” He gave her a wide nervous grin. Not as dramatic as his first introduction, but that was a fairly hard standard to beat.

Even an hour ago she couldn’t have imagined being able to have this conversation with her emotions intact. But after the breakdown in her mother’s arms, she felt much more level. Not that this wasn’t going to hurt, just that she would be able to deal with it better.  He reached out his hand to shake and for a moment Leia was confused about the natural appearance of it. Luke’s smile wobbled a bit as she stared at his offered hand. Then her tired brain caught up with her circumstances and she quickly put hers up to clasp his not yet cut off hand.

“Hello Luke.” she said, giving him the friendliest smile she could manage “I am Leia Organa.”

He took that as an invitation and sat down next to her in the circular booth “Yeah I know. I was the one who found your message on the droids and brought them to Ben.”

“That was kind of you and brave.”

He blushed slightly at the compliment “I don’t know about brave, but it was the right thing to do.”

“It’s not the choice everyone would have made.” his face darkened at that and she got the fleeting impression of faces flash through his mind. Owen and Beru perhaps? She continued on the reassure him. “Well, you are here, with a fugitive from the Empire and an exiled Jedi. That was certainly a hard choice.”

His bashful manner disappeared, replaced by sorrow. “There really wasn’t much choice. My Aunt and Uncle were the ones who bought the droids. They were murdered by stormtroopers while I was with Ben. There is no home for me to go to.”

“I am sorry for your loss” she offered consolingly “And that you, and them, got dragged into this.” And she was. There was nothing she could have done of course. Either this time or the last, but it was indirectly her fault the droids have found their way to Luke’s family. Or maybe the Force. Her brother wasn’t destined to be a moisture farmer anymore then she was destined to be a nerf herder. She regretted that his family had paid the price though.

“It’s not your fault.” he said “It’s horrible that they are gone, but you aren’t the one who killed them. The Empire chose to do it. Hell,  my Uncle would have sold the droids to them if they had asked. But instead they went or the most brutal method possible and that is not your doing. I want to help.” His face fell and then he gathered himself up and corrected to “I always wanted to help. But until now it wasn’t me that was paying the price for the Empire’s actions. It was all so far away from me.” Grief, naked and horrible, filled his too young face. “I miss them, and after all of this is over I’m probably going to have a good cry about it, but if it hadn’t been them it would have been someone else.”

She didn’t remember Luke being this wise when he was young. Brave, yes. Loyal, yes. Insanely lucky also came to mind. But not this. When she thought of him at this age all she could remember was his wide eyes at every new thing he had encountered. While it was true his upbringing on an outer rim world hadn’t exposed him to the greater galaxy, he had never been naive. Anyone growing up in Hutt controlled world quickly lost that.

“Well, that is my sad tale of how I ended up here. How did you end of joining the rebellion? It’s not something I would expect a princess from a Core world to do?”

She flashed him a teasing smile “Know a lot of princesses do you? I’m disappointed, I thought I would be your first. You should tell me how I measure up.”

“No, you're my first. Well not girls, I know a lot of girls. Well, a few. Not well, or anything. What I meant was….” he trailed off as embarrassment flooded his face. Oh, it was adorable, her brother was tripping all over his tongue and spouting whatever came to mind. Her Luke hadn’t done this in years. Frankly, she had forgotten how tongue tied he became in front of people when he first joined up. It would be years before she let this Luke forget this. If ever. “Sorry, that was a dumb thing to say wasn’t it?”

She laughed and gently rocked her shoulder into his “It’s fine. A lot of people think that way, it’s how I get away with half of the things I do. And to answer your question, I guess I was born into it. My father was one of the founding members of the Alliance.” Her birth mother too, now that she thought about it. How wonderfully ironic, that she and Luke were the children of the founders of the twin pillars of the galaxy.

“Oh.” he looked very impressed. “How long have you been involved?”

“Ahh...” she frantically tried to do the math in her head, and gave up “Since I was sixteen.” she settled for.

“When I was sixteen, my uncle, barely let me go to the local outpost by myself. I can’t imagine being that trusted by my parents.” More than likely mistrust of the world. She couldn’t imagine, after everything she had heard of Owen and Beru Lars that they hadn’t had complete faith in their nephew. Hindsight would give Luke that revelation on his own though. Once he understood what danger he had been in his entire life, Luke had understood a lot of things about his childhood differently.

“I’ve never met anyone who trusted droids as much as you trust yours. How did you know that they would complete the mission?” He looked generally puzzled by that.

“Always trust the droid,” she told him. At his blank look, she inwardly sighed. Right, no experience with R2 and his endless capacity to get himself in and out of trouble. ”I’ve used them before.” she assured him “Many times in my espionage work against the Empire.”

“You’re a spy?”

“Well, I was. I was a member of the Imperial Senate. The Empire has dissolved that body though so I’m out of a job.” He laughed at the weak joke, as she had intended. Dammit, did he know there was no way for her to know this yet? Apparently not, he didn't seem too puzzled by her, knowledge. “On the other hand, it looks like there are new and exciting opportunities in being an outright rebel.”

“Well, it seems like we’ll both be starting at the same point.” He smiled shyly at the thought.  

“I think I would like that.” she said gently, reaching out and squeezing his hand.

Of course, this is when Han, with his incredible timing for the worst possible entrance, entered the space.

“Well isn’t this cozy?” he drawled, taking in their close postures.

She frowned at his sarcasm, what had he taken offense too? This was his put-upon voice.

Beside her, Luke stiffened in apparent outrage on her behalf. “Yes, it’s called talking. It’s something people do to get to know each other. You should try that instead of making snide remarks at everything.” She was definitely feeling jealousy from her brother. Ok, maybe she should have brought up the being related thing. She was still bone tired and shaky on her control, but maybe that conversation wouldn’t be as bad as dealing with this. 

“Don’t get all bent out of shape. I heard voices and just came in here to see how my passengers are doing.” Han gave them a wide saucy grin as he approached the table, clearly out to irritate Luke. Of flirt with her. Probably both of those things, honestly. “I like to think I run a full-service operation here.” He gave a lascivious wink at Leia.

“We’re fine” Luke gritted out. She was really regretting putting off telling him even for a day. She had forgotten about this...thing the two of them had about her in the beginning. No, she had made herself forget.

She was going to end this now before her face betrayed things she didn’t want to explain.  “Well as fun as it is to be fought over like a rancor fights over a bone, I need to rest.” Luke looked up, slightly stricken at her icy tone, and she patted his hand in comfort “It was nice to meet you Luke Skywalker”

“It was nice to meet you too,” he said, smile restored. She left the two of them to their posturing.  

 

She wandered the familiar halls, somewhat heading to the crew quarters, but no real destination in mind. She spotted her father in the second crew’s quarters, sitting in a chair. He gave her a pained smile when he noticed her standing in the door. “Come in Leia.” Then he cleared his throat as his hand moved restlessly in his lap.

“Leia, your mother spoke to me before she laid down to rest. She told me what happened to your husband.” his voice wavered on the word husband “I’m sorry I reacted so badly. All I saw was that he made you upset. I didn’t realize that it was for something that was no fault of his own.”

“You could have trusted my word.” she thought, a little bitterly. No, that wasn't fair, he was in a difficult situation too.

“It’s alright,” she said. Bail gave her a flat look “So it’s not alright.” She amended “But trust me if I know anything about Han Solo is that he makes the worst first impressions. I’ll try not to take it personally.”

He laughed “Well I can’t say that you don't know him,” then he sobered “Can you tell me how he died?”

She shook her head. “It wasn’t an accident or illness if you're wondering. But I really don’t want to talk about this Papa. It’s too soon.”

“All right. I can understand that.” He hesitated and then followed up with “Can I ask what exactly you do see in him then?”


It irked her that again he wouldn’t simply take her word for it. She wouldn’t have married Han if she hadn’t had good reason too. She chided herself for the ungraciousness of that thought. Would she have reacted any differently with Ben? Bail was looking at his only child, who apparently married a stranger to him. Someone, who to be fair at this point, was little better than a ‘mercenary’, as he so eloquently put it. He was only seeking to understand.

She turned her mind over to all the instances of Han’s loyalty, his ability to make her laugh, his eagerness to meet her head on and yell back. But there was one instance that her father would immediately understand the significance of. “In what would have been a few years from now, we had walked into a trap the Empire had set up for us. We had sought shelter from a neutral party. We thought his offer to help us was genuine, he had no love of the Empire. Vader had beaten us there though and was waiting for us in a dining hall of all places. We walked into that room completely unprepared and he standing there waiting for us.” she swallowed her memory of the cold shock that sight had left her with. “The first thing Han does is pull his blaster and shoot him.” She gave a watery chuckle “It was useless of course, Vader deflected the bolts. But I’ve seen Imperial officers breakdown in full fear at seeing the famed Dark Lord of the Sith, but Han’s first reaction was to attack. That takes a spine of steel. This Han just doesn’t know it yet.”

Her father hummed under his breath. He didn’t looked convinced but he also didn’t look as worried. She stood in the silence for a moment wondering if he had any more questions for her about her husband. Or about grandchildren. Force, how was she supposed to explain Ben to her father?

“We need a story.” he told her instead.

Leia raised an eyebrow. “For what?”

“For how you escaped. I don’t think you want to tell everyone the truth about that Leia.”

They would know. Everyone would know again and those looks would follow. Leia generally didn’t give a damn about people thought of her. But the stark fear that filled people’s faces as the recognized her as “Lord Vader’s daughter” had filled her with instinctive nausea and loathing every time.

“Yes,” she agreed “I suppose I do.” She thought for a moment, wondering what the easiest thing to say would be. “Sticking as close to the truth as possible I think would work best. I was captured aboard the Tantive V and they brought me to the Death Star. Lord Vader started interrogating me.” she fingered the bruises around her neck. “He decided I needed to be transferred to Coruscant for reasons I am not privy too. I killed the guards in the shuttle and changed the flight plan.”

“It’s not the most believable story, but it will have to do.” Bail warned. “But I can’t think of a better one where you end up with possession of a Lambda-class Imperial shuttle.” Then he frowned “How did you manage to do that?”

“I used Tarkin’s authorization code.”

He sat up quickly in his chair “You did what?” he asked astonished.

She smirked “I used his code. I know his current one.”

“Why do you know it?”

Leia’s face scrunched in distaste “The reason why isn't important.” she downplayed.

“More of the future you won’t tell me about?” She gave him a flat stare and he sighed. He returned to his original point “You're going to have people wondering about if you're a plant.”

She shrugged “Let them wonder, I’m not.”

“There are going to be plenty of people within the rebellion are not going to believe that a nineteen-year-old, with no formal combat experience, was able to withstand torture from Vader, and manage to overpower her guard. And they will have good reason not to.” That was her father, always pointing out the practical problems to her more fanciful whims. Only this wasn’t a whim.

“I am trained though. You and my aunts saw to that.” He frowned, but nodded, conceding the point. “You said it yourself, there really isn’t a better story to tell them.”

“Tell them the truth” At her negative reply, he amended “At least the high command. With your intel backing what you say they will support you against any accusation.”

This again. “No. That is not happening. I told you why.”

“And I understand what you fear. But Leia surely with several people in on the problem we can manage our way around it.”

“No, Papa I don’t.”

“I don’t understand why you are so sure you can make this better by yourself.”

She shook her head “I am not that arrogant. I’m not sure I can make it better. What I do know is telling more people what might happen will make things worse.” That’s all she needed, committee based decision on possible alternate timelines.

Her father switched tactics “Leia, I don't think you understand how this will affect your reputation. Mistrust is going to follow you everywhere. It might not ever go away.”

She gave a bitter laugh “You think this is the first time people have questioned my motives. For all those years I was warning…” she trailed off as she realized she heading into dangerous territory.  “No, we are not talking about that. Suffice to say I know what it is like to have people question your every move and motive.”

He looked pained “You really aren’t going to talk to me about the majority of your life?”

She shook her head. “I can’t. It’s too easy for me to give something away.”

Bail’s sorrow increased “Leia, that is no way to live. You can’t spend the rest of your life forever guarding your tongue. You need to talk to someone. Anyone.”

She felt her spine stiffen “Then that is the path I must walk. It’s not the first time I’ve had to stand on my own and it won’t be the last.”

Bail only shook his head, but he offered no further comment. Disheartened Leia left the doorway.

 

She found herself in the main hold again. She didn’t feel the need to rest, the talk with her father had left her jittery. He had raised a good point. Could she spend the next thirty-four years of her life forever biting her tongue? Carefully weighing everything she said for fear that she would say something she shouldn’t know. Or was afraid she would change it for the worst? Well, if that wasn’t the definition of hell for her, she didn’t know what was. This was all going to end in disaster. She leaned against the storage cabinets and started softly banging the back of her head against them in silent frustration.

“You're going to hurt yourself if you keep doing that” Han remarked from the hallway.

She snorted “That is the least of my concerns Captain.” But she did stop the motion.

“Han. My name is Han.” He walked into the room, approaching her. When he didn’t stop and instead leaned in close to her she flinched as she buried the instinct to turn her head into his chest and seek reassurance.

“Relax.” he drawled, and then she heard a cabinet being opened behind her. He pulled his hand back so that she could see what was in it. It was a bacta patch “I was after this.” he handed it to her.

Silently she took it from him and unsealed the package. He backed up a few steps to a more polite distance.

“Sorry, it’s an ‘off market’ brand.” He gestured to her neck “Should be enough to handle that though.”

She gave a small huff of amusement “A smuggler has illegally made goods. I’m shocked I tell you. Shocked.” Gingerly she began to apply the long thin cloth to her neck. It wouldn’t cover all of the bruising, but it would be a good start.

“Well not all of us grew up in a palace.” His teasing grin faded as he took in the still visible portion of her bruising. “Vader huh?”

“Yes.”

“Never had the pleasure of meeting him. Heard stories though. You're lucky he wanted you alive.”

“That’s me, lucky.” Yes, she was so lucky that she was his daughter. Maybe she ought to stop at every temple she came across and light a candle in prayer for that fact. At least it wasn’t Palpatine. Focus on the positive Leia, it could have been Palpatine. Let's just keep that happy thought in mind.

“Thank you.” she said, gesturing to her neck, falling back on her manners.  

“No problem.” He stood staring at her.

“What?” she demanded, unnerved by his silence and his staring.

“Just trying to figure you out. Most people I know would be blubbering in the hallways and be halfway to madness after an encounter with him. You, on the other hand, sail right through bossing everyone around and generally acting like you haven’t a care in the world. Just wasn’t what I was expecting from a royal born on a core world.” She hadn’t been though. She and Luke had never been able to find out where they had been born. Maybe she could find out now.

“I think you need to broaden your horizons.”

“Oh trust me, Princess, they’re plenty broad.” He narrows his eyes at her consideringly.

“Maybe you just need to meet more people.”

“Somehow I don’t think that is going to prove me wrong.” He gave her a flirtatious smile. “But you know the thing that I really don’t get?”

“I’m on the edge of anticipation.”

“Facing down the Emperor’s top enforcer doesn’t faze you, being on the run from the Empire doesn’t even produce a sweat. But me,” and here a pleased smirk crossed his lips. “little ole me. I make you jumpy.”

“Don’t flatter yourself Captain” she shot back “I happen to like nice men” Liar her inner Han chanted. Shut up, you are not being helpful.

“Is that a fact?” he hummed under his breath “I’ll keep that in mind.” And he sauntered away back to the cockpit. Leia watched him the entire way, admiring the view. She was only human after all.

 

When Han announced, by yelling, that they were coming up to their destination Leia and her father both crammed into the cockpit. Han threw open the comms channel as soon as they exited hyperspace. Bail leaned forward and gave their passcode.

Han started “Wait, wait, wait. Thought I was taking you to a meeting point. You actually had me bring you the rebel base. The actual rebel base. The one the Empire is offering a huge bounty for? Are you all mad?” His blue eyes were blown wide and his face was shocked.

Bail stiffened and shot him a look. “Leia believes that you can be trusted and I have faith in her opinion” Well Han wasn’t rising much in his estimation.

Han’s incredulous face swung to her and she arched her eyebrow in question. “Are you going to prove me wrong?” she asked.

“Well….” he floundered.

Chewie huffed. <She isn’t wrong about you Han. You wouldn't tell the Empire anyway. Take the compliment and more importantly the payment and move on.>

 

When they disembarked from the Falcon Leia wasn’t shocked to see a large welcoming committee for them. Mon Mothma, Jan Dodonna, Davits Draven, and General Willard in the front as a group Leia and the others headed to them in the cavernous flight deck.

Mon gave a wide smile as she spotted them. “Bail, Breha, when we heard the call go out for your arrest we were so worried”

Bail gave an answering smile “We are safe.” He linked his hands behind his back and amended “If arriving in less than ideal circumstances. But I am happy to report that the plans are safe in this astromech memory banks.” He made a gesture and R2 came forward. General Willard made a motion and a group of technicians broke off from the side and swarmed forward to surround the little droid.

Threepio made a small noise of distress and Leia turned to him “He’ll be fine,” she assured the golden droid. “They’ll take special care with him.”

“But Princess Leia...” he objected, worry sharpening his tone.

She sighed. “Go with him then. You aren’t needed immediately and I’m sure it will make him feel better”

Threepio gave his thanks and followed the small crowd as they took to droid further into the base towards the data centers where they could dump the information.

Mon Mothma watched them go and turned back to face them all and seemed to noticed the other passengers other than Leia, Bail, and Breha. A look of profound relief crossed her face as she took in the old man in tattered robes. Smiling, she walked up to him until she was only a few feet in front of the white haired man. “General Obi-Wan Kenobi,” she stated in her firm clear voice, looking at the old Jedi with wonder. Her voice carried clearly through the cavern and both Dodonna’s, Draven’s, and Willard’s head whipped to look at the Jedi in shock.

A hush fell over the crowd in the hangar bay. All around them voices grew silent as faces filled with awe turned to them. It didn't seem to throw the old man’s stride as he gave a small smile and a deep formal bow “Senator Mon Mothma. It has been a while.”

Her mouth twitched in amusement. “I’m not a Senator anymore,“ she informed him “just Mon will do. Bail mentioned he was sending someone to retrieve you. I cannot stress the direness of our circumstances.”

Obi-Wan frowned “I’m not sure what I can do, but I am more than willing to offer a hand.” He turned to Luke “May I introduce my companion? This is Luke Skywalker.”

Luke, looking a little flustered by all the attention focused on him, executed his own clumsy attempt at a bow. “Ma’am,” he said respectively.

“Skywalker? As in Anakin Skywalker?” she asked.

Luke nodded. “He was my father.” There was a touch of pride in his voice. Oh, this was going to come back and haunt them all later.

She shot both Bail and Obi-Wan a deeply unimpressed look. “I’m not sure why I am so surprised,” she said in a flat tone. Then directly addressing Obi-Wan “You did always have a flair for a dramatic entrance.”

His mouth twitched “I suppose that is a fair complaint.”

“Well, isn’t this just a day full of unexpected surprises.” she said “Come, we have much to discuss” she looked at Bail, Breha, and Leia. “All of you, I can’t wait to find out how this transpired.”

 

The following debrief was like all the other ones Leia had attended. A few relevant facts interspersed with far too much talking as everyone felt the need to comment on what was being said. She hated meetings. They were important, she knew they were important. She doesn’t understand why they always had to take twice as long as they needed to.

As expected, her story about how she escaped the Death Star was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, but Kenobi's presence seemed to capture most of their attention. Fair’s fair, a famed Jedi General from the clone wars, with his equally famous partner’s son in tow, was bound to be more interesting than her circumstances. She knew better than to think that this matter had been dropped completely. Obi-Wan was the shiny new toy, but eventually, the particulars of her escape were going to come up again, probably at the worst possible time. Captain Salano had shown up ten minutes into the briefing, landing it into the flight deck. After it was checked for tracking devices, she was thanked for the acquisition of the shuttle. But Draven was still looking at her with suspicion in his eyes. She was going to have to keep an eye out for him. 

After she was thankfully dismissed from the meeting, she wandered the base, not sure where she was going. The plans were still being analyzed, and the Alliance high command, along with Kenobi, was debating what to do with them next. Tracking down the Death Star was going to be priority one, but the question was how? It was capable of hyperspace flight and they needed to get to it before any planets paid the same price as Alderaan almost had.

Leia’s first thought was to copy the Emperor. Feed the location of Yavin to someone and see them coming, but she doubted anyone there would listen to her advice. The plan as too risky to the Alliance and they weren’t sure they were capable of taking the battle station out. Maybe here is where she should give a hint to her father about the fact that it could be done. If Tarkin came immediately to Yavin, that was fewer innocent planets that need be slaughtered. It would be almost impossible to track the station, why not bring it to them? They could evacuate most of the personnel and supplies in advance off site. It was a big risk, but a calculated one. Although after all the losses they had incurred getting the damn things she sincerely doubted anyone on the council would be willing to take such a gamble. She didn’t see Mon, Dodonna, or Willard signing off on that plan.

When she focused in on her surroundings she was surprised to see herself back in the hangar bay, only thirty feet from the Falcon. Han was loading supplies into the ship, with Chewie helping him. Well, this goodbye had come up on her suddenly. She didn't want him to leave. She wasn’t sure what she wanted from him, but she knew she didn’t want him to go. Well, she never really had gotten what she wanted out of life, had she? She could at least say goodbye.

She wandered over to the ship and gave Chewie a wide smile and grin as he noticed her first.

<Han, the princess is here. Be polite.> he barked at Han.

Leia laughed “Aren’t you asking a bit much from him?” she teased.

Chewbacca stiffened and Han looked up from the cargo he was loading, surprise on his face. “You speak Shyriiwook?”

“Understand yes. Speak, no. My accent was the bane of” she quickly switched out Chewie's name “my tutor’s existence. I have a good ear for the language, but I never quite mastered the tongue movements required.”

<Take heart your highness,> Chewie offered <Unless you trained from a young age, it’s almost impossible for a human to master it.>

“Are you ever going to make sense?” Han demanded.

She smiled up at him “Why should I, it’s so much more fun to get you all flustered?”

“So you're here to torment honest working captains of the galaxy?” he whined.

Her eyebrow lifted in mock amusement “Honest?” His look of mock innocence was just as strong.

He gave her a look of offense. “Of course.”

Her smile dimmed “No, I was in the area and saw that you were planning to leave. I came to say goodbye and thank you.”

“Don’t need thanks for a job.”

“None the less you have it.” As she contemplated his more than likely next move, she felt the need to offer advice. He wasn’t going to take it, she knew he wouldn’t, but she had to try. “You should pay off those debts,” she remarked. “Jabba is not someone to cross in that regard.”

He looked at her suspiciously “And how do you know that your worship?”

Dammit, she was going to have to learn to think before she spoke to him. “You're a mercenary working out of Tatooine, the only person who you could owe money to and have no possibility of escaping is the Hutts. It’s not that hard to figure out.”

He still looked suspicious and she sighed “Either way Captain take care of yourself out there.” She was going to do this, she was going to let him go. She couldn’t force him and clearly, without the experience of the Death Star to rattle him to the evils of the Empire there was no way to shake him out of this. Maybe it was better this way. Without Han, there would be no Ben. Her head hurt at the thought. But this wasn’t her choice to make, it was his. 

That’s when the sounding alarm of the base went off.

Han frowned “We under attack?” he asked, “No way they followed us.”

Leia felt anxiety creep over her heart. Something was coming, something big if the Force was correct. “It does seem unlikely.” she murmured

The alarms cut off and the voice that came out of the speakers belong to no one in the Rebel Alliance. “Attention all Galactic citizens. This is Grand Moff Tarkin of the Imperial Navy. This message is being broadcasted along all known subspace and communication relays in an attempt to reach the insurrectionist terrorists known as the Rebel Alliance. I am currently aboard the newest weapon of the Empire, the Death Star. If the entire group does not surrender to face justice, I will destroy the planet of Alderaan. They have one standard galactic day to comply.” The message stopped for two beats and then began again repeating itself.

Han’s face drained of all color. “They can’t do that, can they? That would take more fire power than the entirety of the navy.”

Leia’s ears were pounding, she had failed. All of her tricks and planning and she had failed. Alderaan was still in danger. “I have to find my father,” she muttered and leaving a baffled Han in her wake. She ran from the flight deck into the bowels of the base.

There was panic everywhere, as pilots, soldiers, and mechanics were talking to each other, fear writ large across their faces. She caught up with Bail, just as he was about to head into the control center.

“We can't surrender.” she told him.

“Leia, you heard him.” Bail stated, his face drawn tight with resignation “If we don’t our home is forfeit. Billions of innocent lives would be lost.”

She shook her head “We can’t.” she stressed “It doesn’t matter. Even if we did, he will still destroy Alderaan. And the entirety of the Rebellion will be lost, for nothing.”

“Leia you can’t know that-” he started to say, then stopped. His eyes grew wide as the realization struck him. “That’s what happened to you, isn’t it? Originally.”

She nodded “Yes, Vader’s methods were taking too long so Tarkin thought to speed up the process. I gave him Dantooine, but before he even checked to see if I was telling the truth, he ordered Alderaan’s destruction. Said it would be an example ’” she spat the word out in disgust. “

He swayed as the implications hit him. “Leia come with me.” He pulled her into the control room where Mon, her mother, Obi-Wan, and the rest of the Alliance leadership were around the display console, arguing in sharp voices.

“We can’t surrender,” he said firmly to all of them, bringing the conversation to a halt.

Mom frowned “Bail, with all due respect, we cannot let Tarkin destroy a planet. We are fighting to preserve lives, not help end them.”

Leia stepped forward “I agree with my father. Unless that station is destroyed Alderaan is forfeit. He has his new weapon and he wants to use it.” The leadership council looked blankly at her, but Obi-Wan’s and Breha’s faces filled with horror. Message received then.

Breha braced herself on the edge of the display table and took a deep breath. “General Willard, have the plans been analyzed yet?”

“Yes, your majesty they have. There is a flaw in the exhaust system that we can exploit, but if I might speak frankly, it’s one hell of a long shot.”

Her mother was silent for a moment, and Leia held her breath, wondering at what she would decide. Then the older woman straightened up to her full height and faced Willard head on. “That is better than no chance at all.”

Several of the commanders raised their voices in protest at her pronouncement. They continued for several moments until Breha spoke above them in a clear ringing voice. “I am Breha Organa of Alderaan.  My family has ruled my planet peacefully for generations. We will not give into terror, especially if that terror is being wielded by the government in power. My husband and daughter are correct, the likelihood of Tarkin using this weapon no matter what we do is too great. I am Alderaanian. We answer rage with wisdom. We answer fear with imagination. We answer war with hope. I would rather we fight for one small hope then surrender to the darkness. And I believe my people would make the same choice.” Leia’s heart swelled with pride and admiration of her mother's clear and precise speech.

Dodonna spoke up “If we tell them to come to Yavin.” he suggested.

Leia’s panic at the thought must have bleed into the force because Obi-Wan spoke up “I served with Tarkin during the Clone Wars, I doubt that he has changed all that much. Their majesties are correct. Tarkin will destroy Alderaan no matter what we do.”

Draven’s eyes narrowed. He had noticed that both her mother and Obi-Wan were taking her lead on this. This was another tally being held in his mind against her. If she survived this he would need carefully watching in the future. No, when she survived this.

Mon frowned “That is two against, and four for. Willard, your thoughts?”

The older man spoke slowly “I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with the assessment of Tarkin’s character. I vote we fight.”

Mon’s face was wiped of all color, but she spoke decisively “While I do not agree with your assessment, I concede Breha, as the ruler of Alderaan you have the authority to make this decision. We fight then. General Dodonna, we will need your pilots ready in twenty minutes for a debriefing. I will make the announcement to the general troops that we have chosen to fight.” She closed her eyes and said in a prayer like manner “And may the Force be with us all.”

Chapter Text

With the decision made the logistics were needed to be seen to.

As he studied the schematics General Dodonna remarked to the room at large. “How long does it take to fully power up the station?”

One of the technicians answered “Depends on what they want to hit. For a cruiser, about a minute. For the reported destruction on Jedha and Scarif about five. Fifteen minutes for a planet.”

The older general  frowned “That’s a long lag time, I can’t believe that it wasn’t sped up.”

The technician shrugged “It was primarily designed to destroy planets, not fight in a battle with cruisers. The highers up in the Empire probably thought the lag time wasn’t a pressing issue. It’s not like anyone can quickly move a planet.” Leia wondered briefly to herself if this was another subtle sabotage by Erso. But it could also be simply the laws of thermodynamics exerting their will. With the man long dead it was impossible to ask.

Obi-Wan spoke up from where he was standing a little off in the corner. “Tarkin could order it to remain powered up and Alderaan will be destroyed the minute those fighters exit hyperspace.”

The tech frowned instinctively and shook his head.”No sir. There is no way he leaves that thing warmed up for that long.” He leaned down to the console and tapped a section of the schematic. Leia looked on with interest. “The capacitor’s aren't designed to hold the charge for significant portions of time. Slow build on the energy, but once it gets there, he’s got maybe, and I stress this is the max amount of time here, ten minutes to discharge that energy.” Leia didn't know that. Did Tarkin destroy Alderaan simply because he had too? That long ago interrogation took on new sinister meanings in her mind.There was no choice that she could have made that would have altered the outcome.  Once he decided to threaten her planet with destruction it was doomed. She wanted to kill him all over again. Force willing she would.

“What happens if he does continue to run it without firing?” General Willard asked “He might decide that damage is worth the risk to keep us from doing the very thing we are planning to do.”

The technician shrugged “Go past that mark and some pretty critical systems start suffering from overheating as the capacitors start leaking energy. The most important of those systems is the thermal sinks they have built in to regulate the reactor. They could get temporarily get around that by exporting that heat to the station’s outer shell and bleed it off into space. But the conduits along that route aren’t rated as high and more than likely it will burn to death half of the crew in the process. As the energy build up continues the thermal sinks on the reactor will fail and station will explode. I didn't do the math so I couldn’t give you an exact estimate on that, but no more than a few hours.”

Obi-wan looked considering at the schematic. “Not something he is willing to risk then.”

“No.”

General Draven snorted “Nor does he need to, even if we came in with what is left of our fleet it wouldn’t be enough time to fatally cripple that thing. That is probably why they built it so big in the first place.”

Dodonna countered “But the one man fighters can get through those shields correct?”

Again the analyst nodded “It’ll be a little bumpy, but yes. I looked over the plans carefully and to maintain shields capable of keeping small craft out wasn’t feasible, given the perceived value of keeping them out. That would require a massive amount of energy. Between the power requirements to run the functions of the station, the hyperdrive, and the weapon itself, there just wasn’t much left for a moon sized shield”

“Thank you for your analysis “ Bail said, “It’s been most helpful”

The analyst nodded and left. Breha breathed out slowly as she weighed the plan before them. “So the fighters have fifteen minutes before Alderaan is destroyed. That doesn’t leave them much time.” Leia frowned to herself. In the battle of Yavin they had thirty minutes before the Death Star has been able to open fire. This was cutting their attack time in half.

Willard spoke up. “We can cut some of that by bringing them out of hyperspace as close as we can to the station. Given that Tarkin is still actively broadcasting the signal it shouldn’t be too difficult to triangulate its exact position near Alderaan.”

Mon shook her head, “It’s still not a lot of time. Breha are you sure you wish to press forward with this?”

Breha’s gaze fell on her daughter’s face. Leia gave a slight nod. Some of that long ago battle had been eaten up by the necessity of the fighters reaching the station. She couldn’t recall, with any certainty, how long it took the fighters to reach the station at Yavin, but it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes. This attack now would be cutting it uncomfortably close, but even this small chance was better than nothing.

“Yes.” her mother stated firmly.

Mon sighed “Very well. I will give the general call out and we will inform the entire base of our decision. General Dononda the pilot’s briefing will held in twenty minutes. Time is not an asset we have much of now.”

As the various people broke away to fulfill their tasks Leia come up to her father and gently guided him to a deserted corner in the room.

“I’m going up there.” she told him, keeping her voice low to avoid the possibility of being overheard.

His eyes widened in panic “Leia, you don’t have the training, or the experience…” he trailed off as he took in her expression. “You do don’t you? Force Leia, did you go up there the first time?”

She shook her head “No. At the time, as you so correctly pointed out, I did not have the experience. I do now. This isn’t my first dogfight.”

“Leia..” he breathed disappointed. Leia swallowed the hurt caused by his reaction. She was who she was. She had tried the political route to secure the safety of the galaxy. She had hammered her head for years against that particular wall and in the end it was her skills planning and being on the battlefield where she was of the most use. And she would not apologize to anyone, not even her father, for that.

She gave him a wry smile. “I’m a fairly competent pilot, not the best, but good. I’ll be fine.”

“You can’t know that.” Worry lines were appearing at the corners of his eyes.

“No. But what I do know is that I’m not sure a targeting computer can make that shot.”

His face grew concerned “Then why did you push for this madness?”

“A strong force sensitive can though.” she assured him “Luke is going to want to go, and I need to go along just in case. We can do this, I promise.”

His face reflected his conflict, but he only said “Very well. I’ll inform General Dononda.”

 

The pilots briefing didn’t bolster anyone’s mood. When Dodonna entered, with her parents trailing behind him, he looked up and frowned as he took in their numbers. The gathered pilots low murmurs dropped into a visible hush as everyone noted that the room was not nearly as full as it had been three days go. Leia gave an internal sigh. This wasn’t the first time the Alliance had paid a high price for a win against the Empire. It wouldn’t be the last either. The only thing they could do was push forward and hope to hell the cost they paid made it worth. She would make it worth it dammit. She hadn’t been thrown into the past with no way to get home if she couldn’t in someway make this turn out better than it had last time.

The mood didn’t improve as Dononda explained the plan, the pilots around her face grew dark. When he threw up the size and dimensions of the station, there were rumblings of dissent.

One of the pilots asked the question they were all thinking. “Pardon me for asking sir, but what good are snub fighters going to be against that?”

“Well, the Empire doesn’t consider a small one man fighter to be any threat or they would have found a way to create a tighter defense. An analysis of the plans that were stolen from the base at Scarif, and delivered by their highnesses has demonstrated a weakness in the battle station.” There were murmurs at that, but Dodonna ignored them and continued on in a warning voice “The approach will not be easy. You’re required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point.” A hologram appeared on screen. “It’s a small thermal exhaust port right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor. A precise hit, and only a precise hit, will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station. The shaft is ray shielded so you will have to use proton torpedoes.”

There is a murmur of dismay among the pilots and Wedge voices what they are all thinking “That’s impossible, even for a computer.”

“But it’s not impossible” Luke interjects “I used to bullseye womp rats on T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than two meters.”

Her brother didn’t notice the fairly disbelieving looks that several of the other pilots shot him. They thought he was responding with a newbie’s bravado. Well, she had never seen him kill a womp rat, but Leia knew the value of the skills he had learned growing up on Tatooine. It was not a planet for the weak or stupid. Deserts were harsh unforgiving places in their own right, and when you added the corruption and brutality of the Hutts on top of it, well it gave one a very unique education on survival. Her brother had never understood this early on how extraordinary his talents and skills were.

Breha stepped forward “I know we are asking a lot of you. But my planet is in danger, and we need your help. It will be difficult, but I do not believe it is impossible. Tarkin has made it very clear that one way or another Alderaan will pay the price. I would prefer we try to fight, but it is not my life on the line. This is a strictly volunteer mission. But, for everyone who chooses to go, I have faith that you will succeed.”

The crowd settled and silence fell once again as they absorbed what was on the line. Dodonna proclaimed “Then may the Force be with you.”

Leia turned to go and was surprised to see Han standing at the back near the entrance. She would have thought that he would have been long gone by now. He gave a shake of his head and he and Chewie disappeared down the corridor. She wasn’t sure where his head was at this moment. She gave Luke and small smile then motioned to him to follow Wedge to change into a flight suit. She hustled her way into the changing room and found a bright orange outfit for herself. She grimaced as she pulled it out. She didn’t remember these uniforms being quite so bright orange. Leia knew the Alliance was always short on cash, and it wasn't until recently they even had standard uniforms, but still. This was walking around with begging to be shot by anyone with color vision.

Once dressed she walked quickly to the flight deck to find the chief acquisitions officer. When she explained what she wanted, he gave her a funny look, but agreed to her request. Smiling to herself she made her way across the hangar, heading to the Falcon. She spotted Han as he began loading his ship with supplies.

He looked up at her approach, then dismay filled his face as he took in her flight uniform.

“Are you insane? Going against that battle station is suicide.” his voice was condescending, but she see the concern he was trying to conceal.

She sighed “It’s my home Han. I can’t not go.” She gave him a cocky grin “I’m not that bad of a pilot.”

His eyes softened at that. “This is still madness you know that right?”

“I have faith.”

“I do too.” Luke came from behind her and slung an arm around her shoulders.

Han’s eyes widened as he took in their matching uniforms and he asked disbelieving “She dragged you into this to?”

“She didn’t drag me into anything. I volunteered.” Luke stated.

“Of course you did.” Han looked pained.

Luke looked around at the supplies around him. “You’re leaving?” he sounded surprised. “Why bother coming to the briefing then?” That was actually a good point. She raised her eyebrow at Han, silently backing Luke’s question.

Han shook his head “Wanted to see what the fuss was all about. And after that briefing…” he trailed off “There is no way to win this. You should run while you have the chance.”

Luke’s face twisted into disgust “Like you’re doing?

“What good is a payment if you aren’t around to use it?” Han shot back.

“Well I thought...” Luke looked around helplessly “You know what we are up against. What is on the line. We could use a good pilot like you.”

Han threw his hands up in frustration “What is with you two? I’m a smuggler and I only look out for one person. Me. That’s the way the galaxy works kid, and the sooner you accept that the longer you’ll live. Like I told her worship here, it’s suicide.”

Luke looked as if had been slapped “Take care of yourself Han, I guess it’s what you're good at.” he stomped off.

Han’s face fell at that and he called out to Luke’s retreating back. “Hey Luke” Luke merely ignored him and kept walking away. “May the Force with be you.” Han continued on. Luke stopped for a moment, then shrugged and kept walking.

Han sighed “Dammit.”

She sighed “That was very kind of you.”

He looked like he wanted to argue that but she just gave him a fond smile. “Take the compliment.”

He looked at Leia appraisingly “Are you sure I can’t convince  you to come with me? You are definitely calm under pressure. You can even drag the kid along if you like.I could use people like you in my crew.”

“Tempting.” she admitted. More tempting then he knew. For a moment she indulged herself in the fantasy of the three of them running around the galaxy, answerable to no one but themselves. Hadn’t she done enough? Maybe it would be possible for her and Han to carve out a life together, one where she wasn’t so burdened with so many expectations and responsibilities. She had been fighting her whole life, and now she was poised to do the same fight all over again. She savored that thought for a moment then she let the fantasy fall away.

That wasn’t who she was, that had never been who she was. She tired and she was afraid. Afraid once again Alderaan would be lost. Afraid that she wasn’t making the right decision in keeping her secrets. Afraid that she or Luke, or both of them would die up in this fight. But Leia had never run away from a duty that had been placed squarely in front of her. She wasn’t about to start now. She gave Han a regretful smile. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass on your offer”

His look was one part fondness and one part exasperation “I just knew you were going to say that.” A look of embarrassment came across his face and he blurted out. “I mean that for you too you know.”

“Mean what?”  

“May the Force be with you.” He spat that out so fast it took Leia a few seconds to parse out what he said. Then her heart broke at the meaning and worry behind that phrase.

She took in the sight of him standing there, embarrassed and defiant. She concentrated on committing it to her memory. She didn’t want this face to fade from her memories like so many other loved ones had. She leaned forward, and standing on her tip toes, brushed a small kiss on his cheek. She said softly “And with you too.” When she pulled back his eyes were wide with his shock. But he only gave her a small nod of farewell.

She turned, reminding herself not to look back, and headed in the direction her brother was heading. He wasn’t hard to find. He was doing unnecessary checks of the X-Wing that had been assigned to him, muttering under his breath.

“Hey” she said concerned “What’s wrong?” Not that she didn’t have a good idea.

“I just thought,” he sighed and straightened up to face her. “I really thought he might help us.”

“He has to live his life as he sees fit. No one else can choose it for him.” Not even her.

“Yeah, I know.” Luke’s voice was filled with his disappointment.

To get him off this dour mood she gave him a cheeky smile. “I have a present for you.”

He frowned “A present? In the middle of all this?”

“Oh, you’ll like this one.” she reassured him. “I want you to use R2-D2 when you go up there.” And like his name had summoned him R2 rolled around the tail end of the ship whistling a greeting to Luke.

Luke bit his lip “Uhh, that’s really generous, but who will you use?”

“I’ve already requisitioned another astromech.” she assured him.

He looked longingly at the droid, a familiar companion in this unfamiliar world. “But he’s your droid. Are you sure?”

She laughed out loud. R2 hadn’t been her droid for a very long time. Not for the galaxy would she deprive Luke of his best co-pilot. This was a correction to her meddling that she most definitely was happy to undertake. “He likes you, you will work well together. Take him.” she urges.

He gave her a wide sunny smile and knelt down to address to R2. “What do say, you want to join me up there?” he asked.

R2 beeped a long affirmative whistle.

Luke looked up at her from his kneeling position “Thank you.”

“You are most welcome.”

The floor became more and more crowded as the techs were hustling around them as they got the ships ready. Leia was about to give her farewells to Luke when Obi-Wan’s voice came from behind her “That is very generous of you Leia.”

She turned to face him “It’s wasn’t really, just practical. R2 is old, but he’s clever. Luke is going to need every advantage he can get.”

Obi-Wan’s face had the briefest flicker of amusement “Yes, he is.” he agreed. Before Leia could ask what part of her statement he was agreeing with, he called out “Luke. I was looking for you.”

Luke, who was about to ascend the ladder into his cockpit came trotting back. “Really? What for?”

Obi-Wan looked at him solemnly “You are a good pilot Luke, but I’m been in a few battles myself, and this is your first one” He rested his hands on the blond’s shoulders and stared Luke directly in the face “Listen to the Force, trust your instincts. They do you credit.”

“I will.” Luke’s face was wide and questioning, but his voice held steady.  

Leia turned to the General “Are you going up?”

He turned around to face her, his hands dropping from her brother's shoulders. “Me, oh no. I dislike flying, people are always shooting at me when I’m flying.”

Luke gave a muffled laugh and Leia rolled her eyes.

“Luke?” a male voice asked incredulously.

Her brother turned and his face broke into a wide grin “Biggs!” he shouted delighted. He ran to the man and they hugged.

Biggs. Biggs Darklighter. Childhood friend. He died in the battle of Yavin. Leia didn’t know much beyond that. Luke had never talked about Biggs much after the first year with the rebellion. His death had been a grief on top of too many other grief’s on that horrible day. Well maybe not this time.

“I told you!” Luke crowded “I told you I’d make it!”

Biggs grinned “Well of course you show up now, when it’s the worst possible time.”  

Luke laughed “Just my natural good luck.”

Biggs shook his head ruefully “As much as I hate to see you here on this mission of all missions, you are still the best bush pilot in the outer rim. We could definitely use you. How did you end up here anyway?”

Her brother shrugged “That is a long story. But,” he tugged on his friend's arm, bringing them closer to her “there is someone I want you to meet. Biggs. Leia Organa” He gestured to her then repeated the gesture towards his friend “Leia Organa this is Biggs Darklighter.”

She gave the man the friendliest smile she could summon “Charmed” she said.

The flabbergasted look Biggs shoot Luke was rather amusing “Organa. Princess Organa?”

“Leia is fine.”

He shot Luke a look. “Skywalker what did you walk into this time?”

Her brother’s mood was teasing “I told you it was a long story.”

“Don’t believe a word this farm boy has to tell you about me. He lies all the time, it’s very tragic.”

Leia schooled her face not to show her amusement. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Biggs finally noticed Obi-Wan standing beside her “Kenobi.” he said with a jaunty grin “Surprised to see you out here.” So the gossip hadn’t reached the whole base about the Jedi’s identity.

“Darklighter.” Obi-Wan answered back smoothly “Still following Luke into trouble I see.”

Biggs gave him a wide look of innocence “Oh no sir. He was following me.”

Luke rolled his eyes, and Leia felt she was missing a very old joke between the three of them.

Biggs grabbed Luke and pulled him away ”Now let me give you a few pointers Luke, this is a bit different then that beat up old skyhopper of yours.”

Obi-Wan stood with her as the two men headed away. He was silent for a moment then in a quiet voice “You know he’ll be there.”

She snorted. There was no need to ask the who Obi-Wan was referring to. “Of course he will be. There is a cataclysmic event in my life threatening to tear everything I love asunder. Where else would he be?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes sharpened at her implied reference to future events but let it go “Keep your shields down tight Leia. As tight as you can.”

She nodded, trying to keep her face neutral. She wasn’t Luke heading off to her first battle. Yelling at him that she was only a few years younger then him and she didn’t need any lectures wouldn’t be productive right now. As much as she wished otherwise.   

“And you should listen to your instincts too.”

“I’m still not a Jedi.” she insisted.

He looked at her appraisingly “No, but the Force is strong with you, and it always will be.”

 

When the ships exited hyperspace for a moment Leia lost focus. The Death Star was there hovering over her planet. Alderaan had no moon, so the sight must be visible to everyone on this side of the planet. With Tarkin’s galaxy wide broadcast there was no way her people didn’t know their death was filling the sky. She steeled her reserve. They could do this. It had been done it once before.

There was a wave of surprise in the Force, followed very quickly by panic. Concerned, she reached out to Luke, on instinct, to calm him. Her brother was worried yes, but he was focused and resolved to see this done. Then who….

“Leia? ” the unfamiliar sounding mental voice was tentative, as if he was hoping that it was some other daughter currently barrelling towards her probable death. She had expected him to be here. She hadn’t been expecting to be bombarded by his surprise, fear and worry though. Did he really think she wouldn’t come? Did he think she would just wait in worry while her planet was in danger?

She threw up every shield she could, cursing herself for even letting a fraction of them down reaching for her brother. This was not the time to be caught in his panic and worry. Really, what was that about? Afraid his plans to use her would come to nothing?

She felt him reach out again, not nearly as tentative this time, but all she felt was the impression of someone knocking at the walls she carefully constructed. Annoying yes, but not nearly as distracting as his voice had been. The stray thought occurred to her that that voice was probably what he sounded like outside of the suit. It was a nice sounding voice, not ominous at all and it definitely didn’t fit the image of all that cold black armour. She shoved it away, that was completely irrelevant, she had bigger things to focus on.

“Would you look at the size of that thing?” Wedge said, awestruck. Leia brought her focus back to the matter at hand.

“Cut the chatter Red 2” Red Leader’s voice nonsense tone filled the comms. “Roll Call”

As the pilots in the red squadron duly reported back, Leia called in after her brother.

“This is Red 8 standing by.” she announced over the comms.

“Lock your S foils into attack position.” was the instruction that followed.

As they hit the magnetic field, R7 gave a warble of alarm and began making adjustments to the deflector shield. Bit bumpy her ass, the X-Wing felt like it was trying to tear itself apart. When she got back to Yavin she and that analyst were going to have a chat about appropriate rating systems. Fortunately that part didn’t last long and they were through.

As the Death Star filled her screen, Red Leader’s voice came over the comms. “Switch to the open frequency.”

Leia complied and Tarkin’s voice filled her comms “Citizens of the galaxy, I regret to inform you that the rebellion has elected not to surrender, but instead have launched a small set of one man fighters against this station. As a consequence, they and the Alderaan system will be destroyed.Such is the fate for all who defy the Empire.” The message began playing again on a loop and Leia switched back to the Alliance frequencies.

Red Leader’s voice was calm over the comms “Alright ladies and gents, this wasn’t anything we weren’t expecting. Everyone set your chronos to fifteen minutes. That is all the time we have to do this, and don’t forget to keep track. Keep your focus on the mission and let’s get this started.”

“Red leader this is Gold leader. We are starting our attack run now.” The three Y-Wings broke off from the main group heading to the trench.

“Copy that Gold Leader. We’ll cut across their axis and try to draw their fire” The rest of the fighters began to break off into their assigned groups of threes. They spilt across the surface as they began opening fire upon the station.

Leia took a deep breath and followed her squad down and across the trench to draw the fire of the cannons mounted to the station. The barrage began swiftly, but wasn’t very effective. The cannons mounted on the hull of the Death Star were designed for cruisers, not one man fighters. Leia began methodically targeting cannon after cannon on her run. Her fellow pilots were also raining destruction down upon the mechanical landscape. As she saw fireballs bloom and fold Leia felt a well of satisfaction rise in her. This was only a small part of the station. The damage they were inflicting was nothing but an annoyance in the long run. But to see it, to see it for herself, the damage they were causing this abomination that was the cause of one of the greatest tragedies in her life was undeniable.

“Heavy fire boss, twenty three degrees” Wedge let out.

“I see it, stay low.” Red Leader barked. The voices burst into her ear, bringing her back into the present. She shook her head, now was not a good time to lose her focus, no matter what the cause.

Leia banked and dodged as the cannon fire burst around her, concentrating on both destroying as many towers as she could find and keeping her senses open as she dared to keep track of her brother.

Luke’s voice filled her comms “This is Red Five, I’m going in.’

She couldn’t see what he was doing, precisely, she was too busy trying to fire at the cannons, but Biggs panicked voice followed soon after his announcement “Luke! Pull up!” Dammit Luke didn’t have enough experience flying in low gravity. The Station was big enough that flying over it wasn’t like flying in space where you could pull up quickly. And it certainly wasn’t the normal gravity of Tatooine where Luke would know by experience how much he would have to fight the stick.

She dropped her shields and reached out, Luke was worried and feeling a bit chagrined, but otherwise unharmed.

“Are you alright?” Biggs asked.

“I got a little cooked but I’m okay.” he reassured him. She rolled her eyes. Typical of Luke, I almost died doing an insane stunt, but I figured out how to do it and I’m mostly intact. So everything is fine.

Biggs apparently also understood her brother because he didn’t lecture him either. “You are staying here. I’m going in now, cover me Porkins.”

“I’m right with you Red Three..” Porkins answered.

“Red Five I’m coming to you to cover your flank.” she announced. Leia pulled up from her flight path and brought the ship up a bit further from the surface to see where Luke was. Finding him she flew to coming to his left flank, and the two of them began their next strike run across the surface.

“I’ve got a problem here” Porkins declared.

“Eject” Biggs demanded.

“I can hold it” he insisted.

Leia switched on her comms “Pull out now.”

Porkins “I’m fine Red Eight.” He insisted, sounding annoyed.

Red Leader’s voice cut in “Not according to the stats your droid is feeding me. Your right stabilizer is blown and as of now you are useless to me. This is not a suicide mission. Get out of here now. That is an order.”

Porkins grumbled but did as he was told, pulling out and heading away from the station.

Biggs continued on with his attack solo and Leia kept her ship by Luke’s side. As explosion after explosion occurred on the surface, the amount of fire coming there way slowed down to a trickle. Then they stopped the barrage completely.

Red leader’s voice broke through “We’re going to get enemy fighters.”

Luke broke in “My scope isn’t picking up anything.”

Red Leader’s advice came across the comms “With this much weapons discharge your scopes can’t pick them up from the energy disbursement around here. Stick to visual confirmation”

Leia looked around frantically then felt a tug on the force. She looked to her right “I got them.” she announced “Sixteen of them heading in. Nineteen degrees.” Three other pilots chimed in with visual confirmation of Leia’s assessment.

Red Leader’s voice was commanding as he ordered “Whatever you do do not let those TIE’s into the trench.”  

She banked and threw her fighter to the left, leaving Luke behind as she headed to where there were two TIE’s heading the way of Gold Squadron.

“If you pick one up watch it.” Luke stated.

“I can’t see him” Biggs sounded frightened.

“Bigg’s I’m heading your way.” Luke’s voice was filled with concern and Leia opened herself up just a little more to keep an eye on him. One of the TIE’S in her duo broke off and she continued to follow his companion.

“Thanks Red Five.” Biggs muttered.

Leia’s relief was short lived as she felt Luke’s worry flare across her mind.

“Watch your back Red Eight, watch your back!!” Red Leader’s voice broke through.

Leia cursed as she realized that she was too focused on what Luke was doing and not enough on her own situation. The TIE who had broken off was now on her six. The proximity alarms in her cockpit started wailing as the TIE tried to get a lock on her. She began to swing her ship wildly side to side, helping her to evade his shot.

“I can’t shake him.” she announced over the comms.

“Red Six do you see Red Eight?

“It’s a heavy firing zone, I can’t see her.”

Well help in that quarter wasn’t going to come quickly enough. Listen to your instincts, Kenobi had said. She took a deep breath and listened for that quiet nudge that told her what was the best option, only to gag at the overwhelming swirl of Vader’s emotions. Her hands jerked on the joystick and her X-Wing bobbled. She quickly pulled it out of the dive she inadvertently sent it into.

Leia!” she flinched at his mental voice, it was full of everything he was feeling, and at full volume. It also had the side effect of overwhelming everything else she could possible feel in the Force. Leia’s head began to ache with the echoes of it, and the cloying nature of his fear was making her heart speed up and palms sweat.  Didn't he understand the value of restraint? At all? "You need to leave. I know what you are trying to do, I’ve taken care of-

Are you trying to get me killed? ” she howled, her frustration at this situation overwhelming her distaste at communicating with him in this intimate manner. She was fighting for her life and he wanted to chat? There was a flare of shock followed quickly by the withdrawing of that wave of overriding emotion. Apparently, much like his alternate had with Luke, he wanted her alive. Well wasn’t that useful to confirm. She gritted her teeth, thankful for the relative silence now, and listened for the internal tick that would tell her when and where to move.

“LEIA!!!” Luke’s voice was shaky “We are on our way.”

“Sooner would be better!” she shouted over the comms.

Then there was an X-Wing flying over her head, and the proximity alarms stopped their annoying wail.

“Got him!” Wedge exclaimed.

“Thank you.” she muttered, drawing her shields tight around her again, before Vader started yelling again. He was getting louder, and stronger. Experience with Luke told her that meant he was getting closer.  Once he entered the field, their chances were going to slip further away. Damn it they were running out of time. And though she had long practice with her shields she had never been in a battle with someone so strong and determined to get her to hear him. Maybe Obi-Wan had a point about warning her, and was not being a condescending.

“Red Leader this is Gold Leader we are in range for the targeting computer.”

Luke’s voice “I see a new group. Three of them coming in on vector two nine.”

Leia brought her X-Wing up just in time to see the squad disappear into the trench. The Force around her grew cold, even through her shields she could feel the sharp jagged edges of. Vader was leading that squad. She tamped down on the instinct to follow them. She had been given no orders to do so and there was still enemy fighters up here. “Gold Leader you’re about to have company.” She announced over the comms.

There was an ominous silence as all of the remaining pilots not in the trench absorbed her words. “It’s almost there” Gold Leader breathed.

“Sir we’ve got enemy fighter coming in on us” Gold Five stated, “They-” his transmission was cut off abruptly. Another life at Vader’s hands. This was not anything she thought she would have to grapple with ever again. Her eyes briefly closed in regret, and then she force herself to let it all of it go. She couldn’t afford to be distracted. She needed to focus on what she was doing. That is what had lead her to her earlier disaster of falling into a trap.

“It’s away!!!” Gold Leader’s voice was triumphant.

“Did it go in?” Red Leader asked hopefully.

There was a beat of silence and a defeated “No, just deflected to the side.”

Leia felt doubts close in on her. If she took into account Red Leader’s attempt at Yavin, that was two tries with the targeting computer that failed. She glanced at the chrono and she cursed when she read seven minutes. They had used up half of their allotted time. She didn’t want to send more men into that trench trying for something only she or Luke could achieve, but she had no way of making sure they were the next ones.

“Gold Leader to Red leader, I am out of the trench, but I lost Tyree and lost Hutch.”

“I copy Gold Leader.”

“They came at us from behind-” the transmission was cut off in a burst of static.  Red Leader called out “Red 3, Red 5, and Red 8, you’re closer to the entrance point and so I need you to start your run. We’ll wait up here and get ready for ours.” Leia felt a wash of relief come over her, luck or the Force, it didn’t matter to her who delivered this opportunity. It was up to her and Luke now, and hopefully more lives would be saved as they wouldn't be in the trench to be mowed down by Vader.

The three up them briefly flew higher as they clustered together and then as one the swooped down and entered the trench.

“Let’s go full speed, that should keep those fighters off our tails.”

“Luke at that speed will be able to pull up in time?” Biggs asked.

“It’ll be like Beggar's Canyon back home.” Luke assured him.

As they flew down past the metal canyon walls, the guns did not start again.

“Keep an eye out for those fighters.” Luke warned, as they got closer and closer to the starting point for the targeting computer.    

“Come on, Come on” Leia whispered pointless, urging the ground before them to go by faster. The lack of fire coming from the turrets meant that those TIE’s were near. Then that cold presence was there, making all the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. The proximity alarms started going off again, and Leia felt despair wash over her.

Then Vader began banging at her shields again. Presumably he had started again because he could see where she was and figured she could handle the distraction. She gritted her teeth and ignored him. Whatever he was going to offer her to coax to try to get her to leave wasn’t anything she was interested in hearing. Then he opened fire, concentrating his efforts on Bigg’s ships.

Bigg’s panicked voice came over the speaker  “I can’t hold them.”

Luke’s voice game over the comms “I’ve activated the targeting computer. I just need a little time.”

Taking a gamble, Leia veered left, directly behind Luke trying to simultaneously cover her brother and to try to get Vader’s attention, but he was focused on Biggs.

“Luke hurry up.” Biggs was genuinely panicked now, and Leia thought briefly of screaming at Vader again to get him to stop. She gathered herself for the shout and there was a fiery ball that flashed in the corner of her eyes. Biggs was gone. Because of her shields she couldn’t feel her brother’s reaction but she knew that she had failed to protect one of the last living links to his past. He was going to be devastated over this. Again. “Dammit.” she muttered.

Then Vader began firing at her. The energy beams passed her view screen, with their deep green color. Leia let out a startled yelp and almost began to do evasive maneuvers out of habit. So much for wanting her alive. She stilled herself though. If she started to move, Luke would die before he got off the shot. He would die and Alderaan would die.  And then she took a deep steadying breath, and analyzed what was happening here.

To someone who wasn’t as familiar with his abilities as a pilot it would look like he was just missing. Leia had spent four years in the rebellion and was bitterly acquainted with the level of his abilities. The list of Rebel pilots that had lost their lives to him was long. She was also aware to her own levels. She was competent, but she wasn’t brilliant, and he was. She was almost directly in front of him and was doing nothing to evade his shots. He was deliberately missing, hoping to spook her into moving so that he could have a clear aim at Luke. “Tricky.” she muttered under her breath “Very very tricky. But I’m just as clever. And more importantly I’m not moving.”

This was fast becoming a moot point. They were soon going to hit the point of no return and Luke was still not reaching out with the Force. His targeting computer was still trying to calculate and it probably wouldn’t work anyway. She couldn’t make the shot, not while he was in the way. But she couldn’t move or Vader would take him out. This was something she wanted to avoid. She had no desire to have Vader become aware of Luke, and at this close he would sense anything her brother did. Luke was just as loud as she was in the Force. But if she did nothing, Alderaan was lost. She bit her lip as she weighed her brother's anonymity with her planet’s survival.

Luke would be the first one to kick her ass for this line of thinking. His temporary safety against billions of lives, it wouldn't even be a question for him. He wanted to train as a Jedi, Vader was going to learn about him one way or another. She would prefer to have it happen later, but there was no sense in railing against it now.

Bracing herself, she reached out, knowing that this would weaken her shields. She made a note to practice this in the future. She knew it was possible to both maintain them and talk mentally, she just didn’t have enough practice to keep Vader out.  “Luke.” she whispered into the Force, feeling his shock and confusion at her voice. She continued, hoping against hope that he would believe this was real and not a figment of his imagination “Luke, the targeting computer won’t work. Please, trust your instincts.”

LEIA!!! ” reverberated in her skull.  She flinched automatically at his bellow, and did her best to ignore him.

This will work .” she put every bit of faith and love she held for him into that sentence “Please Luke, we are running out of time. Trust me. Trust the Force. Take the shot.”

LEIA PLEASE LISTEN TO ME! ” Dammit did he ever shut up?

“Luke, you’ve turn off your targeting computer. Is everything alright?” Red Leader asked.

“Yeah, I’m alright” he assured them “Everything is okay.”

She felt him reach out, like a baby bird trying it’s first flight, wobble and unsure. That got Vader’s attention, and she felt his focus break from her as he concentrated on this new development. She held her breath as Luke tried to make sense of what he was feeling. Then a bright flare of confusion and fear tore through the Force like ripples in a pond. She felt Vader’s cold dark presence move rapidly away from her.

Then there was a most loved voice, repeating something she had heard in one of her darkest moments. “You’re all clear kid,” Han crowded across the comms “now let’s blow this thing and go home.”

Leia felt her brother’s calm focused moment and then the torpedoes were away. She whooped as the entered the port and quickly disappeared. She and Luke pulled out of the trench and ascended out of the trench. Once they hit the surface they kept at full speed, trying to place as much distance between themselves and the Death Star as they could.

“Great shot kid, that was one in a million!!!”

“Good job Red Five.” she said, echoing Han.

There were whoops and calls on the comm as the surviving pilots realized what had been accomplished.

Red Leader’s voice cut through all of it. “Alright boys and girls, let’s get out of here.” And they all exited to hyperspace.

 

When they arrived on Yavin Leia quickly descended from her cockpit and went running to Luke.

“You did it!” she crowed. He grinned and returned the hug just as enthusiastically.

“Thanks to you” he whispered in her ear. Pulling back slightly he gave her a puzzled look “That was you, right?”

She nodded “Later.” she promised “I’ll explain everything later.”

Then Han’s arms were around both of them.“That was without a doubt the best flying I have ever seen!!” he shouted jubilantly.

“I knew you would come back!” Leia teased, enjoying the feeling of his hug “If only for the reward.”

His grin faltered for a moment, then seeing her grin, he realized she wasn't being serious. “Oh of course.” he said “I’m only in it for myself!” Then he shook his head “You two are in a serious need of a keeper.”

“Are you volunteering?” she asked, delighted by the glimmer of hope in his eyes.

He opened his mouth to answer but Chewie gave a roar of victory and enclosed all of them in his embrace, practically pulling them all off the floor. Leia was still laughing when it seemed the the rest of the rebellion descended on them.

Chapter Text

ABA (After the Battle of Alderaan)  - Day 1

 

Leia was asleep, at least she was reasonably certain she was asleep, in that state of neither here nor there. Where she believed whole heartedly she was dreaming, and also at the same time that everything happening was real.

Mon Mothma was sitting at her desk, in her office as Chancellor for the New Republic. It was a wide open space, the walls painted a cheery yellow, dominated by three circular windows at the back. The room itself was sparsely furnished, only seating and two tables flanking the doors. There were no adornments hanging on the walls. Leia often thought that it was almost too sterile, but she understood Mon’s political statement of the shunning of Palpatine's excesses in decoration. Mon’s desk sat in the middle of the room, the light pouring onto her and lightening up her flame red hair.  She was calm and cool as always when she spoke “It is vital to the survival of the New Republic that we open a restaurant on the floor of the Senate, Leia”

Leia frowned at this. There were so many arguments against this insane plan of action she wasn’t even sure where to start. She was just opening her mouth to voice some of them when she felt a hard push against her shields. Frowning she turned to the door, wondering who was trying to get in.

Mon continued on, and she turned her head back to the woman. “When the Senators are hungry they get grumpy.” She gave Leia a pleading look. “And when they are grumpy none of the bills we need to pass come to anything. Leia, you are one of my most astute and trusted political advisers, I need your support on this.”

That push came again and Leia turned away from the older woman, to stare at the door in puzzlement. Who would be so rude as to interrupt them now? She frowned as she recognized the presence behind the annoyance. It was him. Well, she didn’t want to talk to him, she was too busy trying to tear down everything he built.

“Chancellor, if you could give me a moment.” she explained to Mon and resolutely got up. Heading to one of the tables at the side of the door, she pulled it across the entrance as a barrier. Satisfied she nodded, that would keep him out.

When she turned back around Mon raised an eyebrow in inquiry “Are you quite finished Leia? I told the guards not to let anyone in, I hardly think that was necessary.”

Leia muttered “Can’t be too careful nowadays.” She returned to her seat and began her counter arguments “Mon, we don’t have the permits needed to open a restaurant on the Senate floor. It will take months to acquire them and with so many species represented here I don’t think it would very practical in any case.The food the Bothans eat would drive the Wookie contingent crazy with the smell alone. And we need to pass the bill of rights for nerf herders now, or they will withdraw their support.”

Mon sighed “I understand all of this Leia, but I-” the rest of her sentence was cut off as a loud wail of pain came through the door. Leia turned in annoyance to yell at him, she really didn’t have time for this right now. Couldn’t he sense she was busy? Then the wail came again and Leia shivered when she recognized the sound of that voice. It was Luke, not him, and her brother was in pain. The part of her that believed this was real disappeared as, without thinking she stepped into her brother’s mind, that office from so long ago fading away.

She was standing in the desert, watching several small buildings burn in front of her. There was destruction all around, but the figure who standing in front of it all, was focused on one particular site above all others. The pair of skeletons, stripped of all recognizable features by the fire, were splayed carelessly in front of the building closest to them.  She sighed, this was an old nightmare, as familiar to her as one of her own. She stepped up to the figure watching it all, with disbelief and grief swirling around him.

“This wasn’t your fault Luke.” she said as gently as she could, grabbing his hand in hers, sending him comfort.

His head turned to look down on her, his eyes wide and startled as he took her in.

“Leia?” he asked in a high pitched voice “What are you doing here?”

Leia felt her eyes snap open as she reacted to her brother’s surprise and was startled to see the rough worn walls of an unfamiliar complex meet her eyes. No, not unfamiliar. An old base she hadn't thought of in years, Yavin, she was on Yavin. The last few days flew into her mind and she sat up in bed cursing. She was in the past, Alderaan was saved, and she just walked into her brother’s nineteen year old mind, without so much as a by your leave. Well hell, this was a massive screw up on her part.

 

She got dressed and headed to the hallways. She wasn’t getting back to sleep now. She vaguely knew where her brother had been stationed and she followed her sense of him to guide her to his location. He was so unguarded that he was leaking his confusion and panic everywhere and Leia resisted the urge to delve deeper into that. It would be...not good, to take advantage of him like that. He didn’t understand what was going on around him and he hadn’t given her permission to delve into his mind. She was half surprised she hadn’t run into Obi-Wan yet, demanding answers about what was going on. She came to his quarters, at least where he was sleeping for the night, and knocked on the door. He immediately open up, seemingly not surprised to see her there. He was dressed in night clothes that were too big on him. Probably borrowed from Han.

“What was that?” he demanded “Am I losing my mind or-”

She shook her head, cutting him off. There was no such thing as privacy in the halls of a military base. “Not here, get dressed and we will go somewhere a bit more private.” He nodded his assent and closed the door., She waited for a few minutes until he emerged, looking worried and a bit defiant. Leia couldn’t blame him, she had done something really stupid and invasive, he was entitled to his anger. She motioned him to follow her as they made their way through the labyrinth of corridors finally heading to the flight deck and walking out of the entrance into the moist night air. She waited till they were about fifty yards out, far enough way that if their was yelling involved no one would overhear, but not close enough to the sensor’s boundary to set off any alarms. She turned and faced Luke head on. “Alright, I don’t think anyone will over hear us, go ahead.”

“You spoke to me in my mind. On the Death Star run.” She nodded in affirmation and he continued “And then, just now, you were in my dream.”

She grimaced, “Yes I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that without permission. It’s habit.”

“Habit?” his face betrayed only bewilderment. Oh, she was mucking this up badly.

“Yes. I…” she trailed off as she searched for the right words. You’d think she be a bit better at telling people this. “I was going to tell you tomorrow anyway. Obi-Wan knows, so do my parents.”

“You’re a Jedi.” his face filled with wonder.

“No!” she was very tired of being told that. “I am not. Strong in the Force, yes. Jedi no.”

“Then how?” he crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at her.

Best just to jump into then. “I am from the future.”

He cocked his head “Excuse me?”

“I am from the future. About thirty years” she elaborated.

A look of distrust crossed his face “Funny, you don’t look that old.”

She gaped at him. Trust him to narrow down onto the practicalities. “No, I mean yes. This body is nineteen” she gestured down at herself. Then she tapped her head “But up here, I’m fifty three years old. I went to sleep, then without explanation, I woke up in this time.”

“Just like that?”

“Yes, just like that.”

“Okay,” he looked thoughtful, losing some of his defensive posturing “Then why do you have the habit of walking into my dreams fifty three year old Leia?”

“Not all your dreams.” she assured him “Just the nightmares. As a way to offer comfort. You use to do the same.”

“This is a thing Jedi do?”

“You know I have no idea.” she answered thoughtfully “We always figured it was easy for us because we’re…” she trailed off, unsure how to phrase this. Well she wasn’t going to go about it the way he had. Best just come out and say it.

“Because we are what?” Impatience was coloring his voice.

“Because we are twins” she answered “You're my brother Luke. We were seperated at birth to protect us from the Emperor.”

He stared at her flatly for a minute “So you learned this in the future?”

“Yes, ask Obi-Wan. He can confirm that.”

“That your from the future?”

She grimaced “Well he doesn’t have any more evidence then you do on that point. But the siblings part, that he confirm.”

His face was terrifyingly blank for a moment then something like acceptance rolled over him “I’m going to go with this. In last few days I learned my father was a Jedi, crazy old Ben is some sort of famous war hero, and I blow up a moon sized battle station. You being my twin sister from the future is just another escalation of the crazy and impossible.”

“Really?” she breathed.

He shrugged “Really.”

“You believe me?”

“You’re the one who told me to trust my instincts. They say you aren’t lying, so yes. I believe you.”

She laughed and caught him in a hug. Startled he caught her back and then he returned the hug just as fiercely. She couldn’t even express how happy she was to be believed. Just believed. She was worried that he would question and prod and it was exhausting her just thinking about it. But Luke, Luke had faith. He had always had faith.

They hugged for a awhile then she pulled back and gave him her sunniest smile. He gave one back and asked “What is that for?”

“For being you. For being my brother. For believing me.”

“Alright, but you need higher standards for the next unexpected family member you find.”

For a moment her thoughts flickered over to Vader. That had been him earlier, trying to to get her attention. She shoved thoughts of him away. Her shields had held, she could keep him out, this was not a problem she needed to be worried about right now. This was about Luke, and she wouldn’t let Vader steal her joy in them finding each other again.

And later ?” her conscience whispered “You are going to have to discuss this sometime General.

But not today.

He looked her over head to toe and then asked “I have so many questions, I’m not sure where to start?”

“What’s the first one then?” Please not about the future, I don’t want to talk about that.

His face screwed up in thought as he tried to settle on one of the million thoughts in his head. “Which of us is older?”

She laughed “I don’t know. We never figured it out actually.”

He nodded and then gave her a sly smile. “I feel like I’m the older brother. Plus I’m taller so you can be the little sister in all ways.”

She smirked at that. He didn’t know it but this was a really old conversation between the two of them. “Well I’m wiser, so clearly I was born first.” and she shoved him playfully on the shoulder “Plus it’s really rude to bring up the height thing. It’s not like you aren’t a little short to be a stormtrooper.”

“Huh?” Right, she had been following a script that they hadn’t written here.

“Doesn’t matter.” she assured him. “Needless to say we never resolved that particular argument.”

His eyes darkened at that “There was no one left to tell us? Didn’t your parents know?”

Her bright mood dimmed at that “No,” she answered “They never got the chance.”

His face fell in sympathy, but then he grabbed her hand and squeezed it in comfort. “You could ask them now.” he pointed out gently, remind her they were still here.

“Yes.” she agreed “But no, because it’s the middle of the night and I don’t think they would appreciate being woken up. My mother is not someone to cross until she has her morning tea.”

“My Uncle Owen is the same way…” he trailed off as he realized what he just said.

“I am sorry.” she said in a rush “I arrived to late to change that. I would have if I could, I know how much you loved them and I-” he shook his head, cutting her rambling off.

“I told you, that wasn’t your fault.” he reminded her “And it’s still not your fault. Even if you mysteriously appear in your own past to change things.” he frowned “You are changing things right?”

“Yes” she said slowly, wondering where his mind was going with this.  

“So you know what is going to happen?”

“No, I have an idea, but the changes I’ve already done have had a huge impact on the timeline. My specific intelligence is useless.” He thought about that for a minute. She wondered if he was going to ask about the Rebellion, his own training, or any other myriad possibilities about the future. But this was Luke, for him the personal details were always more important than any big picture.

“You knew Biggs would die?” he asked softly.

Leia bit her lip.  “He did before yes. I was hoping my presence would save more lives. And it did, just not his. I’m sorry.” She seemed to being saying that to him a lot.

He shook his head. “He made his choice. Hell, he made the choice to join the rebellion before I even did. You didn’t force him to go and you didn’t shoot him down Leia.” No, but their biological father had. Vader had probably done it before too. Leia wondered if Luke had known that. Maybe she hadn’t been able to save Biggs, but her actions led to Obi-Wan surviving, so he didn’t walk away from this completely alone from anyone who had known him as a child. And he had her. He would always have her.

“How many people know about this?” he asked suddenly, interrupting her recriminations. “That you’re from the future?” Then his brow creased as another thought occurred to him “Or that we’re related?”

“My parents and Obi-Wan. On both counts actually.”

He looked a little hurt “Obi-Wan knew? That you're my sister? But why didn’t he tell me when I showed him your hologram?”

Leia shrugged “I have no idea.” And come to think of it if he had that would have saved her and Luke from some very embarrassing situations in her past. Not to mention here and now. Maybe Luke learning now the old man had an interesting grasp of the truth wouldn’t be such a bad idea. “But I would like to keep both things secret for now.”

“Why wouldn’t you want people to know we’re siblings? Ashamed of me already?” the question was asked only half in jest.

“No.” she stated firmly, grabbing his hand “No, never.” He was most definitely not the family member she was ashamed of, he wasn’t the one that came with enormous problems. But how to explain this without looking like she was rejecting him. “But the name Skywalker, it paints a target on your back Luke. I already have a big enough one, I don’t need to add to it.”

His face darkened “Vader.” he said flatly.

“Tell him.Tell him.Tell him.” her conscience pricked. She looked into that face and couldn’t bring herself to do it. She had dealt with enough ups and downs in the last few days. This could wait. But she didn’t want to lie directly to him either. So she gave him the other reason.

“And the Emperor too.”

He looked shocked “What does he have to do with this?”

“Well he is a Sith Lord.” she explained “I’m strong in the Force, I’m just as much a target as you.”

“What’s a Sith Lord?”

She was getting ahead of herself. “That’s probably a question Obi-Wan can answer with more depth then I can. But broadly speaking a Jedi uses the Light side of the Force, and the Sith use the Dark.”

He nodded his head, and bit his lip thinking. “Alright, for now I won’t say anything.” Leia breathed a sigh of relief. “Or about you time traveling either.” He got a baffled look on his face “There’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter. It’s probably for the best that you keep that to yourself. I  can’t imagine how it would turn out if everyone thought they knew what was going to happen”

“Poorly.”

He looked startled “You’ve been here for what? Three days at most? That was fast to come to that conclusion.”

“Let’s say I have personally experienced with thinking I could control events and it blew up in my face.”

He grew concerned “Leia, when exactly did you arrive here?”

She fidgeted a little, knowing this answer would head into territory she didn’t want to explore, but she wasn’t going to lie to him “When my shuttle arrived at the Death Star.”

He winced “That was not good.”

She gave a bitter laugh. “No, it wasn’t.” She shuddered as she remembered that all encompassing panic at the sight of Vader. “But I got through it, and the station is destroyed. No point on dwelling on it.”

He grew suspicious “Is that your nice way of telling me to back off?”

She sighed “I’m rarely nice Luke. You're the nice one.” He looked slightly offended at that and she amended “Or the meaner one with a better face for playing dumb. But no, I don’t want to talk about it right now. There are a lot of things that I can’t talk about right now.”

“Would you mind if I still ask you some questions? You don’t have to answer them if you don’t want.”

“Alright”

“How much training did you get? I can’t imagine every person who has Force talent can walk into other people's minds”

“No, you’re right about that.” She did a quick look around and made sure no one was paying attention to them. The she floated the rock to her, slowly and methodically. Luke’s eyes went wide. “Who taught you that?”

She laughed “You did. Or would. I don’t practice all that often. It’s not something I’m comfortable with.”

“Why?” he looked honestly baffled. “Even the little bit I did on the Falcon, and at the Death Star it felt...” he trailed off trying to find the words “Like coming home.”

Because of where this comes from. Because I’m driven by my anger, and I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. Because I know my limitations and don’t want to be Vader. “It’s complicated.”

“Part of the knowledge that we will not be speaking of?” He looked so sad at being denied knowledge of her. Just like her father had been.

“Yes,” then she equivocated, not bearing the thought of his disappointment  “I will tell you. Just not now.”

“Alright” he hummed under his breath. Then jumped to another thought track entirely. “So you know almost everything about me.”

“I wouldn't say everything.” Like why you abandoned me when I needed you the most. She shoved that thought away. They each had their own ways of coping with trauma. She knew that, she didn’t begrudge Luke his. Well, maybe only a little. “But I know a lot yes.”

“Well clearly I am behind. So I need to catch up. What’s your favorite food?”

Leia snuggled up to her brother and gathered his hand into hers and they talked through the night.

 

The medal ceremony was held mid-day, by Yavin’s solar rhythm. It was actually much grander than the first one. Not also being incredibly busy trying to excavate as much equipment before the Empire came calling probably helped. She was part of it, again, but a recipient of a medal, instead of giving them. Along with Luke, Han, and Chewie. She wasn’t sure how she felt about receiving this honor at all. She had only peripherally involved in the what had been the last leg in a long chain of people who had helped in the destruction of the Death Star. She understood the importance of the ceremony to members of Rebellion, she just couldn’t shake the fact that she felt like she had cheated her way into this.  

Her mother was the one giving out the medals, her father standing slightly behind her on her right. As Leia walked side by side with Luke, Han and Chewie directly behind them, as she could see was her mother’s wide smile as they approached. When Breha leaned down to place the medal around her neck she whispered in her ears. “I am so very proud of you my daughter.” Leia’s eyes filled with tears. For now Alderaan was safe, and her parents were perhaps the only ones here who truly understood what a moment this was for Leia.  

The party afterwards was also a new change. After the Battle of Yavin, there had been many parties, but due to the evacuation, they had been much smaller affairs then this, broken up among the various escape ships. Now the crowd was roaring and filled with abandon as the  liquor was flowed freely. As the night progressed things got louder and louder as the pilots recalled their battles to the ground troops and techs. Luke seemed to be hanging on the edges, following along with stories, but giving all the pilots their due. Han was keeping him company, so she wasn’t too worried about the amount of trouble he could get into.

Leia herself also stayed on the edges. She was reluctant to drink, for fear of what she would say with a loosened tongue. And as much as this victory meant to her, she was all to bitterly aware of the long fight still left in front of them. She slipped away and walked into the clearing that was just outside the main temple, on the opposite side of the airfield. She was staring at it for long moments before she felt her mother come up to her side.

“What is so fascinating about the grass Leia?’ she teased.

Leia grinned widely, this was something she didn’t mind sharing about the future “That it’s empty. That there is nothing here.”

Her mother tutted “I think you’ve spent too much time around Jedi’s, even if you claim not to be one.”

Leia laughed “It wasn't a metaphorical answer, but a real one. Before, in the old version of these events, there is a statue erected here honoring you and father as martyrs to the cause.” She gave a sigh of satisfaction “And it’s not here.”

 

ABA  - Day 2

When Leia awoke the next morning she groggy and tired. Not from anything fun like drinking, but on Vader becoming increasingly louder and louder through the night. It had lead to so many odd and disjointed dreams of her locking doors and put barricades up everywhere she went. She finally gave up around dawn, got up and dressed. She was amused to see the cafeteria almost empty of everyone. Well, it had been a long week with so many losses, she really couldn't begrudge anyone the time to cut loose, celebrate, and mourn. After battle victories were always a mess of emotions and drinking. Usually heavy on the drinking.

As she ate her breakfast she reviewed her memories of the time. Yes she had been thrust into a leadership position of the Alliance council, mainly for the public relations value of it, and the fact that she had managed to get the plans they had paid such a price for to the High Command. She had proven herself, but those first few months after Alderaan's destruction there were many conversations she was excluded from on the basis of that most of the leadership hadn’t taken her seriously. Dodonna especially was prone to chalk up her more militant stances to “grief”. Some of them probably were, but she had made some very good points. And here she was again, facing the same problem, only on a much wider scale, because she didn’t even have the symbolic leadership role given to her by her parents death.

“You look grumpy” Luke sat down next to her at the table.

“Pondering my next move.” she told him in a quiet voice. There was practically no one in the hall at this moment, but it paid to be careful.

“Does it involve killing someone? Because I have to say I doubt that table did anything to deserve the scowl you are sending it.”

She laughed softly. “Just my own appearance.” she explained “No one is going to take my ideas seriously with this very youthful face looking at them. There are huge leadership vacuums right now, due to personal loss we took retrieving those plans and the fight to destroy the Death Star. But getting the pull I need, that is going to take time, which we do not have.”

He shrugged “So convince your parents.”

She frowned “What?”

Luke picked up his caff and took a long swig. “Convince your parents. Your father is on the Alliance Council isn’t he? Convince them of the merit of your ideas and arguments. They can present them as their own, until you’ve proven yourself.” he frowned “Although I would have thought getting the Death Star plans to safety would count for something.”

She sighed “It does. But that is just getting my foot in the door. Anybody can pull off one amazing feat. It’s repeating it and having a track record when your words start carrying real weight.”

“Surviving your one amazing feat counts too.” His face tightened in grief, clearly thinking of all those pilots, Biggs especially, who didn’t make it back from the defense of Alderaan.

“You’re right about that.” She felt very slow that Luke had to bring up her parents. This was like the reserve of the grieving process. But instead of forgetting that they were dead, she kept forgetting they were alive.

“Well this is cozy” Han smirked as he sat down across from them, no trace of last night revelry on his face. He always had a good head for liquor. “Some secret plan you two are hatching?”

Luke gave him a friendly smile. “Nah, complaining about the food.”

“Kid, it doesn’t matter what army you fight for, the food is always going to suck.”

Luke’s eyes widened “You mean all those tales about soldiers dining on the finest food was propaganda that the Empire uses?” He gave Han such an earnest disappointed look, that the older man was temporarily taken aback. Then Han’s eyes narrowed suspiciously and Luke’s face broke into a wide teasing grin.

“Remind me never to play sabacc with you.” Han turned to face Leia, “Well I’m off.”

“Third time's the charm?”

“I have some debts to pay off. But Mothma offered me a job, a trial run if you will, and I will be back.”

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am” she responded in a tone as dry as the desert, to cover the fact she was in fact very relieved.

Chewbacca ambled over <Let’s go pup.> he barked.

“Make sure he actually pays the damn thing,” she told Chewie “the Alliance really can’t afford a smuggler who is being hunted by the Hutts and the Empire.”

Chewie let out a woof of laughter <I’ll see to it.>

Beside her Luke stiffened “The Hutts?” he asked in soft voice.

Han shrugged “Found myself in debt to Jabba. Had some cargo that I had to dump and I owe him the money for it. It’s not a big deal kid.”

“Not a big deal” Luke echoed, and Leia stiffened in alarm. Luke was pissed. No Luke was past pissed and rapidly heading into anger. It had been a long time since Leia had seen her brother’s temper on full display. She had forgotten the thing ran deep as her own.

Han, fortunately, picked up on it too. Better yet he seemed to be understanding the source of Luke’s anger. “No,” he said firmly “I dealt with spice and intelligence gathering only. The occasional passenger, like yourself, who wanted no Imperial entanglements. No water exports and definitely no slaves.” Luke was still sitting there vibrating with fury “Luke, I blew up a very promising career with the Imps to free this one.” and here he gestured to Chewbacca “Why the hell would I go back to that now? I’ve done some shady stuff, and I’d be the first to admit it, but I would never do that.”

Luke unwound a little at that “And the cargo you dumped?” he pressed.

“Spice only.”

Luke seemed to weigh that for a moment, then gave a firm shake of his head. “Alright, then Leia is right. Pay the damn thing off.” He then went back to eating his breakfast, the subject closed as far as he was concerned.

Han gave them both a nod and headed out to the flight deck, Chewie by his side. Leia waited until they were out of earshot before she turned to Luke. “He was telling the truth about what he did.” she assured him.

Luke shrugged “I figured. It’s just..” he sighed “You're from a core world, you wouldn’t understand the grip the Hutts have on the outer rim. The Republic, the Empire, it didn’t make much of a difference to us. Neither of them were willing to take them on. It was not their problem.”

“I know.” And it was a problem that had continued to dodge the New Republic too. Most of the conscripts of the First Order were children stolen from the Outer Rim territories. Obi-Wan appeared at their side before Leia could even begin contemplating how to fix a problem which had been centuries in the making.

“Good morning.” he sat down across from them “You two don’t seem the worse for wear from last night's revelry.”

Leia shrugged “Didn’t really participate that much.”

Luke nodded “The same for me.”

Obi-Wan grinned, “Well, if I could steal Leia for a moment Luke. Her parents and I would like to discuss something with her and then we can start your lessons later this morning.”

“Sure. But can you answer a question for me?”

“If I can.”

Luke’s grin widened “Whose older, me or Leia?”

Obi-Wan stiffened slightly and then looked at Leia “You told him.”

She shrugged “I said I would” What was his issue? It wasn’t like she hadn’t warned him.

He sighed “Well Luke you are older, by about five minutes if I remember correctly.”

“Ha!” Luke slapped the table in triumph. “I told you!.“

No, she wasn’t going to lose this argument, not after the last thirty some odd years of duking it out with Luke. “I got thrown back in time, so technically I’m still older.” she replied calmly.

His mouth dropped at that and he sputtered for a response.

Obi-Wan watched the exchange, his face falling into a still blank mask. “You certainly don’t do things by half measures do you Leia?” his voice holding a careful neutrality to it. So he didn’t approve of her telling Luke about that? Tough.

“I’m not going to lie to him Obi-Wan. There are things I won’t say, but I won’t directly lie to him.” she wondered if he understood her veiled mention of the subject of Vader. She wasn’t getting a good read on him, his shields were drawn tightly around him. Luke frowned at the gathering tension between them and Obi-Wan let out a sigh.

Then he asked. “Is there anything else you would like to know about your birth?”

Luke opened his mouth to answer, but Leia held up her hand.

“Not right now for me, thanks.” she answered. She didn’t want to keep control of her emotions during his explanation. She was sure he would stick mostly to the truth, but she was sure Vader was in there somewhere in this tale and she didn’t want to have to conceal her reactions from Luke. There was so much she wasn't telling him, and so far he was willingly to play along. But soon, when the truth came out, she wanted as little to explain as possible to her twin.

Luke looked disappointed but Obi-Wan turned to him and offered “I can tell you later Luke, if you like.” He turned back to Leia “And if we can get going?”

“Is this a meeting Luke really doesn't need to be a part of or was he excluded because of what I told you on the Falcon?” People were starting to stagger in, not many but enough that Leia was feeling uncomfortable saying the word time travel.

“He was excluded because of the Falcon. But now that he knows I suppose there is no harm in letting him come along.”

“Why do you need me? I’m just a farm boy who can fly and shoot straight?” he asked puzzled.

“Because if you're going to be a radical terrorist looking to overthrow a tyrannical government you should at least have some understanding of the scope of the problem we are looking at.” Leia told him cheerfully “Which means meetings. Lots of meetings where everyone feels the need to express their opinion instead of doing something. Then when they do decide on a plan action half the time they come up with the worst possible solution. All the while you have to sit there and look like you’re paying attention.”

“Well doesn’t that sound like fun.” he muttered darkly.

Obi-Wan looked vaguely alarmed at her cynical take “They aren’t all that bad.” he protested.

She sighed “Yes they are.” He opened his mouth to disagree and she held up her hand to forestall him. “They are necessary, I know that. But so is physical training and eating a well balanced diet. I despise both of them too, I still do it.”  

Now she was picking up something in the Force from him, wariness and disquiet. Because she didn’t like meetings and regimented exercise? That seemed a bit extreme. Maybe the desert sun had baked his brain. “Well, that is certainly an interesting take on responsibilities.” he offered diplomatically.

Luke picked up his tray and gestured for Leia’s. She slid it over to him and deposited back on the serving line. When he came back the three of them walked into the base, heading to Bail and Breha’s room.

 

When they arrived her father looked surprised to see Luke, but her mother didn’t seem to share the sentiment. She walked over to Luke and stared at him for a moment. “I’m assuming your presence here means Leia told you about her, unique circumstances?”

Luke bobbed his head nervously “Yes Ma’am.” he said.

She shook her head in bemusement “Breha, please. No need for formality.” She then gave him a wide smile “I’ve waited a long time to meet you Luke Skywalker. How are you handling everything?”

“Just trying to ride out the storm, Ma’am-Breha” he corrected to quickly when he saw the look on her face.

Bail came up to his wife “We’ve both waited a long time.” he said “It is a pleasure to meet you at last.”

“Yes Sir.” her brother looked so nervous, but all Leia could do was marvel at what she was seeing before her. This was a moment that before now had only existed in her dreams and she wanted to savor that it had come to pass.  

Obi-Wan cleared his throat “I hate to interrupt, but we do not have a lot of time before the Alliance high command is called together.” A meeting Leia hadn’t even been aware of until this minute. So, she wasn’t going to be invited into those just yet. She firmed her resolve, she would be, and until then she would play with the hand she had.

“Of course.” Breha muttered and gave Luke’s hand a reassuring squeeze. He looked baffled but moved to the center of the room, where there was a square table with two benches on either side. Bail and Breha’s status within the Rebellion offered them a larger room than most, they even had a separate bedroom from the living space. But overall it was not a large space, and the table was more meant for eating meals then a gathering place for meetings.  Luke sat on the bench closest to the door and Leia sat next to him, with her parents choosing to sit on the bench opposite of them. Obi-Wan, after seeing how they all barely fit on the benches, pulled the one free standing chair in the room to the head of the table.

“Well Leia” he began “We were wondering if you could give us some insight on how you think we should best proceed.”

Leia’s back went up “I told you,” she warned him, annoyance creeping into her voice. “That I wouldn’t say anything unless we are heading into trouble.”

“No Leia,” Breha interjected, she shot Obi-Wan a chastising glare, “We want your opinion based on your expertise, not your experiences.” When Leia looked over to her confused, her mother elaborated “You did say you earned that rank of General. It would be foolish of us to discount your advice. We just needed a private place to get it.”

Oh, that she could do. Now she felt foolish, and felt her cheeks warm in embarrassment. She gave Obi-Wan an apologetic look “I’m sorry for jumping to the wrong conclusion.” she said contritely.

“It’s alright.” he murmured. The frown between his eyebrows stated differently, but Leia let it lie.

She thought about what had happened over the last two days, and what the destruction of the Death Star had done in her own timeline, and the few things that were still applicable here. “Tarkin's death is a massive blow to the Empire-” she started with, and her father immediately interrupted her.

“He was just one man. A brilliant and deadly one, but just one person Leia. I don’t know if you aren’t overstating things.”

She frowned at him, did he want her opinion or not? He stopped, then made a face as he realized what he done. He looked slightly abashed, and nodded for her to continue. “Tarkin was one man, yes, but the real problem for the Empire is that it’s top structure, which was centered on Palpatine, Tarkin and Vader, has just become dangerously unbalanced.”

Seeing the looks of confusion on everyone’s face she elaborated “The Emperor trusted Tarkin, as much as he could trust anyone. As a result Tarkin had a lot of power concentrated into his hands. Part of what him so effective, from a bureaucratic standpoint, is that he could win a lot of arguments about what to do just by opening his mouth. His word was the Emperor’s word.”

Bail’s face showed dawning comprehension “And without him there to make those decisions, we are about to see the top level of military officers fight amongst themselves about how to fight back.”

She nodded, “Yes. Without him a lot of those responsibilities and powers he had are going to be delegated to a lot of other people. We are the enemy, but the Emperor believes in deliberately putting his subordinates against each other. Excepting Vader, there is no one else who had such pull to make clear concise decisions that quickly.”

“There are rumors that Vader was killed.” Breha offered.

“He wasn’t.” both Obi-Wan and Leia contradicted at the same time. He looked at her in surprise, but she shrugged.

“I think every force sensitive in the galaxy would have felt it if he died,” she offered to Obi-Wan in explanation “He’s not exactly a quiet and calm presence.”

“No,” he said, a bittersweet smile on his face “He never was.”

Seeing the anger and grief on Luke’s face, Leia quickly got off that painful subject. “It doesn’t matter. Palpatine isn’t going to give any of that power to Vader. For one, it’s too much for him to even reasonably handle. Two, it would strengthen his position in the military more than it already is. Sith Lords try to kill each other yes?” Obi-Wan nodded “Then there is no way Palpatine gives Vader an iota more power then he needs to.” She shook her head “Instead of dealing with one focused individual who had the authority to chase us across several jurisdictions we are going to have many individuals chasing us. That doesn’t take into account the political side of things with the Governors and Moffs also trying to catch us. And among the more ambitious ones we can expect internal sabotaging as they try to hamper their compatriots efforts in that area.”

“Except Vader.” Luke muttered angrily. “He still has the power and pull that Tarkin did.”

She bit her lip, worried about this focus of his on this subject. But he was participating and he was learning, so she gave him her honest answer.  “Yes, he does. And I don’t see that changing.” she admitted “Unless someone gets really ambitious and tries to use the destruction of the Death Star to try to unseat him.”

“A fool’s errand” Bail stated “He might not play politics very well, in comparison to some of the other officers, but he’s also a lot deadlier than they are.”

Obi-Wan swallowed hard and looked away. Leia didn’t want to know if she wanted to offer him comfort in his obvious pain over this, or yell at him for not finishing the job when he had the chance and saying them all this trouble.

“Well,” Bail interjected “at least we have the possible destruction of Alderaan. That is something that might lead to planet wide revolts.”

And this was a dangerous line of thinking to pursue. Leia shook her head. “No, it won’t.”

Obi-Wan frowned “Are you sure?”

She sighed, weighed the pros and cons in her head about telling them this, and gave him the brutal truth. “Yes, because the actual destruction of Alderaan didn’t lead to that.”

Beside her Luke gasped and his hand immediately found hers under the table. She accepted the comfort, but kept her face neutral as she faced her mother and father. “Originally the Alliance thought that for a while. It didn't pan out that way. Alderaan was gone, there was no hiding that, but the Empire hushed it up.”

“Hushed it up?” Breha asked, her voice quavering with anger “How did the Empire hush up the fact that they destroyed an entire world?”

Leia grimaced “When the Alliance blew up the Death Star not even a day later it left the Empire in a tight spot. On one hand they had destroyed a planet to keep the galaxy in line. On the other, that weapon was gone, destroyed by the very insurgents they were trying to stamp out.” She sighed,“They lied, Mama. It was put forth that it was a ‘natural disaster’ that led to the destruction of the planet.”

Bail sputtered “The galaxy accepted this?”

Leia snorted “I’d say about fifteen percent of the population actually believed that was the case.” Luke looked disappointed but Leia continued on “The rest of the galaxy broke down into three other groups. The largest was those who believed the truth, but were too frightened to do anything or they were willing to swallow that lie for a sense of order. Then there were those who knew it was true, but wanted the Empire to stay in power for their own various reasons.” At Obi-Wan’s grimaced she gave a cynical smile. “Power attracts power and there are always those who feel that they can sell everyone else out if it gives them the advantage.”

Luke looked sad “So it was pointless then?”

She shook her head “No, never that. No planet suffered the same fate as Alderaan. That is a victory worth the sacrifice. And it wasn’t all bad. We did see an influx of cash and supplies, which after Yavin and Scarix were desperately needed.”

She thought about the politics of that first year, trying to view it in mind with what could be useful here without giving too much away. “The Empire also became much more fragile. Alderan was a core world with a long history and, for all the political agitators that came from our planet, was not in open revolt. The fact that Tarkin destroyed it anyway made a lot of worlds think that no matter what they did, they wouldn’t survive. And there was definitely an uptick in independent cell activity. But as I said, the Emperor denied everything. We did see a flux of new recruits, but not from where you would think.”

Obi-Wan spoke up “Imperial troops.” he guessed.

She nodded. “Yes, quite a few of them. A lot of officers too. They had joined because they wanted to bring order and stability to the galaxy. Blowing up civilian planets is not what they had in mind.” She sighed “A lot of the Imperials who came to us were the ones who were at heart decent, and trying to be fair. When they defected the Empire cracked down even harder, and without their voices and push back the regime got even more brutal. It was a boon for us, in the long run, but a lot of people in the galaxy paid a heavy price for it.”

“That is not our problem here though,” Bail put in “Tarkin made a galaxy wide announcement about his intentions, there is no way the Empire can walk that back.”

“No, but we did fight and we did place Alderaan in danger by doing so.” Obi-Wan pointed out reasonably,

Leia bristled “Tarkin would have blown the planet anyway.”

“Yes, but the galaxy doesn't know that. We claim to be protecting them, and we landed a harsh blow to the Empire” her mother pointed out “but the risk was still taken. The Empire can deny what Tarkin would have done, and with him dead there is no way to contradict it.”

“We need propaganda. Of some kind.” Leia mulled this over in her head, she had been the face of the rebellion last time. She and Luke, the last Jedi and the last leader of Alderaan. But she had hated it, and Luke wasn’t to comfortable with it either. It had all fallen apart when their parentage had been revealed. So let’s avoid that problem this time around. Her eyes fell on her mother. She had always been better at the more public aspects of being the ruler of Alderaan. And if Leia’s parentage did become public knowledge again, the fallout would be much more contained. Taking in a child of an evil murderous bastard was entirely more sympathetic than being said child.

“We should make holos and distribute them.” she said looking her mother straight in the eyes. “But of you.”

“Why me?” she asked baffled.

“The speech you gave in the war council yesterday, it was good. And explains the reasoning behind why the Alliance took such a risk. We would have to tweak some parts of it, but it could work.” Leia mulled over the possibilities “We still might be able to stir up the same resentment. Tarkin was willing to destroy an entire world just to get a few dissents in line. Then those dissents managed to protect the world he was threatening. We might not get the exact reaction, but with the Death Star gone, we might be able to convince people we are capable of protecting them. And Mon’s right, you do have sovereignty over our people. This was your decision to make. You have also maintained a strict policy of staying neutral on the issue of the rebellion. At least in public.” she explained to Luke, who looked puzzled. “Tarkin threatening our world is what lead you to make this statement.”

“And what about our people?” Bail pressed “If she does this, Alderaan is going to get squeezed in retaliation by the Empire. At the very least several garrisons and a provisional governor. There is a lot of harm that can be done if she openly defies Palpatine on this.”

Leia bit her lip “I know. But we also have to look at the possibility that even if we say nothing, the Empire is going to do that anyway. Alderaan itself had nothing to do with this, but it’s a symbol of defiance and they can’t let that stand unmolested. At least this way our people know why.”

Bail sighed and Obi-Wan looked thoughtful. Breha nodded “She is correct Bail. We can’t do anything with the resources we have now to help. The best way to protect our people is to overthrow the Empire in its entirety.”

“Distribution is going to be an issue” her father pointed out.

“Yes, it always is.” Leia countered “But if we say nothing the Empire will fill that silence.”

Her sighed, but he nodded. “Then that is what we will tell the council. Thank you Leia for your input. It was most helpful.” Both her parents rose as if to leave but Leia cleared her throat to catch their attention

“I have one other matter I would like you to address at the meeting.” she said. Bail and Breha shot puzzled looks at each other, but returned to their seats.

“What are you concerned with Leia?” her mother asked.

“Luke.” Her brother gave her a startled look, and she smiled in reassurance at him. “About his identity more specifically. I would like you to press the Alliance to keep the name of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star secret. Or at least as secret as it possibly can be.”

Bail frowned “Why? It’s a good story. A farmboy from the Outer Rim, whose only family was killed by the Empire managed to deliver a heavy blow to the Empire. We are in need of all the good PR we can get Leia. You know that.”

She nodded “We do. And I’m not disputing the effectiveness of that campaign. But the longer we can go without Vader or the Emperor becoming aware of Luke’s identify the better we will all be.” Bail looked thoughtful and then gave a slow glance over the Obi-Wan.

“What do you think?” he asked the Jedi Master.

The older man sighed “She’s not wrong.”

Luke interjected “I’m not afraid of the consequences of what I did.” he insisted “It needed doing, and if that puts me in danger so be it. If it helps in the Rebellion I want to do it.”

Breha shook her head “Unfortunately it is not that simple Luke. There are precisely two people in the galaxy we aware of that have the potential to take down Vader and the Emperor. And both of them are here in this room. Leia has repeated several times she has no wish to train as a Jedi, and we respect that decision. You do want to be trained, but you aren’t ready yet. This isn’t about hiding, this is about protecting a valuable ally until they are ready.”

Luke looked mulish, but he didn’t disagree with the overall point.

“Besides,” Bail said “We have another person we can use in a similar capacity.”

Obi-Wan’s eyebrow lifted “We do?”

Bail’s smile sharpened “We have you.”

“Excuse me?”

“We have you” her father explained “We have a famed Jedi general of the Clone Wars. One who had a reputation as a brilliant tactician, and more importantly, was not erased from the official narrative of the Clone Wars.” Obi-Wan looked puzzled at that.

“Why ever not?”

“You were running almost a fifth of the Grand Republic Army Obi-Wan. That is hard to finagle around. Plus there was never a confirmed kill for you. The Emperor wanted you remembered in case someone came across you. If you were erased it would make you that much harder to find.” Bail explained. Leia supposed there wasn’t much propaganda filtered into Tatooine. There was really no need for such steps in Hutt controlled territory. The Empire gave leeway to the Hutts, and as long as those oversized slugs gave their “taxes” the Empire was inclined to let them rule that area of space as they saw fit. Although from what Luke had told her the Hutt’s rule had been just as bad as the Empire’s, if not exactly in the same ways.

Leia warmed to the idea of it “Your very existence is a symbol of defiance,” she said, “Plus we wouldn’t be giving away anything that the Empire isn’t already aware of.”

There was a self deprecating smirk on Obi-Wan’s face as he looked at them “It’s hardly the first time in my life I was thrown into the public spotlight to placate the wolves. I had hoped that my exile would put an end to such things, but alas it was not meant to be.” He waved his hand as Luke opened his mouth to protest “No, it’s a solid plan Luke. I don’t mind, I was just marveling at life’s interesting ironies.”

Luke definitely didn’t look happy with any of this, but he nodded. Turning to her parents he asked “Are we going to tell anyone Leia is my sister?” Her mother looked startled but she shook her head

“No, we hadn’t planned to.”

Luke nodded his head “Good. As you said Leia doesn’t want to be a Jedi, but if it was general knowledge she’s related to me and Anakin Skywalker there would be a lot of pressure for her to do so.”

As delighted as she was with his initiative in participating in the conversation with his own concerns, Leia felt the brush of irritation. She was the one who was suppose to protect him, not the other way around. “I am capable of saying no Luke.”

He turned his wide eyes to her “I don’t think anyone who has ever met you thought otherwise. But you shouldn’t have to. If people don’t know we are related you don’t get bothered.” She couldn’t argue with his logic, and he was honoring her wishes regarding their relationship, but it still rankled her a bit. Still she nodded.

Bail looked around “Is there anything else?” Everyone shook their heads, “Excellent, we should get going.” After her mother got up she leaned down and gave Leia a kiss goodbye on the cheek. Then with an impish grin she planted one on Luke’s startled face and she and Bail excited the room.

Luke looked at her thoughtfully “Well that meeting wasn’t boring, or even that long.”

She laughed and even Obi-Wan looked amused.  “I wouldn’t count on the next one going that well” she remarked wryly “You rarely get a group of people with this much common sense between them.” The Jedi stood up, leaving to follow her parents.

“Obi-Wan” she called after him “Might I have a brief word with you in private?”

He stopped and looked at her thoughtfully “Of course.”

Luke grinned and gave Leia’s hands one final squeeze. “I have some paperwork to fill out with my commanding officer, so I will catch up with you later.” He stood and and turned to Obi-Wan “I’ll be in the flight deck when you are done with your meeting with the High Command.”

Obi-Wan gave a nod of acknowledgement and turned back to the table. He slid into the bench her parents had just vacated.

“What can I do for you Leia?” he asked pleasantly.

“Where are you going to train Luke?” she asked.

He looked puzzled by the abrupt subject change, but he answered smoothly “I had thought to take him to an isolated world and conduct his training there.” he explained. “This place is filled with too many distractions. He needs to be focused on that. The path of a Jedi is not an easy one.”

She shook her head “No, the rebellion needs Luke.”

“The rebellion needs a trained Jedi.”

She rolled her eyes “The rebellion needs Commander Luke Skywalker. He’s smart, a quick learner, and a natural leader. There are too many missions that are coming where he is instrumental.”

Obi-Wan’s eyebrow lifted “And this isn’t about how you miss your brother and want to rebuild that relationship?” There was a faint air of disapproval around him.

Leia stomped down on her irritation. He didn’t know her. He didn’t know her and Luke’s history. Of course she missed Luke, but she had lived without her brother before, and she could do it again. “This isn’t about wanting to keep him close Obi-Wan. This is about what is needed. We need him.”

“I thought you wanted me to speed up his training?”

Well, she should at least put that point in context if she wanted him to listen to her. “He didn’t start for three years after this, as long as you beat that time frame, I think we’re fine.”

Obi-Wan looked thoughtful “Well, so much of the old way of doing things has been rendered impractical, we will try it your way for now.”

She grinned at him, “Besides I need you here, there is a mission I think you are going to want to participate in. And the sooner we get started the better.”

He looked intrigued “Really and what is that?”

She grinned “We are going to rob a Hutt. Grakkus Hutt to be precise.”

“And why are we going to be committing an act of thievery against a crime lord?”

“Because he has the largest collection of Jedi holocrons and lightsabers that I know of in the galaxy.”

Obi-Wan went very still at that, and then a sharp fierce grin crossed his face. “My dear,” he said in a pleasant voice “never let it be said you don't know the value of a good bribe.”

She grinned back just as fiercely “I had some of the finest teachers in the galaxy”

Chapter Text

ABA - Day 3

She was standing in the field, her heart breaking as she looked around at the damage her son had left behind him. The fires had gone out, but she could see the charred remains from where they had burnt. There were lightsaber scores across the building walls and the smell of death was in the air, although she could see no corpses from where she stood. Luke would never have left the bodies out to rot. The evidence of his heartbreaking work was to her left. They were pyres, too many pyres, to signal where his students were. Leia had come to see for herself what her son had done. To see the flavor of the madness that had consumed him and how it had manifested itself. She wanted to turn away, not because it was a battlefield. She had seen too many of those in her life to truly be horrified by them anymore. When exactly had the sight of this much slaughter stopped provoking her rage and instead only produced a bone deep weariness?

But that wasn’t what this battlefield induced in her. No, not a battlefield, that implied that one side had a chance, and that clearly wasn’t the case here. This was a killing field. This was betrayal and death all delivered by someone who wore a friendly face. Ben, her precious loving Ben, had done this. She wanted to look away, so badly did she want that, but she forced herself to stare and commit all of this horror to her memory. No matter what happened going forward, she could not forget any of this when she confronted her son.

“Leia?” a deep voice asked behind her. Startled, she whirled bringing up her blaster, looking for an enemy.  She had come here alone, despite everyone’s protest for her safety. She wanted no one, not even Han, to see her here. They loved her enough to respect her wishes on the matter. Who ever was here was no one she could trust. The figure that met her eyes made absolutely no sense. Vader was standing at the edge of the field, his cape moving softly in the slight wind, not ten paces from her. She failed to pull the trigger as her shock rendered her motionless. What was he doing here? He was long dead, it was a bit much for him to crawl out of his grave to haunt her now.

Then the reality of where she was and who she was looking at sank in, shattering the sense of reality surrounding this place. She was dreaming. She wasn’t here. This hadn’t even happened yet. She was asleep on Yavin, having a nightmare about the one of the worst days of her life. That in itself wasn't surprising. This was a time and a place that her mind had returned to many times since that long ago day. Only now, her worst nightmare had just walked into it.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded as she pushed herself to lower the blaster. It wouldn’t work against him in reality, there was no point in trying to shoot him here. No matter how tempting the idea was.

He shifted from foot to foot, slightly, but it was there. “I could feel your pain,” he finally said, sounding uncertain of all things “and when I called, I could get in.”

“I don’t want you here.” she snarled, cursing herself for the hole she had apparently left in her shields. A weakness made of her grief and sorrow that he had somehow wormed his way through.  That lead him to here of all places. Of all the nightmares that lived in her mind he shows up in this one. Leia wanted to scream at him, to tell him to look around and take a long look at the legacy he had left her. But she didn’t want him to understand the significance of what he was looking at. It was just another battlefield, nothing left to mark it as the New Jedi Order. He couldn’t understand the context of where he was, and she wasn’t about to tell him so he could gloat. So instead she put all her loathing and distaste of him into one word and ordered  “Go.”

He stiffened at that, his uncertain manner leaving him. Her anger seemed to be something he understood how to deal with over her sorrow. Well, he was a Sith Lord, anger was something he was an expert at. “Leia, you must leave this place.” he demanded, waving his hand to encompass the wreck and ruin.

Her answer didn't even require thought. “No.” It was all she could do not to rage and attack him, and he dared to give her orders like she was one of his mindless lackeys?

He actually took a step back in his shock at that. Knowing what she did about his place in the Empire she imagined it wasn’t a word he heard often. “Leia,” he said evenly, as he took a step toward her. She pushed down the instinct to back away and squared her shoulders. If he wanted a fight, she was most certainly in the mood to give him one. The damage to her own mind be damned. She gathered herself in the Force, readying herself to deliver the first strike.

He immediately stopped his approach to her as he took her measure. He paused, accessing his options, then slowly moved both of his hands out to his sides. The universal human gesture to show he was unarmed and came in peace. “Leia,” he said calmly and slowly, as if he were talking to a frightened child. “I felt you cry out half way across the galaxy. Do not stay here, and inflict further harm on yourself, simply for the sake of spiting me.”

She looked straight at him, staring into those fathomless blank eye shields, reluctant to concede even this small of a point. If she gave into him now, even the tiniest bit, what else would he try to get from her? He stood still, very deliberately not looking around at at the landscape surrounding them. It slowly occurred to her that he didn’t seem to interested in sneaking a peak of the future. This was of course a future he never lived to see, but he had no way of knowing that.

She wondered if anyone else in her life that knew her circumstances, and found themselves here, would do the same thing. Probably not. It was too much of a temptation. Even for Luke, who had shown the least amount of interest in what she knew. But of course Vader had to be the exception to that. He seemed to find the only thing here worth his attention to be be her. Well, wasn't that fantastic?

She could feel his impatience growing the longer they continued this game of who will blink first. He didn’t say anything, not a command or even a plea. Just stood there with the only sound the rhythmic in and out draw of air from his respirator. Waiting for her to bend to his will and remove herself from here.

As the moments stretched on, with the two of them staring at each other, she began to reassert control of herself. Her revulsion and fear at his presence had robbed her of thinking about anything but his departure. As her breaths began to calm, she pondered her options and tried to rationally, well as rationally as possible given the circumstances, think this through.  

For now, he was willing to grant her autonomy. But, as she could feel his impatience growing,  she wondered what he would do when that leash he seemed to be keeping himself on finally snapped. His actions at the Battle of Alderaan, and here and now proved that he had no desire to deliberately hurt her. But what damage could he do to her, however unwittingly, in the effort to get her comply with his wishes? She thought of the damage done to her cell on the Death Star and repressed a shudder.

Was she really willing to go to war with him over a point as petty as this? There were too many things she had to do, and too many people that she needed to protect. Could she abandon all of those responsibilities and burn herself out? All over what was essentially the scenery in her own mind?

Leia swallowed her instinctive distaste for doing anything he asked without a fight. She could be mature about this. She didn’t need to be ruled by her temper. Besides this wasn’t a retreat or a submission of any kind. This was her, moving them to a more advantageous battle ground.  She slowly drew in a breath and focused her concentration. Without a word of warning to him, she took them to the great state room of the Royal Palace of Alderaan. If all of this was going to end in a battle she preferred to be in a place where she felt comfortable. A reminder of her own history and strength, and that she had somehow done the impossible and saved it all.

He gave a startled noise as the background faded away and reappeared at nauseatingly quick speed. But when he looked around and saw where they were his posture relaxed. “Thank you my child.”

She gritted her teeth at the endearment. “Now get out.” she repeated, hoping more then expecting him to comply.

He straightened up, and put his arms behind his back “I have some questions for you.”

Well good for him. She sneered “I don’t care.”

“For every question, you answer willingly, I will answer one in return.”

Oh, he wanted to play that game did he? She went straight for a question she did actually want answered. If he told her it would be helpful to her, and if he refused she would know the real limits of his desire for answers from her.“What’s the current passcode for the list of imperial spies in the Rebellion?” she challenged.

There was no reply, just a wave of incredulity from him.

Unable to help herself, she knew he hadn’t wanted to know that badly, she taunted “Don’t know it? Alright, let’s stick with something I know you know. Where is the 501st currently stationed and where is the location of their next target?”

“That information is not what I was offering and you know it.” he hissed, his anger breaking out from behind his shields in waves.

“That information is the only thing you have that I want from you.”

She could feel the swirl of his anger roll up to just the edges of her inner shields in a ramming fashion, only to be violently yanked back as he reined himself in. His fists clenched and unclenched in a steady rhythm. Leia realized with a start he was using it to calm himself down. Well taking long rhythmic breaths was certainly out of the question for him. She wondered if he was counting to ten in his head too.

“That is not the only thing I have that you want.” he finally countered.

“Oh I doubt that.”

She sensed the briefest flicker of pain from him, before it was swallowed back into that rolling mass that was his anger. “You want my absence.” Well, well, well. She did have the ability to hurt him. Wasn’t that interesting to know.

He was also unfortunately correct. This was something she wanted from him.

Sensing her hesitation he pressed on “If you answer my questions, and answer them truthfully, I will leave willingly.” he offered.

“What do you get out of this?” she asked suspiciously.

“Answers. The other three people who have them are beyond my reach, for the time being. Currently you are the only source I have.” She felt a chill at the bite in his tone, when he mentioned the other sources for his questions. The gods only knew what he would do to her parents and Obi-Wan if he got his hands on them.

“And what do I get out of this?”

“My willing departure.”

“Do you think I'm defenseless here?” she countered “That I wouldn’t have trained myself to expel an unwelcome intruder?”

Bitter amusement filled the air between them. “I would never discount you learning everything you could in order to protect yourself Leia.” She opened her mouth to order him once more to leave. Sensing her intent he barrelled on “But consider this, it would cost us both dearly if we fought here in your mind. You more than me, but it is a fight neither of us can afford. I will win, but the damage you are capable of inflicting would be...inconvenient.” Then he took a long look at her and taking in her expression and the strength of the gathering of the Force she still held at the ready, amended “Possibly deadly. And the cost you would pay would be even higher, even if you lived through it. There are worse things than death Leia.”

He would know all about that ” she thought, looking at all the machinery he need merely to stay alive.

He had also summed up the impasse they were in pretty succinctly, and correctly. As twisted as his thinking had to be on other matters, there was nothing wrong with his abilities as a strategist. Leia squashed that part of her that was pleased that he saw her as a threat. This was not a character trait that was the least bit helpful right this moment. She needed to keep a cool head right now. Or at least as tight a reign on her temper as she could.

Just because he wanted her alive that didn’t necessarily mean unharmed. Luke’s bruised and battered body as they brought him aboard the Falcon at Bespin flashed in her mind as she weighed her options. She had proof that just because he didn’t want to hurt her, didn't mean he wouldn’t to get what he wanted. And while there was no way she could lose a hand in this place, you could lose things that weren’t so easy to replace. This was the least harmful way to get him to leave. Then there were the other factors to consider as well. His increasingly desperate attempts to get her to listen to him as he knocked at her shields would only increase. Maybe she could buy herself some small respite and at least one night's worth of good sleep. Even with all that, she wasn’t going to give him free reign to do what he wished.

“Nothing about the Rebellion or our current whereabouts.” she demanded.

“I would not ask for something I was not willing to give myself.” he sounded affronted. She didn’t know why. It was the first question she asked him after all. Fair's fair, unless you explicitly forbid it.

“I retain the right to refuse to answer any question on any other subject.”

He rolled his shoulders, she supposed he was attempting to relieve the tension in them “I suppose this is a dictate you put on all your conversations?” he asked the bitterness spilling out of him.

She bit back her first reply, which was to wonder why he thought he deserved any consideration from her. She would keep her cool, and she wouldn’t goad him. If she goaded him he wouldn’t leave. She needed to keep that outcome in mind, no matter how tempting it was to hurt him. She snorted instead and gave him the truth. “When it comes to events that may or may not happen, yes I do.”

His head cocked, clearly surprised. The Force calmed down to it’s usual dull roar around him he realized that she was telling the truth.  “Very well.” He agreed.

Now for the last bit, she didn’t want him here for hours either. She wasn’t sure if she could stay reasonable if she had to endure his presence for anything but a short length of time. “You get four questions and four questions only.”

He shook his head “That is not enough.”

“Then we find out how out of practice you are defending your mind.” She ready herself and brought up the Force.

He held up his hand in a wait gesture “Ten questions.”

As her skin crawled at the thought what he could learn in ten questions she countered “Five. But if I refuse to answer, you can ask another in it’s place.”

His voice sounded disappointed but he stated “Very well” Leia drew in a breath and then with conscious thought let go of the bit of Force she had, letting it return to it’s place in the cosmos.

He hesitated for a moment, clearly thinking about what he wanted to say. ”When did you learn that you were my daughter?”

Leia steeled herself against giving any sarcastic answers. “Several hours before you died.” As he stared at her, willing her to go on, she kept her silence.  She said she would be truthful, not that she would be helpful.

“I see.” he finally conceded. He began pacing, up and down the length of the hall, his hands tightly clasped behind his back. But he maintained his distance and never came any nearer to her. When he finally stopped Leia braced herself for whatever he was going to ask next, but all he did was stare at her, his head cocked. Finally she spoke up.

“My patience with your presence is not unlimited Lord Vader.” and at that title his left hand clenched into a fist. He really didn’t like her using his full title did he?  ”So may I ask what is so fascinating about my appearance that it has left you speechless?””

“I understand, intellectually, you are from the future.” he retorted, anger creeping back into his voice “I am having trouble adjusting to seeing the reality of it.” she blinked, surprised. She looked down at her hands, once again in their lined glory. She was dressed in her preferred gray jumpsuit, with the purple vest, that had become a uniform of sorts while leading the resistance. The hair that was escaping her braid that she could see had a familiar grey cast to it. It hadn’t even occurred to her that she would look like herself again. Stupid really, she was still startled every time she saw her reflection of her nineteen year old face. No wonder her mind was showing this self.

She gave a small huff of amusement. This is what was baffling him? Not her existence as his child, not the time travel, but her looking her actual age? “I’m fifty three years old. What did you expect?”

She could feel the ripple of undisguised shock echo across the Force. His voice sounded almost hoarse as he told her “You're older then I am.”

Now it was her turn to be shocked. It never occurred to her Vader even had an age. He was the faceless thing that went around as the Emperor’s attack dog. He didn’t have birthdays, he just was. Poofed into existence to be a torment to anyone who had the misfortune to share the Skywalker name.

There was so much sorrow around him now, sharp and bitter. “So much time taken from us.”

“I, for one, don’t regret that,” she shot back angered by his grief. He had no right to mourn that fact. He was the one who had thrown it all away.

There was a moment of non comprehension from him. Then that bittersweet emotion vanished replaced with his rage, laced with determination. “Who told you I was your father?”

At the sheer indignity that he dared to use that title in reference to himself Leia lost control of her tongue. “Bail is my father. You are a cruel cosmic joke that has been inflicted on me.”

The scene around her wavered as his anger flared, red, hot, and so cutting. She hissed involuntarily as the pain it caused caught her by surprise. She felt him reign himself in and he gritted out “Who. Told. You.”

She wanted him gone, she reminded herself, this is the way to do it. You want that more than you want to hurt him. “My tutor did.”

“His name?” His tone was eager and demanding.

She laughed bitterly. “When I wouldn’t tell you in a cell, where you had me at your mercy, what makes you think I would tell you now, where I at least have weapons to fight back with?”

He plowed on “Is he the pilot who destroyed the Death Star?”

Leia clenched her jaw and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “You will get nothing from me on that subject. Even if I have to condemn both of us to live the rest of our lives out as burnt out mindless husks to do it.”

He stilled at that threat, and the mess of emotions that Leia felt from him were cycling too fast for her to get an accurate read on them. “You value him that much over me?”

This was a question he had the nerve to ask? He thought just because they had blood ties between them it outweighed all the pain and torment that he had inflicted upon her life? “I value almost the entirety of the galaxy over you.”

He flinched at that, but offered no retort. He was silent for a moment, then in a subdued voice he followed up with “If you won’t answer that then do you know who stole you from me?”

Leia took umbrage at his word choice, and her hands fell back to her sides, clenched in tight fists. “No one stole me from you, because I am not a thing that can be stolen!”

There was shame now, overwhelming shame. His posture lost its rigidity and if she didn’t know better she would have said he was slumping his shoulders “You are correct.” he said in a soft voice. “You are not a thing. You are a person and your name is Leia.” Leia tried to find her balance. That was an unexpected answer. The last thing she thought he was capable of was conceding any point that she threw at him. What brought this revelation on? And what an odd way to phrase that. There was something important here. Something about the way he said that had the feel of a well worn mantra. He continued on before she could ask him. “Kidnapped. Who kidnapped you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Leia” he growled, raising his finger at her in frustration. Clearly he had reached the point where he believed she was giving him a half truth in order to protect someone.

“I don’t know” she insisted, clearly and firmly. If he believed that she was breaking the rules set down by this arrangement he would never leave. She continued on, despite her reluctance to give him any more than the basics, in order to get him to believe her. “I really don’t. In my past by the time I knew there was anything to ask, everyone involved was dead. And I have so many other things to do now, frankly it’s at the bottom on my list of things I want to know.”  Oh she was so grateful she had stopped Obi-Wan from telling her any of the particulars. Even if this hadn’t exactly been the reasons she had in mind at the time.

He stood stock still for a moment, as he processed that, then lowered his finger so that once again his hands were by his side.

“You are down to your last question.” Leia said in warning and relief.

He fidgeted then. He didn’t seem to know what to do, pacing back and forth in front of her. Looking at her, then away. Just when Leia was about to yell at him to spit it out already he stopped right in front of her as said “Will you come to me?”

Leia’s mouth dropped open “What?!?” Of all the questions he could ask, this was one that never would have occurred to her that he would would be stupid enough to put forth.

“Will you come to me?” he repeated, as if that would make the question make any more sense.

“That was a waste of a question. The answer is no.” Leia couldn't wrap her mind around this. Was he suffering from some Dark Side delusion? High on spice? Had he hit his head?

“Not to the Empire.” he clarified “ I am very clear on of your beliefs on that matter. Will you come to me?” She shook her head in denial, shock making her mute.

“I know you will not betray your cause. I know that you will not betray the Alliance. This has nothing to do with anything you might know.” he continued in a pleading tone, almost begging “Leia, I cannot protect you while you remain with the Rebellion.”

The insult to her abilities broke her out of her stupor. She bristled “I can handle myself.”   

“You cannot know what the Empire will do. What resources will be marshalled to hunt you down.” he argued “Please Leia, I merely wish for you to be safe.”

“I don’t know?” she screamed, the sheer stupidity of that statement making her temples pulse with her anger. “I don’t know? Who do you think was pursuing me the last time?”

He went frightfully still. “My alternate.”

She sneered “Yes, so don’t try to frighten me with your ominous warnings.”   

He stalked towards her, the dark wave of his rage riding every step “What did he do?”

She backed up quickly, despite herself. There were too many memories of him in a similar state suddenly crowded in her head. She felt her breath catch as the wave of fear she felt caught her by surprise. He stopped, still furious, but not coming any closer to her.

“You are out of questions.” she reminded him. She could feel that stubborn will firm up and he shook his head in denial. She felt a flicker of something that in anyone else she would have labeled as compassion. That was enough. She was done with this, she had fulfilled her end of the bargain. Now it was time he did the same. If he wouldn’t leave voluntarily she would bring the point home as painfully as possible.

“Just imagine what you would have done to any Rebel that escaped your grasp and you have a pretty good idea of the answer.” A whirlwind of shock and fear emanated from him at her statement. Putting as much determination in her words as she could she ordered “Now get out!!”

He vanished without another word.

 

Leia woke in her own room, shaking with her anger. How dare he, how dare he? By what right did he think he was entitled to anything from her? She got up and began pacing in her small room trying to burn some of her anger off. She gave an internal thanks that her position in the Alliance afforded her a private room. It was small, only a bunk and toiletries, but there were no roommates to ask her about this. Nightmares weren’t uncommon in the Alliance, but she didn’t want to explain why she was waking up spoiling for a fight instead of screaming. She began accessing the situation in her head. What had happened and more importantly how to prevent it from happening again. If she focused on solutions, then maybe she could keep the fear at bay.   

She needed to work on her shields. She clearly was too over confident she could keep him out and look what happened. Leia had had one bad dream and he came walking in like he had any right to do so. She didn’t want anymore training, she didn’t. But as she told Obi-Wan, there were a lot of things she did, that she had no particular desire for, in order to further her goals.

She ended her pacing standing in front of the mirror in her room. She examined her face and took in the pupils that were blown wide from her anger and fear. And the tight line of her mouth. Han had always gotten extra cautious with her when her mouth moved into that configuration.

“I take it your talk with Vader did not go well?” a deep voice asked. Leia jerked her eyes past her reflection to see who was behind her. There, sitting on her bed, causal as you please, was the soft blue form of Master Qui-Gon Jinn. It seemed that this was her day for uninvited guests wasn't it? She took a deep breath in and turned around to face him.

“Why do you want to know?” she asked, suspicion lacing her voice “Are you going to run to Obi-Wan and tell him about this?”

“You don’t trust me.” he remarked, looking oddly surprised.

“I don’t know you.” she pointed out.

“You trusted me when I told you you were more than likely stuck here in this time.”

“You are practically the only expert in the galaxy on the subject of time travel. Trusting your professional opinion is different then trusting you. There are plenty of beings I have worked with in the past I wouldn’t trust with my houseplant, but I knew they would get the job done.”

“Is there anyone in the galaxy you actually trust?” He asked, curiosity winding around him.

That was a question she didn’t owe him an answer to. “Or maybe don’t want to think about how short that list is, sweetheart.” the voice of her Han whispered in her head. So she asked her own question in the form of an answer. “Why are you spying on me?”

He regarded her solemnly for a moment, that hawkish face pensive, but he let it go. “I was not ‘spying’ on anyone.” he answered her steadily “I was merely keeping an eye out, and the connection between the two of you caught my attention.”

“Do you know what we talked about?”

“If I knew that General, I wouldn't have asked how it went.” his reasonable tone was beginning to grate on her.

She changed tactics, she wasn’t going to answer anyone’s questions about that conversation. Most especially someone she could see through. “Why are you keeping an eye on me? Trying to suss out hints of the future?”

He let out a deep barrell roll of a laugh at that. “I have no need of that General. As I said before I’m not moored to the present in the same way you are. If I wanted to see the future, I could just skim along it. And unlike you I could see the many possibilities that could play out.”

“Then why are you….” then her mind jumped to the other person in that conversation “Vader. You are keeping watch over Vader.”

The amusement drained from his face, and his eyes took a serious glint. “Yes.” he confirmed.

“Why would you subject yourself to that?” she asked, honestly baffled.

“I’m an interested party.” That was a singularly unhelpful answer, and he was repeating himself from their first conversation.

“Why?” she asked again.

He gave her a shake of his head. “No, you aren’t ready to hear that answer yet.”

“I only look nineteen.” she pointed out, “I can definitely handle what ever truth you think you are protecting me from. I have certainly had enough practice.”

“Yes, you probably have. But, like you, I will rely on my own judgement on when it’s best to reveal that information.” Leia squashed her irritation at her arguments being used against her. Her parents had taught her from a young age that screaming “That’s not fair!” rarely got her anything. Using facts and speeches to make that point more elegantly did, and right now she had none to lob at him. Didn’t mean she couldn’t ask around the edges and see what she dug up though.

“You sure don’t do it so you can go running back to Obi-Wan? I’m sure you have plenty of  stories that he can flagellate himself with.”

His eyes widened in surprise, but contained it quickly. “You do pick up things fast don’t you?”

“I’ve spent most of my life in an active rebellion or politics. You don’t get good at either of those without paying attention to people and what drives them.”

“True. But no, I don’t tell Obi-Wan anything. I failed him enough in life, I don’t see the need to continue his pain after my death.”

Now what the hell did he mean by that? Leia’s patience slipped, she had enough frustrating conversations for one day, and it was only a little past dawn. “Why are you here? What do you want from me?” she said, figuring he was a man who responded to bluntless well, for all his weirdly cryptic answers.

“A bit of advice. You are conflating what happened in your past with the present you find yourself currently in. It will only damage your goals. But you can avoid it if you listen, not just hear, but listen to what is currently going on around you.” He gave her an enigmatic smile “That is all I want, for you to listen.” And with that he disappeared. She gritted her teeth to keep back the scream of frustration that wanted to escape. This room was not soundproof and she didn’t want to explain to her neighbors why she was cursing at the top of her lungs. That was annoying, it was hard to get the last word in when the person, or in this case ghost, just upped and vanished on you.

“Listen,” she muttered “I want you to listen. But does he tell me what he wants me to listen for? Nooooo. That would be too straightforward of him.” She should ask Obi-Wan if the man was as infuriating in life as he is in death.

Then the inevitable question he would ask, about why Jinn felt the need to appear to her, stopped that line of thinking. She would have to admit to the conversation with Vader. She would have to voluntarily admit a weakness to someone, who for all intents and purposes, was a stranger to her. What she did know about him did not exactly fill her with confidence. On the positive side she knew he was a famed General in the Clone Wars, and earned the nickname of “The Negotiator”.  She knew that her father had held him in the highest regard and trust.

She also knew that he continually lied to Luke, broke his heart and trust. That action alone she might have been willing to forgive. She certainly understood wanting to protect Luke from the truth of where he came from. It was a decision that she was reluctantly making even now. But what she had a harder time letting go was his decision to stay with that lie past the time it was smart to do so. He and Yoda should have told Luke the minute he decided to confront Vader on Bespin. Her brother had gone into that battle half crippled and not even knowing it.

Did Obi-Wan think that Vader wasn’t going to say anything? Had he met the man? One positive virtue she could concede that Vader had was that he was intensely goal oriented. He had been so before when hunting Luke, and now she was the focus of that obsession. Maybe in the long term, it would be better for her brother, seeing as Vader wouldn’t be as focused in this here and now on finding the pilot who destroyed the Death Star. But eventually, the truth was going to come out and then he would be hunting for them both. Even if Vader had no interest in them besides possible targets for assassination, throwing that truth at Luke would have been a great way to distract him. Luke had made his peace with the decision his teachers had made that placed him in such danger. She had not.

No. She wouldn’t be telling Obi-Wan anything until she got a better handle on him. One that she observed herself and wasn't filtered through other people’s perceptions and secondhand knowledge of his actions.  She would be keeping her reasons for seeking more training at her shields to herself.

She took in a deep calming breath, then another. Well that wasn’t going to work, she needed at outlet for this rage, against Vader, Jinn, Kenobi, her life in general. And trying to let it go this way wasn't going to work. Leia was familiar enough with herself to know that. She wanted to get this body into better shape. Now was the perfect time to start.

 

After dressing in some light weight clothes, Leia headed to the large room that was currently serving as a sort of gym for the Alliance. It was hexagonal in shape, which didn’t make it the perfect fit, but was large enough that there was enough room to run around the perimeter if you wanted to jog without dealing with the native predators on the moon. There were various exercise machines scattered through the middle of the room. They were were for focused attention to certain muscles, but Leia was going to bypass them all. She was more interested in running herself into the ground until this feeling of being trapped left her.

As she walked through the door she was surprised to see Luke already there. Sweat was plastered to his shirt, he had clearly been here a while, and he was running on the far side of the room. Luke being up this early wasn’t a shock, farm boys rarely slept in, no matter what planet they came from or were currently on. She just couldn’t figure out why he was working out. She didn’t remember this happening last time.

He paced the side of the room and came around the corner. She felt his pleased surprise as he spotted her. He continued his pace until he was in front of her coming to a gentle halt. His face lit up with a wide welcoming smile “Good morning. How are you?”

“Fine.” she replied

He frowned a bit “No, you’re not.”

Still young enough not to let a polite lie go. “Had a bit of a nightmare” she elaborated, responding to his concern  “Came down here to run it off.”

“I’m sorry about that. Maybe I should try to reach out to you like you did with me?”

Leia stifled the instinctive “No.” she wanted to scream at him. That’s all she needed, Luke and Vader in her head at the same time. She tamped it all down. She was tiring of this, but the alternate choice, tell Luke about Vader was not something she could face right now.

“Thank you for the offer, but for now I would prefer you not.” He looked hurt at that and she hastened to explain “A lot of my nightmares are about things that haven’t happened yet Luke. And if I’m really clever and lucky, they never will. For right now I need you to promise me that you will stay out of my head unless I invite you in.”

“I’m not afraid of what the future holds Leia.”

You should be. That was his youth talking. Force, had she ever been that confident? That the worse had happened and there was nothing that could shock her? Probably. Leia was very aware of her faults, and she would own to holding onto that bit of arrogance until Ben fell. After that nothing the universe threw at her shocked her anymore. Well the time travel one had given her a huge pause, she would admit to that.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

He frowned ”Running?”

“Yes I can see that. But why?”

“Oh, Obi-Wan suggested it to me yesterday. Said I had a lot of physical strength, but my endurance could use some work. Also I should try to keep my mind clear while I’m doing it.”

“He tried to teach you meditation, didn’t he?”

He looked a little sheepish “Yeah, I fell asleep on him. He thought maybe if I tried to do it with a mindless task I might have better luck figuring out what he is talking about.”

That was true. Early on Luke had always been on the move, constantly tripping over his own feet. He only just recently achieved this height and it was still tripping him up as he got use to the longer limbs. Also he was energetic, Leia could see the wisdom of using exhaustion to teach him how to reach that spot where your mind was focused on nothing and everything at the same time. If he didn’t understand what he was looking for, it would be difficult to reach it.

He snapped his fingers as a thought occurred to him. “Hey did I teach you this? If I did I’m sure you can teach it back to me the way I taught you. Maybe it would be easier for me to understand what Obi-Wan is asking me to do.”

That wasn’t a bad idea. She shook her head ruefully “No you didn’t. I already knew how to meditate. My father taught it to me when I was younger. Said that it would help me if I wanted to keep a clear head. You did teach me how to reach for the Force when I was doing it though.”

“Oh.” he looked crestfallen “So much for hoping there was an easier way to figure this out.”

“No I am afraid not. If it’s any comfort you can figure this out.” She gave Luke a grin. “Mind if I join you? The nightmare is only half the reason I’m down here. I also need to build my endurance.” she gestured down at herself “There wasn't a lot of call for running around and dodging blaster fire in the Senate.”

“As opposed to say being a radical rebel who wants to overthrow a tyrannical government?”

“Honestly that doesn’t happen as as much as you think. There is a lot of hurry up and wait. It’s those few hours in between where it becomes important.” She sighed and began to stretch, trying to limber herself up.

He gave a dubious look at her, taking in that she was several inches shorter then him “You sure you can keep up?”

Jerk. “Won’t be a problem.” she replied, giving him a sweet smile. He looked momentarily concerned at her tone but shrugged.

They fell into step with each other and Leia lost herself in the rhythm of her feet pounding on the floor. Her muscles began to ache after the first lap, and burn after the second. She was having to move faster than she probably should given what shape this body was in, but damn if she was going to fall behind Luke after that snide comment about her height. He was panting along side her, also starting to feel it. She wondered how long he had been here before she arrived, she could feel his fatigue. As they rounded the third time she gasped out, “You can stop if you want.”

“Not happening.” Between his height advantage and the fact that up until now he lead a much more active life then the body she was currently inhabiting, he thought he could beat her. Well, she had never agreed not to cheat.

She grinned and pulled a bit on the Force to help her muscles along. Beside her she heard Luke give a small gasp, as he clearly felt what she was doing. There was the wispy touches against her mind, full of curiosity and wonder. Wondering if he would catch it by example Leia stopped the constant pull on the Force and gave Luke a moment to realize that she had stopped. When he sent back a questioning thought, more feeling than words, she once again threw the Force into her tired muscles to give her that extra speed she needed. She felt Luke’s comprehension and delight, as he tried to replicate what she had done.

It didn’t work. His efforts to replicate the push pull she was engaged in was clumsy and ineffective. She had a disorienting moment to flashing back to when they had first done this and she had marveled at the ease the Force had answered Luke’s call. She remembered his voice wry and amused as he explained how to tie herself to her body so she wouldn’t get lost in the euphoria the Force produced as she called on it to do her will.

This Luke wasn't there yet, but he was close, so close, to understanding how she was doing this. He was certainly picking it up faster than she had. Maybe, for him, being physically active and a live example were necessary for him to understand. She once again repeated the trick and then she felt him reach clumsily out and pull. She felt his blaze of triumph, as for a moment everything clicked. Then in his eagerness he called on more and it was much more than he needed to maintain this pace. He was suddenly ten feet in front of her. He gave a startled yelp as he realized what he had done, and promptly tripped over his own feet in his surprise.

Leia jogged up to him and laughing asked “Are you hurt?”

“Does damaging my pride count?” he asked from his position on the floor.

“No.”

“Then I’m fine.” he rolled up to his feet. “Okay let’s try that again.”

“You sure?”

“Wouldn't be the first time I’ve hurt myself learning a new trick.” She took him at his word and started jogging again, Luke falling to her right. As deliberately and as slowly as she could she once more pulled on the Force to augment her speed. She felt his intense focus on her, for all that he was staring at the track. Awkwardly she felt him reach out and then…

The Force danced. There was no other word for it. Luke’s joy and exhilaration at figuring this out broadcasted loudly at her side she almost fell over at the intensity of it. Instinctively she brought up her own shields in an effort to mute him a bit. He had no idea how loud he was being and she didn’t want to break him out of the state he had just found himself in. Let him get used to it so he could more easily recall this feeling later on.

She hadn’t expected him to be that loud. It was almost as overwhelming as Vader had been on the Death Star. The older Luke must have had phenomenal control, or Yoda had simply gotten tired of being Force deafened and taught him to reign it in. But maybe physical exercise wasn’t the only thing she could practice this morning. Concentrating on her keeping her shields up she sent him the pride she had in him at figuring this out. She wasn’t sure she could handle words at this moment, so she kept to the simpler expressions. There was a wave of startlement, but Leia didn’t feel like she had been blasted by the sun by them.

Then that faded away and she felt his hesitation. Then there was a wave of love/awe/not alone rushing towards her. Apparently the running trick wasn’t the only thing he wanted to try and copy. Grinning she put on a bit more speed, inviting him to fall further into this. She felt his rush of understanding and deepened his broadcasting of emotions as he caught up. She wasn’t sure how long they continued this oddly synchronized run until she felt a huge splash of shock break through their bond.

She and Luke instantly dropped out of their connection. Luke didn’t have enough practice at this to hold on to that state when startled. He also crashed to the floor again as he lost the Force and was solely relying on his none too steady physical senses to monitor his movement. Leia managed to hold her balance, barely, and came to a more graceful stop.

Obi-Wan was in the doorway, staring at them in surprise. She wanted to give him a lecture him about his rudeness of broadcasting his emotions everywhere. Luke didn’t know any better, Obi-Wan certainly did. Then his pale face caught her attention as he stuttered out “When did you learn to do that Leia?”

“Run with the Force? Decades ago.” she answered baffled by his clearly agitated state. She elaborated ”Having a bit of extra speed in a battle is useful. I’m a bit out of practice though.”

“Out of practice?” his voice kept getting higher. What had she done now to worry him?

“Yes.” And now her muscles were screaming at her in protest at the size of her misjudgement of how out of practice she was. “Didn’t judge the ratio of how much I needed to maintain that. Relied too much on my muscles.” She winced, and began walking, despite the protests from her body.

Luke moaned from his prone position on the floor “Oh, now you tell me. I feel like I’ve been run over by a bantha.”

She walked over to him slowly and gave him a gentle kick to his side “You need to get up. Holding still like that only makes the muscles tighten more.” He let out a loud dramatic groan, but he rolled slowly to his side and pushed himself to his feet. She wanted to help, but wasn’t sure if she could manage both of them with her wobbly legs.

Obi-Wan was still staring at her like she had grown another head “Is this something that the other Luke taught you?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

She frowned at him. Who else could have it been? “Of course. In the beginning he only knew had to do powered jumps. He figured out on his own how to apply that technique to moving faster, but that was only for short bursts. It was by a simple accident he learned how to make it last longer.”

“Figured it out? By accident?” Obi-Wan’s voice was incredulous.

Leia felt her hackles rise at his slight to her brother “He only had a few months of training Obi-Wan. There were a lot of gaps in there. If there is a better way please let me know.”

He shook his head “Leia you misunderstand. Until today I would have said what you and Luke were doing is impossible.”

“Excuse me?” She couldn’t have heard him correctly.

“Force enhanced speed and jumps are meant for short term use only. Long term, like what you were just doing, was only used in the most dire of circumstances because it will burn out your body. The Force can enhance what is there and augment it many times manifold but ultimately it comes down to your own body's ability to maintain such activity. It’s why the Jedi order had such a strict physical training discipline. The more muscles and training you had the more effective you will be when you use the Force to boost it. But that comes with a price. The more you sink into the Force like that, the more you become disconnected from your own body, and the more muscles and calories you burn without being aware of it.”

“You are likely to burn yourself out.” she finished, eyes going wide at the implications. It never occurred to either Luke or her that such an outcome was even possible. That trick could have gone so wrong so easily. But wait, something wasn’t right with that statement. “Why didn’t you use the Force to strengthen the connection to your own body?” she demanded.

“What?”

“That’s what Luke did. The Force can be so loud when you use it, it’s easy to get lost in it. So you use a part of the Force to amplify the reactions of your own body to cut through the noise. Getting that balance can be a little tricky at first,” and here she gestured down to her own aching body as proof “but that step can stop you from doing something truly stupid.” Obi-Wan just looked at her uncomprehendingly “It’s just like the shields, at first it takes a lot of thought to maintain them, but eventually they become second habit and unless you're being attacked, they are just there.” She frowned in thought “Actually, it’s easier than shields because it’s your natural state to listen to what your body is telling you.”  She looked up at Obi-Wan’s face “This isn’t something the Jedi Order taught is it?”

The older man shook his head “No, it is not. There were the physical disciplines and then there were the mental ones. It never occurred to anyone, outside of the Healers, to use the Force to monitor someone's health.  And as far as I know it never even occurred to them to do it to monitor their own. Healers were especially prone to burnout because so much of what they did was mental they didn’t even need to monitor their surroundings half the time. They could sink into the Force to do what they needed. The mental and physical were taught as two entirely different things because beyond the basic level they were viewed as to having two incompatible needs.”

Luke snorted “That’s stupid. Aunt Beru always said you can’t maintain the mind without the care of the body, and that to abuse your body can harm the mind. Separating them is foolishness.”

Both of them stared at him for a moment and he let out a defensive “What?”

Leia laughed “And now I know where that came from. Tricky of you, well him, not to mention that it wasn’t something he was taught to do, instead of figuring it out on his own.”

“No,” Obi-Wan muttered “Not figured out, something he would do on instinct. The first time he reached for the Force and it answered him in full, he used that connection to anchor himself to his body to mitigate the loss of feedback.” He shook his head in wonderment. “Remarkable.”

Leia was wondering about how the Jedi order had become so disconnected from their our bodies that such a thing was even possible. Luke had warned her when they started her training that the Force could overwhelm everything. He had explained on how to tie yourself to, well yourself, before she had ever tried to consciously reach for anything. But those first moments when she felt like she was nothing more than a small speck in a very large storm had been nauseatingly disorienting. She had instinctively reached for anything to anchor her and found it. How had the Jedi not lost their very selves when they reached for the Force?  What had they tied themselves to?

“What brings you here Ben?” Luke asked breaking up her train of thought.

The old man shook himself “Leia actually.” he turned to her “I talked to Draven yesterday about any information the Alliance and his network has on Grakkus. There isn’t much, except he’s located on Nar Shadda.”

She nodded “Makes sense. The only information I remember us really having on any of the Hutts was Jabba. I hoped I was wrong though.”

Luke frowned “Why are we seeking information on any Hutt?”

Obi-Wan cut in “Because Grakkus has a large collection of Jedi artifacts that we are going to relieve from him. And we need security layouts, personnel files, and any other information we can get if we want to pull off such a heist.”

A spark of defiance light in Luke’s eyes “That sounds like fun. I want in.”

Obi-Wan sighed “For now it’s going to have to wait. Apparently for the most part the Alliance avoids the Hutts.”

Luke looked surprised “Really? I thought they would do business with anyone? You have cash and need weapons. I thought they would be first in line to do business with you.”

Leia snorted “Oh they will. They’ll sell us all the weapons we want, if we don’t mind the fact that half the time the delivery is a trap because they sold us to the Empire. Then they can keep our money, keep the bounty, and keep the government they prefer in power.”

Luke looked baffled “They have a preferred government? I thought they wanted themselves in power.”

She shrugged “They are in no position to take on the Empire and they know it. But for a little bit of graft on their side, the Empire looks the other way. That arrangement is vastly preferable to a bunch of idealists who wish to return to power a government, that at least nominally, tried to rein them in.”

Obi-Wan shook his head “And we didn’t even do that well. One of the many reasons that the Separatists were so appealing to so many systems was the Republic and the Jedi's failure to protect them from the encroaching influence of the Hutt Empire.” Leia was surprised at the admission. Obi-Wan took in her look of disbelief and smiled ruefully “Nineteen years in a desert is a long time to think about everything that went wrong.” he said with self-censure in every word. “Not all of us are as fortunate as you to be thrown back in time to fix them.”

She opened her mouth to contradict him. She wouldn’t call her circumstances “fortunate”. She was isolated, a stranger to everyone she loved, and was burdened with the knowledge that she could easily make things worse. Hell, it would be even more of a torment in this time if she failed because she knew it was possible to succeed.

Then there was Han, and not far from that Ben. Vader wasn't the only disturbing thing that had happened in her dreams last night. She had a reminder, given to her by her own mind no less, the danger her son represented. She was weighing the love she felt for him against her duty to the galaxy at large. She was weighing the possible destruction of someone she loved. Worse the negation of his existence. But she loved Han and Luke too. Could she overlook the possible danger Ben would be to people she swore she would protect? And neither Han nor Luke were here to tell her what they wished for her to do. Did she have the right to gamble with their lives without their consent?

Rolled into that situation she was also daily given the chance to play the role of a God. Leia was well aware she had somewhat of an authoritarian streak.  This temptation that had been laid before her was a serious test of all the rules and teaching her parents ever laid down. The cost of the situation she was in was high.

Then she thought of Alderaan and her parents. She thought of how Obi-Wan wasn’t looking at all of those factors that made this so hard for her. He was simply seeing that she had averted the destruction of her entire people. He was wishing for the same opportunity so he could do the same for his. And was it really fair to wail and whine about this? If she had been offered even a week ago for this very chance wouldn’t she have leapt at it? She would have figured that would all be worth it? Be careful what you wish for , her father had warned her time and time again, you might not like the cost that comes with it. He had been right about that.

Luke, still musing about a blow against the Hutts said “Why don’t we ask Han when he comes back?”

They turned to him, both surprised. He looked at them his own surprise evident “Well he does have a lot of dealings with Jabba. Maybe he knows something, or knows who we can ask.”  But a worried look passed his face. “I know you lived on Tatooine Ben, but you kept yourself pretty isolated. If you rob a Hutt, expect that a whole host of trouble will fall on your head.”

Obi-Wan shrugged, unconcerned. “He would have a long list of people to get behind that would love to have my head.”

Leia tapped her fingers absentmindedly on her leg, trying to think about what happened last time. “Not if we can get the Empire to take him out for us.” They looked at her puzzled “That collection is very illegal. After the first time during the debrief Luke informed the Alliance that the Gamemaster for the games Grakkus holds there, is actually a stormtrooper. Grakkus has an Imperial spy high in his ranks, and he doesn't even know it.” She turned to Obi-Wan excited “If we can use you, instead of Luke, as the bait, we can steal what we want and have the Empire remove a major crime lord.”

Obi-Wan looked resigned. But he nodded his agreement “You don’t plan small, do you?”

She shrugged “When necessary. But when the opportunity avails itself you should seize it.” Again, that fleeting feeling of grief passed over him. She let it go. There were plenty of things she wasn't telling him. The man was entitled to his privacy from her. Then a thought occurred to her “What did you tell Draven when he asked why you wanted information on a Hutt?”

He gave her a serious look “That the Force told me it was important.”

She gaped at him “Really?” Draven, suspicious down to earth Draven, bought that?

His face retained that serious pose for a second then it melted into a wide satisfied smile “No. Although you would be surprised how often that line works. I told him I heard rumors in the bars on Tatooine.” Obi-Wan at turns baffled and frustrated her, but she had to give him this, the man had a sly sense of humor.

He turned to Luke, “Well I can see you did manage to reach the Force, if not quite in the manner I intended. Can you meet me after dinner for some lessons. I understand your schedule is in flux, and I’ll speak to your commander about how we are going to divide up your time.”

Luke nodded “Not a problem.” he gestured down to himself “I’m going to take a shower and get some breakfast. Do you want to join me?”

The Jedi shook his head, “No, unfortunately my schedule is filled up for most of the day.” he said regretfully.

Luke took this in stride and turned to her “Leia?” he asked.

“Yes, I just need a quick word with Obi-Wan and I’ll join you in the hallway in ten minutes.”

Luke nodded and bounded off to the showers.

“Leia?” Obi-Wan asked some what defensively as soon as the blond was out of earshot. Well to be fair when she had done this yesterday it was to lecture him about how to train Luke. She wasn’t sure how much the Jedi answered to others about the training of their apprentices, but she couldn’t imagine it was much.

“If you don’t mind, I would like some extra lessons on shielding my mind.”

He frowned, “You seem to have remarkable control over them already. I’ve rarely felt them slip at all.”

She shook her head “Above the Death Star...” she trailed off and then tried again, thinking through carefully how to word this so he wouldn’t call her out on how much she was leaving out. “You were right about how tight I would need to have my shields. Even then he was very loud. And distracting. I can’t imagine this will be the only time he will reach out to me. I want to be able to...lessen his presence?” she shrugged. Then figured she could give him some details of the future. It wouldn’t be anything that he couldn’t figure out on his own. “There weren’t many trained Force users in the future and looking back I can see I was inherently stronger than all of them. They couldn’t overwhelm me the way he can. I can’t get by on sheer power alone on this.”

At his puzzled look she went on “I was just wondering if there were perhaps more techniques I wasn’t aware of. Luke did his best, but I was…reluctant.” More like kicking and screaming, despite the wisdom she saw in having them. “Even if you can’t help me, at the very least Luke is going to run into the same problem. He should be forewarned about it.”

He hummed thoughtfully “Well, I can certainly try. You are correct in that Vader is probably the strongest Force user you will ever encounter. Come to my quarters with Luke tonight and let’s talk about the training you did receive. We’ll take it from there.”  

 

She and Luke ran into her father in the mess hall. He gave her a puzzled look at her attire, but shrugged it off. “Leia, I know we skipped it yesterday because the High Command meeting was so early, but did you honestly forget?” he asked in a teasing voice.

“Forget what?” she asked, baffled.

His eyes saddened at that and he continued “That we are all in the same place and it’s morning.”

She mentally reviewed the things she was having trouble remembering. Alderaan was saved, Han wasn’t her husband, and her parents were alive. These were the slightly odd facts of her current existence she was having trouble integrating into her daily life. What was he talking about? Yes she was savoring the fact they were all here, with Luke, but what did that have to do with the time of day, nevermind morning?

“Oh.” she whispered, as a long forgotten practice clicked into her head.

Luke frowned “Oh?” he asked.

“Breakfast. Whenever any member of the family is within reasonable distance to each other we always have breakfast together. It’s the one meal that is least likely to be interrupted by an emergency, or a meeting, or working late won’t interrupt.” She had done the same with Han, Luke, Chewie and then later on Ben. Then as her family was peeled away from her one by one, that tradition had stopped. She had completely forgotten about it. She looked up at her father, and she gave him a watery grin. “Let me change my clothes and I’ll join you shortly in your quarters.”

If her father noticed the shadows in her eyes he didn’t comment on it. Luke gave her a wave and started to walk away, likely to get his own food when Bail’s voice stopped him “And where are you going young man?”

Luke stopped and swallowed hard as he faced the older man. “To get breakfast?” he ventured.

Bail’s eyebrow went up “Did you not hear Leia mention this was for family?”

Luke nodded “Yes, but I’m not-” he started

Bail cut him off “You are Leia’s family, so I was sent to fetch you by my wife. I do so hate to disappoint my wife Luke.”

Luke nodded nervously “Okay. Then I should change my clothes too and I’ll meet you there.” he walked away.

Bail’s concerned look came back over his face as he took Leia in “How long since you've done this with your family?”

“Too long.” she answered, then gave him a hug, because he was here and damn what anybody in the mess hall thought. “But it’s a habit I am more then happy to pick up again.”

He returned the hug and she grinned to herself as he took in the sound of his heartbeat under her ear. She remember when she was little, she would crawl into his lap, demanding a story, but really only wanting to hear that thump, thump, as she fell asleep. He pulled away after a few moments, a fond look on his face.

“You better hurry Leia,” he teased gently “You wouldn’t want to be late and your know how your mother is about being on time.”

“That it is one of the easiest ways of being polite.” she said back automatically. Grinning, it had been a long time since she had heard that phrase at her, rather than her saying it. She gave him a kiss on the cheek and hurried off to her own rooms.

 

By the time she reached her parent’s room, she was no longer sore. As she marveled at her nineteen-year-old’s body ability to recover, Luke caught her bending and squatting in the hallway.

“What are you doing?”  He asked, amusement on his face.

“Loving my knees,” she answered him cheerfully, uncaring of how odd she sounded. Her parents quarters were further back in the base, and fairly isolated. It was unlikely anyone was around to overhear her. And if they did they would think she had run mad, not that she was a time traveler. “Enjoy your body now Luke. When you are older, things start breaking down, and you forget that it’s breaking down, and then it rebels against you in the form of aches and pains. It’s all a nightmare.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” but he clearly thought she was a little off.

Knowing it would annoy him she leaned over and patted him on the cheek “You should listen to your elders baby brother, I know of what I speak.”

“I’m older.” he insisted indignantly. Then his face sobering “‘Is it really all that bad?” he asked.

“Annoying, yes. Bad, eh” she shrugged “It just requires more work and care, and when you forget, your body punishes you. Harshly. Unfortunately patience has never been my strong suit.”

“Mine either.” he agreed. He eyed the door nervously and tugged his tunic down. “Do I look alright?” he asked her.

She stared at him, noticing that the clothes he was wearing wasn’t his usual borrowed mishmash. They were of good quality, a tunic of startling blue, matched by a pair of black trousers. He was still wearing the knee high brown boots, but all the rest of his clothes had to have been borrowed. Why would he borrow someone’s best outfit? She realized, with a start, that he was nervous. Why was he nervous? “You met them yesterday Luke,” she reminded him gently “They didn’t bite you then, and I certainly don’t think they are going to now.”

“No, they're Human Royalty so that wouldn’t be a thing that would be considered polite.” She gaped at him “Tatooine is a smugglers haven. Even out in the hinterlands, you can come across some very odd customs and practices.”  he said defensively. “And we are getting off the point. Leia, what if they don’t like me?”

Of all the ridiculous things. “What’s not to like?”

“Leia!” he whined “I have no practice at this sort of thing. I don’t really do small talk, or know anything about politics, and the weather here doesn’t really change. It’s just damp and wet. All I needed to do yesterday was be quiet and listen. And I didn’t even really do that very well.”

She opened her mouth to counter his opinion that he offered nothing of value at that meeting but he barreled on “They are going to want to talk to me today. I can’t just sit there like a lump. I need to make a good impression. They're your parents and royalty! I’m just a farm boy from the outskirts of the galaxy, who barely has an education. They only thing I have going for me is that I’m a good pilot.”

She shook her head “No, you're an excellent pilot. And you are selling yourself short.”

“You're biased.” he muttered, embarrassed at the compliment.

“Yes, but that doesn't make me wrong. Luke,” she grabbed his face between her hands and waited until his eyes met hers “trust me, they are going to love you. And even if you walk in there and accidentally drop food all over yourself or manage to mortally offend them, that won’t matter to me.” He looked horrified at the thought of dropping food everywhere. She gave him a teasing grin and continued “Even if they decide that you will forever be the embarrassing relation we keep locked away that won’t change anything for me. I will still love you.”

“It’s just, I’ve never been good at this. Back home I was the odd kid almost nobody liked. They called me Wormie for goodness sake. I think Biggs only stuck around because I was the only one who could beat him at flying.”

“No, that wasn't why he stuck around Luke,” she thought sadly and wondered if these thoughts had plagued her Luke the first time around. He had never mentioned it at the time. Then again he was in that weird competitive streak with Han for her attention, so that wasn't something he was likely to bring up. Later, when they realized the actual nature of their connection it wouldn’t have occurred to him to tell her. For Luke what was done was done, there was no sense in rehashing it for no reason.

“You belong here.” she said firmly, “And who are you to contradict royalty?”

He gave her a small smile “Royalty? Wouldn’t dream of it. My bratty younger sister? I’m finding that is lot more fun then I thought it would be.” She laughed out loud and let him go.

“I’ll give you a hint about them if it will make you feel better.”

“Really, and what is that?”

She gave him an impish smile and then she deliberately knocked on the door. At his panicked look she informed him primly “They really like punctuality.”

“Thanks a lot.” he muttered under his breath as the door swung open and Breha greeted them both with a warm smile.

“Leia.” she leaned forward and gave Leia a brief kiss on the cheek in greeting. “Luke.” as she stepped past Leia to greet her brother the same way. “Thank you for coming.”

He blushed under the gesture and murmured “Thank you for inviting me.”

“It’s a family tradition.” she informed him as she walked back through the door, “So, barring any scheduling conflicts, I expect to see you everyday around the same time.”

“Uh, okay.” Luke looked flabbergasted as he followed her mother into the room. Leia grinned to herself as Luke was pulled along by her mama’s commanding presence. Leia had envied that talent when she was younger. Her mother could walk into a room and in a few moments, without saying a word, could draw the attention of everyone there. Leia could gather everyone’s attention of course, but she tended to be a lot louder when she did it. It wasn’t until she was in her thirties that she resigned herself to never possessing that particular talent.

There were four plates on the small table, filled with meat and various fruits. “We didn’t know what you liked to eat Luke, so we got a bit of everything for you.” Bail gestured to the plate with the most food.

“Thank you.” her brother sat down at the table. Leia sat next to him and her parents on the other side. There was a moment of awkwardness as the four of them stared at each other. Then Leia realized Luke was waiting anxiously for someone to copy to that he didn’t inadvertently do something rude. She picked up her fork and began eating, and beside her Luke, with obvious relief, started to do the same.  

Leia, enjoying the novelty of all of this, and hoping to put Luke at ease, went for one of the more obvious topics of conversation. “What are you doing today Mama?’ she asked

Her mother sighed “Filming those propaganda holos you suggested. Mon, it turns out, agrees with you that we need to fill the silence before the Empire does. I was going to ask you to come by and perhaps offer some suggestions on the speeches?”

Leia nodded “Of course, but it will have to be after lunch. I’m helping Commander Orrelios  with inventory today for the base.”

Luke looked up “Isn’t that a little bit below your skill set?” he asked.

She shook her head “Not to where they think I am. Learning and helping in inventory is one of the things they train you in when you are on the track for a command. You can’t run anything without knowing what you have. A hungry army is a weaponless army. Then it gets into logistics and supply lines…” she trailed off as everyone stared at her. “I like solving puzzles,” she muttered

Bail shook his head “Yes, you always did. I didn't realize you got that far into the administrative side of things.”

She shrugged “When you're short handed you help where you can. We are going to be very short handed over the next few months. I go where I am needed.”

Breha turned to Luke “And what will you be doing today?”

He shrugged “With Gold Leader gone, Red Leader, I mean Commander Dreis, says that he wants me to train under him as his second. If that goes well, then in a couple of months he wants me to form my own squad.”

Leia nodded her head, this was what happened last time too. The only difference was there were no squad leaders left to train Luke. He had been thrust into a leadership position for the PR value of it and given no instruction. If wasn’t for the fact that he had Wedge as his second, who did have experience, and was such a fast learner, the whole thing could have ended easily in disaster. “Makes sense, you are a good pilot.”

“But what do I know about leading a fighter squadron?” he asked.

“What do you know about the Force?” Breha countered “You’re young Luke, not stupid. Ignorance is fixable, willfully stupid is not.”

Bail spoke up, offering his own advice “Mon and I knew nothing about running a rebellion when we started this. Even now there are times when I look around and think to myself ‘There has to be someone better suited for this’. And there might be, but they are not here. You are, so go forward as you mean to be, and hopefully your success will outweigh your failures. That is all any of us expect from you.”

Luke’s eyes were wide and he nodded his acceptance. This was advice Leia had heard before, hell it was advice she had given Luke around this time. She just always had the thought in the back of her mind that her Father would have done a better job delivering it. Turns out she had been corrected on that front.

Breha spoke up “And your Jedi training?”

“Ben and I will be discussing that tonight. He’d told me yesterday that between what Leia has told him, and the needs of the Rebellion, we need to work out a schedule. He is also getting inundated with requests for help so somehow we need to find the balance for both of us.”

Bail frowned “That is an awful lot to take on at the same time.”

Luke shook his head “I don’t mind. In fact the busier I can be the better off I think it will be.”

Both Bail and Breha frowned at this and Breha put down her fork to reach a comforting hand to Luke. “Obi-Wan told us what happened to your family. Is there any ritual or observance that you would like to plan, or have us participate in?”

Leia swallowed her anger at herself for her thoughtlessness for not thinking to offer this earlier to Luke. This time travel business snuck up on her in the oddest of ways. She had forgotten that for him, they had only been dead for about four days, not decades.

Luke shook his head “No ma’am. Death was a fairly routine, and private affair on Tatooine. There wasn’t much to bury in any case, and all the prayers I’ve already said. We didn’t go in for much, no fancy ceremonies. Just a quiet goodbye.”

“Why waste resources?” Leia muttered. She was thinking of Luke’s frugal approach to every material object in his life, even past the point where money wasn’t as much as a concern as it had been for him.

Her parents looked downright shocked at the apparent callousness of her statement, but Luke gave her a grateful nod “Yes.”

“Well,” Breha patted his hand reassuringly. “Just please, keep in mind to be kind to yourself over the next few days. Grief is a horrible thing, and you don’t want it to catch you unawares. We are here if you need anything. Even if it’s only a silent shoulder to cry on.” And then she gave him a small smile “And it's still Breha Luke, not Ma’am.”

Luke nodded and gave a small pleased smile “Breha. Although it might take me a while to remember that. My Aunt Beru she will” his face tightened and he corrected to “would, have rapped my fingers for being rude to my elders. It’s a lesson that is going to take a while to unstick.”

Her mother laughed “Fair enough.”

They all continued to eat in silence for the next few minutes. Now that Luke understood that these were family affairs, where everyone caught up with each other, not a lecture hall where they discussed galactic politics he seemed much more relaxed.

Leia was the one to break the silence after she finished her meal. There had been too many years of too many places for her to be for her to ever really slowly eat anything anymore. “I have to be off,” she said, truly regretful “But rest assured I will remember to come tomorrow.”

Luke, looking up from his meal “Hey do you mind if we meet in the gym before hand? I would like to run with you again if you don’t mind. Then we can come here afterwards.”

She stood up and leaned down and gave him a kiss on the cheek “Of course. But I will be seeing you tonight after dinner. If you don’t mind I’ve asked Obi-Wan for some additional training with my shields. I won’t be there for the entire lesson” she warned him at his hopeful look. “I still have no intention of training as a Jedi. But with two Sith Lords running around I need to bolster my defenses.”

She couldn’t blame him for wanting her along on the journey he was about to take. Especially after the elation of the experience she had with him down in the gym. The only time in her life she had seriously considered following her brother to become a Jedi had been after the first time they had managed to sync like that. It was a heady feeling. Luke just didn’t understand her reluctance. Yet. Unfortunately, sooner rather than later, he would be needed to be told.

Breha gave her a puzzled look. “Why would you need to remember? Leia, this is something we have always done.”

Bail cut in “She fell out of the habit. But if your husband didn’t like the practice, the rest of  your family can certainly fill that need.”

Luke looked up completely shocked “Husband?” his voice was high. “What husband?”

Breha sighed “Bail.” she said warningly.

But Bail was focused on Luke, then he looked up at her “You didn’t tell him?”

She gritted her teeth at the dig at Han and valiantly tried to keep her tone civil. “It hadn’t come up yet.” Truthfully she had simply forgotten that Luke didn’t know. She returned to his assumptions that he made though “Papa, that isn’t what happened.”

“Then what did happen? If you won’t tell me, Leia, I’ll be forced to draw my own conclusions.”

She thought of all the joys and horrors that followed her because of the blood in her veins. She thought of explaining how there were too many directions she had been pulled in, too many costs that she, her son, her husband, and her brother had to bear because of decisions made by other people, including him, long ago. She thought of his heartbreak if she told him about what happened to his grandson, to Luke and his Jedi Order, to the New Republic.

She met his eyes and couldn’t bring herself to do it. To tell him that all they had sacrificed had only brought a temporary reprieve from the darkness. That it was his and Mon’s mistakes that help lead them all into disaster, again. No matter how angry she was she couldn't bring herself to break his heart like that.

But she was also too angry to truly reassure him so she spat out. “Fate. Fate happened. But if there is one thing you taught me it's that I need to forge my own destiny. And by all the known gods in the galaxy, I intend to see it all changed.” She walked out of the room, leaving her mother and Luke behind with their worried looks.

Chapter Text

Helping with inventory was a boring task, but after the last few days that Leia had, she could use a little boring. Plus seeing Commander Orrelios constantly argue and whine at the cranky droid Chopper was vastly amusing. Leia wondered if she had brought C3-PO, how the two droids would have gotten along, but she had thought he would be of more use to her mother this morning. Orrelios grumbled, but he indulged the orange droid enough for Leia to know he was sincerely fond of him.

The state of their supplies left Leia worried though. The amount of weapons, equipment, and people who had been lost in the last week were truly staggering. Either Leia had forgotten or had been so lost in the haze of grief for those first few months, but she was taken aback at how strained the Alliance currently stood. The only thing they weren’t desperately low on was food, and that was because the amount of personnel they had to feed had been cut down dramatically.

Leia felt the residual bitterness from that time in her past fade away. Back then she had been too lost in her grief and simply trying to continue forward to think clearly about what the state of the Alliance was. Looking at the inventory lists she now, she saw that the push that had come for her to do those holos had been driven by desperate need. She had done them of course, and without complaint, but she had secretly resented having her loss being made so public simply for the purposes of fundraising. She would never trade Alderaan’s and her parent's survival, but she had to wonder how they were going to go forward without the catalyst that was the destruction of her homeworld.

By the time she had finished her lunch in the mess hall Leia’s irritation at her father hadn’t completely cooled. Heading to the ad hoc recording studio that the Alliance had to film all its propaganda, she had the strange thought that she hoped he wasn’t there. Leia felt it was a sign of just how out of control this all was because it had only been four days since she had been given the unexpected gift of his return and now she was trying to avoid him. Or maybe, she thought ruefully, you recognize you and he are incredibly raw right now and don’t want to pour more fuel into the fire.

Perhaps she should skip this all together, but she had promised her mother all the help she could give. Threepio had found her in the crowded hall “Princess Leia, Princess Leia.” he said, his high-pitched voice easily carrying over the background noise of the corridor “Your mother wished me to inform you that she is currently in her quarters.”

“Thank you Threepio,” she said, changing direction to head to her mother’s quarters. “Where is your other half?” she asked, curious.

Threepio gave a disgruntled noise “He’s with Master Luke, your highness. They are engaged in training exercises.” He gave a worried sigh “I understand that he wishes to be of help, and I would, of course, wish Master Luke to be in the best of hands. But I don’t understand why he has to throw himself into such danger.”

As Leia wandered down the halls she considered Threepio's question seriously “Well I think R2 feels he has to do what he believes is right.” Or what will be the most fun. Sometimes it was hard to tell with the little astromech.

Threepio sighed “I do understand that. But I worry about him.”

“Just because you care for someone doesn’t mean you get to dictate how they live their life. Droid or not.” Leia found herself at her mother’s door and reached out to pat Threepio's arm. “It will be alright. How long have you known R2?”

“Oh, it feels like a lifetime, but almost twenty years.”

“In all that time he’s managed to pull himself out of every scrap he’s ever found himself in. You should have faith in him. He is nothing if not clever.”

“Yes Princess, much to my displeasure.” Threepio wandered off then, muttering under his breath about astromech droids who were too confident in their own abilities. For the hundredth time, Leia wondered who had built C3-PO and what the hell they had been thinking. The droid was clearly a custom job, his internal parts were too much of a mishmash of different manufacturers to be anything else. His programming was also way out of line for a standard protocol droid. Six million forms of communication? Under what circumstances did anyone think that was needed? The extra hardware that had been welded into him to be able to process that much information was childlike in its approach, more is better, but had an underlying elegance to the design.  This left the golden droid with way more processors then he needed on a daily basis, which was the foundation on which he built his outsized personality. When she asked him about it, years ago, or years from now depending on how you looked at it, about who had built him he had answered in a puzzled voice that he didn’t know. That he had always been in the service of her family as far as he could remember.

Then there was the issue of his desire to be ‘useful’. She had ever met a droid who was so dependent on positive feedback and constant validation. He did his job well, and he had never failed any task she had set before him, despite all of his wailing about how he wasn’t programmed for such things. That remarkable adaptability wasn’t something you usually saw in droids. Then there was his loyalty. Not once, despite the visible annoyance and disrespect she had shown him when she was younger, did he ever waver in his commitment to her. And then later on Luke. R2 was the way he was because as far as she could tell he had never been wiped, and as he got older his personality grew with it. There was no such explanation for 3PO.

Unfortunately, all of those outsized personality traits made him a more than a touch neurotic, fussy, and prone to hysterics. Leia was willing to live with his follies. If there was anything that she had learned in her later years to value above all else it was sincere affection and loyalty. Threepio had that in spades, which certainly helped keep his other way more annoying qualities in a better light.  

As Leia entered the room she found her mother staring pensively at the two head pieces that were lying on the table, surrounded by a hairbrush and a mountain of hair pins. Leia stopped just inside the room to stare at her mother in shock. Breha’s hair was undone and fell to her waist in a solid brown wave. Leia couldn’t ever recall a time that her mother’s hair was unadorned in such a fashion this late into the day unless she was ill. Realizing her mother was completely lost in thought she gently cleared her throat to get her attention.

“Leia,” her mother said, startled turning to her “Threepio found you quickly.”

“Yes. I’m here, as promised.”

Her mother gave a small smile and then returned to headpieces. “Which one do you think?”

Leia looked between the two headdresses, and her mother’s outfit, a simple frock dress, with no decorations or embellishments on it, but of good cloth. She weighed which would look more regal in this context, then thought about her moment of shock at the door. This was a message for the greater galaxy, but it was also a resource sent to her people. It foremost needed to be something that would instantly catch their attention. “Neither.”

Breha looked shocked at the answer “Leia, the rulers of Alderaan never go anywhere outside of their private quarters without a head covering.”

“You are currently not the ruler of Alderaan.”

Her mother’s eyes widened in pain and Leia winced as she realized how harsh that statement must have sounded. “What I mean is that you are the Queen, but a Queen in exile. You have no throne to sit on. Any of the royal houses that declare their loyalty to you will be shortly stripped of any possessions and power they have. For now, you are a Queen in name only. Your head should reflect that.” she frowned as she mentally went through all the possibilities. Leaving it just like this was too much of a step in the wrong direction. It would read as Breha abandoning all their traditions without a by your leave. Perhaps a compromise of some sort?

“Maybe the coronal braid?” she offered “It’s symbolic in our culture of a leader in waiting or a leader yet to be. It also had the practical side effect of looking somewhat like a crown, so the meaning won’t be lost on anyone.”

Breha looked at Leia’s own hairstyle, of the three looped braids atop her head. “You don’t seem to have lost practice with styling your hair,” she remarked

Leia’s back stiffened “Mama, do you think I cut my hair?” she demanded, incredulous that her mother thought she would ever do such a thing. On Alderaan, the heads of houses and their heirs always grew their hair long. It was a symbol for all of them, male or female, to mark who they were. You did not cut it unless you were cast off from your family or lost it in some sort of disaster. The longer the hair, the more worth that was given to the person who grew it, because it was assumed that you were both lucky and skilled enough to have avoided any scenarios where there would be need to.  

As she had gotten older, and as her life had pared down to the merest essentials it had become more and more clear to her what a luxury it was that this custom had even arisen on her world. It relied on the assumption of time and servants to help manage it. It relied on the assumption that you would always have enough access to the proper nutrients so you could grow it. It relied on the fact that you could be reasonably sure that you would have access to supplies to clean it. That basic assumption that all of those factors should be in your life was the crystallizing moment for her when Luke informed her that she and almost every citizen of a core world were spoiled. Not because their lives weren’t hard, but that they grew up with the luxury of thinking that was true. And having spent years in the mid rim and outer territories where she saw so many sapients deprived of even these basic assumptions Leia had conceded his point.

The sheer time and effort that she spent on her hair also became more and more of a hindrance to her as her life increasingly between too many goals and not enough time. But at the thought of cutting her hair, the last visible sign she carried to others that she was of Alderaan, left her stomach in knots. All she could remember was her mother braiding it for her when she was little, and her father playfully pulling on it to get her attention.

Her mother’s face filled with apprehension, then faded away as she gained control of herself. She answered Leia’s question in a carefully neutral voice “I wasn’t sure. It’s easy to infer that you were on the run for a good long while. It would have been the practical thing to do. And with your stated preference for the title General over your Alderaan titles I just came to the conclusion...” her voice trailed off as she began to lose control of it.

Leia rushed over quickly and grabbed her mother in a fierce hug. “Never,” she said fiercely into her ear. “I never once seriously considered it. I found hairstyles that were fast and easy and not Alderaanian in origin, but I never cut my hair. “ She pulled back to look her mother in the face “And you’re right. It probably would have been easier to do so. There were certainly times and places where I cursed the inconvenience, but I couldn’t do it. It would have been severing the last link I had to you.”

“Leia love,” Breha’s eye filled with tears as her hands reached up to cup Leia’s face. “Oh my darling girl, there is so much more binding us together then your hair. Never forget that.”

Leia closed her eyes for a brief moment, taking comfort in the statement. Then she opened them again she gently wiped away at the tears as they spilled down her mother’s face. “Speaking of hair, would you mind if I do your braid? I’m a bit out of practice working with other people's so it won’t be fast,” she warned, “but I promise it will be neat.”

Her mother dropped her hands from her face and gave her a bright smile “Of course.” She sat on the bench closest to them. Leia took a deep breath and picked up the brush from its position on the table. While it was true she had plenty of practice on her own hair, it had been decades since she had done this for anyone else. If she and Han had more children…and she slammed that thought right off. She didn’t want anything to intrude on this moment of peace and quiet.

She slowly pulled the brush through, making sure there were no knots to tangle the style she wished to do and trying to ensure she wasn’t going to pull too hard on her mother’s head. Pulling out on the large section on the left side, she split into three separate parts. Then she transferred the brush to her right hand and then began to braid the strands together. The smell of vanilla and starflowers came wafting up as she began to work the hair through her fingers. Leia swallowed back her tears. She had been so sure that she remembered her mother so clearly, and she had forgotten the smell of her hair.

“Leia?” he mother inquired as Leia’s motions came to a stop.

“It’s nothing.” she told her, voice husky, quickly resuming her work. Quickly finishing the first and largest of the braids she grabbed a hair tire from the table to tie it up. Her mother, hearing her tone, went on hesitantly.

“Leia, if this is about this morning…”

So much for not letting anything in on this moment. Leia gave a bitter laugh “No. It’s just been a long time since I had anyone to do this on.” She began to separate out another section of hair, thinner than the first for the second braid.

Her mother absorbed this and said in a soft voice “What I told Luke goes double for you Leia. Grief can catch you unawares.”

“Nobody is dead.” she told her mother, trying to inject lightness into her voice “In fact the exact opposite is true.”

“That is not true Leia. And you do yourself no favors by denying that.”

Leia’s hands began to shake, and she temporarily stopped working on the braid.  “I don’t want to talk about Han,” she said flatly.

“Alright,” Breha said, sounding a bit disappointed but she didn’t press further on it. Leia started weaving the strands together again. “But I can’t imagine he is the only one for your life you are going to run across and have them view you as a stranger. Although,” she said wonderingly “you seem to have latched on to Luke quite strongly. I noticed you didn’t hesitate to bring him into the truth of your circumstances.”

“Luke is different," Leia said automatically, as she completed the second row of the braid and let it fall to rest next to the first.

“Because he isn’t dead where you come from?” her mother said gently.

“No, because he’s Luke,” she said. “He’s my twin. When I’m near him, the Force…things are better when we are together. I don’t know if I can explain it any better than that.” She brushed the remaining section of hair and once again repeated the separating into three strands. Her fingers were now finding a long forgotten rhythm of this and she felt the old habit coming back to her more clearly. Of course, now she was almost done, but maybe she should offer to do this more often for her mother. Leia had missed the fun of playing with another's hair. “Besides with his training starting he would figure out very quickly that I was lying to him. I didn’t want to start a relationship with him based on a lie.”

“Aren’t you?” Breha’s voice had the slightest bit of censure to it. Even here she couldn’t escape Vader’s shadow.

“No.” she stated firmly. Hearing her mother sigh in disappointment she elaborated. “They're things I’m not telling him. But I did warn Luke that there were issues and topics I was going to avoid with him.” She sighed. “He took it well. Better than Papa did.”

She hadn’t meant to come across as whining, but clearly, her mother knew her, thirty years gap or no thirty-year gap. “No Leia,” Breha shook her head, causing the third braid Leia was working on to fall out of her fingers, undoing the work. “You are both adults and you can work this out for yourselves. I learned my lesson in your youth. I will not mediate between the two of you.”

Leia frowned “What do you mean?”

Her mother chuckled “You don't remember your teenage years well do you? Your father and you used to butt heads all the time. It lead to some very intense rows between the two of you. There were even one or two between you and me.”

Leia didn’t remember this at all. Frowning she undid the last braid, it was a mess now, and resorted the sections. She remembered the laughter and joy. The family breakfasts, lessons, and stories told to her before bedtime. She remembered disagreements with her father, especially at her insistence on helping with the rebellion, but she didn't remember fighting with her parents. Was this something that she had glossed over? Or did she include screaming and yelling as a fight? She and Han certainly never bothered to retain any pretense of civilized behavior when they went at each other. Maybe that was one of the things that appealed to her about him. There was no expectation from him for her to retain her “manners”. In fact, he got more insulted the more remote she became. He would goad and pick and pry until she finally lost her temper and fought back. If her mother was thinking of this morning as a serious fight, instead of a mild tempest, Leia realized that they were looking at the same word very differently.

Then again she and Han had done everything loudly. Flirt, laugh, plan missions, it was all so vividly in your face and real that Leia was momentarily overtaken with the longing to have it all back. There was no coyness with Han. If he was aware of what he was feeling he went straight for telling you about it.

“But you aren’t disappointed in me.” she felt the need to point out.

“Did it ever occur to you Leia, that we feared very different things for your future? I was worried that you would spin yourself into nothing for your cause. Your father was worried that you would have need to. That you wouldn’t live a life as peaceful as the one he knew, not ever. The Republic was dying when we were growing up, that is true. But there was a sense of strength and the feeling of security when we were young.”

Leia blinked in surprise at that statement. Given what history she had found out about the time period of when her mother grew up that statement sounded horribly naive. Slowly and thoughtfully she finished off the last braid. “Because you were on a Core World.”

Her mother’s head cocked, as she registered her surprise. ’Yes.” she said slowly “I suppose that is right. I imagine there were plenty of worlds who even at the time would have laughed at our arrogance in that assumption.” Leia took the largest braid and wrapped it low around her mother’s head and holding it place with her left hand, she began the task of pinning it in place.

She wasn’t sure what she thought of her mother missing this obvious fact. Maybe it was her long exposure to Luke, who had grown up on the Outer Rim. Maybe it was the experience of being made a refugee with no world to really feel like you belonged to for years until they had managed to found New Alderaan. But to her, that feeling her parents kept talking about existing in the Old Republic sounded like willful blindness on their part.

Finished with pinning the first braid, Leia brought up the second to nestle on the inside of the half circle of the first braid and began the process of securing it to her mother’s head. It was wonderful they realized there was a problem, which is more than she could say for most citizens of the galaxy at the time, but it had taken things falling apart to an unprecedented degree before they had realized there was a problem. Her parents hadn’t even been the first to defy Palpatine, that had been the Separatists, and for the longest time, they had been vocal in their opposition to that cause. Leia had thought for the longest time her parents were so wise. But statements like what her mother just uttered made her wonder if they would have agreed with the New Republic Senate about her stance against the First Order. Would they have thought she was being paranoid and fear mongering too? Would they have been as blind?  

Before she could vocalize these thoughts to her mother, and just as she finished securing the third braid to her mother’s head there was a knock on the door. “Your Majesty?” a familiar voice called out.

Breha turned around and said “Enter.” Evaan Verlaine entered the room. Leia felt her breath catch. It had been years since she had seen the blond and it wasn’t until this moment she realized how much she had missed her. As the tall blond came over she gave Breha a warm smile and shot Leia an inquiring look. Right, Leia hadn’t met her yet. “Leia, this is Evaan Verlaine, perhaps my greatest pupil. Evaan, this is my daughter Leia” Evaan gave her a small bow as she took her in. “Your highness,” she said respectfully.

“Lt. Verlaine,” Leia said back, quickly scanning the women’s rank on her uniform. “It’s a pleasure to met you.”

Evaan nodded, “We hadn’t been formally introduced, but I was one of the pilots who participated in the Battle of Alderaan.” Of course, she was. She, like Leia, would never had stayed away from that fight. Funny though Leia didn’t remember Evaan as being a survivor of the battle of Yavin. Scarif yes, but not Yavin. She wondered what changes in the timing had let it be possible for the women to have flown both missions “You aren’t a bad pilot.”

Leia gave her a small smile “No, I’m an average pilot, but luck was with me and Lt. Skywalker.”

Evaan bowed her head in acknowledgment, then her eyes took in the coronal braid on Breha’s head, and the two unused headdresses on the table. A flare of comprehension entered her eyes as she studied the crown-like structure on Breha’s head. “Very clever your Majesty,” she said appreciatively. There was a reason the woman had been her mother’s favorite, she had always been very acute at picking up the smallest cue’s.

“Thank you Evaan, but I must confess it was Leia’s idea.” Evaan turned to Leia, a speculative look in her eyes. Her mother continued on “I take it you were sent to fetch me?”

“Yes your Majesty, they have the equipment all set up now.”

“Probably a lie, techs are never ready, but we shouldn't keep them waiting.” Breha rose from her seat and Leia and Evaan fell in behind her.

When they arrived it was to the hustle of tech’s running around, as predicted, doing last minute checks of something. After being directed to stand in the corner to wait, Mon came up to Breha. “Thank you for agreeing to do this Breha.” the red-headed woman said.

Breha gave a nervous smile. “I’m not sure what good I can do, but I’m always willing to play my part. Do you have what you want me to say?”

Mon nodded and handed a datapad to Breha. Her mother looked over it and then handed it to Leia. “My dear what do you think?”

As Leia began to proof the speech, she could feel Evaan moving restlessly beside her. Leia tried to ignore it, focusing on if there were any changes she could make. But her mother sighed and spoke softly “You have a question for me Evaan?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Evaan I know you too well, please let me know what is on your mind.”

“Are you sure this is the right thing to do?” Leia bit her tongue, this woman didn’t know her, and Mama was more than capable of defending herself. Interfering would do her no good at this point. She refocused on the speech. Opening it with “My fellow citizens” was ridiculous. Nearly a quarter of the people they were trying to reach weren’t technically citizens anymore. She changed the phrase to “To all who hear this broadcast.” Better, more inclusive.

Evaan continued on “Our people are going to pay a heavy price for this action you are taking.”

Breha nodded “Yes. To pretend otherwise is foolish.”

“Then why are you doing this?” Leia’s eyes flew up to take in Evaan’s face. The blonde’s body language was screaming fear, even if her face remained perfectly blank. Evaan’s came from a long line of royal loyalists if Leia was remembering correctly. They would take any action Breha did quite seriously and would also speak out. Leia hoped they weren’t that blinded by their loyalty and choose smarter ways to resist. She didn’t know. Family was a subject she and Evaan never discussed, it had been too painful for both of them.

Breha’s face was resolute “Because it is both the right and politic thing to do Evaan.”

“How is bringing the Emperor’s wrath down on Alderaan’s head the politic thing to do?” Evaan snapped back.

Frustrated that the woman was letting her fear blind her Leia spoke up “Our people will pay a heavy price, either way, Evaan. At least this way they will know the truth, as opposed to whatever lie the Empire chooses to sell.” She didn’t remember the woman being this spineless.

The look on the blonde’s face was shock at Leia’s daring to interject into this conversation  “Begging your pardon Princess, but you are very young. I’m not sure you understand all the ramifications of this decision.” she said, condensation dripping in her voice. “You were only seventeen when Mon Mothma made her rather dramatic exit from the Senate. Chandrila has endured needless suffering because of it.”

The woman in question cleared her throat and Evaan’s face turned a light pink as she realized what she had just said, and who was standing next to her. She straightened into parade rest and addressed Mon “I understand your reasoning at the time ma’am,” with a sincere note of apology in her voice “but I’m questioning the need to bait the Empire like this right now.”

Mon arched an eyebrow “You think it was easy for me to do what I did? Knowing what would befall my planet?” she shook her head “But in the long run I would do more damage if I stayed silent. The Empire has been cautious in its brutality in the Mid-Rim and Core worlds for precisely that reason. It is a divide and conquer strategy that has been playing out for years. As long as the majority of the galaxy’s citizens could lie to themselves about what could befall their world they weren’t willing to get involved. And the Death Star was the crowning achievement of that strategy, once it was completed. With it, the Emperor could then afford to move against anyone he wished, Core World or no. Tarkin has proven that, by threatening Alderaan with its destruction. It was only luck and the sacrifice of so many that thwarted the final culmination of his plans.”

“You think it was coincidence Palpatine dissolved the Senate right before this?” Breha asked gently “I understand you are worried for our people, but I can not remain silent anymore. It is not right that we ask so many others to sacrifice while we cower under the beds hoping someone will save us. It was not by my choice Alderaan got pulled into this conflict so directly but now that it has the best way to save our people, and the galaxy as a whole is to stand up Palpatine.”

“I see ma’am,” Evaan said. Then she looked at Leia “And you Princess? Do you believe this is the right course?”

“Yes, I agree with my mother. As inefficient and decorative as the Senate had become, it was at least a symbol of the Empire’s willingness to pretend to listen to the concerns of its citizens. And Palpatine has smashed it beneath his heel. He is no longer holding on to any pretense that this isn't a war he has declared on the entire known Galaxy to bring us all under his power and domain. The time for talk and hope for a diplomatic solution passed us by long ago. We can only go forward and hope it’s not too late for all of us.”

Mon looked surprised at the stridency of her words, but Evaan’s eyes filled with a bleak despair “Even if it leads to the destruction of our people?”

Leia felt her spine stiffen at the unintentional insult. She felt her voice adopt an imperious tone as she said “I think you underestimate our people.”

“I was at Scarif,” the tall woman shot back “I saw what the Empire ordered done on their own people to get their way. You have no idea what you are blithely condemning our people to.” Cold bitch was at least left unsaid, but Leia knew that expression well, especially on this face. Evaan thought Leia was ignoring the plight of their people in her eagerness to bring down the Empire. Leia was committed to that cause, as was Evaan or she wouldn’t be here. But to her these consequences, while not inconsequential in the slightest, was so much better then what Leia knew would have happened. Evaan didn't know what true destruction looked like. Buildings could be rebuilt, a culture could be preserved. Alderaan wasn’t so weak as to fall into ruin and despair because it was now an occupied land. They had survived the destruction of their homeworld, they could survive anything.

Breha, reading her daughter's face, and perhaps understanding what damage Evaan was inflicting with her choice of words spoke up. “My daughter is not so removed from the consequences of actions taken against the Empire,” she tried to placate Evaan, but Leia had enough. She wasn’t going to let Evaan’s fear overwhelm her. Especially since she knew the woman was capable of more.

Stepping to her she lifted her chin as high as it would go and stared at the blond, letting a calm mask of indifference fall across her face. “I was at Scarif too Lt. Verlaine, and unlike you, the Empire successfully followed and captured me.” She took another step to the woman, refusing to break eye contact. Because of the height difference, Evaan was forced to lower head if she wanted to keep her eye’s locked on Leia’s. “What can be done to a sentient body and still be survived is only theory for you. I’ve learned what can be endured first hand. If you ever come across Vader, pray that he kills you, because it is the only form of kindness he knows.” At that comment for just a second Evaan’s eyes dropped to Leia's throat and then realizing what she was doing brought them back up to Leia’s. But the one flicker was enough. Time to bring this lesson home. “I hope you never go through what I had to endure. But if you do I hope that people will treat you kinder than you have treated me. I hope that the people around you don’t give into their fear for their loved ones and lash out at you by suggesting that you are not intimately aware of the consequences of defiance.” The blonde’s face drained of color.

“My lady I...” her eyes were now flicking between Leia and her mother.

Mon’s breath hissed through her teeth “That’s enough Leia. I believe the Lt. has absorbed the lesson.”

Leia thought for a moment of contradicting Mon, she wasn’t sure if Evaan had, but it would not do to so openly defy the leader of the Alliance. Not now. Nodding she stepped back a few paces from Evaan and that was when there was the sound of someone clearing their throat.

All four women turned to see a tech standing nervously, his eyes wide. Leia wondered how much of the conversation he had just overheard. “Uhh, I hate to interrupt, but we’re ready for you, Your Majesty.”

Breha’s face melted into what Leia had always thought of as her “thoughtful ruler” mask and she nodded “Of course. Leia?” Leia focused her attention back on the speech and finished her read. It didn't really require any edits. “It’s fine Mama,” she said, handing it back.

The tech, still looking nervous at the mood he interrupted “If the rest of you could please enter the sound booth?”

The three of them trooped in and stood behind the clear barrier as Breha took her cue in the middle. Mon stayed by Leia and Evaan for a moment, clearly checking if more mediation was needed between them, but seeing that neither woman looked inclined to talk, the redhead wandered away to confer with some of the others standing in the room.

As one of the techs began instructing Breha to which camera she should address the speech to Evaan broke the silence. “Is this going live?” she asked the room in general.

It was a deep male voice from the shadows that answered her “No, we are taping it and will be hijacking the holonets later tonight. We are also recording several other variations of the speech to distribute on personal holos through various sectors.” Draven emerged from the back of the room.

“Why?”

“Because her Majesty has never spoken up this vocally before. We wanted to make sure that she was calm and clear to avoid any hints that she was being coerced by us to say this.” A bitter smile touched his mouth “Up until now she has been very neutral on the subject of the Rebellion in public, while the rest of us have been bleeding and dying.” He said it loud enough that the rest of the room's occupants heard him.

Mon sighed “We had need for that Draven. You know that. As long as the Senate existed we needed people in and around it who were on our side but played neutral.”

“I am aware.” the older man snorted “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.” He then eyed Leia suspiciously “And what is your take on the matter?”

“Mama will do fine,” Leia said neutrality, sidestepping his real question about what she thought of playing politics versus fighting. “She always does.”

“Hmmm.” He eyed her, and it was not the friendliest of looks. “I overheard some of that fracas you four were having. You were very militant in your defense of this move. Interesting that you have a meeting with your parents yesterday, and they both come out proposing this. It’s quite unusual for them.”

Leia met his eyes calmly. She might not have been a spy in decades but she wasn’t going to fall for such as obvious feint as this one. Cassian would rise from his grave to shame her for forgetting all the teaching if she had. “Having your planet threatened in a blackmail attempt is apt to change one’s priorities,” she commented mildly, inwardly cursing. Damn, he was keeping an eye on her at the base. Apparently helping in the destruction of a major Imperial asset wasn’t enough to allay his concerns over the story of her escape. “And my parents and I often meet in the morning. We have breakfast when we can, it’s just something we’ve always done.” She was hoping to sever any connection in his mind of her parent's new ferocity in fighting against the Empire with anything to do with her. If he believed anything they proposed came from her, that they were somehow her unwilling puppets, he would immediately oppose it.

She was probably going to fail, Draven was in charge of intelligence, he saw shadows everywhere. The point was to cast enough doubt that his suspicions remained with him, not shared with the entirety of the Alliance leadership. Well, Papa had warned her and Leia never backed down from the course she saw as the right one.

“And how are you, your highness?” he drawled “That was quite an ordeal you endured.”

“Alderaan almost being destroyed?”

“No, with Vader.” For a moment all Leia could think of was the conversation the two of them had this morning and wondering on the hell Draven had learned about it. Then she realized he was talking about the Death Star.

“It was awful.” she stated flatly.

“Yes but you are alive, which is more than most people can say after an encounter with him.”

Beside her, Evaan, who had been subtly eavesdropping stiffen. Leia felt a little bit of her own internal worry about that unclench a bit. Evaan might think she was the coldest person in this base right now.  And probably was still bruised from the smackdown Leia had given in front of her mentor and commander, but the blond didn’t for a moment believe she was a traitor.

Leia felt an eyebrow go up. “But hardly unscathed, you saw my injuries.”

“I read the report yes. But I have to wonder how you got off so light? Or why Vader was so foolish as to leave you with a lightly guarded shuttle? He’s a monster, not a fool”

Evaan butted in “What are you implying about her highness?” she demanded. There was the Evaan Leia had known. Protective and fearless, even if not as subtle as she could have been challenging a superior officer.

Draven affected a look of shock “Implying? I am implying nothing. Just remarking on the nature of her Highness's good luck.”

Maybe she could use this baby face to her advantage after all. She widened her eyes and gave him a confused look  “If you mean the luck of being overly prepared, so when an opportunity presents itself to you-you take it, then yes, I am lucky.”

He looked confused “Well prepared?”

Evaan, bless her, spoke up again, “Of course. Her parents have seen that her highness has been instructed in all manner of self-defense.”

Draven looked skeptical ‘But Alderaan is famous for being pacifists.”

Leia let out a low chuckle “That doesn't mean undefended. We won’t throw the first punch, but we will damn well learn how to get out of its way. Given all the intrigue my parents have been involved in since before I was born it would have been foolish of them not to prepare me for the worse. And they are no fools General.”

He didn’t look any more convinced, but the man clearly understood when it was time to back off. “Thank you for the insight ladies.  If there is anything more you need from me, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”

Leia wondered what would happen if she told him that she had a list of various Imperial officers and government aids that she would like to have assassinated. Most who were, right now in this time, not high enough in the Imperial structure to be considered threats. But in about three to ten years would change. As entertaining as the look on his face would be Leia let that thought go. She really needed to spend most of her resources on winning the war she was in now, not the one that was coming. But she would keep her eyes open for certain names, for certain hardliners that would never abandon the Empire’s foul poison. Instead, she gave Draven a pleasant smile and bowed her head. “Of course.” He walked to the other side of the room to consult with Mon and the others.

Evaan hissed in a low breath. “The nerve of the man. As if you would betray your mother that way.”

Leia shrugged “Spies are always suspicious of everyone. I don’t take it personally.”

She huffed and then gave Leia an appraising look. “You really overpowered your guards?”

Leia nodded “I really did.” She had, not in the shuttle of course, but that was a small detail.

The woman bit her lip. “I’m a good pilot,” she offered “but my hand to hand could use some work. Think you could help with that?”

Leia nodded “It would be my pleasure.” and they both turned to watch Breha finish giving her speech.

 

After finishing her dinner Leia found herself bumping into Luke as they both made their way to Obi-Wan's room. He looked at her with concern and she summoned a bright smile.

“Not quite how I expected breakfast to go.” she offered

He gave her a small grin in return. “Don’t worry about it, you should have seen some of the arguments I got into with my Uncle and Aunt.” The teasing light left his eyes and he regarded her with a solemn expression “Husband?” There was a ton of hurt and bewilderment in his voice. That was the last thing she wanted him to think, that she was deliberately hiding away parts of her. There were things she wouldn’t talk about, for a variety of reasons, but she never wanted Luke to think that she was hiding from him.

“I wasn’t keeping it from you on purpose. And it wasn’t because I’m ashamed of him. You, he,” she corrected quickly when she saw the annoyed glare in Luke’s eyes “were in my wedding party. In fact, he was one of the few people who didn't question my sanity when I got married. I just forgot that you, here and now, didn’t know.” How to explain to him the bond the three of them had shared? How to explain how interwoven all their lives had become? Especially since she didn't know if it could be recreated here?

Leia didn’t believe in simply succumbing to the whims of Fate. And just because they had clicked before doesn't mean it would happen again. Could she be so lucky to have it happen again? Given her track record with luck, she sincerely doubted it.

Luke moved his hands to her shoulders in a reassuring gesture. “It’s okay. You are allowed to misremember now and then.” He gave her a light shake “I’m not mad Leia.” No, but he was hurt, although she could feel that receding as he accepted her explanation. “You got me curious now  though who is he?”

“My parents didn’t tell you?”

Luke shook his head “I think your father might have said something but your mother informed him that he had done enough damage for one meal. If he wanted to continue to blab all your secrets he could do it far from her presence. I got the impression she’s pretty mad at him.”

She could be. Her mother and father tried their best to keep any disagreements away from her. Even after this talk this morning she didn’t know what her mother’s feelings were on what had happened at breakfast. Maybe that was why she never quite learned how to argue with someone she loved without it dissolving into shouting. She had never had an example put in front of her. “Possibly. If she doesn’t want you to know what she’s feeling, it can be hard to tell with her.”

Luke snorted “I don’t even know what she thinks of your husband, but your father was pretty clear on the subject.” He flashed her a teasing grin “I know I just meet him, but the only person I can think of that would get him that riled up was Han. That was a first meeting that did not go well. I think Obi-Wan had to physically get between them to stop your father from physically throwing him out of the palace.”

“The good captain has that effect on people.” she said, trying to keep her tone light.

Apparently of the two of them, Luke was the one with a better sabaac face. The laughter died in his eyes as he took in her expression and tone. Embarrassment poured out of him as the realization hit. “Bantha shit, it’s Han isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Why was everyone so surprised by this? Then she thought of who Han was now, not who he had become and wondered why she was so surprised by everyone’s shock.  

Luke’s eyes widened. “Well, that explains a lot.” He thought about it for a moment “I can see why your father isn’t thrilled.”

“And you?”

“He came back.” Luke said with a shrug “And he didn't have to. He also saved our lives in the process. That does buy the guy a lot of slack. I’m sure there are other sterling qualities he has that I’m missing on account of being covered up by his enormous ego.”

She laughed out loud at the description. Luke's embarrassment was slipping away and they were back in their easy familiar rhythm. “I’m not asking you to like him for my sake, just give him a chance. There is a lot there under that massive ego.”

He looked dubious “If you say so.” Maybe Leia shouldn’t worry about this too much. If Han could manage to charm Luke before, even with that competitive twist in the nature of their relationship to her, maybe in this timeline he could do it again.  

Obi-Wan’s door slid open and he stuck his head out. “Ah, I thought I heard you two out here. Why didn’t you knock?”

“We were gossiping,” Leia informed him as she slid her arm into Luke’s.

The older man’s eyebrow went up. “Oh, about what?”

“Husband's,” Luke answered deadpan.

“Dare I ask who's?” Obi-Wan inquired.

“Mine actually,” she answered. He gave her a long look, taking in her blank face and clearly decide to let it lie.

“As stimulating as that would be I do have an early morning tomorrow. So please come in.” He gestured for them to enter his room. His chambers were larger than Leia’s but not as large as her parents. He only had a bed though, which he sat on gratefully.

“I apologize for the lack of chairs,” he said regretfully “I meant to procure some, but my day got away from me and I somehow managed not to get round to it.”

Leia shrugged and sat cross-legged on the floor. Luke joined her on her left. “It’s not a problem,” she assured him “My tolerance for sitting on the floor has dramatically increased over the last week.”

“Ahh youth.” he murmured “That must be one benefit to this madness you have found yourself in.”

“She said she was in love with her knees.” Luke offered before she could reply.

Obi-Wan actually let out a full belly laugh at that “Yes, I imagine so. They are certainly something I miss as well.” Leia looked at him, really looked at him. His face was more lined than a man of his age should be. Her father was a least five years older than him, but Obi-Wan looked at least a decade older then Bail. A life of stress and the desert had done him no favors. She wondered how his body had fared living for that long alone. There was that cold clinical part of her, that part that was too experienced on being a field general, that wondered, Force enhanced or not, what use the man could be in any sort of battle. That fight she had witnessed so long ago with Vader did not fill her with much confidence to his current level of abilities.

“Leia how much training would you say you received?” he asked curious, ditching any preliminaries, and diving right into the heart of the matter.

“A few months, on and off,” she replied. “Mainly it was focused on my shields, but Luke persuaded me of the value of a few other things.”

“Enough to defend yourself, but not enough to get into trouble.” he murmured, more to himself than her. He seemed to be deep in thought for a moment.

“I suppose. I never really thought about it like that.”

The older man sat on the bed staring down at her then asked politely. “Can you bring your shields up to their full strength Leia? I would like to take a closer look at them if you don’t mind?”

Leia did as he asked and she felt the Force moved across them, not pushing strongly against them, but with enough pressure that she could feel what he was doing. He was testing them for weakness, she surmised.

“They are quite impressive.” He sat back and assumed a thoughtful expression. “But they are one solid thing? You think of it as a blockade or a wall to keep everything out?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Well, I can see why Luke taught you this method. It’s the easiest option and the fastest method to teach. And you certainly have enough innate power to easily ignore most people. It was often taught to the younglings as their first step. But that is all it was meant to be, a first step. I don’t know if he knew more techniques and thought you didn’t have the patience to learn them or if he honestly only knew that. You’re lucky though. It sounds like there weren't many Force users in your time who would have the skills to be able to break such a wall.”

She felt a chill run up her spine. “What do you mean?”

“It’s like any physical wall, if there is a weak spot, leverage can be used to get through it. It requires a lot of skill, but it is possible for a weaker force user to break through the shields of a stronger one.

Leia felt panic rise in her. That sentence, delivered in such a calm, banal way, tore to shreds the whole purpose of why she agreed to any training at all. “In my original timeline, Vader managed to enter my mind.” Obi-Wan’s face reflected horror “I could keep him from learning what he wanted to know, but I couldn’t keep him out completely. Have you ever had someone root through who you are at a core level? Look through all your most precious of memories and deem them unimportant?”

Obi-Wan shook his head “Not to that extent no.”

“Then you can see why I took up Luke when he offered to teach me. I thought I would be able to stop anyone from being able to do that again.”

Obi-Wan looked thoughtful “Since I don’t know the extent of what he learned, or by accident managed to figure out, I’m not sure what to tell you. He more than likely thought it was enough Leia. It doesn’t sound like he would deliberately mislead you.”

Luke spoke up “But why would he offer reassurances on something he wasn’t a hundred percent sure on?”

That was what Leia was wondering herself. But that question, along with so many others was beyond her ability to ask anymore. She had to wonder now, though, about some of the details she hadn’t understood in that original encounter with Vader.

“Vader is highly trained, in both Jedi and Sith techniques. Why wasn’t he able to shatter through my natural defenses more quickly?”

Obi-Wan looked grave. “He didn’t want to shatter your mind, Leia. There is an art to delving into a Force sensitives mind. Push too hard and break a shield, natural or deliberate, and it can lead to devastating effects.” She looked at him puzzled and he sighed. “Think of it like a buildup of pressure. The stronger the Force user, the stronger the pressure is behind the shield, and the greater the reverberations in your mind when the wall finally shatters. He’s stronger than you, but the amount of resistance you would instinctively offer would have made him move with caution. If he was looking for specific information sending you into madness would have done him no good.”

“What kind of madness?” Luke asked, eyes wide with a morbid kind of curiosity.

“The mildest form is a light psychosis. At the strength you and Leia are capable of resisting the effect would be reality merging completely with your perceptions of the Force. He would never be able to know if you were giving him an answer from the past, the present, or the future. Or if you were conflating what you see with the Force with the physical world.”

Leia thought of being lost in that chaotic storm of everything and shuddered. “Good reason for him to proceed with caution.” But that meant Vader, that other Vader, had been aware she was a strong Force sensitive. She understood why he didn’t tell her. Why hand a possible weapon to an enemy? It was also Imperial policy, although a very quiet one, to kill or convert all force sensitives. She was as good as dead, for being a Rebel collaborator, so that wasn’t something that would hasten her execution.

What was she puzzled about was why hadn’t he tried to torture her into compliance as his apprentice? Almost all of the Inquisitors that the Alliance had backgrounds on had suffered that fate. She was powerful and could have been used as a weapon against the Emperor. Why ignore her after her escape? There was no bring in alive caveat on her bounty, unlike Luke’s. Maybe it had been his plan after Bespin? He had altered his deal with Lando on the subject of her and Chewie. It did explain one of his actions on Bespin. He knew she would reach Luke with her cries in the Force.

Lost in thought she almost missed Luke’s anger filled question of “What was he looking for?”

She pulled her thoughts from the past and turned her focus back onto her brother. “He wanted the location of this base.”

“Did you tell him?”

“No. After a couple of hours that’s when Tarkin lost patience and used Alderaan as motivation to talk.”

“And you still didn’t say anything?” His anger drained away replaced with pride and horror.  Pride that he assumed she defied them but horrified that she had such a choice placed in front of her.

“Of course I talked at that point, Luke.”

“You did?” was his shocked reply.

“Of course. I told them the rebel base was on Dantooine .”

“You lied? To Tarkin and Vader’s face? And they bought it?”

She nodded “I was hoping for time so I could figure out what to do.” She clenched her hands into fists in her lap “Didn’t matter. Tarkin had the Death Star primed for firing and he wanted to make an ‘example’. Dantooine was too remote a location to be effective in that regard.”

Luke’s face clouded with a grim satisfaction. “I’m glad he’s dead. The galaxy is better off without him.”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan mused, taking a hard look at Luke. “He was a most unpleasant individual. But he is gone, Luke. You should let this go.”

She could feel Luke wrestling with that temper of his, trying to contain his anger at someone who was beyond his reach, but who had hurt someone he cared for. Obi-Wan, in the long run, was correct. This was something Luke would need to learn how to control. But right now he wouldn’t hear any lecture the older man, or even she would say about it. So she opted for the lighter touch.

“I got to see him dead twice Luke.” she pointed out gently “How often can one say that about a hated enemy?”

He took a sharp look at her, and those wispy tendrils drifted across her mind, trying to verify the veracity of her statement. But all she really did feel was satisfaction in that amazing feat, and she felt him let go of that tide of anger.    

Both she and Obi-Wan started to relax when a fresh wave of horror washed across both of them. Luke looked at her worry in his eyes “Did Vader invade your mind? Did he do it again? In this time?”

She shook her head “Not this time, no. I wasn’t sure if I could keep everything from him. Even the smallest bit of information in his hands could be disastrous.”

“So how did you stop him?” And now they were wandering into territory she would much rather avoid. Also, Luke’s temper was rising the longer they stayed on this subject. She could feel it building, not into anything that would explode now, in this room. No this ran much deeper. This was being put in a list in Luke’s mind, a tally of all the pain Vader had caused him. This was quickly heading into a long term grudge, that wouldn’t be so easily dislodged as his anger at Tarkin.

“I didn’t stop him,” she admitted, not seeing a better way to phrase it than that. “I distracted him and that is all I’m going to say on that matter, Luke.”

He looked hurt at the abruptness of her reply, but he didn’t let the subject go. “Is that why you're suddenly asking for more training? Because of what did happen in that cell?”

A lie was out of the question here. She sighed. “He was above the Death Star Luke. That’s when he really tried to get my attention. It was very unnerving.”

Luke said nothing for a moment, then comprehension and grief passed over his face “He was the pilot who killed Biggs isn't he?”

Leia nodded her head reluctantly. When Luke learned the truth, what would this do to him? To whom he would become? Luke forgave Vader. That was just a fact of her existence. She didn’t understand it, and she most certainly wasn’t going to follow his lead, but Luke’s capacity for forgiveness was such a pillar of her life for so long, she never thought it was possible it could change. But seeing this Luke in front of her, with their shared temper not fully reigned in or understood, she wondered about that. Luke had always been forgiving of people who had harmed him. Harming the people he loved, that was a different matter. She owed him the truth to his question though so she gave him a straight answer. “Yes, he was.”

Bitterness filled Luke, but he said nothing.

Sensing, finally, that perhaps it was not wise to let Luke learn any more on this topic, Obi-Wan interrupted. “Perhaps layers might work?”

“Layers?” she frowned, not understanding his abrupt subject change.

“As I said, the wall was the first step. But the next lesson would be learning how to layer your shields. It will have fewer weakness to exploit and it might provide the buffering you seek from Vader’s overall presence. Think of it like the weave of fabric on good body armor. Individually the layers themselves are strong, but not as solid as a piece of durasteel. Layer them on top of each other, to make a solid whole, and you have something that is much stronger and flexible than the stoutest constructed wall.”

“For a metaphysics lesson, this has a lot of grounding in reality.”

“Of course it does. How else would your mind understand it?” She thought of Qui-Gon and his explanations of the limits of understanding imposed by a physical body. Well her brain was wired to deliver sensory input to her in one form. Made sense to try to build a framework for the incomprehensible taking into account those limitations.

“Alright, what’s my first step?”

“Luke I want you to pay attention. You haven’t mastered the first part of this, but letting you see where we are going might prove helpful to you.” Luke nodded. “Now Leia, I want you to thin out that wall in your mind. Not the intensity of it, or its strength, just how physically large you feel it is.”

It was hard. She had these walls in place for so long it was like trying to straighten a back that had been slumping for too long. When she finally felt she had them as thin as she could said softly “Okay.”

Obi-Wan’s light touch in the Force gently ran over them again, testing them. “Very good Leia. Now leave them there and try to rebuild that thick wall you had before behind them.”

Closing her eyes to block out any external distractions Leia focused all her concentration into this. She began to imagine a wall behind that gossamer shield and found herself thickening what was already there. Letting that go, and feeling as her shields returned to that thin state, she readied herself for her second try.

As she carefully began drafting the second layer, she felt the top layer hold. But the second she tried to pour her strength into the other edifice, the top layer of her shields thinned out, leaving holes in her defense. Frustrated she growled to herself.

“It’s alright Leia” Obi-Wan counseled “You’re doing fine.”

He meant to be encouraging, but all Leia felt was anger at her own incompetence. She was fifty-three years old, a seasoned veteran of politics and two wars. She should be able to hold two very different ideas in her head at the same time.

Then Luke’s voice filled the air “I have an idea.”

She felt Luke reach out to her in the Force and gently touch that first barrier. At that familiar feel of her brother’s mind, Leia returned the touch, latching onto him. Humming, pleased with himself, he spread his touch out, encompassing the whole of her shield in her mind, holding it clearly in his grasp. Feeling a faint “I got this.” coming from him, she understood what he was trying to do. With Luke’s familiar mind there, holding her shield in place, she didn’t need to focus so hard on maintaining that shield as she built the other. Hastily, she didn’t know how long Luke could comfortably hold her shield like that, she constructed a wall as tall and thick as her previous one. When she was done, she did an internal check to make sure it was as solid as the old one had been. Satisfied, she gave Luke a small nudge, telling him he could let go. He withdrew slowly, and for a moment, Leia felt both walls wobble, but she had the feeling of this now. She knew what it was supposed to be and they responded, solidifying in her mind.  

Luke gave a pleased hum in the back of his throat and her eyes flew open to him grinning at her with a wide smile of satisfaction.

“Luke,” Obi-Wan’s voice was slightly strangled. “What did you just do?”

Luke’s joy dimmed a bit. “What we did earlier today when we ran. I synced up with her to give her an anchor. Something to hold on to while she built that second shield.” Obi-Wan just stared “I didn’t go deep into her mind.” he said defensively “I know now that would be a bad idea without more training.”

Leia felt a sense of foreboding creep up her spine. “Let me guess, this is something new and weird too?”

“The act itself, no. The fact that you both have minimal training and seem to be able to join up like that, yes.”

Leia shrugged “Luke and I did it all the time.”

“And that meld is something that happened a lot?”

Leia shrugged “No. Sometimes when we meditated together. More often when we exercised. We figured it was a twin thing.”

“That probably helped yes. But no not all of it is the “twin thing”.” He turned at Luke “I didn’t understand what you were actually doing in the gym this morning. Running in sync like that, Luke, that’s a skill that took me years to master, and I could only do it with certain individuals”

Leia frowned “I don’t remember Luke’s students having that problem. It took them a bit longer to get than me and Luke, but we figured the blood ties are what helped.”

“It might.” He frowned pondering this “There were twins in the order, and they definitely had an easier time than most of us doing this, but not to this degree. This might be a function of blood ties, power, and proximity.”  He looked up, worry tugging at the lines around his mouth. “I’m going to have to think about this Leia.” Unspoken was that if this was the case between her and Luke that meant all of this also applied to Vader. “In the meanwhile, please continue practicing that technique. Hold up a thin shield, then behind it build a wall. Then as you get comfortable with both of them thin out the wall and rebuild another behind it.”

“How deep should I go?”

“As many as you can comfortable hold. There is no limit here Leia.”

“Alright.” she got up from the floor and gave Luke’s hair a fond ruffle. “I’ll see you tomorrow in the gym.”

“Okay.”

“And don’t fall asleep this time.”

“I won’t. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight Luke.” She gave a small bow of her head to Obi-Wan. “Goodnight Master Kenobi.”

“Good night Leia.”

 

Leia was meditating on her bed, trying to replicate what she had done with Luke, and having moderate success, when she heard the quiet knock on her door. Sighing she got up and opened the door to see her father standing there, a cup in his hand.

“Papa?” she asked.

“Good evening Leia, may I come in?”

Her angered had cooled enough by now that she was slightly ashamed of how she had reacted this morning. She was a grown up and if she wanted her parents to see beyond this impossibly youthful face she needed to start acting like it. True Han was a sore subject for her, but she should have been able to hold her temper. She gestured for him to enter.

He looked around the small room and seeing no other option sat on her bed. He held the cup out to her.  “It’s for you. Alderaan jasmine, it’s your favorite.”

As the door closed behind her she felt tears begin to build in her eyes. After Alderaan’s destruction, there hadn’t been enough seeds for the plant to survive. There had been a successful hybrid that had become available a few years after the collapse of the Empire, but the taste of it was never quite right to Leia. He could have no way of knowing, but this was the first time in decades Leia would be having this beverage.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she walked over to the bed to take it from him. Sitting down next to him, she brought the tea to her nose and inhaled the soft familiar scent.

He looked startled at her overflowing gratitude and then comprehension passed over his face. “Another thing you lost?” She nodded and he let out a weighty sigh. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you were left alone in this fight.”

Leia felt that all too familiar grief and rage build in her breast “It wasn’t your fault. At all. It was the Empire. It was Tarkin. Not you.”

”But I did encourage you on this path Leia.”

She snorted “No you didn’t. You simply taught me to know right from wrong and let me make my own conclusions. Nobody forced me into anything.”

He looked regretful “But you paid a heavy price for that.”

“A lot of people did. It wasn’t just me Papa.”

“True, but you are the only one out of that legion that is my daughter.” He sighed and rubbed his hands over his eyes. She sipped her tea and savored the flavor of it, letting the silence fill. He was the one who had come to her. He clearly had something he wanted to say to her and her pushing the issue would only lead to hurt feelings on both sides.  

He took a deep breath “I owe you an apology for this morning,” he began “It was completely out of line and I’m sorry.”

She gave him a faint smile “Thank you. And I’m sorry in return for the way I responded. It was childish of me to storm out like that.”

“Your mother is handling this better than I am. She is the more adaptive of the two of us.” he admitted. He shifted uncomfortably on the bed and then looked her straight in the eyes “I feel like I’m looking at a stranger sometimes when I look at you, Leia. It’s not an excuse for my behavior, but it’s deeply unsettling for me.”

She swallowed the hurt “Am I really so different?”

He looked up into her eyes and said clearly “Yes. You were always filled with passion, and that is still there. But you were never this secretive on the whole, and certainly not with me or your mother. You were never this blatantly distrustful. Cautious yes, but Leia, half the time you look at Obi-Wan like he’s going to bite your hand off.”

Really? She thought she was being nothing but polite.

“And your anger,” he shook his head “You were always upset with the injustice in the galaxy since you were old enough to understand what was going on. But now, there is so much rage in you. Your body language has changed Leia, did you know that? I can’t get a good read on you.  I have no idea you were about to storm out this morning. One moment I was talking to my daughter, the next she’s replaced with this woman who is looking at me like I’m an enemy.”

“I didn’t mean-” she said horrified at his implication.

“No, I didn’t think you did. But do you understand why I’m so concerned? I see an angry secretive stranger who won’t tell me what made her that way. You case rooms when you enter them looking automatically for exits. You access everyone who comes across your path for their threat level. You jump to the worst conclusion about anything anyone says. And don’t deny that is what you are doing. I watched too many of the Jedi go through the same thing during the clone wars. I know what I’m seeing Leia..”

“I’m sorry you’re disappointed in me that I’m a soldier and failed at bringing peace through more peaceful means.”

He shook his head in frustration. “Leia, I’m not disappointed in you because you became a soldier. I’m terrified that at fifty-three years old you still are one.” He sighed “This war has existed in one form or another for going on twenty-two years, I look at you and the only conclusion I can draw is that it will continue for another thirty.”

There was such hopelessness in his eyes “That is not true. There was peace. I promise you the Empire did fall.”

“But what came after? What happened after that Leia?”

And we were back to this again. “The future is always in motion.” she reminded him as gently as she could.

“But you’ve seen it.” he countered

She shook her head “Not this future. Not based on these possibilities.”

“But you have given us hints and clues. I don’t understand why you will confirm and say somethings, but remain so tight-lipped about others. Why won’t you lay out the entire story and we can work out a solution together.”

“I confirm things that will exist regardless of the changes I made.” She thought about the advice she had given them yesterday. “The political fallout from Tarkin’s death? That is going to happen because my arrival here did nothing to alter how the Empire’s power base was structured. And as we come to certain scenarios and people there are things I will tell you about because there is no way anything I could have done would any effect on them. But the further we go along this path the less and less things remain that simple.”

“Then explain it to me. Because all I’m hearing is you dismissing my concerns as ‘You are not ready to hear this’”

Well, that was certainly not what she meant. She thought about how to frame this in a scenario he would understand and then said fiercely “Luke falls in love with Nakari Kelen.”

“What?” he asked befuddled by the abrupt change in topics.

“Luke falls in love with Nakari Kelen, the biotech mogul Fayet Kelen's daughter. Three years from now she dies of a rare genetic disorder. The irony is her father found the cure two months after she died. I can’t recreate that cure, hell I don’t even know a direction to point her father in now to find it. Not that he would accept any requests from us. Luke never recovered from her loss. Do I tell him all this? Or do I manipulate him into not meeting her that first time? Of course, that was a critical mission for the Alliance and if either of them is not there it could fail. Perhaps I do nothing and let him go down this path anyway. Who am I to play God in someone’s life and there is nothing I can do to alter her fate.”

“On the other hand, she might live. Her disease isn’t well understood, and nobody has been able to crack what causes it to manifest itself. She could just carry the genes for it but never have a problem. Then I would have deprived Luke of a source of great joy in his life for nothing.”

“Of course if things do play out the way I remember them after she dies he might be a little pissed I didn’t give him a heads up. Or not, Luke is pretty forgiving. Or maybe he won’t be here. There are some pretty brutal experiences that shaped that forgiveness that I have essentially taken off the table as being able to happen. So who knows?”

His eyes widened “Leia, that is horrible.”

“This is what I’m balancing. Do you see why having the whole sorry tale will do you no good? For starters, I don’t know everything. I can’t even tell you who might be a spy on this base because Draven is always going to be a suspicious bastard and tended to take care of them very quietly. There is also the fact that my memories are suspect, it was thirty years ago for me. And even then I wasn’t paying complete attention to everything that was going on.” She sighed “People have the right to live their lives as they see fit and while I can advise, I certainly can’t tell them how to live their lives based on what could happen. And believe me, it’s tempting, so tempting to think that I can make this all better. That I can control this. But I tried that with Vader and because there were key details I wasn’t aware of it all blew up in my face.”

“What do you mean?” his voice tight with anger at the mention of the Sith Lord.

“I didn't know Jedi were forbidden from marriage. So when I knew about his wife and child, he was very curious as to the why and how I came to possess that knowledge.”

“Oh."

“Yes oh. Between that and my strength in the Force, another thing I didn’t know was that unusual I would like to point out, he was able to guess at my parentage.” With the hand not holding her tea, she rubbed her forehead in frustration. “Look at like this.  I have very specific intelligence from a trusted source, but who isn’t recalling all the details has well as you would like. I’m not even sure if I can give you an accurate reading of anybody who wishes to help us in the next coming months. The destruction of Alderaan caused a lot of defections and hardened a lot of lines. There are people who could come to us that I remember being loyal Imperialists but honestly bought the company line in my timeline. But as you said Tarkin made his intentions clear. Or people I remember belonging to our cause, but only came because Alderaan was destroyed. I can only make guesses Papa, they are very good guesses, but they aren’t fact. And you will try to treat them such, even if you cautioned yourself against it because I do it all the time and I certainly know better.”

There was a long pause. “Alright, I see your point.”

She nodded “Good because I made up that entire story about Luke.”

He gave her a disbelieving look. She shrugged “It wasn’t fair to give you something real, then you would be fighting to tell whoever it is what you know.”

“And again it sounds like you are trying to protect me.”

“And why is that a bad thing?”

“I’m the parent Leia, it’s my job to protect you.”

“Yes, but you can’t realistically expect to do that forever. I’m not nineteen anymore, I understand that to you I was until just a few days ago. But that girl is thirty years in the past for me. That is a long time to live without having your parents there to see you and hopefully guide you, as a person. How well would you respond if your parents showed up right now and tried to treat you like you were nineteen again?”

He harrumphed “Probably not well.” he said finally, conceding the point “In fact, they would be aghast at the fact that I was running an armed rebellion to overthrow a government. But my larger point still stands Leia. You are my daughter. To suddenly say I have no responsibility to see to your well being and safety is sheer arrogance.”   

“You died.” she countered harshly “You and Mama died and left me alone. But somehow, by a weird quirk of something, I managed to change all that. You are sitting here lecturing me out of love and concern and as frustrating as I find it, do you think I would willing trade that away? I will be damned if I let anything happen to you again.”

There was a long moment of silence following that proclamation and then Bail said in a quiet voice “That is not a promise you can keep Leia.”

“I know.” she closed her eyes and slumped.

“It feels like you don’t trust me.”

“Funny I was saying the same thing about you.”

“I’m trying Leia, but this is quite the shift.” They sat there in silence for a few minutes. Leia finished her tea and placed the cup on the floor, trying to figure a way out of this emotional quagmire she had found herself in.

Finally, Bail spoke up. “Might I offer a suggestion that might help both of us come to terms with this?”

“What?”

“We acknowledge that we both have the right and privilege to protect each other?”

She felt a smile break out across her face. It had been a long time since anyone had offered her reciprocity on that. She was the one who protected, not the other way around. Well except Luke, until he left her. “It might take a while to sink in, but yes, that is a compromise I can live with.”

“As long as you acknowledge the same for me,” he added with a wry grin. “But that doesn’t mitigate my concern about you, Leia. This will tear you apart if you let it. It isn’t your responsibility or burden to change everything in the galaxy.”

No but it’s the task that’s been put before me.” she thought bitterly. Because of the Force, or whatever whimsical power had brought her here.

“And then there's your husband.”

She thought about the conversation of this morning and asked: “Do you truly have such little faith in me that you can’t take my word on Han being a good man?”

He looked amazed at the very suggestion “Leia I would trust you with my life. I have trusted you with my life.”

“Then why won’t you accept that I loved Han? That we were married and that most of it were good. Why are you constantly belittling him? I understand he’s a stranger to you and not who you envisioned me with, but at the very least can you trust my word?”

“Words lie, actions don't.” she frowned, it was a favorite axiom of her mother’s and was frequently quoted while she was growing up. What did this have to do with the here and now? “It worries me that you absolutely refuse to talk about him. With me, your mother, or even your own brother. When you aren’t flirting with him outrageously Leia, you seem hesitant and frightened around him. Those are two words I would never associate with you. And because you refuse to answer any questions, I’m only drawing conclusions based on what I see.”

She felt indignation rise up in her breast “You know what happened to him. Did it ever occur to you that my behavior has an explanation beyond him being an abusive asshole?”

“I never said he was abusive.” Bail quickly clarified. “I never even really thought that. I just think that things were clearly not very happy between you. Why else would you avoid the most basic of questions? How long were you married? What did he do for a living? I can’t imagine you would marry him if he continued on in semi-illegal activities. Did you have any children?”

“Did it ever occur to you that it is incredibly hard to mourn someone when they are standing right in front of you?” she demanded.

Bail’s breath drew in sharply “Leia..” he started shocked.

She kept on, the frustration of this nipping at her heels. “He’s not Han. At least, he is not my husband Han. Not yet anyway. Just because we fell in love all those years ago doesn’t mean he will even like the person I am now. I know him, but he doesn’t know me. I love him, but when I look at him I see someone he used to be. Who he is here and now is the young cynical version of him. I see the possibility of a good husband, friend and a great general. But I also see a ghost.” Leia swallowed harshly and rubbed her hands over her eyes to discreetly wipe away the tears. “People grow together in a marriage Papa, and they change each other. At least that was what I learned from you and Mama. He’s the exact same person he was thirty-four years ago but I’m not either.” After all the older Han had run from her rather than stand together to face what Ben had become. Leia wasn’t going to get into that painful subject and continued.

“For me, it was five days ago that he died Papa, and it broke my heart. I haven’t even begun to process the shock from that and I’m confronted with this earlier version of my husband. One I can talk to and know so well, but he doesn’t know me. Who looked at me like I was a stranger instead of the center of his world. And that hurts. It’s like a knife pressing on the open wound left by his death. He’s a living, breathing reminder of all I lost. Then I realized if I open myself up to him again, even if we somehow manage to fall together like that again, I’m opening myself up to the exact same level of pain. Only now I know exactly what it will do to me if he dies on me again. Can I really make myself that vulnerable again?

“Leia everyone you love will leave you one way or another.”

“I know that!” she hissed “But I also know that when you are young that doesn’t seem much of a threat because it’s so far away. Even in these dangerous times, I convinced myself we would somehow find a way. It was that or run mad. I never wanted to fall in love. To have my heart beating in someone else's chest struck me as the height of lunacy. And by the time I figured that out that it was too late for me, that I was already in the middle of it, to take it back would be more painfully then leaving it there. But now….” she sighed “I don’t know Papa. I just don’t know.”

There was silence, as Bail took in everything she said. “My last concern about him is this. It says something that you won’t tell him the truth of your circumstances.”

She gave a small snort of derision, this was actually the easiest of all his accusations to refute. “No, because I understand who he is now. You, Mama, Obi-Wan accepted what I had to say because I knew things that you would deem impossible to learn any other way. Luke believed me because I’m his twin, and as he so eloquently put it, I was just the natural escalation of a truly crazy few days. Where everything he knew was yanked out from underneath him.”

“Han right now doesn’t even believe in the Force. He thinks the Jedi was just some giant made up hokey religion. If I told Han, this Han, everything, he would think I was out of my mind. And with good reason. If I started with spouting off stuff from his past, stuff I shouldn’t know, he would accuse me of stalking him for some perverse reason.”

“Alright, those are all valid points. I just don’t understand what you see in him.” Bail’s voice was bewildered “Name one thing he has done now, not has the potential to be, but now that makes him so appealing to you. Or more accurately what made him so appealing to you when you were nineteen.”

“Well he’s very attractive.” she answered in a dry tone, hoping she could use levity to move him off this subject.

“Leia!”

She sighed, so much for the glib answer. Her father wasn’t in the mood to take the bait. “He came back, Papa. When it was against every self-preservation instinct he had he came back and helped us destroy the Death Star.”

“Only because you were involved, not because it was the right thing to do.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” she allowed. “Though if we held every person on this base to that standard we would very quickly run out of people.” Bail opened his mouth to object but she held up her hand. “Don’t. Cassian Andor was just the first in a long line of people who are in this fight simply because it’s all they know. Or they are here to avenge a loved one’s murder at the hands of the Empire. Or they simply got swept away in the ‘grandeur’ of it all and now don’t know how to get out. People have a multitude of reasons to be here. Are you going to deny Han his?”

Her father grimaced “Not when one of those reasons involves the fact that he is lusting after my daughter and wants to impress her.”

“Well participating in the saving of a girl’s homeworld is the way to every woman's heart,” she answered sarcastically. ”I don’t know why more people don’t try it.” Really, it's not like Han did something simple and mundane and had gone out and retrieved some flowers for her. He had helped save their world. As gestures go, it was pretty damn impressive. Her father got a guilty look on his face, and nodded, conceding her point. She continued on “But isn’t that the first step? To take an action because it will benefit another? Even if the motivation is a little selfish. Don’t answer now, just please think on it.”

“I’ll try. I make no promises, but I will try.” he stretched and stood up “It’s late, and we have plenty to do tomorrow.”

“We always do.” she observed wryly.

He leaned down and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She gave him a true smile, the thought of family breakfast still a novel treat. She reached down and handed the empty cup back to him. “Of course.”

“Sleep well Leia, I love you.”

“I love you too.” she answered.

After he left Leia crawled into bed exhausted after the emotional turmoil of the day and the last three days poor sleep catching up with her. Leia wasn’t sure if Vader was being cautious in approaching her after last night's debacle or Obi-Wan’s advice was starting to work, but she slept through the night with undisturbed dreams.

Chapter Text

ABA - Day 4

When Leia went to the gym to meet up with Luke in the morning, she was startled to see that there were other people there. Stupid really, this was the only facility of its kind on the base where you could run indoors. There were several others scattered here and there with the workout machines, but this was the largest room they had found barring the flight deck. They had been incredibly lucky yesterday that they had been interrupted by Obi-Wan and no one else. She sighed. She should be more on guard, but this place was so familiar to her it was hard to keep that mentality forefront in her mind. She needed to though. Draven wasn’t going to let things slide.

She eyed the people around her, wondering if any of them were here at his request.  Then shook her head. She would be as bad as him if she kept jumping at shadows. Act normally, don’t be suspicious, and soon some other distraction will occupy him.

Luke gave her a forlorn look when he noticed her and she smiled at him. “Still want to run?” she offered.

“Yeah but…” he looked around and she could feel the disappointment radiating off of him. She was glad he still wanted the company but she found herself sharing in his disappointment. She was a bit surprised by that. She had been looking forward to falling into the Force with him again. It had been so long since she could reliably count on seeing Luke regularly, even before everything that happened with Ben. She had been tied down to the New Republic Senate and him with his students in rebuilding the Jedi Order.  Here and now she wanted to make the most of the time they had before everything inevitably pulled them from each other again.

It would be safer just to stick to running. But she thought of how rare it would be to find this place empty again. She thought of all the time her and Luke had been denied just to be, by all the separations throughout their lives. To keep them in hiding, because of duty, because of grief. Screw safe. Time to live a little. She wasn’t going to deny what she and Luke both wanted just to take the easy way out. Their lives had been one long impossible gamble, why start playing safe now?

We can synch if you like, but we’ll have to keep it to human speed.” she thought at him, allowing a hint of a challenge to enter her thoughts. “Do you think you can manage it?”

Luke’s face lit up in delight, but then he thought through what she was saying. “If I speed up, you will too, won’t you?” he asked a soft whisper, clearly hoping to avoid being overheard.

She nodded her head.

“Good training exercise then,” he said in a normal voice. “You ready?”

She grinned, taking him at his word, and the two of them started to lap the room, both of them eagerly reaching for the other. Not once did he did he lose control.

 

ABA - Day 5

Leia was absently staring off into space, enjoying the last bit of her caff on her lunch break when Han plopped down right in front of her on the opposite side of the table. Startled at the sudden intrusion she looked up to see his wide welcoming grin.

“Good afternoon your Highness,” he said. “How are you?”

She felt her heart lurch at the familiar sight of his teasing smile. She wanted to reach over and cup his cheek and demand to know what had he done to put that self-satisfied look in his eyes. She wanted to check him over with her fingers and make sure for herself he was uninjured. And because she wanted to do all of these things and knew she couldn’t, she ended up blurting out “What do you know about Grakkus the Hutt?”

The smile remained fixed, but the cast of it instantly became more jaded. “I’m beginning to think that I had the idea of royalty wrong. I thought you were supposed to be all manners and graciousness.”

Damn, she had hurt him. He had been playing and friendly and she had demanded something from him like a spoiled child. It didn’t matter that his face had only changed subtly, she knew better. Leia had always found Han to be a terrible liar. “My apologies Captain,” she said firmly, hoping her face reflected her sincere regret.

The smile vanished, but so did the hurt look in his eyes. He searched her face for a moment, looking for any sign of mockery. Finding none, she hoped, his face relaxed into something more friendly. “It’s Han,” he said. “My name is Han, it’s not that hard to say your Highnessness.”

She gave him a wide saucy grin “Neither is Leia.”

He bit his lip as pleasure danced across his face. “You are right about that Leia.”

Delighted that she had chased away the hurt her words caused she inclined her head in the most regal manner possible. “You are quite correct. I let my eagerness get in the way of my manners. How was your trip?”

He only smirked at her high-handed imperious tone and answered with just as much mockery “It was fine. Jabba was as rude and smelly as ever, but I am in one piece. Thank you for asking.” Then he tried to replicate the subtle head bow but misjudged the depth by an inch or so. He looked like he was checking his shirt to see if he had spilled anything on it. She snickered at the ridiculousness of the picture he presented and clapped her hand over her mouth to muffle the sound, afraid he would misunderstand the source of her amusement. His head came back up quickly and took a look at her face.

Then his wide ‘Aren’t I clever?’ smile broke out across his face. She let her laugh fly loose then. Cheeky bastard, he had done it on purpose. She had missed that smile. She had missed so much of him in the last few years, but his desire to make her laugh was quite possibly the thing that she had ached for the most. There hadn’t been much to laugh about for her in the last few years. Then she remembered that her husband was dead and her laughter died in her throat.

Han’s face grew puzzled at her abrupt mood change when Chewbacca sat down next to him, breaking the odd little moment they were caught in. Quickly gaining control of herself she looked at the Wookie and gave him a smile. “And did you also have a pleasant trip?” she asked.

<I hate that planet.> Chewie grumbled <It’s hot, dusty and sand gets in my fur in the most uncomfortable places.>

“I’m sorry,” she said sympathetically, “I know how much a pain in the ass it is to take care of my hair, and it's only on my head. I can’t imagine how many washings it takes to get sand out of that many places.”  

He grunted an agreement and gave Han a hard glare. The brown haired man put his hands up defensively “I didn't choose it for my headquarters. Blame Jabba.” Chewie just continued to look at him “We go where the money is pal.”

<Uh-huh> Chewie said. <That would explain why we came back here to do a job at half our usual rates.>

Han reddened at that and shot a nervous glance at Leia. “Work’s work.” he said defensively “Besides the Alliance has a good rep for paying their bills. And as a bonus, they are less likely to order a hit on us if we fail. Worth the rate cut.”

“Oh,” Leia said as sweetly as possible “of course. What other possible reason could you have?”

He shrugged and then that charming mask she hated so much fell over his face “It’s just business.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, but let it go. Knowing Chewbacca would tell her the truth she gave the Wookie an arch look “He says everything went fine. Is he telling the truth? Or is he bleeding from sixteen different places I don’t know about?”

The Wookie let out a chuckle and shook his head, while Han let out an indignant squawk. <He’s fine your highness.> he said in his soft rumbly voice <Everything went smoothly.>

“Hey,” Han protested “it’s me. Of course, it went smoothly.”

They both stared at him in flat disbelief. “Ok,” he said, pointing his finger at Leia, “you haven’t known me long enough to make that judgment.” And then he swung the finger to point at Chewie “And I have just as much dirt on you as you have on me. Don’t forget that.”

<I didn’t say a thing!> Chewie protested.

Han turned back around to her and this time the smile was genuine “Free and clear, just as I promised.” Leia sighed in relief internally. Going through the ordeal of rescuing Han from Jabba was not something she wanted to do ever again. It looked like that was another thing she had managed to permanently change. Although she had been fond of the nickname Hutt Slayer. It had a certain ring to it.

“Well as fun as I find your company, Leia,” he said her name with special emphasis “I actually need your help.”

“With what?” she asked, suspicion tightening her tone. If he started spouting his well-worn pickup lines she was going to slap him good and proper for being stupid enough to think they would work on her.

“Do you know where the old man is?”

Leia frowned, what did he want with Obi-Wan?  “In a meeting, I think. I can help you track him down if you want. What do want him for?”

“Paid me for a job” he pulled up an old battered leather bag that had been laying beside him on the bench, unseen by her. “Thought he was crazy for how much he gave me.” she gave him a deeply unimpressed look.

“I didn't ask for money.” he protested. “He told me the job, and how much he was going to pay me. Said he didn't have a lot of time before it became really unsafe for him to go back and retrieve it himself. Thought he was exaggerating till I saw the holo playing in Jabba’s palace.”

“Holo?” she asked.

“Yeah the ones where he claims he’s Obi-Wan Kenobi.” He gave her a conspiratorial wink at her puzzled look. “You know the Jedi? The general from the Clone Wars? If you’ve never heard of him your father really overpaid for your tutors.”  

“I know who he is,” she said exasperatedly. “I just hadn’t realized those had been distributed.” They must have made Kenobi's before her mother’s, that was the only way that Han could have seen them so soon. There was also no disruption of all the nets to get the message across. They must be playing a long game with the news of Kenobi's survival.

Han did a double take “Wait, you knew about them?”

She nodded “They were my father’s idea.”

“I knew the old man was crazy, but I didn’t think he was that crazy,” Han said shaking his head. “I know he sort of looks like the old general but he’s at least two decades too old to be playing Kenobi.”

“Desert life is harsh,” Leia responded. Then the phrase Han used sank into her brain. “Wait, did you say playing?”

“Yeah,” Han said, a frown creeping across his face “There is no way that hermit is Kenobi. The Jedi are extinct, only madmen and con men are left…” his voice trailed off, as he took in her expression. His eyes widened and genuine surprise appeared on his face “Shavit,”’ he said feelingly “Really?”

Chewie knocked him gently on the shoulder <I told you it was him, Han,> he said gently.

“No offense pal, but you ain’t that great at identifying human faces.” he looked thoughtfully at the bag in his hands. “Huh, if that is true then yeah the old man definitely didn't pay me enough.” He gave a wry shake of his head and continued his voice almost fond “Wily old coot if I had known that I would have charged him double.”

“Enough to do what?” Leia asked, curious.

“He wanted me to go to his hovel, in the middle of the Jundland Wastes no less, and pick up a few things he left there.” Han shook the bag “If he is Kenobi, it’s only by sheer luck that I missed the Imperial brigade heading there to tear the place apart. No wonder he insisted I do that first before I went to see Jabba.”

“What was the reaction at Jabba's to the holo?” she asked, curious.

“Most of them thought he was a fake, same as me.” Then his face grew serious. “Jabba didn’t though. He was furious that the old man might have been on Tatooine all these years and he never knew.” Han looked thoughtfully “I thought the old slug was letting his ego and greed get away with him, wouldn’t be the first time, but it really is him?”

Leia nodded “It really is.”

Han’s head came to rest in his hand, which was propped on the table “Well that’s definitely going to put a crawl up the Empire’s back. You know, if they believe it is him.”

Oh, they would believe. Vader knew it was true thanks to their little ‘talk’. Given his eagerness to hunt Obi-Wan down she could see him marshaling all the forces he had at his disposal to make sure everyone else in the Empire knew it too. She gave Han a bitter smile “The reward on Kenobi is twenty million credits, dead or alive. It’s been one of the highest standing bounties since the founding of the Empire. There is no one who has higher.”

Which was odd now that she thought about it. The Empire never had a confirmed kill for Kenobi, but shouldn’t Yoda be on that list for the same reason? She had never even heard a whisper of the possibility of the survival of the Grand Master of the Jedi Order. She made a mental note to ask to see what his status was in the Imperial records. “They wouldn't have left it open if they didn’t think he was alive.”

Han nodded and sat up straight “Okay, I can see that. But here’s your other issue.”

“Which is?”

“Convincing the rest of the galaxy this isn’t a hoax. I sincerely doubt I’m going to be the only one who had the reaction of disbelief Leia.”

“Most people aren’t as cynical as you.”

He snorted. Chewie interjected <Your Highness, look at it from the point of view of most of the civilians. The Alliance destroys a major Imperial weapon and found a missing Jedi Master all at the same time? Han’s right, it does sound awfully convenient.>

That was true, those events were going to be linked in people’s minds. Of course, Han was also correct in the fact Obi-Wan looked too old. And the Empire had done a very good job of hunting down any and all Jedi. There was the open bounty, the Empire never declared Kenobi dead, but how many civilians even knew about that?

On the other hand, there had been the blowback about Luke too, in the original timeline.  There had been whispers and rumors about him. Some contended that the actual fatal blow to the Death Star had been delivered by another pilot and that the Alliance had found someone with the last name Skywalker to paraded around as the Hero with No Fear’s son.  Others would concede that Luke was the pilot who had destroyed the Death Star, but as some sort of ploy, the Alliance had changed his last name. People could and would crawl into so many logic holes and conspiracy theories in order to maintain their belief in reality as they saw it.

Then there was the one person Leia wished had believed that Luke was some Alliance ploy. Vader had latched on to the truth like a parasite. Based on the Dark Lord’s sudden and very visible ramping up of efforts to find the rebellion about a year after Yavin, that was when Leia guessed he first heard the name Skywalker. Maybe her request to suppress Luke’s name would stretch that out a bit, but she couldn't reliably count on it being any longer than that.

“Hey, where did you go?” Han demanded.

“Hmm?” she brought her focus back to him.

“Just now,” he said. “We were in what I thought, frankly, was a wonderful conversation where I was giving you my very valuable insight into your PR problem, and you just drift off into your own head.”

“It’s called thinking. You should try it instead of talking all the time.”

His eyes widened slightly in mock hurt. “Hell, you have to be the rudest Princess I have ever met,” he informed her.

Her eyebrow went up. “How so?”

“I thought you were all about making the ‘lesser’ people feel comfortable and being gracious to everyone that crosses your path.”

She gave him an arch smile “Are you admitting to being a serf of some sort Captain? Going to be my servant now and fetch my boots when I bid you?”

“I can definitely think of better ways to serve you.” he informed her seriously, leaning in closer across the table.

This was stupid, this was beyond stupid. She knew that this would lead to nowhere good and she should stop it right now. He didn't want anything to do with her, beyond the obvious, and going any further with this ghost would only lead to heartache and regret. But then she caught the smell of him as he leaned forward and she couldn’t seem to help herself. “Really?” she purred, leaning forward too so that their faces were almost touching. “In what way?”

“Something entirely more enjoyable…” his face paled a bit and he sat up straighter. “Like making sure you eat your full meal, nutrition is important.”

She blinked, even by his standards, that was a horribly awkward offer.

Then a voice behind her said civilly “I’m so glad you are concerned with my daughter’s health Captain.”

Oh, he spotted her father coming up behind her. Leia could hear Chewie’s soft woofing, which for a Wookie meant he was trying to swallow his laughter. Well, wasn’t all this lovely? She closed her eyes, as she leaned back into her seat, and mentally cursed herself. Papa had said he wanted her help after lunch with going over the details of how to move more money into the Alliance coffers without attracting the Empire’s attention. If she hadn’t been so distracted by Han, she would have remembered and left the commissary several minutes ago. She could have avoided this entire awkward situation.

“Papa.” she said, proud about how even her voice sounded as she turned to face him, “My apologies, I lost track of the time.”

“So I see.” His face was carefully blank as he looked at Han.

Han's adams apple bobbed nervously but thankfully, for once, he didn’t try to say anything.

“Captain Solo has a delivery for General Kenobi, do you happen to know where he is?”

Bail said nothing for a moment, just stared down at Han. Then he turned to Leia and his face melted into affection “He’s in the main command room. I think that meeting is breaking up soon.”

“Thank you, sir,” Han mumbled.

“Your welcome.” Bail responded. “Leia I’ll meet you in my quarters in ten minutes. Please do show the good Captain the way?” He walked off. Well, that could have gone better, but at least he was trying to be civil. Not exactly succeeding, but then again he had caught Leia practically crawling across a table in public to flirt with Han, so she was going to cut him some slack on this one.

“Come on,” she said, scooping up her tray. “I’ll lead the way.”

Han sighed and rubbed the back of his neck “He really doesn't like me does he?”

“No.” It was sweet, though, in a very awkward kind of way, that he seemed concerned with her father’s respect.

He grimaced as he stood, Chewie following his lead. “You really don’t beat around the bush do you?”

She shrugged “It's a waste of time. I find being blunt usually works faster. Besides from what Luke told me about your first meeting it can’t be all that much of a surprise.” She dumped the tray into its slot, then turned and headed down the corridor, the two men trailing close behind her.

There was a flare of jealousy in his voice as he tried to casually ask “You and the Kid getting along?”

<Han.> Chewie said so softly Leia almost missed it. <Don’t>

“I’m just asking,” Han whined.

“We are getting along fine. He is a great asset to the rebellion.” Keep it in the professional. There was no need to flame that fire.

They wound their way around the corridors and came into the main command center, to see Obi-Wan coming to the exit. He spotted them and he gave them a small smile.

“Captain Solo,” he said. “I take it everything went well?”

“Yeah,” Han said, handing the bag to the older man. “I don’t think you paid me enough General.”

Obi-Wan’s lips twitched “If I recall correctly it was a fight to get you to take that much.”

Han looked embarrassed again “I don’t set out to rob old poor fools.”

The Jedi shrugged “A fool I may be, but poor I am not.”

Leia frowned “Really?”

The older man nodded “Once I had access to a good network I was able to get ahold of the Temple’s hidden accounts.”

“Hidden accounts? What hidden accounts?”  

“Before and during the war the Jedi did a lot of undercover operations. Those accounts were hidden and separate from our regular funding. At the time it was done so that  anyone doing a background check on one of our operatives wouldn’t find any connection with the Temple.”

Leia found herself frowning “And you didn’t tell the Senate?” All things being considered it was fortunate that the old man hadn’t, but the thought of a semi-military force hiding money from its oversight didn’t sit well with her. Just how badly broken had been the relations between the two great pillars of the old Republic?

“No,” the older man said. “Since before the war, a lot of investigations we were doing were on sitting members of the Senate or patrons of Senators. After the war started, well the Senate didn’t want to know. Plausible deniability and all that.”

How much of that had Palpatine fostered? Leia wondered. How much of that fracturing was his fault and how much was the Jedi’s?

“Well, if we are done here,” Han said, gesturing to the bag. “I need to see Mon Mothma.  See what job she has for me to do next.” He started to turn away but Obi-Wan’s voice followed him.

“I have another job if you're interested.” Han turned around at that, his eyes filled with interest.

“Is it going to involve me almost being caught by Imperials again? Because I have to say that was a bit underhanded of you to send me there without warning.”

“I did warn you, Captain, you chose not to believe me," the older man said thoughtfully “but no. This is something else entirely,” He looked around the crowded room. Although no one was really paying attention to their conversation, that didn’t mean nobody wasn’t trying to listen in. Obi-Wan was a subject of a lot of interest to many people. “Please, if you and Chewbacca could take a walk with me. You too Leia, if you have the time.”

She fell into step with the other two as they walked down the corridor and then entered into an antechamber off the main hallway. Leia didn’t know what it’s original use had been in the temple, but the Alliance had turned it into a small break room. There were chairs and a long narrow cot for anyone who wished to take a short nap. It was fortunately for them, currently empty.

Han’s eyes narrowed, “And what exactly do you want me to do that you don't want anyone to overhear?”

“Nothing too untoward,” Obi-Wan assured him.

“That why you asked her to come?” Han’s hands waved to Leia.

“I thought it would be an incentive yes,” Obi-Wan said “And assurance that I wasn’t planning anything shady. I just want to keep this request private for now.”

“And you want me to do what exactly?”

The older man rubbed his chin thoughtfully “What do you know of Grakkus the Hutt?”

Han shot her a look and she shrugged “I was asking on behalf of him.”

“Mid-Level Hutt, located on Nar Shaddaa. Bit unusually for a Hutt, he collects art and antiques. Why?”

“I’m interested in knowing everything about him. Most especially his security precautions, blueprints of his base of operations, and the roster of his guards if at all possible. And most of all I would like to avoid the Alliance leadership finding out about this.”

“So this would be an off the books job?” Han sounded incredulous. “It’s sweet of you to think that I would be against such a job when I engage in smuggling for a living.”

The older man shrugged “I wouldn’t wish to assume anything.”

“And why are you so interested in the Hutts? Especially this Hutt? You were on Tatooine for what, twenty years? And not once did you make a move against Jabba.”

The smile that twisted across Kenobi's face was full of secrets. “I wouldn't say that is entirely true. I merely did not get caught. But the reasons for this are personal.”

Han shook his head. “No deal. I don’t care what you offer to pay me. I just got one Hutt off my back, I’m not about to invite another one.” Leia wanted to protest, that they would take out Grakkus, that the Empire would deal with the Hutt, but she held her tongue. There was no reason Han would believe them at this point. And he would want to know where they had gotten the information about the spy.

“It’s personal to me Captain because I have it from a very good source that he has a rather large collection of Jedi artifacts. I would like to have them back and will pay you handsomely for any information that leads to that outcome.”

Han's face contorted in pity for a second, and then he looked at Chewie “What do you think? It’s your neck too.”

The Wookie shrugged <If he is willing to pay, I say why not?>

Han nodded slowly. “I'll ask around. But I make no promises, on anything.”

Obi-Wan gave a small secret smile “That is all I ask.”

 

ABY -  Day 6

“What is she doing here?” Draven asked, surprise in his voice.

Mon paused by the door, made wary by the hint of challenge in the General’s voice. Leia managed to keep her eyes from rolling in annoyance. “Because I asked her here.” she said calmly “Leia has experience with the Givin.”

Draven frowned “So does her father.”

“Bail is busy negotiating with the Rodarian syndicate. Leia had multiple dealings with the Givin in the Imperial Senate and I thought she would make an acceptable substitute. We can, of course, wait for Bail if you wish, but I was given to understand that this was a rather time sensitive matter.”

Draven nodded reluctantly. “Yes, it is.” His eyes narrowed he went on “Through various sources it has come to our attention that Drusil Bephorin has expressed interest in defecting.”

Mon frowned, her fingers drumming on the table “The name sounds familiar. She’s a slicer isn’t she?”

“She’s not just a slicer, she’s one of the Empire’s most talented data cryptographers. She has personally designed most of the current encryption protocols the Empire uses.”

“Background?” Mon asked.

“Trained at the Republic Institute for Cryptography and Mathematics on Coruscant. Was considered to be the best student of that facility in the last two hundred years. She stayed at the Institute when the Clone Wars broke out, even though her home planet of Yag'Dhu ultimately joined up with the Separatists. Unfortunately for her she didn’t leave Coruscant and was teaching there when Palpatine took power. She “disappeared” shortly after that for about four years. When she resurfaced she was assigned to the Imperial R&D department. Around that time her family suddenly was moved away from their home in the city of Ha-gan to the edge of the backwater.”

“Leverage” Leia whispered, desperately trying to recall the details of this one. Luke had been involved in the rescue mission of the scientist herself. Was that the mission where Nakari had died or was it the assault on Vrgos Vas? She couldn’t remember. She had only met the woman a few times and she was having trouble remembering who died when. There were far too many of them to keep track of, it had become a blur in Leia's mind over the years.

Draven nodded. “We are in the first steps, and we are still negotiating with third parties. As you can imagine she is heavily watched, the Empire needs her, but given that she doesn't seem to be a willing participant it lends credit to her story that she wishes to escape.”

“She wants to join us?” Mon asked.

Draven shook his head “I don’t know. But I do know whatever she offers us, her family is going to be part of the bargain.”

“A two prong rescue.” Mon rubbed her head “Well that will be interesting to pull off.”

Draven gave a fierce grin. “I’m been trying to subtly woo this woman for years. Trying to convince her that we could keep her and her family safe. Suddenly with the destruction of the Death Star, she started to believe we could. Who are we to prove her wrong?”

Well, when he put it like that.

Mon sighed “Where do we begin?”

 

ABA - Day 9

Leia was walking back to her own rooms after dinner, looking forward to a peaceful night of rest, when she was surprised to find Obi-Wan standing by her door.

“Ah, Leia,” he said, smiling “I was wondering if I might have a word?”

She nodded and opened the door to her quarter’s, inviting him in with a gesture of her hand. She hadn’t had much interaction with the Jedi in the past week. She had been busy, offering to do what jobs she could to cover their personnel gaps, which generally speaking ended up with her doing a lot of grunt work. She didn’t mind, it needed to be done and a good step in order to get where she needed to be with the Alliance leadership was to be as helpful as she could to as many people as she could reasonably accommodate.

Obi-Wan had been busy too. Between training Luke and the various consultations and advice he was giving, she imagined he didn’t have any more free time than she did. So what prompted him to delay his customary nighttime lesson with Luke to visit her? She was fairly sure he was as wary of her as she was of him, probably for a lot of the same reasons.

“What can I do for you Master Jedi?” she asked as soon as the door closed.

“Several things,” he said making himself comfortable on her bed. Leia decided to remain standing. She didn’t know what he wanted, but she doubted it was anything simple. “First how are your layered shields progressing?”

She relaxed a bit, remembering her father’s admonishments of not jumping to the worst conclusions. “Fine,” she said evenly.

And they were. She had been working on them every night and could now hold seven layers in her mind if she really stretched. She found those layers slipping to three when she was very upset or tired, but she was working on it. Obi-Wan had invited her to join those nightly sessions with Luke, but she had declined.  For one, she had all the training she needed. Two, she also wanted to avoid any questions about what exactly she was doing in the room with them. It was well known around the base that when Luke was in Obi-Wan’s quarters they were training and were not to be interrupted. They had taken to doing his physical training in the jungle. Anytime they tried in the temple they attracted too much of a crowd. She didn't want anyone to start questioning what she was doing there.  

“Well, that is good to hear.”  He looked like a proud if distracted teacher when she felt his touch in the Force rake across her mind. She gave a startled yelp, it hadn’t hurt, but it was very uncomfortable. And incredibly rude.

He gave her an apologetic look at her “What was that for?”

“My apologies, I wanted to see what they were like when you weren’t prepared.”

She gritted her teeth, but she couldn’t deny the soundness of his logic.

“And your verdict?”

“You’ve made excellent progress. I’m quite impressed.”

“Thank you. Is that all you wanted to speak to me about?” Leia tried to keep her voice calm and knew she was failing.

“No, there is a matter concerning Luke.” he said calmly, not rising to the pique in her tone “I need your assistance in his training.”

Her eyes narrowed “I’m still not a Jedi, I don’t know how I can offer him anything you aren’t entirely more qualified to teach him.”

Obi-Wan sighed, and she saw the exhaustion cross his face before he shoved it all away. “Luke is a fine student and very quick to pick up on things.” He gave a small fond smile “Much like his father.” Leia stiffened at the mention of Vader and the older man gave her an apologetic look.

“My apologies, I seem to have picked up an old man’s habit of reminiscing on the past. My point is that while Luke is certainly very dedicated and diligent he is still having serious issues with his shields.”

“Really?” Leia asked. He hadn’t mentioned anything about that in any of their running sessions.

The white haired man nodded “Normally I would let him proceed at his own pace, given enough time I’m sure he would manage to master this on his own. Your own training shows that he will. But we are in the open here,” he put up a hand to forestall her protests “No Leia, I agreed to train him here, and I’m not taking that decision back. From what I can see you were correct in your advice. If I didn’t believe that was the case I wouldn’t remain here, despite the incentive of your bribe.” And here a self-deprecating smile crossed his face.

“But there were good reasons I wanted Luke to be trained in isolation. There are many matters pressing on his time, and I respect that. It’s unfortunate that this seems to be the lesson that he is having the hardest time grasping. His mind is very vulnerable to Vader right now. The only thing we have on our side is the Sith’s ignorance of his existence, but that state of affairs isn’t going to last very long. We simply do not have the luxury of letting Luke develop this at his own pace.  Given your own difficulties with Vader’s presence, Luke needs to grasp this as soon as possible and move on to the more advanced techniques of shielding.

“You’re hoping that I can repeat the same trick he did with me for my shields.” she said, understanding dawning.

He nodded “Yes. It’s remarkable how fast you two pick up things from each other.  I understand you are reluctant to be associated with his training in any manner, but I am asking for Luke’s sake.”

“Alright,” she said, rubbing her forehead to ease the stress headache that was building there. “Let me change into something clean and I’ll be there shortly”

 

She left it to Obi-Wan to explain her presence. Luke’s face had lit up with such delight when he had seen her enter the room. He still was hoping she would join him in this. But by the time Obi-Wan had finished his reasons for inviting Leia here Luke the happy look was wiped from his face.

“Isn’t this cheating?” he asked, slightly confused.

She and Obi-Wan exchanged looks. “Yes.” Leia said “But this isn’t a game Luke. Your very survival depends on these shields. We really don’t have time for you to figure this out on your own. So in the future, when you can and it’s available, take the shortcut.”

Obi-Wan shot her a disapproving look. What, like he didn’t agree with her? He was the one who asked her here, it was his idea. Luke needed to grasp all of this as soon as possible. “She’s correct Luke. If this is how you learn faster then this is how we should proceed.”

So the two of them sat on the floor facing each other. Luke brought up the wall in his mind, and Leia immediately understood what Obi-Wan had been talking about. The walls were impressively thick when you looked at them, but she could feel where the weak spots were. Luke’s emotions were pouring out of them like water out of a sieve.

She reached out, conscious of Obi-Wan’s presence in the Force watching the two of them, and she filled the holes with her own strength.

“Like this,” she said gently into Luke’s mind.

Ok,” Came back to her. Luke was working on sending words instead of just thoughts, but it was like listening to a very staticky radio. Sometimes things weren’t very clear.  She felt him probe what she had done and look at it clearly.

Pull back.”

Leia drew back. The wall didn’t even last a second before once again his emotions started leaking again.

There was a mix of embarrassment and self-recrimination coming from him.  She tapped lightly on the wall, and said, “Can I come in?”

There was a flicker of surprise and then she heard a faint “Yes.”

She gently sank through the nearest weak spot to her until she was in the upper part of his mind. Obi-Wan’s alarmed flared briefly, then he reigned it back in, not wanting to break her concentration. She shook her head, she knew what she was doing, did the old man really need to hover so much? Did he really believe she would ever knowingly endanger Luke?

Sighing she focused back up and ran her touch over his shields from the inside. The places where they were the strongest were built on an oasis of calm and directness. Where they were the weakest was where his emotions were rolling, as he tried to force them to be something they were not. Frowning, this was not how her Luke had constructed his wall, she sent out “Why did you do it this way?”

Because she was in his mind, his ability to answer her was much better. “Obi-Wan said that I need to be calm and focused at all times. That was the emotion I should use to build them.”

Leia snorted. Obi-Wan said that training Luke would be full of surprises, but she was disappointed to find out that he hadn’t grasped fully what that meant. No wonder he and Luke were having such issues with this lesson. “That would work for a child raised to seek to calm themselves their whole life, but not for a nineteen-year-old with no training in any mental discipline.”

“Then how?”

“Take the emotion and build it into the wall Luke.”

“Isn’t that the Dark side?”

“Not exactly. The calm is a good foundation, a necessary one, but you aren’t capable of maintaining it to the levels Obi-Wan can.”

A feeling of shame washed over him.

“No,” she thought firmly at him “Luke, I was taught meditation and patience since I was twelve years old and I couldn’t do it this way either. There is nothing wrong with you. He’s just going to have to alter his approach to take into account your needs and limitations.”

She let one of the holes she was patching thin “Watch.” she instructed him. Attention on her, he watched as she took her love and determination and filled the hole with it, mixing in the calm around him.

"It’s like mixing chemicals to get the right fuel you want,” he said

She laughed “I personally thought of mixing paints, but yes I suppose that metaphor works too.  As long as you don’t use any negative emotion to build the wall you’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well a possible version of yourself was, so if this all goes to hell we can still blame you.”

He laughed. The feeling of it sending tickles up and down her very soul. She had missed this.

“Want to try again?”

“Yes.”

Carefully she extracted herself from his mind and once again filled all the weak spots.

She felt Obi-Wan’s curiosity, but he remained quiet and watched what Luke was doing.

Slowly, so slowly, she felt Luke pushing against her stop gap measure and she let him gently push her out. When the last one was almost full she sent a “You good?”

“Yes,” came back to her. Pulling away, the wall wobbled for a second, then held firm. Leia sent her joy and pride.

Obi-Wan’s quiet, "Well done Luke,”  had her brother sending them a feeling of pleasure.

So when the door abruptly slid open in the real world, followed by a wave of rage and disbelief, neither Luke nor Leia was truly prepared. Their eyes both flew open in surprise, at the shock of the intrusion, and the vast depth of the emotions being emitted had them caught in a feedback loop with each other. Leia, after waiting for a beat for her brother to seize control, and realizing she would be waiting awhile due to his ignorance, severed their connection.

At the less than graceful way she had handled it, it took them both a few precious seconds to get their bearings. Then Leia frowned up at the door. Who the hell had just walked in here in such a mood?

All she saw standing in the door was an older, bald, heavyset man, dressed in a variation of stormtrooper armor, who was staring at Obi-Wan like he’d seen a ghost. Leia frowned, the man’s appearance was tickling something in the back of her brain. She had seen him before, but where?

Obi-Wan meanwhile, hadn’t even opened his eyes. “It’s rude to enter someone’s quarters unannounced,” he said, the mildness in his voice covering his irritation.

At those words, the man seemed to have found his voice. “That’s rude!!” the man bellowed ”That’s rude! Let’s talk about you let me think you were dead, for decades!!” his voice was dripping with disbelief. “How you convinced everyone who knew differently to lie to me about it! Then, when you do decide to rejoin the living instead of telling me personally, I have to find out via holo you are still alive!!! Dammit General after the Rako Hardeen incident, you swore you would never fake your own death again! So yes let’s talk about rude.” The man was practically howling at the end of that statement.

Obi-Wan’s eyes flew open “Rex?” he asked, his voice shaking.

“No, it’s Hondo and I’m here to collect on the fifty rockets you owe me. Yes, Rex!” the man threw his helmet at Obi-Wan, who caught it with the Force using an absent-minded hand gesture, his eyes never leaving Rex’s face. “Dammit man, where the hell have you been?

Obi-Wan’s shock was flaring all over the place “Tatooine.”

“What the hell was on that dustball that was so important that you were in hiding for almost twenty years?” there was so much pain in the man’s voice and then it clicked for Leia where she had seen him before. Commander Rex had been the ground troop leader on the mission to Endor. Her mind automatically filled in the details. He had come highly recommended, had decades worth of experience, and was one hell of a field commander. He was also one of the few remaining clones that were still alive. Most had been burned up by the Empire in suicide missions of one sort or another. The rest had sought it on their own when the chips had degraded to the point where their actions against the Jedi had driven them mad.

Oh, that. She had forgotten about that fact. This was about to get super awkward. Before she could even suggest they leave Obi-Wan’s voice cut across the room “Luke.”

Luke grimaced “Yes?” he offered. Leia didn’t need the Force to know he was hoping the older man would excuse them out of this situation.

Kenobi focused back in on the two of them, seemingly surprised to see them there. Had he forgotten about them? Who was Rex to him to have him this rattled? “No, that was the answer to the question. Luke was on Tatooine.” Kenobi gestured to her brother.

Rex’s eyes narrowed and his head swiveled down to take in the both of them sitting on the floor. Luke gave a nervous wave “Hello.” he said sheepishly.

“Very nice to meet you Luke…” the clones voice trailed off as a prompt for Luke’s full name.

“Skywalker.” Luke supplied.

Rex’s face drained of color. “What?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.

Luke exchanged a look with Leia. She shrugged, she had no idea what was going on either.  She knew he had survived Endor, but she hadn’t followed up on him after that. She had no idea why Luke’s name would cause such a reaction. Luke, apparently guessed the cause better than she did, because he gave the man a wry smile. “I take it you knew my father?” he asked.

Rex laughed and covered his face with his hands. His head shook back and forth in incredulous disbelief. As his hands slid from his face he gave a watery chuckle. “Yeah, I did. He was without a doubt the craziest General I had the pleasure of serving under. Well, except for this asshole.” At that, Rex gave Obi-Wan a hard glare.

Obi-Wan’s face had returned to its usual gentle bemused state “This wasn’t reason enough?” he asked mildly.

Rex’s shoulders slumped “For you, yes. There is nothing you wouldn’t have done for him. Hell, I don’t think you would have stayed in the order if he left.  Figures that you would ignore everything for his kid.”

Leia gave a hard look at the old man, but his shields were locked down tight. Leave the order? Obi-Wan Kenobi, a member of the Jedi council, one-half of the most famous Jedi team that had ever been, would have left the order? For Vader? Just exactly how close had they been? Obi-Wan had left Vader to burn, he hadn’t given him the mercy of a clean kill. He had done that to someone he had loved that fiercely? What the hell happened between them?

Rex finally seemed to actually see her, and he did a double take. A broad smile crossed his face. “I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name,” he said.

“Leia Organa.” For a moment disbelief flared across the Force, then all of it was gone. All the emotions that had been pouring out of him just vanished. Leia frowned. She had never run into someone, who wasn’t a Force sensitive, who could do that. Maybe it was during the long years with the Jedi he picked up that trick?  

“Organa?” he said slowly “You’re Bail’s daughter?”

“Yes, I am.” Those amber eyes studied her hard for a moment, then they slid back to Luke. Whatever the man was thinking he didn’t say.

He gave a hearty sigh and rubbed his hands across his face. “Since I failed to introduce myself properly, my name is Commander Rex, former Captain of the 501st legion of the Grand Army of the Republic.” He gave Luke a lopsided grin. “Your father was my commanding general.”

Luke gave him a blazing grin “Really? Have any embarrassing stories on him?” He pointed to Obi-Wan, “All he talks about is how he was a good friend who was always saving his butt or falling into trouble.”

Leia shot the old man a sharp look, which he ignored. On so many levels that was a bad idea. He never said anything about Vader when she was around, so she had foolishly assumed that was the case when she wasn’t. She and the General were going to have a little chat about that.  

“Oh I have so many,” and here the man waved at Obi-Wan “Him too if you’re interested”

Luke’s smile became practically luminous than it was replaced by a frown. “The 501st? Vader’s Fist?” Well, someone had been giving him lessons on the Imperial military structure.

Rex looked angry now. “Not while I was in charge. That was after I left.”

Luke’s face darkened “So not only did he kill him, Vader stole his troops from him?”

Rex paled and looked at Obi-Wan shocked “Vader killed Anakin?” He didn’t know. Even with the man’s emotions tightened down like they were, there was no way anyone was that good of an actor.  

Obi-Wan gave him a long stare and then said flatly “Yes.”

Leia frowned. Obi-Wan believed he was telling the truth. She could sense no lie in that statement. Who or what did Kenobi believe was running around in that suit? So far this conversation was revealing a lot of very disturbing issues with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Rex’s eyes closed in sorrow. “Senator Organa told me he died, but I never asked how.” He sighed. “So many lost in this madness.” He rubbed his forehead in pain.

“Yes,” Obi-Wan said “Most of us at the hands of those we trusted.”

Rex stiffened “Not me.” His fingers traced a scar along his right temple. “I never turned on my Jedi.”

Obi-Wan sighed and his voice was filled with genuine regret. “Forgive me, old friend, I did learn about those later.  It was unfair to bring it up. But at the time...” his voice trailed off and he closed his eyes as if he found himself there again.

Rex swallowed hard “Cody really did fire on you at Utapau didn’t he?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes open and he stared at Rex. “Yes.”

Rex shook his head “We, I mean he….” He looked away “After what went down with Fives, I should have convinced more of my brothers to removed those blasted chips. ”

Obi-Wan’s grief was written on his face “It wasn't your fault Rex.”

“Think….leave?” Luke’s mental voice drifted across her mind, as the two men fell into silence staring at each other. The thought of leaving this room for them to hash this out was very appealing to Leia. As interesting as the insights she was learning on Kenobi were, there was too much pain and grief here. They deserved privacy for this.

“Hell yes.” she sent back.

Luke and she rose to their feet, grabbing the attention of both men.  “I think you and Rex have a lot to catch up on.” he offered to Obi-Wan “And I think it would be a lot easier on everyone if Leia and I leave.”

Before either man could say anything the two of them swiftly exited the room, leaving Obi-Wan and Rex to discuss their ghosts.

 

ABA - Day 13

‘I’m telling you you’re doing it wrong.” Luke insisted, waving his hands in the air to get Han’s attention. He clearly had just come off his CAP rotation and was still dressed in that eye-bleeding orange jumpsuit. Leia was in the hanger, helping to unload donated supplies from a shuttle that just returned. She sank back into the shadows, curious to see what they two of them would do if neither knew she was here.

“Look, kid,” Han shot back, “I’ve been taking care of my ship for years, I don’t need some fresh-faced farm boy telling me how to repair her.”

Chewie let out a soft chuckle of amusement. <No, you screw that up all on your own.>

“Did I ask you?” Han demanded.

“Look,” Luke said, clearly trying to keep his tone civil “I’m not saying your way will lead to the hyperdrive blowing up or anything. It’s just that the T-456 power converters are notoriously unstable. The company that makes them are crap and you never know if it’s going to last you a few days or a year.”

“Well cash flow is currently somewhat of a problem as of late, and while you all pay well it’s not nearly as lucrative as some of my old jobs. So, since I can’t afford the WV-900’s I’m stuck with the crap model.

“If you go with the L-34’s you’ll be better off. There cheap.”

“I would. Except the L-34’s aren’t compatible with the Falcon hyperdrive. You think I just started doing this yesterday?”

Luke gritted his teeth, “Not if you strip the input valve from the T-456 and attach it to the L-34. The exterior port to those models are different, but the interior ports are compatible with each other. Even if you buy both, it’s still way cheaper then the 900’s.”

Han stopped for a second and stared at Luke. “Really?”

“Yes, really.”

Han’s eyes narrowed. “Show me,” he said thrusting the part in question at Luke.

Grabbing it Luke muttered to himself as he went off to find the tools in which to presumably take the thing apart. A few minutes later Leia heard Han’s “SON OF A BITCH!! REALLY!?!” There was a long pause. “Okay kid, show me what else you got.”

She smirked to herself.  They seem to be finding their own way without her.

 

ABA - Day 16

Leia was watching the great holo projection of Starkiller base as the little dots flew around and one by one the greens and reds disappeared. Far more of the red ones then green, but each green light was a pilot that followed her here. This was her responsibility, the least she could do was not look away as they died.

Then there was a screaming howl of pain across the Force and for a second Leia felt like something had just burned a hole through her heart.

She staggered and sat on one of the benches, that lined the perimeter of the holo-screen, her hand coming to her chest to check for a wound, as her eyes closed against the pain. This made no sense. She was safe here, there was no one here that she didn’t know, or who had been vouchsafed by someone whose judgment she trusted. She hadn’t heard any blaster fire. Who would attack her here?

“Leia!?!” she heard a muffled if very intense, voice ask.  As if someone were screaming at her but they were far away.

There was no wound on her chest. Her fingers laid lightly on her clothes and there was no damage to the cloth. Was this a heart attack? A poison of some kind? Then a voice screamed across the Force in a howl of rage and despair.

What have I done? What have I done? What have I done?

Ben?

He didn’t answer her, but the pain in her chest was gone. Leia merely sat, trying to catch her breath. What had he done? What had set Ben off like that? She reached out, calling his name, but only found a whirlwind of confusion and pain. He wasn’t even trying to keep her out, but he was so lost in whatever had happened he wasn’t hearing her either. She left her son, for the moment, and reached out for that other presence. Han was there too, and while he was not as easy to see in the Force, muffled was the word Luke had used to describe searching for non Force sensitives, she knew him. To the bones she knew him, he was love, longing, and home.

There was nothing there.

No, that couldn’t be right. Maybe he was unconscious or injured. Maybe he was near death. That could all account for her not finding him. He couldn’t be dead. Because if he was dead…..if Ben is the one who had let out that gut wrenching cry, that childish wail, Leia had a terrible icy suspicion of who killed Han. She reached again desperately for both of them and found only her son, who was surrounded by the chittering glee of the Darkside, screaming in pain.

No, not Han. Not by Ben. Not like this.

“Leia! Let me in!” Who was trying to talk to her? She looked up, no one was paying attention to her, they were all focused on the battle that was being waged so far away. As she should be, she should get up, she should give orders to the pilots, they were all counting on her. But how could she when her son just killed her husband? What was the point of any of this now?

“Leia!!  You’re dreaming. Wake up!!!”

Leia’s eyes flew open, her scream just barely held back.  Han was dead, Ben had killed him and everything was lost. Then there was a familiar desperate push against her shields, as Vader tried to get her attention. It was enough to snap her back to the here and now. She was on Yavin, she had been dreaming and now the main author of almost all the misery in her life wanted a late night chat.

“Leia!?!” what she could feel through her shields was his frantic worry. At the sound of that low mellow voice, filled with concern, Leia felt her control snap. It wasn't his place to offer comfort, that pleasant voice didn't sound like him, and he had no right to be here.

My son turned because of you!” she snarled at him “My husband died because of you!”  She threw all of her grief, anger, and despair into her next statement. “SO LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” There was a pause, as she held her breath, almost wishing for a fight, then she felt him retreat.

Leia waited a few minutes, to see if this was the end of it. Her breath was still coming in rapidly and her whole body was shaking. She fought it, and then realized the futility of this struggle. What did it matter? She wasn’t General Leia Organa here and now. If she appeared in the morning with signs of grief and stress on her face it wouldn’t harm morale. It wouldn’t send a flurry of rumors and whispers through the ranks. The only people who would care she was upset loved her and didn’t expect her to lead them in anything. So why was she punishing herself like this?  

She turned onto her side and cried herself to sleep.

 

ABA - Day 23

“I wanted to thank you for the tea Luke.” her mother said, as Leia and her brother entered her parent’s room. “You’re right, it has quite the kick. It’s just what I needed to get myself started in the morning.”

He beamed at her. “I’m glad you liked it. It wasn’t too spicy, was it? Most off-worlders have a hard time with that. I gave some to Wedge, and I swear he almost started crying.”

Her mother’s peal of laughter rang out “Oh, that poor man.”

Bail laughed as he sat “Don’t take my wife as the norm, Luke. I’m not sure how, but somehow she developed a love of spicy food.”

Breha rolled her eyes. “I will defend my world’s culinary dishes to anyone who disparages them. But between you and me Luke, on the whole they can be a bit bland.”

He grinned “That is not something that can be said about food from Tatooine.” He pondered it for a second. “Maybe I can talk Han into buying some spices and more tea the next time he goes out? If the cooks here let me I can fix you breakfast?” he sounded so hopeful.

Leia felt the need to put on qualifiers to that offer for her sake and her father’s “Only if it’s mild. Core world mild,” she said sticking her finger in Luke’s face at the mischievous look he got when she said mild, “otherwise I will be spending the entire day in the fresher.”

“Not a fan?”

Bail grinned “Oh, she’s a fan. Her digestive track on the other hand…”

Leia rolled her eyes. “You eat one Chaldiran hot pepper on a dare and no one will let you forget it.”  

Breha laughed “Honey, you were sick for three days afterward.”

“Why am I not surprised you did it on a dare?” Luke asked.

Leia bit into her omelet and stifled a grin. She stuck her tongue out at him and he joined in the laughter with her parents. She knew all three of them would have gotten along.

 

ABA - Day 25

“You’ve been avoiding me.” a voice remarked from the doorway.

Leia looked up from the schematic she was studying “Excuse me?”

Han was leaning against the entrance to the room, arms crossed against his chest. “You’ve been avoiding me.”

Leia blinked and tried to pull her mind from the mission plan that Rex had wanted her to go over. Of course, she had. Since her nightmare the other day she couldn't look at this face without wanting to scream at him that it wasn’t fair he was alive, and her Han was dead. Since that wasn’t fair to him, not to mention he would think she had lost her mind, she had taken to avoiding him. “No, I haven’t.” She allowed her eyes to rest somewhere over his shoulder so she didn’t have to look him in the face.

“Liar.” he said petulantly.

She had to stifle back her instinctive response. Getting into a fight with him right now wasn’t something she had the heart for. Instead, she gestured around her “Unlike certain people I could name, I actually do work for the Alliance full time. And as you can see I’m busy. So let’s put off my stroking of your ego for another day shall we?” She bent her head back to the schematic.

There was a long pause. “Did I do something to offend you?” he asked in a serious voice.

She snorted and kept her eyes firmly fixed down, pretending to be absorbed in her work “Captain, do I strike you as someone who wouldn’t inform you immediately if you made me mad?”

“No.” then there was a shuffling of his feet. “Which is why I’m wondering what the hell caused you to suddenly act like I’m some sort of disease?” There was a wealth of bewilderment under that under nonchalant tone.

If she really was the cold bitch everyone seemed to think she was she would be able to cut him off and send him on his way. But she knew all too well the damage and hurt that would cause him. Swallowing her own pain, and making sure her face was as soft and inviting as she could make it she looked up and stared him directly in the face. “Honestly Han, there is nothing you have done. I’m just buried in work right now, that’s all.”

His face twisted with jealousy “You still find time to run with Luke in the morning.”

She put a slight edge of mocking on her tone “Would you get up that early? To work out? Just to spend time with me?”

He got defensive “Maybe if you asked.”

Leia felt a fond smile grow across her face “Liar.”

He sighed “Alright. You sure that’s it?”

“I’m sure.” she fought to keep her voice level and her face honest.

He straightened up “See you around Leia.”

“Sure,” she said softly, watching as he walked away. Then she shook herself and buried herself back into her work.

 

ABA - Day 30

Leia sat at the conference table, next to her mother, with her father flanking Breha’s other side. They had been called here by Mon, who was sitting opposite of them, flanked on either side by Dodonna and Draven.

Mon spoke up “Thank you for coming. I wanted to let you know that what I’m about to tell you,’ she stopped and took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts.

“Tomorrow we expect a galaxy wide announcement on this,“ A look of deep sympathy passed over her face. “But I thought the three of you should be given time and privacy to deal with this, before having to face very public scrutiny. We know who has been appointed the governor of Alderaan.”

Breha’s breath drew in sharply but her face remained deliberately neutral. Just below the table, Leia grabbed her mother’s hand in support, where no one could see.

Her father cleared his throat “Captain Piett is not being appointed to the position permanently?” When the announcement of the temporary governor had been made Leia had breathed a sigh of relief. Piett might have been one of Vader’s favorite lapdogs, but by all accounts, he was not prone to overreacting to provocation.  He was also level-headed, competent, and most important of all not corrupt.  Alderaan was a very wealthy world, and there were plenty of Governor’s, Moff’s, and military officers who would have seen the position as one of plunder.

Draven shook his head “No, but the chances of that were fairly slim. He’s navy through and through, and with the destruction of the Death Star, they are hurting quite badly for competent officers. Also, he seems to be one of the few senior officers that Vader appears to tolerate. He’s being moved back onto the fleet.”

“Who then?” Breha asked softly, her hand tightening on Leia’s the only indication of her distress.

Dodonna briefly looked at Mon before answering “Jylia Shale”

Leia twitched. That was someone she hadn’t thought of in a very long time. The woman was a brilliant strategist and cunning warrior. She would hold Alderaan in a very tight grip that would be difficult to pry her home out of. But Shale was also very practical and while a hard liner, she wasn’t cruel for the sake of it.

Bail’s breath came out in a long whoosh “I thought she had retired?” he asked puzzled.

Dodonna nodded “She had. But the Emperor thought it would be best to replace Her Majesty with a woman. Plus the Empire has never tried to hold a core world like this. They can’t rely on the tactics that they use elsewhere, it would cause problems that would be harder to gloss over. Our understanding is that most of the current governor’s were passed over for this reason. They needed someone with a nuanced approach and a will of iron. Shale has both, and is intensely loyal.”

But not to the point of idiocy. The woman had turned on her former government without so much as a flicker of regret the minute it became practical to do so.

Mon leaned forward “I know this is hard for you to hear, but this is good news. Shale is many things, but she isn’t stupid. She isn’t going to start with the hardline tactics and wonder why everything blows up in her face. We have time Breha.”

“Provided that no one provokes her,” Breha said softly to herself. Then she focused back in on Draven. “Any more news from Alderaan?”

He shook his head “The curfew is still in effect. All the major cities are under occupation, but the countryside has been left virtually untouched by Imperial forces. As far as we’ve been able to ascertain things are quiet.”

She gave him a nod of thanks.

Dodonna bit his lip and then offered “I know this is a hard blow. And I know your people are paying the price for your decisions, but I really do think it was the right thing to do.  Your message has reached a lot of people. Daily we are seeing new recruits, even among active Imperial officers. Our coffers and supplies are being steadily refilled. We are gaining strength every day and a large part of that is due to you.”

Breha gave him a hard look “I understand it was the right thing to do or I wouldn’t have done it. Nonetheless, that doesn’t negate the responsibility I have to my people, and they will be the ones paying the costs for my choices. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”

Draven snorted “Could have been worse.”

Mon hissed “Draven.”

Draven shook his head, “No, they deserve to hear this. Shale was the second choice. Originally it was going to be Valco Pandion”

Bail let out a muffled oath. “That blowhard? The one who thinks every problem can be solved if you just throw enough men with blasters at it?”

“Yes.”

“What changed?” Leia asked, not liking where this was going. The Emperor almost never made personnel changes like this, unless the person in question had failed him. “Why go with Shale?”

“Vader killed him,” Mon said tonelessly.

Bail started at that “What? Why?”

Draven shot her a hard look, then a nasty smile crossed his face. “At the informal banquet celebrating his promotion, Pandion apparently had a bit too much to drink. He challenged Vader on how he handled guarding the Death Star in the middle of the room, loudly enough so that everyone could hear.”

Bail’s face became hard “So the jockeying for power begins.”

Draven’s smile became even more twisted. “That’s one way to look at it. As you can imagine that didn't sit well with Vader. He took out his lightsaber and decapitated the man then and there. Apparently, it caused quite the stir in the Imperial court.” He stared at her as if he was expecting her to react to that.

She arched an eyebrow “Am I supposed to mourn that idiot's death?” she inquired after a few moments of silence.

Disappointment filtered across his face, but he drew back. What reaction was he looking for from her? Clearly, he felt he hadn’t gotten it.

Bail cleared his throat. “I thank you for breaking this news to us now.” he said, his voice slightly raspy “but if you don’t mind, I think we need a little privacy.”

“Of course,” Mon said, standing, the two men following her out of the room.

After the door whooshed closed. Leia leaned in and wrapped her arms around her mother in a fierce hug. “It will be alright Mama,” she whispered the comforting lie.

She felt her father’s arms lay atop hers as he joined her in embracing Breha. They both said soothing and nonsense things as the Queen of Alderaan cried silently for her people.

 

ABA - Day 37

Leia hummed to herself as she exited the cockpit and climbed down the ladder. Doing the CAP run was either the dullest job on base or the most exciting. Her trip up had fallen on the more boring side, but it meant there were no enemies spotted so Leia was just fine with that.  

“I heard you made yourself of use to Dodonna,” Draven remarked from behind her.

Leia stiffened. She wasn’t expecting him to so openly confront her like this for at least another month. Clearly, she had underestimated his paranoia.

“Half of the pilots are out with the flu,” she said, turning around to face him “I’m not the best pilot, but I am competent, and the CAP still needs to be flown.”

“Oh yes,” the older man said softly “it was explained to me. I just can’t help noticing how many people in the Alliance leadership you seem to be currying favor with.”

Leia had to seriously resist the urge to throw something sharp and heavy at Draven’s head. She allowed her face to merely remain puzzled instead of indignant. “I’m simply trying to be of help.”

“Of course,” he answered mockingly “And it has nothing to do what so ever with you aiming to be put into a leadership position.”

She gave him a puzzled frown. “What’s wrong with ambition?”

“Not a thing,” he assured her, a fake smile crossing his face. “Unless of course, you have ulterior motives for such a promotion.”

Okay, there was paranoia and then there was outright lunacy. There was no logical way that the Empire would sacrifice the Death Star simply to place one spy in the Rebellion. She had helped destroy the thing, so why was he still pursuing this like he thought she was a traitor?

“Well,” he said starting to walk away, “just letting you know I’ll be watching your advancement with keen interest.”

Meaning he thought she was a spy and nothing she did on this base could be considered private. Hell, even if she managed to get a mission off this base there would probably be a member of any team she was on that would report to him.

Fuming at the injustice of it all, she eyed the back of his head, wondering how hard a hit it would take to knock some sense into him. There was a sharp grating sound as one of the tools on the bench ten feet away moved by itself. Draven was too far away by that point to hear the sound it made, swallowed up by the noisy din that was the flight deck, but Leia was close enough. She looked over to the table holding the neatly spaced tools to see that the wrench was misaligned by a few inches. Her anger at Draven dissipated, and her fear rose. Oh, that was not good.

 

In Obi-Wan’s quarters later that night she paced back and forth in an attempt to work off some of the nervous energy she felt as she explained the problem to Obi-Wan and Luke. Luke was sitting in one of the chairs the old man had finally gotten around to putting in his room, and he was watching her fascinated.

Obi-Wan was much more controlled in his response but when she got to the part about how she almost subconsciously threw something at Draven she felt a flash of deep fear roll across the Force. It was so fast she wondered if she had imagined it, Luke didn’t seem to have noticed, but when she saw the older man’s face she knew it hadn’t been her mind playing tricks on her. Great, another tally in his head against her. If she wasn’t so worried about this she would have preferred to skip this discussion altogether.

“I haven’t had this many problems controlling my temper in years Obi-Wan,” Luke looked at her a little disbelieving. “I’m not saying I don’t have one,” she said defensively. “Just that the impulse to reign it in seems to be gone. I thought at first it was the fact that I was...unsettled by finding myself here. That as I came to accept where I was this would all settle down.”

“Not an unreasonable theory.” the white haired man said.

Leia bit back a retort. Yes, she already knew that. “I know it’s not been that long, but I am still having as many problems as I did when I first got here. It’s not getting any better.”

Then there was Han. She constantly found herself wanting to kiss him, lick him, bite him all over. She didn't think it was because she was so shallow that this was all driven by the fact that her husband was suddenly younger. He wasn’t even strictly speaking her husband. And it had been years since she had gripped by this much lust, for anyone. She wasn’t confessing that little tidbit to her brother and Obi-Wan though. She had some pride.

“It’s not just your knees Leia,” Obi-Wan remarked.

“Pardon?” she said.

“I said it’s not just your knees that are younger.” He stood up and gently tapped her forehead for emphasis “You might be fifty-three but this brain is nineteen. That means those centers of your brain, the ones for impulse control and forethought, haven’t fully formed yet. You are fighting against your own lack of neurostructure.” Then an embarrassed look crossed over his face and then he said quietly “I also believe that, physically at least, you only recently completed puberty within the last year or so? Unexpected hormones can also play hell on your equilibrium.”

Oh. Oh. Well, that certainly explained a few things.

“Wonderful” she muttered, “Just what I wanted to live through again.” Then a horrible thought occurred to her “I’m going to get my period again aren’t I?”

Obi-Wan looked at her blankly “You haven’t already?”

She glared at him, all wise, all knowing Jedi, her ass. How did he not know this? “No, because I took a shot to prevent it. Most human women on this base do. The whole thing is frankly a mess and we don’t want to deal with it.” she sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Have any ideas how I can casually ask the medics when the last time I had my shot was? I sure as hell don’t remember, and they are only good for six months. I don’t want to be caught unaware.”

“Stress of the last few months has made you forget?” Luke offered. She turned her glare on him, but he put his hands up in self-defense “Hey, you wanted an excuse. You didn’t say it had to be one that made you look good.”

He was right, it might make her look like a ninny, but it was reasonable. She rubbed her forehead, who would have thought mysteriously becoming younger would come with so many issues?

“Could be worse.” Luke offered comfortingly.

“How?”

“You could have come back before you hit puberty.”

Asshole. “You are a great comfort to me, little brother.”

“I’m older!!!”

“I have a few suggestions.” Obi-Wan offered, interrupting them before they could get into a back and forth about it.

She looked at him. He had such a satisfied look on his face. “Let me guess?” she asked “More meditation with the Force?”

He nodded. “It’s like you read my mind.”

“Great.” she muttered “More training. What will this do?”

“Help you shore up those parts of your mind. The Jedi younglings and Padawans used to do this all the time.”

She gaped at him “You taught children how to use the Force to alter the shape of their own brains?” What the hell had the order been thinking? Never mind the blatant disregard for ethics that action caused, it was in violation of several laws and ordinances. And that was right now, under the Empire.

He shook his head at her alarmed look. “No, no, nothing like that. It was only to enhance what's already there Leia, and strengthen it. This will not build new structures, I promise.”

“Alright,” she said, believing him for now. But she would keep a close eye on what he was doing to her and Luke with this. But she did need the help, she couldn’t be flinging random objects at everyone who annoyed her. Or worse yet, jump Han in the hallways. Although both ideas definitely had some appeal. “Where do we start?”

 

ABA - Day 44

“This is what I have,” Han announced, a data crystal clutched in his hands.

The three of them looked up, startled from their lunch.

“I thought you weren’t due back until tomorrow?” Luke said questioningly.

“Nah, got done earlier than I thought. But here is where it gets fun for you. One of my friends, well not friend, contact really, apparently has quite the grudge against Grakkus. A cousin, or a brother or something like that, died in one of his exhibition matches. He wants revenge but wants to keep his hands clean. That’s a condition of this deal, Grakkus never learns you got the information from him, and that you bring the slug down. Think you can pull it off?” Han’s face was full of challenge to the older man.

“Depends on what is available on the crystal,” Obi-Wan said quietly.

“I have the detailed blueprints of the overall structure and the vault. I also have the guards schedule for the days when they hold the exhibitions. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything about the security precautions on the days when those aren’t happening.”

Kenobi gave Han a fierce grin. “Captain I have worked far greater miracles than this with far less.”

“Given the legends surrounding you that was what I was hoping you say.” Then a sly look entered his eyes. “So how much is this worth to you?”

“Everything,” the Jedi answered honestly. Han looked taken aback at that. “But if you mean money, I will give you seven thousand for it.”

Han looked at him, and then down at the data crystal in his hands. He shook his head. “Naw, for this, I’ll only charge you three thousand.”

 

ABA - Day 45

Mon shook her head “No.”

Leia was surprised “No?”

“No.” she sighed “I cannot authorize the use of Alliance resources for this.” She shot an apologetic look at Obi-Wan. “Right now we are too strapped for cash, supplies, and men for me to use them on anything but what has been deemed mission critical. I understand why you want to pursue this, and the information you have retrieved certainly seems to be valid, but I’m afraid my answer is still no.”

Obi-Wan’s face didn’t even twitch to register his displeasure “I see. And if I don’t use Alliance resources?”

She exchanged a shocked look with Ackbar and returned her gaze to the Jedi. “I wouldn’t advise it.” She began.

“Nonetheless,” he said in a polite and firm tone “While I have offered my help and assistance, I am in no way under anyone’s command structure. I’m certainly not being paid by anyone to obey orders, not that I would be terribly good at it. This is important to me Mon. I thought this knowledge was lost forever. Yes, I can teach Luke, but to rely on one source of information to rebuild the Jedi is folly. For all, I know this is all that is left of my people.” The Alliance leadership looked uneasy about that but said nothing. “I understand your concerns, and I share them. Leia has been nothing if not colorful in her description of the state of everything. But all I wish to know is will you stop me if I go on my own?”

“No,” Bail said flatly “you are correct, you answer to no one but yourself.”

The white haired man gave a short bow “Excellent.” Then he gave them a small grin “Then I shall hire Captain Solo and his co-pilot.”

Ackbar let out a watery snort “Bottom of the barrel.”

“On the contrary, he seems to be highly capable, if a bit unorthodox in his approach. And if I can borrow Luke for this adventure?” He looked straight at Dodonna while saying this.

He old man sighed “Alright, you can have him for this. We did agree to share him, and I suppose this does in the loosest way, fall under his training.”

Leia spoke up “I’m going too.” Now everyone’s heads turned to stare at her. “While I am being paid by the Alliance, currently right now I have no permanent assignment. I go where there is a need, and clearly, there is need here.”

Mon’s face registered surprise, Draven’s didn’t. “All right Leia.” the redhead said. She turned back to Obi-Wan “That leaves you with yourself, Captain Solo, Chewbacca, Lt. Skywalker and her Highness.”

“I could not ask for a better team.” he said dryly.

It wasn’t until the rest of the group had left the room that her father pulled her aside.

“Leia,” he said, his voice tight with worry. “I have strong reservations about this.”

Well, at least he hadn’t outright forbid her. She noted the stress lines around his eyes and reminded herself of their promise to each other. He was only stating his opinion, not questioning her competence. “What are they?”

“For starters, there is a rather large bounty on your head.”

Oh, that. Leia frankly couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t have someone offering huge amounts of money to kill her. She shrugged “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Bail opened his mouth to refute that and closed it shut with a snap. “No,” he said slowly, as he began thinking it through “it wouldn’t be. After the destruction of Alderaan, you would have become a symbol of defiance.”

She nodded “And I was the one used in all the propaganda the Alliance released.” His face twisted “I wasn’t all that fond of it myself. But it did work.”

“Leia,” and now the guilt was back. How ridiculous was this? He felt guilty for dying in an alternate timeline.

She rose up on her toes and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. “I love you.” she stated firmly “And it will be fine. You forget I’ve worked with this particular team before.” then she frowned “Not Kenobi obviously, but you would be amazed at what we are capable of.”

He gave her a fond smile “Well, I wait in anticipation.”

 

ABA - Day 47

“We can’t use Kenobi,” Han said flatly.

“What?” Leia said.

“We can’t use Kenobi,” Han repeated.

“Why not Captain?” the man in question asked.

“Because of all those holos you did. Your face has been plastered all over the Empire and across all known subspace frequencies. You walk onto Nar Shaddaa, Grakkus isn’t going to put you in his kill zone. He’s going to turn you over to the Empire.”

“You can’t know that.” Luke protested.

Han rolled his eyes “Twenty million bounty, Kid. Unless it’s personal there is no way Grakkus walks away from that.” She knew, almost better than anyone here besides Luke, how petty and vicious the Hutts could be in their dealings with people they believed wronged them. Jabba had plenty of reason to forgo the money on Han, but the reward he would have received for her and Luke’s head? It was beyond foolish that he kept her as a pet and tried to kill Luke. The Empire would have executed them, well at least as far as Jabba knew the Empire would have executed them. Luke, she shuddered to think what would have happened to Luke, but she would have received a very public execution, broadcasted live across all of subspace.

“Then who do you suggest we use Captain?” Obi-Wan asked all polite inquiry.

“We use the kid.”

Leia’s head snapped up at that. Send Luke?

Han seeing the look on her face held his hands up defensively. “Look, I can’t do it, I’m too well known in these circles. You can’t do it either your worship for the same reason as Kenobi. The Empire has nothing on Luke. Not a picture, not a name, nothing. He’s the only one we can use as bait.”

“He’s right,” Obi-Wan said calmly.

Leia looked at her brother, she had wanted to avoid this. It wasn’t that she didn’t have faith in his abilities, it was just, well, she wasn’t sure what his current skill level was.

“You up for this?” she asked him.

“Yes.” he said, eagerness written all over his face.

She shook her head “No Luke, I want a real answer. One you actually thought through. All of our lives are riding on your ability to pull this off.”

“And also what could be the only surviving archived knowledge of Jedi teachings.” Obi-Wan said softly.

Luke got a serious look on his face as he took in both of their expressions.  He bit his lip as he looked at the schematics and notes strewn around on the table. “I don’t know if I’m ready, but I’m more prepared than I’ve ever been in my life for something like this. All I can do is promise I will do my best.”

“Good enough for me,” Han said cheerfully, as he clapped his hands together. “Now let’s go rob a Hutt.”

Chapter Text

ABA - Day 49

 

The hanger bay was it’s usual cacophonous din as Han and Chewie loaded up the empty containers they were hoping to stuff with Jedi artifacts. Leia had offered to help them and had gotten a grin with the line of “Obi-Wan’s paying and it’s all part of the service.” That attitude wouldn't last long, she had many memories of hauling supplies into the Falcon herself, so she was going to enjoy this while she could.

“General, I don't like this,” Rex growled, reiterating his feelings regarding the fact that he was flat out forbidden to go with them. Leia knew, because he had gone to Mon at least three times to get permission, and she had complained, gently, about his single-mindedness to Leia. He was pacing in front of Obi-Wan, his arms gesturing wildly. “Just you five, that’s it? To take on a Hutt?”

“We are not ‘taking on a Hutt’” Obi-Wan said soothingly, his Coruscant accent becoming more pronounced. It often did that when he was talking to Rex. “We are only robbing one.”

Rex rolled his eyes. “Oh, that is so much better.” He had a point. Obi-Wan certainly had a skewed view of ‘better’.

Han came back down the gangplank “Relax old timer, I can guarantee you that Chewie and I have definitely handled more dangerous situations than this.”

Rex transferred his glare to Han “I’m not that much older than you, knock it off with the old timer business.”

Han did a double take “Really? What the hell happened to you?”

“Kaminoans.”

“The who now?” Han’s face showed his bafflement. His formal education up to this point had been shoddy at best, and almost all of it Imperial drivel. The source of the clones had not been covered up exactly in the official narrative, but it was never specifically mentioned where they came from either. It wasn’t surprising that Han had no idea what Rex was talking about.

Chewbacca on the other hand, as a veteran of said war, certainly did and more importantly understood the sore spot Han was poking. <He’s a clone Han.> Chewie barked <Now, stop being an ass and help me load the containers.>

“A clone? Like the Clone War soldiers?”

“Not like a Clone War soldier, I was a Clone War soldier.” There was pride and defiance in his voice. “I served for three years in the Grand Army of the Republic”

“Okay.” Han still looked baffled “What does that have to do with how you look like your Kenobi's age?”

Rex’s face flushed with anger but before he could answer, Chewie, none too gently, grabbed Han’s arm. <Help me.>

“But we’ve loaded everything.” Han protested.

<Now.> And he dragged Han back into the Falcon. Hopefully, he could pound some sense into his head.

Leia sighed. You could never accuse Han, any Han no matter the age, of having a head for diplomacy, or tact for that matter. But she didn’t remember it being this bad. Maybe as he got older he had finally stopped stepping into awkward situations as often?

Rex turned to Obi-Wan and spat out “Him, you’re taking him, and not me.”

“Rex, you just met him,” Obi-Wan said reasonably.

“I’ve seen enough.”

“You weren’t exaggerating his ability to offend people on their first meeting were you?” Her father’s voice drifted in from behind her, soft enough that only she could hear him

“Not in the slightest,” she said.

“Well, I’m glad to see it’s not just me.”

She turned to face him, and saw, to her pleasure, her mother was there too. Evaan was standing a respectful distance behind them. When the woman wasn’t busy with her Alliance duties she had taken to following Breha everywhere as an unofficial bodyguard. The blonde’s face was studiously blank, but her mothers was lit in amusement.  “Here to send me off?” Leia asked.

Bail gave her a small smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Yes, and to wish you luck.”

She stepped up on her tiptoes and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Papa.”

Breha approached her next, and when she was near enough grabbed Leia’s hand. Leia noted that though her mother’s face was a calm mask of light bemusement, her fingers were shaking in Leia’s own. “I’ll be alright Mama,” she said reassuringly and reached out and hugged the woman tight. “I know what I’m doing,” she whispered into her ear.

“It’s a mother’s prerogative to worry, no matter how capable the child.” she whispered back.

Leia gave her one final squeeze and stepped back. She knew it wasn’t fair to them, so she tried to keep her resentment on her face. She had so many missions under her belt, she wasn’t a newbie, fresh off her training. She tried to see this from their perspective. While serving in the Imperial Senate she had been a spy, which was dangerous work, that had been part of the reason they had fought her for so long against the idea. But that work hadn’t been nearly as dangerous as to what she was about to do.

But her mother’s words made her thoughts drift to Ben. If she had been in the same circumstances with him, of wishing him well when he went running off into danger without her there. And yes, she had many many missions under her belt, but for her parents, this was the first time for them. All things considered, they were showing remarkable restraint.

She kept a sigh to herself. This wasn't something she was used to dealing with anymore, and not just her parents, but anyone. There had been subordinates and trusted allies, who would be upset if she was hurt or killed, but it wasn’t the same. And even before Luke and Han left, more often than not any mission she went on, one of them would come with her. She thought of the missions after Endor, after everything was out in the open between them and how she hated it when they went off without her there to watch their backs.

She chided herself for her ungratefulness. They were alive, they loved her, and she was moaning about the awkwardness and resentment brought about by their well meaning hovering. All of this was a gift, and she shouldn’t lose sight of that. Not if the alternative was them being dead again. She should focus on that, not the parts that annoyed her. She learned to deal with this once upon a time, she was simply out of practice because her family had, left, died, or fell to the Dark Side.

She cut that thought right off. She couldn’t afford to be distracted right now. No, this wasn't taking on the Empire, or even the First Order, but Grakkus wasn’t exactly a pushover either. She needed to be here and now. A Hutt with mechanical legs? Wouldn’t that be fun?

Evaan was scowling at her, “I should be coming along too.” she said, echoing Rex.

“I thought you trusted my abilities, Evaan,” she said teasingly. The woman certainly had taken their sparring lessons to heart and was a fast learner. Without being able to use the Force to counteract Evaan’s greater reach and the fact she now knew most of Leia’s tricks, she more often than not found herself tapping out of their matches first.  

Evaan’s scowl only deepened “Of course I do. But it’s my duty to see to your safety.”

Leia shook her head “Your duty is to the Alliance.”

“My first oath is to the royal family of Alderaan, which you are a part of your Highness.” The woman had that stubborn look in her eyes. Great another person that thought she needed protecting, and this was one that she wasn’t inclined to be as forgiving about. Had Evaan not truly changed her opinion of her abilities after all those training sessions? Leia was sure that people thought she needed protecting because she was so short for a human. Of all the things Vader had given her that she resented, a blood-soaked legacy, her temper, the fear of what she could possibly become, the one thing she wouldn't have minded, his height, had been denied to her. It wasn’t fair in the slightest.

Rex piped up “If she goes, I am definitely going.”

Obi-Wan shook his head, beginning to show hints of exasperation. “Nobody else is going. Luke and Leia were the only Alliance personnel I could get for this mission, Rex. You know that.” He tempered his tone a bit. “I won’t have you getting in trouble over this. We can handle this on our own. There's a time and a place for open defiance.” Then a sly grin split his face “Besides R2 is coming along, and you know how much he’s worth on a mission like this.”

The clone crossed his hands in front of his chest, a stubborn look on his face “Threepio is going too so that’s going to keep him occupied. You need someone to watch your back.”

Evaan nodded her head in agreement “She does too.” pointing to Leia.

“Leia needs a what now?” Luke’s voice said. Leia turned to see her brother coming towards them, trying to adjust his thigh holster strap, and not paying much attention to where he was going. Threepio and R2 were trailing behind him.

“Watching.” Rex supplied “The general too.”

“No, I don’t.” Both her and Obi-Wan said at the same time. They gave each other startled looks, but Breha only let out an amused chuckle and headed over to Luke. She gave him a kiss on the cheek, and then swiftly tightened the strap so that it was comfortable for him.

“You do so need a keeper.” Rex insisted.

“Relax,” Han said as he descended down the ramp “Compared to these two,” and he waved his hand at Luke and Leia “how bad can Kenobi be? He at least was sane enough to stay here instead of taking on a battle station the size of a moon. Besides, weren’t the Jedi all about control and discipline?”

Rex just stared at him, “You are in for quite the treat Captain.” he said dryly “If I didn’t dislike you so much I’d feel sorry for you.”

Han winced and rubbed his hand on the back of his neck sheepishly “Uh, yeah. About that, sorry about the comments.”

Rex stared at him for a long moment, then his gaze swung from Obi-Wan to Luke and then surprisingly her, and said flatly “Bring them all home, and I do mean all of them, in one piece and you're forgiven.”

“What could possibly go wrong?” Han said blithely. Leia bit back the groan. Well, Han had just doomed them all.

Her mother gave voice to that thought “Isn’t that inviting bad luck Captain?”

Han gave her a wide flirtatious smile “I don’t need luck. I rely on my nerve and daring and it serves me so much better.”

Breha’s eyebrow went up, but by the subtle twitching at the corner of her mouth, Leia knew her mother was more amused than anything else. “Oh really?”

Han sauntered, yes sauntered, over to her mother “Of course it would be terribly rude of me not to accept the well wishes of a beautiful woman.” Oh, that was smooth, that was Lando levels of smooth. Why did he never sound that smooth when he was talking to her? All she got was awkwardly phrased compliments and unintentional insults.

Of course, Han might not believe in bad luck, but bad luck certainly believed in him, because clearly, he hadn’t seen her father, who was still standing beside her, and also heard every word he had said.

“Flirting with my wife Captain?” he inquired calmly.

The blood actually drained out of Han’s face as he whirled to see her and Bail standing there. Luke actually had to cover his mouth to muffle his laughing, and Rex had a supreme look of satisfaction on his face.

“Ahhh…” Han said, scrambling for something to settle on finally came up with “No?”

Bail nodded his head “So you were lying just now? My wife isn’t beautiful?”

“No, I mean yes.” Han shot her a pleading look of ‘Help me!”.

She maintained her stoic unimpressed look for a moment longer, just to see him squirm, then let her laughter escape. Flabbergasted, Han could only stare at her as she let loose her amusement. His gaze shifted to her father and Bail allowed the corners of his mouth to curve upward. Han’s eyes narrowed as he realized Bail had been yanking on his chain. “Lies, all the stories I’ve been told about royalty are lies.” he stomped back up the gangplank.

Breha voice was chiding, even if her face was full of amusement, “Bail that wasn’t very nice.”

“No,” he agreed “But he makes it so very easy. He’s afraid of me. Nobody else here on this base is afraid of me. How can I resist?” He gave his wife a cheeky grin “Besides I wouldn’t have had an opportunity if you hadn’t been so accommodating.”

“The day I don’t receive with pleasure compliments on my beauty from handsome young men is the day I am dead my love.” she said, coming towards him and giving him a kiss on the cheek.  

Obi-Wan’s voice cut through “Well as amusing as this has been I am afraid we do need to get going.”

Giving her parents one last wave, Leia marched up the plank, with her brother and Obi-Wan on her heels.

 

The Falcon was different. Not in any way that was blatantly obvious, but enough that it was reading as subtly wrong to Leia. The seat cushions were still tattered, but the were an off white color, instead of the light brown Han had reupholstered them with a year after Ben was born. The kitchen galley was also smaller than she was used to. Han had expanded it shortly after Endor so that he could comfortably store enough food for all of four of them. The scuff marks also weren’t in the right places. Han had replaced most of the panels when Ben had been about ten, and those pristine panels had lasted what felt like about a minute before new scuffs were created. But the marks she was seeing now weren’t in the right patterns. The whole Falcon had the feel of not quite right, like a mock-up made to fool her.

She hadn’t been paying attention to the details the last time she was aboard, she had still been trying not to have a nervous breakdown on the ‘when’ of where she had found herself. She also hadn’t been back aboard since then, although Han kept offering to give her a tour of his beloved ship. She hadn’t the heart.

She was regretting that decision now because apparently, Han was picking up on her disquiet. He, of course, took it entirely the wrong way.

“You seem a little jumpy. You okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Uh-huh.” He gave her an appraising look. “You’ve got a cool head, but it’s okay to be nervous. First time you’ve seen hand to hand combat?”

Memories flashed through her so quickly she had to stop herself from visibly blanching. Then the anger grew, but she fought it down. It was a reasonable question, one he should have thought to ask before left Yavin, but Han was never much for looking before he leaped when money was involved.

“You’re not asking him that?” she said accusatory, pointing to Obi-Wan. It was a fair question, yes he was a Jedi, but he hadn’t seen combat in almost twenty years. He had a body that showed the very hard life that he had led. Leia hadn’t been all too fond of her fifty-three year old knees, but at least she had decent health care to take care of them, Kenobi hadn’t had that in a very long time.

Then there was the issue Han wasn’t aware of, the duel Leia had seen on the Death Star from the other Kenobi. It had been slow, plodding, and clearly showed that the Jedi was out of practice. She knew that his training with Luke probably had sharpened his skills a bit, but there was only so much one could do to fight the limits imposed by one’s body.

His eyes narrowed “He’s a famed General from the Clone Wars. Asking him if he’s seen battle seems to me to be a bit rude.”

You look nineteen, she reminded herself, you look nineteen, you can’t lose it every time someone questions your competency. But to hear that question from Han. Of course, her Han had first hand experience with her abilities, since she pretty much exited her cell, grabbed a blaster and started shooting.

“I’ll be fine.” she gritted out. “But thank you so much for questioning my skills, I appreciate it.”

“Hey, I’m just showing some concern for your well-being.”

“Luke’s never seen hand to hand either, I don’t see you playing mother hen with him.”

“He grew up on a gangster infested hell hole. I’ve seen what passes for fun and recreation on that planet. Have you? It involves shooting six-foot rat things, that live in large groups, and are poisonous.”

“Oh and I’ve spent my life living in a pampered palace with servants to chew my food for me?”

Luke cleared his throat, “Uh guys?”

They both turned to glare at him. He flinched a little under their combined gaze, but he continued on. “You going to fight like this the whole time?” he said, standing his ground “Cause I’m about to walk into a pretty dicey situation and probably going to have to fight a rancor, and I was wondering if perhaps you might want to focus a little bit?”

“Well it is rather entertaining,” Obi-Wan offered “but I don’t relish acting as referee either.”

Translation; you’re both grown-ups, allegedly in Han’s case, act like it. Chastised Leia went to stand over by Luke.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to add to your stress.”

“I know this is one of the ways you work off yours, but can you please wait till I’m not in earshot?” his smile was there, but she could see the nerves dancing behind it.

Because the information they had on Grakkus’ security detail was only relevant for the days he had an exhibition, they needed an arena fight to happen. Unfortunately, that could take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the Hutt’s available victims and money outflow. None of them had that amount of time to spend away from the rebellion. So they were going to hurry the issue along. And they were going to use Luke as the bait.

The bar they had selected was close enough to Grakkus’ coliseum that anybody there would be either be under his direct employ or at least be aware of the Hutt’s desires for anything Jedi. Leia had been more comfortable with using Obi-Wan in this part, his use of the Force suggestion would have ensured that he arrived at the arena, but Han was right about the bounty being too high for Grakkus to pass up. Luke’s skill with Force suggestion was sadly lagging, Obi-Wan’s words, not hers, but that probably had more to do with her brother’s disgust of it rather than skill.

It had been a surprise to Obi-Wan that Luke had moral objections to the use of the Force to convince others to do his bidding. The Jedi had tried to reassure Luke that it couldn’t be used to make others do self-harm, or do things that they were strongly opposed to doing. Luke had countered that it was the revoking of a sentient free will, and it didn't matter that it only worked on the weak-minded. Weren't the Jedi suppose to protect the weak?

To Luke, it didn't matter that it was only used in service to a greater good, it was the deed in and of itself that was the issue, not that goal it ultimately served. Wasn’t that the same logic the Empire used to convince others that thought what it was doing now was evil, but it was in the interests of building them all a glorious future? Obi-Wan conceded that he had never thought of it in those terms. It had been interesting to watch him back down merely on Luke’s philosophical terms.

From a practical standpoint, Leia agreed with Obi-Wan on the fact that Luke should learn this.  Better to learn it and never use it, then never learn it and need it. But it was Luke’s morals that were the stumbling block, not hers. In these cases, she generally gave more weight to his finer distinctions on ethics than her own. She was well aware of her tendency to steamroll over what appeared to her as minor objections in pursuit of her own goals.

So Luke was to walk into the bar, start a fight, claim to be the son of a Jedi, identify himself as Poe Dameron, wield his lightsaber around, and that was when greed should take over. The rest of them meanwhile would be staying a flop house not too far from the Arena. With such an obvious prey they were counting on an exhibition soon. Leia was not fond of how closely this all followed the original way Luke had fallen into this mess, but she conceded the point Obi-Wan had made, that with no way of knowing when the next exhibit was, or more importantly when the Empire might come calling, this was their best shot.

Han was nervous too, for all that he pretended indifference. He seemed to be incapable of sitting still, just paced around the hold, checking equipment that didn’t need to be checked, and shooting glances at all of them surreptitiously.

“Something on your mind Captain?” Obi-wan finally asked.

“You sure about this spy?”

She would never tell him, but on this point, Leia agreed with Han. Not about the existence of the spy, she knew that he was real. What worried her was that she didn’t have a great track record with using her original timeline to guess on what people would do in this one. It made her nervous to rely on the actions they had done in her past, especially someone who's real name they didn’t even have. Draven had snidely informed that Mon said no Alliance resources were to be used on this mission, so he wouldn’t authorize the use of his spies to track down information about Grakkus’ game master.

Luke was the one who pointed out that all the factors that influenced this unknown person before were all still here now. There was no reason that it wouldn’t be the same person and the Empire had reason to watch Grakkus, and nothing she had done or changed would affect that. If he had been smart enough before to report to the Empire the suspected existence of a Force user, then there was no reason he wouldn’t do it again. The Inquisitors might be almost extinct, but the Empire was always on the lookout for new talent.

“As sure as one can be.”

Han frowned “I don’t know why you won’t tell me where this intel came from. Nobody and I mean nobody has even a whisper of it.”

Obi-Wan smirked “Worried that I’m hiring other smugglers? I’m afraid I never promised exclusivity to you, Captain.”

“Funny, but no. Worried that you’re being fed a line.”

“I trust my source.”

Han began his pacing again “Do we have to take the duo?” and here he waved to the droids.

“R2 is useful!” Luke protested.

“As is Threepio” Leia felt the need to defend him.

“Thank you, Princess Leia,” Threepio said, surprise and gratitude in his voice. “I, of course, will do my utmost to serve you in any capacity you need, even if this isn’t what I was built for.”

Han didn’t say anything, just gave her a look that clearly said “Really?” In this case yes, Threepio was annoying, and that were going to use that in their favor.

“Besides we need him to translate for R2.” Luke finally came up with to defend the taller droid.

“I understand binary,” Leia offered off-handedly ”if you are that worried about it. But I don’t know why you didn’t bring this all up before.” she said shooting a look at Han.

“I did bring this up before!” Han protested “I was overruled. And what why do you understand Binary?”

“It’s useful.” she offered. She had learned it so that she could talk to R2 without Threepio. Luke and Han had picked it up too. There had just been one too many close calls where C3-PO’s limited mobility had almost cost them dearly. R2 was more mobile and didn't run into that problem as much. Threepio had fretted about them going on missions without him, but then again the droid fretted when he went with them. Better all around they kept him safe and didn't drag him everywhere.

“What kind of tutors did you father hire?” Han asked incredulously.

“Thorough ones.”

Obi-Wan cleared his throat, a subtle reminder, and Leia took the warning. Han, a slightly abashed look on his face did too.

“We should be arriving soon,” Han offered, “everyone should get ready.” He left, heading to the cockpit.

Leia’s nose wrinkled in disgust. She had a breathing mask, meant for people who had lung damage or found themselves on a planet with non-human compatible air, to wear. The benefit to Leia was that it covered the lower half of her face. Between it and the headscarf, she had brought it should be enough to fool any camera’s that had facial recognition software in them from identifying her. Obi-Wan’s face wasn’t the only one that had been plastered all over the holonet, but she hated wearing the thing. She didn’t like using only a mask to obscure her identity. She would have preferred something that covered her whole face, but finding such equipment that was good, and didn’t impair her vision was money the Alliance really didn’t have to spare right now.

She should really see where the bounty hunter Boushh was right now. It might be worth it to hunt him down and steal his identity again. Despite his idiocy and ignorance, the man had excellent equipment, and they were near the same height, so it hadn’t needed much altering. It certainly had been useful for infiltrating Jabba’s palace, and it wouldn’t take much to brush up her skills with the Uba language.

Obi-Wan meanwhile was dressed in a pair of black pants, topped with a blue overshirt, belted at the waist. He had also dyed his beard and hair with a temporary brown color. He was even more unhappy with his outfit than she was with the mask. And that wasn’t even getting into the robe. It was cheap, threadbare, and black. He had given a deeply unimpressed look at the quartermaster who supplied it. He had protested all of it but Breha, of all people, had told him that he needed to get a grip.

“You are too use to wearing that tattered outfit,” she told him “and looking like a Jedi in this context is out of the question. I understand this isn’t what you are used to, but give it a chance.” She gave him a bright smile, “Except for the robe, which is dreadful I will give you that, I think you look quite dashing.”

Bail chuckled “I’m afraid the robe is my fault. I told the quartermaster to go cheap on that.”

“Why?” the older man had practically whined.

“Obi-Wan, the number of robes you have left strewn across this galaxy are too numerous to mention. I’m not sure why you even bothered to wear them in the first place.”

Obi-Wan gave a deeply unhappy sigh as he took in the robe and put it on as Leia slipped her mask over her face.

“Here we go again.” she muttered.

 

Nar Shaddaa was a pit. Leia had never been to Nal Hutta, the Hutt homeworld, but she had been told by many people that this moon was a paradise compared to the polluted homeworld of the Hutts. If so she was never going there. This moon was too crowded, the buildings so tightly together she felt like she was in a durasteel canyon. There was trash and decaying organics littering the streets, on top of which the sewer system seemed to deposit directly into the narrow streets.

She tightened her breathing mask to her face. The amount of smog and smell were bad enough through the filter. She didn’t even want to know how bad it would be without that protection. She didn’t remember it being this bad here last time. Maybe she had been too focused on rescuing her wayward brother?

Luke, slightly bouncing on his toes, seemed to be dealing with it better. Of course, he came from only a slightly more hospitable planet than this one, so maybe it didn’t occur to him to be bothered. Or the excitement of finding himself on a new planet hadn't worn off yet and he was able to look around in wonder.

“Alright Kid, the bar in question is two streets down that way.” Han pointed down the street if it could be called that. “You know what to do?”

“Act like an idiot?” Luke said dryly.

“That’s the spirit!” Han slapped him on the back.

Obi-Wan’s face was grave “In all seriousness Luke, please don’t show off your skills.”

“Meager as they are.”

“They are not meager, you are just new at this,” Obi-Wan reassured.

“One off world hick coming up,” he muttered, a little bitterly. He looked at Leia. “Any advice?”

She cocked her head to the side “Expect the unexpected.” she offered.

He gaped at her. Han let out a loud laugh. “Thought he was the Jedi you worship.” he said, tipping his head to Obi-Wan “That was unnecessarily broad and unhelpful.”

She scowled, she sounded nothing like a Jedi. “It’s good advice!” she protested.

Luke shook his head, “Now that I’m thoroughly confused I’ll be heading off.” He walked away, keeping his stride in time with the other occupants of the street.

Han gave her a worried look “Think he’ll be okay?”

She arched her eyebrow “Concerned for his safety?”

“Well Rex did threaten to gut me if I didn’t bring you all back in one piece,” he said blustering, covering up his concern. She sighed inwardly, she had gone too far in her teasing of him. He hadn’t taken it in the spirit it was offered, he was still looking to conceal his soft spots, not convinced yet she wouldn’t use them against him.

Chewie shook his head <He said no such thing Han.>

“It was all in the eyes.” Han insisted.

“Indeed,” Obi-Wan said smoothly, not confirming if he was agreeing with Han or with Chewie “But I believe if we stay out here much longer like this we will attract attention. Shall we?”

Han nodded and they headed the opposite way of Luke.

 

 

ABA - Day 50

At breakfast, such as it was, the next morning, they heard the excited cheers from the streets, when it was announced that there would be an exhibition that afternoon.

“Well, I believe that is our cue,” Han mumbled. “You ready for this?’ he asked directly to Leia.

She snorted, “Do I look worried”

“No, but then again you never do look worried when you should, and you do look worried when you shouldn’t.”

She felt her back stiffen in indignation “What’s that suppose to mean?”

He leaned forward until he was just a hair breadth distance from her and smiled seductively. She felt her breath catch as she wondered what the hell he was doing. At that small expression from her he leaned back, a look of satisfaction on his face “Now you look worried.” he proclaimed, than in an almost a conspiratorial tone he told her “And you really shouldn't.” Oh, he has no idea what a danger he was to her and she to him.

Before she could even think of an appropriate response, Chewie cut in. <If you two are done?> Chewie asked patiently, <We all have somewhere to be don’t we?>

Obi-Wan, for once looked as worried as the Force said he was, muttered “Quite.”

 

Grakkus brought in outside security, which was a generous term to use for the low life thugs he rounded up on the days of these matches. Even then, he still was still leaving things a little thin. However, he did cover the loading dock entrance, located at the back of his coliseum, with two Clone War era Magnaguard droids. Despite their age, they would be enough of a deterrent to any average crooks. They had been designed and built to take on Jedi after all.

Fortunately, they had brought a Jedi along, with two excellent distractions to help.

Leia positioned herself on the nearest corner to the road leading to the back. It wasn’t much of a view, but there was a clear view of the deli on the other side. The smells coming out of it were not in the least bit appetizing, but it did have a large window that let anyone get a clear view of the customers within. If anyone paid attention to her standing here, they would assume she was spying on someone in the deli, not interested in what was around the corner.

Taking a look at her chrono, and confirming they were on schedule, she verified visually that everyone else was in position. She gave a nod to Threepio and R2, who immediately started trundling down the access road to the door, arguing with each other the entire way.

“I told you R2 our master did not come this way,” Threepio whined at the smaller droid, who only gave him an irritated chirp in response. Leia didn’t even hear the two magnaguards issue a warning of any kind, just the surprised wail of R2.

“Oh, my!!!” Threepio cried out, and even from this distance, Leia could tell it was completely over the top. “My apologies, but we seem to be a bit turned around. Could you give us directions to the entrance to the Arena?”

Neither of them answered Leia began to wonder if they even had the ability to speak.

“Threepio” Obi-Wan called out, hustling awkwardly to the droids, sounding vaguely out of breath. “Threepio back away now!” There was a sharp note of command. “My apologies good sirs. My droids are very old, and not quite bright. I’m afraid they seem to have gotten themselves turned around.”

Leia continued her watch over the deli, straining her ears for the slightest sign that Obi-Wan was in trouble. Han had questioned her abilities, but had he thought that maybe the old man wasn’t up to snuff anymore? She wanted to turn around so badly, but she was too well trained to draw attention to what they were doing like that. Although interesting enough, there seemed to be several customers across the street who were beginning to notice her and becoming visibly nervous. She idly wondered to herself who they thought sent her?

Somehow she missed everything with that moment of inattention. She felt something in the Force though, like a cool wind floating across the back of her neck. It was subtle, barely a ripple, but it was there.

“We’re clear,” she heard Obi-Wan’s voice come from the back of the alley. She quickly rounded the corner and jogged down the alley, knowing that when Han saw that she had left her spot he would follow with the cart. He and Chewie had been waiting further down the cross street so that it wouldn’t be obvious to an outsider that they were together.

There was one Magnaguard droid laid out in sprawled fashion, in the middle of the street, about seven paces from Obi-Wan, that had been decapitated. For some reason, it also had a hole in the middle of its chest. Well, clearly the droids reputation for being hard to kill hadn’t been exaggerated.

She looked up to find the second one was impaled onto a pipe that was protruding from the neighboring wall, the lights in its eyes dimming even as Leia watched. Obi-Wan must have used the Force to throw it into the wall, that was probably the ripple she felt. She hadn’t heard the lightsaber activate, the sound of the crowd must have drowned it out, which they could all be thankful for. They didn’t need a crowd drawn here after all. R2 gave a cheerful whistle and went to the outlet on the side of the large doors, trying to slice the door.

Leia headed to the droid laying in the middle of the road and began pulling it towards the entrance. She might have cheated a bit, pulling on the Force to help her drag it along, the thing was heavy. She heard Chewie’s deep rumble behind her.

<Allow me.>

She stepped aside. Not that pulling the droid was all that hard, but he had no way of knowing that. It would look odd for someone of her size being able to move something like that without apparent effort.

“What are you doing?” Han hissed as he rounded the corner, the cart loaded with their empty boxes being dragged behind him.

“Hiding the evidence?” she hissed back.

“There is no guard scheduled to come around here for another twenty minutes.”

“Better safe than sorry” she shot back. Anyone could walk past and noticed the guard. She doubted that any citizen of this planet was civic minded, but they might be tempted to raise the alarm simply for the reward they might get.

Threepio came up “Is there anything more you need from me, your Highness?”

“No,” she said briskly “head back to the ship and get it warmed up. We might need to make a fast exit.”

“Hey, it’s my ship! I give the orders” Han said indignantly from behind his boxes.

“Really, and what do you want him to do?” This was ridiculous, why was he arguing with her about every little thing?

There was a brief pause. “Go back to the ship and warm her up,” he said to the droid, in an abashed tone, well aware of the ridiculousness of what he was saying. Threepio wandered off, muttering about how he didn’t understand why nobody could make up their minds.

R2 gave a cry of [Done!] and the door slid open. She and Chewie slid the hunk of tin in. Obi-Wan grabbed the other one off its mount on the wall and pulled it in too, but Leia wasn’t sure if it was because he agreed with her decision or was moving it out of Han and the cart’s way.

Once inside R2 closed the door behind them and without missing a beat whirled and started rolling down one of the many corridors in the complex.

“Lead the way,” Han said sarcastically to the little droid.

R2 gave a rude bleep. [I can see in this, you can’t. But if you want to get lost by all means go your own way.] Leia snorted and Han gave her a suspicious look but she only gave a bland smile. [Follow me!], R2 called out to her and Obi-Wan. Han grumbled under his breath, but he started pulling the cart along, following the little droid.

Leia rolled her eyes. Yes, all of them had studied the maps of this complex, but the lighting was rather dim for Human eyes. Hutt’s had very good night vision, and as a security precaution, as well as their own comfort, tended to keep the lights in any facility of theirs dark. R2 could see better than they could here. Was it really so grating to his fragile ego to follow a droid?

They walked down the corridors with purposeful steps, but not running. They didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, plus the cart didn’t exactly have the best maneuverability. With the dim lighting, they wanted to proceed with caution so that it catch on any corners. Leia could hear the chanting of the crowd, even this far into the building. She reached out for a quick check on Luke, who was nervous, but calm. So he wasn’t in the arena yet, probably a warm up act of some kind to get the crowd good and ready for the main event

They finally arrived at a large set of gray doors, with an actual physical bar laid across it. Leia blinked in surprise. She hadn’t seen a lock this old fashioned in a long time.

“R2?” she asked. This was not the lock that had been on the schematics.

[Give me a minute] the droid chirped back and plugged into the port on the right side. He gave an annoyed grunt and started whirling the port faster as he encountered resistance.

“Hurry up, hurry up,” Han was muttering under his breath.

“Oh like you could do better.” she hissed to him.

“I’m not a bad slicer,” he said defensively. Thinking of his failure on Endor, Leia gave a dismissive sniff.

“Sure you are.” she drawled.

“Hey.” he protested, but then with a loud clang noise the bar withdrew from across the door and, slowly the two doors parted.They hustled in and waited while R2 locked it behind them.

“Lights R2,” Obi-Wan said softly. They came up in several sections, flooding the long cavernous room. It was easily the size of the gym back on the Yavin and was packed almost half way full, with a corridor bisecting the middle. There were statues, clothes, and was that a Jedi fighter? But for the most part what surround them were boxes, lots and lots of boxes. Oh, Grakkus had put some things on display, what looked like a Jedi robe in a display case was to Leia’s left, but most of what was in this room were packed away. Some collector, more like a hoarder, it would take them far too long to do a search of everything.

“R2” she called out softly, “Can you see if there is a manifest or inventory of all of this?”

[Of course.] The droid once again plugged himself into the outlet. Han and Chewie, continued on with the cart until they were in the middle of the room.

Obi-Wan hadn’t moved very far into the room, his face haunted as he took in the various objects scattered around him. “So much,” he whispered, “I never dreamed so much survived.”

“Obi-Wan” Leia hissed, trying to catch his attention.

He didn’t answer her, merely closed his eyes in pain. Chewie and Han, either oblivious or trying to give them space, started to unload the boxes from the cart and open them.

“Obi-Wan,” Leia said trying not to shout. She wasn’t sure of the soundproofing that was on this room, and she didn’t want any stray visitors walking down the hallway to wonder at the voices coming from a supposedly empty room. She strode over and caught the Jedi’s arm. “Obi-Wan mourn later, focus now.”

“You can’t know.” his eyes flew open and he swung his gaze to stare down at her. She was startled by the raw pain and anger that danced in his eyes for her to see. Normally he was nothing but a pool of calm and serenity around her. “You have no idea what it's like to be in a room full of things that are all that is left of your people. That the history of your kind does survive in some small way and you are grateful that even this much is here. Grateful! For this small pittance, even though there was once so much more.” He raised a trembling hand and pointed at the Jedi robe in its display box “To be thankful that this exists, even though the people who created all of this are gone.” Obi-Wan’s voice never raised to a yell, actually it never even rose above his usual conversational tone, but all Leia could hear was the ragged pain buried underneath everything.

And because, despite Kenobi’s claims, she understood this pain that was driving him. If it had been anyone else in the galaxy who had said such a thing to her, Leia was fairly certain that she would have torn them to shreds where they stood. Even in this timeline, where Alderaan still stood, that was a wound that was too large and painful to ever fully heal.

But Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi was not speaking in exaggeration. His world was gone. There was no one left from his childhood, there was nobody left who had a shared sense of his culture, there was nowhere left to call home. And she knew what this pain could do to a person. It had help fuel her into toppling an Empire, and when a new one grew from its ashes, it had led her to once again fight it with all her might.

Much like the survivors of Alderaan had done, he could rebuild, but it would never be the same. This had shattered him, in ways that she was cursing herself for not seeing. He baffled and enraged her on most days, but this, this was the one thing about him she could understand. They had both been survivors of the ultimate destruction of their homes and culture.

She cupped his face in her hands, trying to ground him to the here and now. In a low whisper, hoping Han wouldn’t hear her, she said “Yes, Obi-Wan I do understand. I might be the only one left alive in this galaxy, except Master Yoda, who understands what you are feeling. I once stood in a room much like this one, filled with artifacts from Alderaan that had been gathered for an auction. I once stood in a place like this, where the last of remnants of my people stood and knew that this was probably the vast majority of what was left. And I wanted to tear down the people who had gathered such a thing out of greed, instead of reverence for what was lost. I know Obi-Wan what it is like to never be able to go home again, and have everything you love become nothing more than a cautionary tale.”

His eyes were terrifyingly blank for a moment and then comprehension filled them. “Leia, my apologies, that was incredibly thoughtless of me.” The Force sang with his guilt and sorrow.

She shook her head, “I understand. Believe me, I understand the need to lash out. But if you want even the smallest amount of this back, we have to move.

He straightened “Of course.”

“You two done?” Han asked as he flipped the lid open on the first box, his tone pushy, but not as snide as he could have made it.

Obi-Wan gave him a rueful smile and trotted over to the pair. “My apologies Captain, I became...distracted.”

Han shrugged “Don’t blame you in the slightest. But we do have a timetable here. So what’s the priority?”

“These,” Obi-Wan said and held out his hand.

Abruptly across the room, about thirty small lights flared to life. Obi-Wan gave a satisfied grin as he took them in.

Han groaned. “We don’t have enough time to go and get all those.”

“No need,” and then all the lights flew straight at them. Han yelped and dropped to the ground, but they stopped several feet from the open box that was still in the cart, hovering. Han came up, looking at them cautiously, floating in mid-air, with no apparent support. For a second there was a total look of wonder on his face as he beheld a sight that had not been seen in the galaxy in a long time.

“So the stories, they weren’t made up?” he said softly, reaching out to touch one of the holocrons gently.

“Not all of them.” They slowly began to pack themselves in, their light disappearing as they were lowered into the box.

R2 gave a loud excited whistle and detached himself from the port. [I found them!!] Was all he said as he rolled passed them heading further back into the room. Leia followed him, curious to see what had caught his attention. He rolled up to a low table covered with a dusty tarp.

[Here.] the droid practically screamed in his excitement. [They are here!]

Leia reached out and pulled the tarp off the table and let out a small gasp at what she found. There were about three dozen lightsabers, in various conditions from broken to almost pristine, lying in neat rows.  She knew there had been some here of course. R2 had brought them to her Han, and Chewie the first time they had done this. But she hadn’t realized that there were this many.

Han came up behind her and let out a long whistle as he took them in. “Are those what I think they are?” She nodded, and carefully grabbed as many as she could.

Han did the same and they brought them back to the cart, carefully loading them into the box with the holocrons. Obi-Wan and Chewie also joined in, and in a few trips, they had them all.

<Anything else?> Chewie asked.

“R2?” Obi-Wan said. The droid gave an affirmative whistle and they trundled past the now empty lightsaber table to the end of the room to see what else he had found.

It was a set of three crates, all of them stacked into one tall tower. Han leaned in to take a look at the label on the front of the tallest box and said “Jedi Archive data recordings.” He looked up to the Jedi. “I take it this is a take?”

Obi-Wan could only nod. Leia glanced at the middle and bottom ones “Same here.” she said.

“Okay then.” Han moved to grab the top one but Obi-Wan held out a hand and the three boxes floated over to the cart.

Han looked at him sideways “Show off.” he muttered.

Obi-Wan gave an enigmatic smile. “You were the one who said we were pressed for time.”

They ended up having to remove one of the empty boxes they had brought, but they managed to fit it all on the cart.

“Is that everything R2?” Leia asked.

The droid gave a shake of his domed head [Everything else is trinkets and clothes according to the database.]

Obi-Wan looked at her hopefully, but she shook her head. “No” Obi-Wan looked around the room, taking in everything. He closed his eyes, and she felt the touch of the Force sweeping the room, searching. He opened them defeated. There was nothing else here that they needed. There were, however many things that Obi-Wan wanted, and she felt her heart break a little for him. They all knew that if things went according to plan the Empire would be coming shortly, and all of this would be destroyed.

“We can grab something else if you like.” Han offered, at the look of pain on Kenobi's face.

“No,” he said sadly, “I think this is all we have time to take. Luke is going to need us to help him soon, and he is the higher priority” Leia came up and gave the man a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. She knew he believed what he said, but it still must be breaking his heart to leave all this behind simply to be destroyed.

He gave her an appreciative smile and R2 gave an affirmative beep and rolled back to the door to open it.

“We’re done.” Leia sent to her brother. All she got back was a rush of worry, fear, and the sense that he was close. Luke still hadn’t managed to quite get words through when he was tired.

“Alright then.” Han swung the cart around and started pushing it back towards the door as it began its loud clanking process of opening.  “Let’s get this through the back door, have Chewie and the droid take it to the Falcon, rescue the Kid, and get the hell off this rock.”

That’s when Luke came running into the room full speed. “We’ve got some problems!” he yelled. His head was facing backward, looking at whatever was behind him, which is why he didn’t see her as he crashed into her, sending them both to the ground.

Han’s voice boomed over their heads “What are you doing here? We were coming to get you, don’t you remember that part?”

Luke, his face hovering over hers, ignored him “You okay?” he asked.

She nodded, she was bruised, but not too badly. “Next time use the Force to be a little bit more aware of your surroundings” she sent chasteningly.

He nodded, his face red with his embarrassment and then pushed himself up. Then he turned to face Han.

“I’d like to see you play keep away with a rancor!!!” Luke shot back defensively “I didn’t exactly have a lot of room for playing inept. But that isn’t the issue.”

Leia rolled to her side, preparing to get herself up when something shiny caught her eye. It was lying beside one of the crates that were covered by a tarp, not a foot from her. How did a lightsaber end up here? It was dusty, clearly, it had been there for awhile, they hadn’t dropped it in their haste to load up the box. She reached out and grabbed it, then hauled herself to her feet.

The thud thud thud, of something heavy coming towards them, caught all their attention. Obi-Wan’s eyes widened “Oh dear.” he said.

“There comes problem number one,” Luke said grimly.

Then Grakkus came barreling through the wide opening. The Hutt was about half the size of Jabba, and he was balanced precariously on his mechanical legs. Leia knew about them of course but to actually see them on the Hutt was damn near hard to believe. He was panting heavily as he took in the sight of them.

“THIEVES!!!” he screamed. “GUARDS!!”

Obi-Wan ignited his lightsaber and even in the well-lit room, it drew everyone's eyes to it. Including Grakkus.

“You….” he breathed, recognition crossing his face. “You're him.”

“I am,” Obi-Wan said lightly. “You have an interesting interpretation of theft.” he brought his lightsaber up perpendicular to his face, his non-sabered arm coming up parallel to the blade “Given what you are wearing around your neck. I sincerely doubt you built any of those yourself.”

Leia took a closer look at the massive slug. She had been so distracted by the horror show that was his legs she had missed that the Hutt had a necklace circling his fat neck. Since when did Hutt’s wear jewelry. Han’s breath hissed inwards and then she felt her own blood freeze. Lightsabers, the Hutt had a lightsaber necklace. The Force around her practically pulsed with Obi-Wan’s revulsion.

“It’s mine!” The Hutt shouted gleefully. “All of this is mine!” He waved his arms to encompass everything within it “You should thank me Jedi, I am the only reason any of this survived.”

“Thank you.” he said tonelessly “And now I will be taking it back.”

Grakkus let out a loud laugh “You have spirit, Obi-Wan Kenobi, I will give you that. If it wasn’t for the money your head would bring I admit you would make a fine addition to my collection.”

“Move,” Obi-Wan said softly, not moving yet, just maintaining his stance.

“And what do I have to fear from one old man?” the Hutt sneered, his legs pacing as he brought himself further into the room. “The greatest thing all fear in my arena is not one of my creatures, but me.” Then the Hutt began to charge. It was a sight Leia wasn’t sure she would ever forget as a half ton slug started barrelling down on them.

Leia didn’t see Obi-Wan move, but she felt it in the Force as it surged around the old man, and she heard it as the sound of his lightsaber cutting through the air rang in her ears. Leia just managed to blink, trying to process what was going on, and by the time she had finished the motion, all twelve of the Hutt’s legs had been cut off and he was on the floor, screaming as his fat gelatinous body fell on the remaining stumps.

Obi-Wan was six feet in front of him, far enough way that the Hutt couldn’t reach him with his small arms. Deactivating the lightsaber he gestured and slowly the Hutt floated up, still screaming in pain.  The lightsaber necklace was pulled from his neck and slowly made its way to hang at Obi-Wan’s side. The older man just stared at the writhing creature in front of him, then casually flicked his hand. Grakkus went sailing towards the back of the room, where he landed with a loud thump, his body no longer blocking the door.

Leia tried to will her face into showing something other than outright shock. What was that? Clearly, the old man hadn’t let his skills rot while standing guard over Luke. But now what was she to think of that fight with Vader so long ago aboard the Death Star? That Kenobi had not shown even the slightest hint of this level of skill. This line of thinking was not mission critical, dwell on it later, along with every other oddity the man had shown.

The whole thing had taken less than half a minute and Obi-Wan looked from the lightsaber necklace, to see all of them staring at him, except Luke. He was focused on the Hutt, who had fallen silent. “Is he dead?” he asked in a quiet voice.

Obi-Wan shook his head “Merely unconscious.”

Luke’s hand tightened on the lightsaber in his hand and started to walk to the slug.

“Luke we don’t have time for this.” Obi-Wan cautioned. “We’ll lock him in the vault and when the Empire comes they will deal with him with far more viscousness than you can imagine.”

Well, that wasn’t very Jedi-like was it? But Luke did stop and turned to Obi-Wan a guilty look on his face.

“Uhh, that would be problem number two.”

Chewie let out a bark <There is no Imperial spy?> he demanded.

Her brother shook his head “Oh, there is a spy. But he is not just an Imperial, he’s a member of the 501st. He didn't just call for reinforcements, he called Vader.”

For a moment they all just looked at him in shock, and then Han’s voice, yelling, cut through the silence. “We need to move!” He began pulling the cart, arms straining at the effort as he tried to get it to move faster under the weight of all it’s contents. Chewie, slinging his crossbow back over his shoulder, came up behind him and shoved him to one side.

<I’m stronger> he said <I can pull it faster>

Obi-Wan flung the light saber necklace on top of the cart, assuming that with them tied together they wouldn't fall off. Leia couldn’t take that chance with her one lightsaber, she clipped it to her belt. They didn’t have time to open a box for her to shove it into.

Leia asked her brother as they hustled out of the room “Do you know when he’s going to arrive?”

He shook his head “No, but I got the impression he wasn’t far away.”

They quickly exited the room, R2D2 locking it behind them. Grakkus was now the Empire’s problem. They had just signed sealed and delivered him with a mountain of contraband evidence around him. Whatever deal he had cut with the Empire would now be null and void. Vader wasn’t known for his leniency in dealing with people who owned Jedi artifacts.

They weren’t as worried now about being caught in the halls, not with this greater threat coming. They quickly made the way back they came, not full out running, but close to it. Even with Chewie pulling the cart there was a limit to how fast they could go. Obi-Wan was in the front, R2 at his side. She, Han and Luke were behind the cart, watching everyone's backs. The crowd noises Leia could hear now no longer sounded cheerfully bloodthirsty, but screaming in fear and pain.

“What did you do?” she asked Luke.

She heard sheepish confession in his voice. “I might have set a few of the banners in the stadium on fire on my way out.”

“What? Why? How?” Han was asking in a baffled voice.

“Did you know a lightsaber on a low setting can set cloth on fire? As to the why I needed a distraction. A stampeding crowd is as good as any. There aren’t many species that don’t panic at the sight of an uncontrollable fire.”

That was good thinking on his part. “Good job,” she heard Han say weakly, clearly not quite yet used to the level of insanity Luke was capable of bringing.

“I’m just following Leia’s advice. She’s the one who told me to expect the unexpected.” And now he was getting sassy, she could hear it in his voice. Since they had arrived at the exit, she actually turned her head to answer him back, but the movement of two beings behind him caught her attention.

Without thinking she drew her blaster and shot at both of them. Both shots passed within mere inches on either of Han’s torso.

“Hey!!!” he cried out indignantly but cut off his cry as he heard the two bodies thump to the ground behind him.

He turned, saw the two guards lying dead behind him, and then looked back up at Leia. There was a look of almost awe on his face but what came out of his mouth was “You almost shot me.”

She snorted “I wasn’t even close to hitting you.”

“You shoot that accurately every time?”

“Yes.”

The awe came back, mingling with respect and something that came and went on his face so fast she couldn’t decipher it. “We need to move.” She reminded them, turning to face the door as it started to clang open. What was with all the noisy doors in this place. She saw nothing but an empty street in front of her, though street that crossed this one was full of running people as they clearly were trying to run from the building that was on fire.

“Leia,” Obi-Wan said softly “you’re letting your fear rule you. If he was anywhere in this system I would feel it.” Then his wry mental voice followed up that thought “You would as well.”

She tensed at the unfamiliar voice in her head, Obi-Wan didn’t do this with her, but she felt herself relax a bit, as she processed what he was saying. He was right, she knew he was right. Vader wasn’t the subtlest of presences, hadn’t she said so herself?

That’s when the door, which was almost done opening, abruptly reversed itself and clamped close with a hard thunk.

R2 let out a loud wail [They engaged emergency lock down mode] he offered up [Give me a minute to override it.]

Who would initiate a shutdown of all the exits in the middle of a fire? Leia wondered and felt a wash of fear travel up her spine when the intercom in the complex flared to life. There was nothing but silence for a moment, then that rhythmic breathing sound, the one that lived in so many of her nightmares, spilled out of the speakers. It was followed by that deep mechanical voice “Leia, I know you are here.”

“You were saying about feeling him if he was here old man?” Han asked exasperatedly.

Leia could barely hear him over the pounding of the blood in her ears. How the hell had Vader managed to be here?  To enter the system, hell, be in this building, without her being able to feel him? Even now as she reached out, there was nothing there in the Force.

Luke, reacting to her fear, came up and grabbed her hand. “Leia,” he said his voice sharp. When she didn’t respond he tried mentally “Leia.” She swung her head to look him in the eye. They were trapped here, and Luke was here . Vader would come here and he would see, and there would be no escape for either of them.

That voice continued,  “You know what I want. No one needs to die. Come to me and the others can go free.”

Luke, still beside her, went rigid all over, his hand clamping down on hers in a grip that was painfully tight. His head snapped up to stare at the speakers, and his anger was just there, rolling and hot, chasing away his concern for her. That was enough to snap Leia out of her paralysis. If the door wouldn’t open, and based on R2’s frantic wailing and beeping it wouldn't, she would make a door. She would get them out of this.

She tried to shake Luke’s hand off hers, but he merely tightened his grip as she tried to escape his grasp. “Luke let me go!” she yelled at him in the Force, and his face swung back down to stare at her. His pupils were blown wide, and she could feel him try to process what she had just said. His eyes slid down to their joined hands, and she felt him give a visible effort to free her hand.

Once he let go she quickly unsnapped the lightsaber on her belt. Staring down at the controls, she flicked the middle one, hoping that the thing was still functional. She almost dropped it when a purple blade extended out. Purple, they came in purple?

She shook her head, not the time. Striding over to the door she called out to Luke and Obi-Wan “Little help”.

Positioning herself on the far right of the door, she reached up as high as she could and rammed the saber into the door, the durasteel instantly heating to red. Gritting her teeth she began to drag it down.

Luke, immediately understanding what she was trying to do, hurried up to the left side of the door and began mimicking her movements. Obi-Wan, the Force around him reading as shocked, followed a few moments after Luke. The older man positioned himself right behind her, sinking his blade at the start of her line at the top and began cutting across the width. She tried to ignore Han’s frantic whispers of “Hurry up, Hurry up.”

“Leia, it doesn't need to end this way. You don’t need to run.”

That was a hard pass on that offer. Even if she was desperate enough to take him up on it, that action wouldn’t save Luke. He wouldn’t leave her voluntarily, and even if Obi-Wan or Han knocked him out to get him out of here, he would try to rescue her himself. And more than likely die in the process of trying.

She wasn’t staying here that was for damn sure. She hit the floor a few seconds before her brother did. They both stepped back to give Obi-Wan space to finish the top. Deactivating the lightsaber, she waited, all her muscles quivering in her effort to not bolt heedlessly. Obi-Wan finished and with a casual flick of his hand sent the door careening into the alley.

The door was open, the path was clear.

“There is nowhere you won’t run that I won’t follow.” There was a surveillance camera trained on them somewhere because he could clearly see her. Did he understand how creepy he just sounded? He was practically raised by Obi-Wan, who was a rather smooth operator when he chose to be. Did the man understand any social interactions besides death threats? Luke’s anger and protectiveness flared all around her again, laced with what she dreaded most, his rage.

“Move.” she hissed, shoving Luke.

“But…” he said protesting, ready to fight.

“No Luke we need to go.” And all of them broke into the alley, Chewie bringing up the rear with the cart. Making it to the cross street, with no blaster fire behind them, they fell into the crowd, that was also running as far away from the Imperial stormtroopers as they could. Somehow they managed to make it to the Falcon without a soul following them.

 

On the Falcon Leia sat at the derrick table, trying to calm herself. Luke sat to her right, his arm slung around her in comfort. He was sending love and reassurance at her, low-key, but it was there. She basked in its steady reassurance, trying to recenter herself. Obi-Wan sat on the far left of the half circle booth, staring at what appeared to be nothing.

Luke was the one who broke the silence “How was he on the planet and neither of you felt him?” Han and Chewie were in the cockpit, and he was speaking in a low, if intense whisper, but Leia felt herself stiffen. The question needed to be asked, but couldn’t have Luke waited till they had access to somewhere a little more private?

Obi-Wan merely thoughtfully pulled on his beard “Clearly Leia isn’t the only one who has decided to brush up on her skills.” He sighed “I apologize for the oversight on my part. It is something all Jedi are taught, but frankly, he never did much mind the lesson. There was so much of him to contain, and he lost any cloaking he did have the minute he became even the littlest bit distracted. It never occurred to me that he would practice that skill now.”

“It should have,” a rather nasty voice in her head remarked.

“I didn’t know that was even possible.” she said trusting herself for the first time to speak without screaming.

Obi-Wan looked surprised “Really? This isn’t something Luke taught you?”

She shook her head “He never mentioned it no. I don’t know if no one taught him, or if he thought it was better to have me focused on other areas.” And a bitter smile crossed her mouth “Or he thought I wouldn’t listen.” She shifted to get closer to Luke, and his reassuring presence. He was fine, Vader hadn’t seen him, Vader didn’t know, her brother was still safe. Then the lightsaber on her belt poked uncomfortably into her side.

She shifted momentarily away from Luke and unclipped the thing. “Here,” she said, holding it out to Obi-Wan.

He looked at it thoughtfully for a moment, then looked up to meet her eyes. “I meant to ask where did you find this?”

“When Luke knocked me to the floor I saw it lying, half hidden under a tarp. I grabbed it before I got up.”

“Hmmm…” He continued to stare at it. Leia's arm began to tremble slightly, as her adrenaline surge started to fade away and her fatigue began to catch up with her.

“Do you want to keep it?” He finally asked, making no move to take it from her, his voice in deadly earnest.

She almost dropped it in her shock “What? No. I told you, I don't want to be a Jedi.”

A there was a great wave of relief, chased by of a small thread disappointment that flowed out of him before he regained control and reigned it all back in. Exhaustion must be catching up with him too, usually she got nothing from Obi-Wan. “I just find it interesting that you would find that particular lightsaber, of all of the lightsabers that survived the purges and were there in that room, to wield.”

Obi-Wan reached out then, grabbing hold of it from her hand, carefully, like it was a precious gift. Other than the color, which was rather distinct, what made this blade so special to him? Then the obvious connection clicked in her mind. “You know whose this was,” she stated softly, trying to be respectful of his grief, for all that he wasn’t showing it on his face. Luke’s face lost it’s worried frown and morphed into something more like genuine interest.

Obi-Wan’s mouth ticked up in a slight smile. “Yes, I do. He, like you, was quite the singular individual.” His smile changed into something sadder. “I don’t think he would have liked you very much though.”

“Thanks.” she said dryly.

“Don't take it personally, he didn't really like anybody, even me. But he most certainly would have respected you, Leia, that was a rare honor in itself.” he clipped the lightsaber to his belt. “And I think he would have found it most appropriate that you were the one to find and wield it today.”

“It's just a coincidence,” she said flatly.

“Hmmm. There are coincidences then there are coincidences.” He gave her an enigmatic smile. “But of course I will honor your wishes in this matter"

That was when Han entered the room. Leia had a nasty moment of fear, how much had he overheard? This is why they couldn’t start complicated conversational matters in insecure places. Because, when she wasn’t thinking too hard or was distracted, she still thought of the Falcon as home. That meant safety, warmth, and most important in this context, a freedom to say what she wished. And she couldn’t, this wasn’t her home, not really, it was only the echo of one.

Being here lead her to disclose things, that if overheard would lead to some very awkward questions. Fortunately for her, Han was entirely too preoccupied with his own concerns to pay much attention to what was being said around him.

“What was that?” he said, his eyes full of shock, as he marched up to the derrick table.

“What was what?” Leia answered back, leaning a bit more into Luke’s side, trying to shore up her emotions as much as she could with his presence.

“That ultimatum. What in the bleeding hells does Vader want with you?”

She shrugged “I escaped. That has to rub him the wrong way.”

Han’s eyes narrowed “That sounded a hell of a lot more personal than tracking down one wayward former captive. He offered to let us go for you.” And here he gestured at Kenobi, “Could he feel you? Like you were supposed to be able to feel him?”

Obi-Wan didn’t get offended, did the man ever?, but merely answered Han’s questions “Since I wasn’t hiding myself as fiercely as he was, yes more than likely he knew I was there.”

“Vader hates the Jedi. Vader kills the Jedi. What has got him so riled up about you he would let one go?” Han’s eyes were as wild and out of control as his voice.

“I haven’t the faintest idea what goes on in his head Han.” she said.

At her side, Luke’s armed tightened around her as if by force he could keep her away from the Sith Lord. Clearly, this line of thinking hadn’t occurred to him. Han’s eyes lost their wild look and flared with jealousy instead.

“That’s what you’re going to tell me.” he asked, hurt in his voice.

“That’s what I know.” she said back tiredly.

He gave out a disbelieving snort “Then the only conclusion I can come to is that you aren’t taking this very seriously. This isn't some mid-level bureaucratic that you can make cry with a good tongue lashing. This is Vader you are dealing with.”

She tapped down the hysterical giggle that threatened to emerge from her throat. This was quite possibly her worst nightmare come to life and he thought she wasn’t taking it seriously?

Frustrated at her non-answer, he turned to Luke “She listens to you,” and to his credit, he managed to keep most of the jealousy out of his voice “Please get it through her head this isn’t something she can just ignore.”

Luke gave him a long look “I don’t think she's underestimating how serious this is.”

“Okay, I understand you’re still a little rocky on the Imperial power structure, so let me give you a free lesson. Vader, the second in command of a ruthless government, who is basically in charge of an equally ruthless military, is hunting for her.”

Luke opened his mouth to protest, but Han ran right over his objections, hands flying in the air in his agitation, “Yes yes. You grew up on Tatooine. You’ve dealt with the Hutt’s. Let me give you a heads up, they are child’s play compared to this. This isn’t the same as hiding from the Hutt’s and laying low in the desert for a few years to get them off her trail. This is Vader!! The smart move is to hide her on the remotest planet in the outer rim we can find, and maybe, just maybe she’ll live. He never fails in what he sets his sights on.”

She stiffened in outrage. She was sitting right here, he didn’t need to talk over her like she was a small child. “I am not running away and hiding!” she shot at Han.

“Well if you want to live to see another birthday you should!”

“Why? So I can ask others to fight him in my place? No thank you.”

She could actually see him grinding his teeth in frustration. He then turned and appealed to Obi-Wan “Please tell me you aren’t going to encourage this madness.”

Obi-Wan looked at the two of them sitting there, “I believe events have been set into motion that cannot be stopped.” he said tiredly.

Han’s voice was practically frantic “That’s what you’re going with!?! Destiny?”

“Yes.”

Han shook his head in disgust, “Sure. Destiny. It’s all her destiny to be hunted down by Vader, killed, and the Kid with her trying to protect her.”

“Han,” Leia said, trying to be reassuring, but he cut her off.

“No. This is madness, you can’t win this fight.”

“I don’t see why not.” Luke protested.

“What?”

“I said I don’t see why not. You said the Hutt’s are child’s play next to the Empire, you’re probably right about that. But on my world, you didn’t defy them, at all. It wasn’t a fight you could win. But we won today. We took down a Hutt.”

“Not the same. You are not taking down the Empire with the five of us.”

“It is the same.” Luke insisted “The only difference is that one is a much bigger problem than the other. So you scale up, but it can be done.”

Han just stared at Luke, then swung his gaze back to her “Are you two for real?” he demanded.

Obi-Wan actually laughed out loud at that. “A question I find myself asking almost daily Captain.”

“When I said you two needed a keeper, I didn't realize you were this crazy!!” Han muttered.

“You still volunteering?” Leia asked, her heart lodged in her throat. Please don’t let him back out of this now. She still didn’t know what she wanted from him precisely, it seemed to change daily on her. Sometimes when she looked at him all she wanted to do was never let him out of her sight. Other days, the bad days, she wanted to scream at him to grow up already, that he could be more than this. But she did know if he left, if she had to watch him walk away again, it would break something in her that might never recover.

He hesitated a minute, looking as if he was having some internal debate with himself. Leia held her breath, not sure what his answer would be. Imagine that, things really were different here, she had no idea what Han was going to do next. Han let out a long sigh and shook his head sadly. “We’ll I don’t see anyone else volunteering.”

Leia hid her grin to herself, now was not the time to make him think she was mocking him and she settled for “Thought you were the responsible one?”

“Only in comparison to you two.” he shot back. He rubbed his hands over his face. “This is all going to end in tears.”

It had in fact done precisely that, if not in the way he thought, but Leia was damn sure it wouldn’t this time. “Maybe, but it definitely won’t be boring.”

“No, that is not the word I would use to describe it.”  

Leia relaxed and leaned back into Luke’s side, for a moment everything was right in her world. Then Han took in the gesture and flushed. “Well, glad we had this chat.” he blurted out “I...yeah I think I hear Chewie calling for me.” Both she and Luke watched him stumble out of the main hold.

Luke looked at the corridor Han disappeared down, a thoughtful look on his face. “He’s jealous isn’t he?”

“Apparently,” Leia muttered.

“I’m not sure if I’m horrified that he’s assuming we’re together, or flattered that he’s so jealous of a little ole farm boy like me.”

“You’re no little ole farm boy,” she contradicted.

“Yeah, well…” he trailed off, clearly embarrassed. Then he cleared his throat “You shouldn’t use me like that.” he chided gently.

Leia withdrew back slightly and stared up at him “Not for comfort?” she asked, the hurt evident in her voice.

He shook his head “No, for that, anytime. But you’re using me to hide from Han”

She felt her cheeks redden “No I’m not.” she insisted.

He gave her a patient look. Stupid perceptive interfering little brother.

“Why are you hiding from Captain Solo?” ObI-Wan asked, genuine curiosity in his voice.

“He’s her husband.” Luke offered.

Obi-Wan blinked “Really?”

Leia rolled her eyes “Let me guess, you have thoughts on the weirdness of that too?”

The Jedi shook his head “No, quite the contrary, it makes a great deal of sense to me.”

They both stared at him “Really?” Luke asked.

The man gave a secretive smile “Oh, yes. His potential is vast, if underdeveloped. But I can see the appeal to you, Leia.”

Luke cocked his head to the side, “I would argue with you, but he just for all intents and purposes agreed to be our protector as we take on a brutal murderous empire.” He swung back to look at Leia “This is what you saw in him?”

She nodded.

“Huh. Wonder why he hides it that under that bravo and ego?”

That wasn't her story to tell. If Han wanted to, eventually he would share it with Luke. Maybe if she was really lucky he would share it with her again too.

Luke leaned his head down so that their foreheads were touching “He was right.”

She gave him a fond smile “Han is never right. And when he is we don’t admit it, only feeds his ego.”

He gave a light chuckle, but the laughter didn't reach his eyes. “No, I meant about the threat Vader poses to you.” He was carefully not asking her about that, but there was a question in his eyes. He didn’t understand anymore than Han did.

She sighed “This isn’t your fight. I can handle this.”

His hands came from his sides and grabbed hers tightly “I love you.” he said fiercely.

Leia felt something in her settle into place at those words. It was the first time since she had come here, to this time, that he had said those words to her.  Of course, she knew that he loved her before this declaration, there wasn’t much she couldn’t pick up on in his emotions when they sank into the Force together. But knowing it and hearing it were two different things.

“I love you too.” she said back softly.

Then worry filled his eyes, and permeated the Force around him. “You are the only family I have left.  I won’t let him hurt you, Leia.” Well as long as he permitted her to return the favor, she saw no problem with that.

Obi-Wan’s alarm flared out like a bright flame, but unlike before he didn’t draw it back in. Luke, who was still not that great at figuring out specific emotions from the overall background noise of the Force, didn’t notice. Leia could though. Something about what Luke said was worrying him, and he wanted Leia to know it was worrying him. What was the cagey old man up to now?

The rest of the trip was spent in silence, only with each other’s company and Obi-Wan’s worried face.

 

When the Falcon arrived in the hanger, there was a small crowd already there, waiting for them in front of the Falcon’s landing slot. As Han set her down, Leia peered through the front windows, she shook her head at the sight of her Father, Mother, and Rex standing there. It put her in mind of the one time she had snuck out of the palace, when she had been about thirteen, to attend a party her parents had forbidden her to go to. She had slipped through the guards, security system, and managed to ‘borrow’ transportation from the Royal guards.

She hadn’t had much fun there. Her desire to go more had to do with the fact that she desperately, for once, wanted to experience something that everyone else her age group had. The bitter truth was she was only invited because she was the Princess of Alderaan, and that nobody there had been interested in anything else about her. She had returned home, only to find her parents standing in the front of her bedroom door, disapproval and worry radiating off of them.

Them being here and alive, was quite possibly one of the best gifts she had received in her life. But she never factored in the fact that they would occasionally make her feel like a young child again.

Luke’s thoughts were apparently in the same vein as her’s, because he asked in a halfway serious  voice “Think we’re going to get grounded?”

She flashed him a big smile “I hope not. I promised Mon that I would help her with her paperwork tomorrow, and that would be rather tricky from my room.”

Han snorted “Everything went fine, what’s to worry about? We got the goods, nobody’s hurt, and best of all, no briefing because this was a private mission.”

She and Luke exchanged glances, his openly startled. Han’s background wasn’t something Luke knew anything about, yet, but that remark revealed a lot more than Han intended to him.

When Chewie descended down the gangplank first, the cart of their precious cargo behind him, Leia heard a small cheer rise from the flight deck crew. Apparently, the rumor mill had been in overdrive concerning this little mission. The Alliance leadership might not have deemed this mission critical but the rank and file did.

Rex was waiting there, in front of her parents, his arms crossed, tension vibrating from every pore. He visibly relaxed when he saw the three of them descended the gangplank. Then his eyes narrowed on Kenobi.

“You look like hell? Somebody bleeding?

“Nobody is bleeding Rex,” Obi-Wan responded in a tired voice “Just some unexpected complications.”

“Yeah, that’s a surprise, because that never happens on any of your missions.”

Bail gave a small laugh and he and Breha came over to hug her and Luke.

Han descend next and the clone gave him a hard glare “They’re all in one piece, congratulations you get to live.”

“See!!” Han cried out to Chewie, who was waiting patiently on the ground for them to disembark. “I told you that he threatened to kill me!”

Chewie just gave a soft snort <With how many people you piss off, it can’t be that surprising Han.>

Deciding to ignore his friends comment Han turned back to Rex “Next time, I don’t care what the leadership says, you are coming with us. They” and he gestured to her and Luke “are hard enough to keep in line. I’m not doing it for gramps over here too.”

Rex actually laughed “What did he do?”

Obi-Wan sniffed delicately “Nothing too outrageous.”

“He charged a Hutt.” Han contradicted.

Rex frowned “Isn’t that a little counterproductive?”

Luke gave a cheerful grin “Oh no, he had mechanical legs and was running at us at full speed.”

Rex’s stared at her, as he expected her to refute that statement. She gave a small shrug, it was true after all. “Well, now I have heard of everything. Why did he have mechanical legs?” then he shook his head “No, on second thought I withdraw the question. I don’t want to know.”

Breha gave her and Luke a hard look “And what did you two do that has Captain Solo so worried?”

Luke lightly scuffed his foot into the ground in embarrassment. “Oh, nothing too outrageous.”

“He set fire to the building we were robbing. While we were still in it.” Han said flatly.

“Tattle tale,” Luke muttered.

Rex gave a considering look at Luke “Distraction?” he asked.

“Distraction.” Luke agreed.

Rex looked at Han and then laughed out loud. “Consider yourself lucky Solo. If it had been his father he would have used explosives.” At Han’s look of disbelief, he gave a jaunty salute to Obi-Wan and walked off.

“Am I the only one with any sense?” he demanded of no one in particular.

<That’s pushing it Han.> Chewie muttered. <I distinctly remember that bar->

Han’s face grew worried and he cut Chewie off, shooting a worried look in Leia’s direction “We said we were never going to talk about the Florrum system incident ever again.”

The Wookie only snickered.

“Luke,” Obi-Wan called out. “Could you please go with Captain Solo and Chewbacca and put these away in the storage room. I'll meet you in my quarters when we’re done.”

“Of course Ben, I mean Master.” he gave a clumsy bow and trotted off with the two other men.

Leia gave Obi-Wan a wary glance. “What did you want to talk about that you didn't want him to overhear?”

“About what you did do to worry Captain Solo.” Her mother’s pleasant court mask fell over her face and Bail paled a little.

“I didn’t do anything.” she insisted, giving her parents a reassuring smile.

Obi-Wan looking over to the couple and taking in their reactions amended “You are correct. But what is being done around you is worrisome.”

Vader was always worrisome, she didn’t see anything new about that. “Not here.”

“Shall we adjourn to our quarters?” Breha asked and Leia winced. If her mother was retreating into this formal of a tone and language she must be out of her mind with worry.

“Lead the way,” Obi-Wan said and the four of them departed to her parent’s room.

 

Bail and Breha sat at the table, with Obi-Wan sitting across from them. Feeling a bit trapped, and not understanding Kenobi's clear agitation, Leia opted for the chair this time.

As she sat in it Bail asked, his face drawn in worry “What is this about Obi-Wan?”

“Vader was there,” he answered. Her mother gasped and looked at Leia in worry.

“You saw him?” she asked.

Leia shook her head. “No, he was in the building, and he had access to the speaker system, so I definitely heard him, but he never got close.”

“Him being on the same planet as you is close enough!” Bail shouted. Leia looked at him in surprise, startled by his loss of control.

“Forgive me,” he said. “I shouldn’t have yelled.”

“It’s okay Papa, it’s a subject that is definitely worth yelling about,” Leia reassured him. “I’m not happy about it either.”

“What happened?” her mother pressed

Leia scowled “I’m sorry, I messed up.  I sincerely thought the spy was only an Imperial, not a member of the 501st.”

Obi-Wan shook his head. “That’s actually understandable. These are very old events from your perspective. No, what concerns me is the offer he made you.”

Leia blinked “You don’t think I had any desire to take him up on it do you?” she asked shocked that was the conclusion the older man had come to.

“Of course not,” and now the smooth veneer was beginning to slip.

“What offer?” Bail demanded.

“He offered to let the rest of us go if Leia came to him,” Obi-Wan explained. “But again that is not where my concern lies.”

“Then what is your concern Master Jedi?” Leia snapped, losing patience with this circular conversation.

“That you believed him. You didn’t even hesitate, you treated it like it was a genuine offer. One you rejected out of hand” he said, quelling any protests from her parents ”but you still believed he’d honor it.”

Leia frowned “Yes I did.”

Obi-Wan’s face shifted from horror to disbelief to that infuriatingly blank mask of his. “Why? Could you sense his emotions?”

“No, he was blank to me just like he was to you.”

Obi-Wan swallowed hard “Then why did you believe him?”

“Because between his behavior above the Death Star and his constant attempts to break through my shields to talk to me I know he’s desperate. Desperate enough to honor any agreement he enters into with me.” She wasn’t going to even bother getting into the dream conversation that she had with him. That was a problem she had fixed, so they didn’t need to know.

“What does any of that have to do with you believing that he’d let us go after killing you?” Obi-Wan demanded.

Wait, what? Somewhere in this conversation the two of them had started talking past each other. “Why do you think he wants to kill me?” she asked shocked.  

All three of them exchanged startled looks and turned back to stare at her.

“Why don’t you?” Bail finally asked.

“Because if he wanted to, he would have already done it. He could have killed me in that cell, I certainly was in no frame of mind to defend myself. Hell, he had a clear shot of me over the Death Star when I was covering Luke. He didn’t take it.”

“He doesn’t want to kill you?” Obi-Wan asked finally, something like hope in his voice.

She shook her head. “No.”

Breha’s quiet voice intruded “Leia, what exactly did happen in that cell?”

She looked at her mother, at the fear and concern that was written across her face, across all their faces. But she didn’t want to talk about that. Even thinking about it made her mind cloud with fear. So she turned the question back on them. “Why are you all so certain he would want to kill either me or Luke?”  

Obi-Wan’s voice went flat. “He’s a Sith Lord Leia. Family ties are not something they are known for. I thought at first...after I learned that he fell, that there might be something of Anakin left. When I got to Mustafar and found what he did to your mother…” his voice broke then, and his grief came up in a giant wave to crash against her shields. What exactly had Vader done to their mother? He thought she died there obviously, or she and Luke’s survival wouldn’t have been much of a secret. But what precisely had he done that lead to her death?

Before she could ask Bail cut in “You and Luke are quite possibly the greatest potential threat to him. Both as individuals capable of meeting him in a fight head on, but also as possible replacement apprentices to the Emperor. He knows this. So we always assumed if he learned of either of you or your brother’s existence…” his voice trailed off.

“That he would kill us.” she finished.

“Yes.”

That actually made a great deal of sense, if you didn’t have all the facts Leia did. It’s not like she hadn’t asked herself that very same question after he learned of her parentage. But if she was going to be honest with herself, now that she was further away from the event, it was no more than an idle speculation on her part. She had never really considered that he would try to kill her. Hadn’t she protected Luke in the most obvious way possible? Gambling on the fact that he wanted her alive. And his frantic screaming at her above the Death Star, and subsequent withdrawal as to not break her concentration, only reinforced that belief. No, what she feared from Vader was nothing as kind as death.

“I see your point.” she said slowly and thoughtfully, “But I think there are a few factors you didn’t take into consideration.”

“Like what?” Obi-Wan’s voice was full of bitterness “He doesn’t want to kill you because you aren’t a Jedi? That’s helpful, but it still leaves Luke as vulnerable to him as your Luke was.”

She slapped her hands down on the table, frustration at his unfair accusation making her blood boil. He thought she would leave Luke vulnerable? She had practically dared Vader to a suicide pact to protect Luke. What had Kenobi done? Filled his head with stories about his heroic father and the horrible monster that killed him. “He doesn’t want us dead, he wants us to turn Obi-Wan!!” she hissed through her teeth.

Bail’s tan face lost all its color. “What?”

She closed her eyes, damn it, she had forgotten they were still here. She hadn’t meant to disclose that to her parents. They had enough to deal with, without having this burden placed on them as well. Well, there was no choice now but to go on.

“That is what he offered my,” she thought of this Luke’s soft words on the Falcon, and no, that wasn’t the right word to use here, “I mean the other Luke. The factors I was referring to” and here she shot Kenobi a hardened glare “was that when this all started we were infants. Of no use to anyone, and yes, a major potential threat. But we are now adults and are very useful pieces in this little game.”

“It’s not a game Leia.” her mother said reproachfully “It’s the fate of the galaxy itself.”

Well, not the whole galaxy, nobody controlled the Unknown Regions, but she knew what her mother was trying to say. “I know Mama. But I have to think of it that way or I’ll never stop screaming.”

Obi-Wan leaned back in the booth, every line of exhaustion suddenly prominent on his face. He shook his head in contradiction. “There are only ever two Sith Leia. A master and an apprentice.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that,” she said, trying to understand where the man's head was at. He normally wasn’t this slow. “And that is precisely what Vader is going to do.”

A bleak sense of despair entered his eyes. “He wants to kill Palpatine.”

“The other Vader definitely did and I’m guessing that this one does too. But if that is his goal, he is going to need help.”

“Hence his offer to you on Nar Shaddaa.”

“Yes.”

He gave a long weary sigh. “Luke rejected it?”

She gave him an unimpressed stare. He raised his hands defensively “I’m merely trying not to assume anything Leia. I think I’ve already filled my quota of that today.”

“Yes. He did, emphatically.”

Bail spoke up “And Vader make the same offer to you on the Death Star?”

She shook her head. “No.”

Breha frowned “What did he do?”

She didn’t want to talk about this, she didn’t want to even think about this, but it was her mother asking, and she desired to know how much danger her daughter was in. “At first he just froze.” Then his voice, although she hadn’t been aware it was his voice at the time, and that long painful wail of No, not again. Had he choked her birth mother? Is that what set him off? Thinking over his reaction, if she didn’t know any better, she would have thought he had a panic attack in that cell with her.

“Leia?” her mother asked, as the silence grew to an uncomfortable length.

“He just asked if his alternate knew I was his daughter and walked out when I didn’t answer the question. He never offered me anything.”

“And later? Did he offer you anything later?” Obi-Wan pressed. “You said he got loud over the Death Star, is that what he was offering you?”

I cannot protect you while you remain with the Rebellion.

A ploy and a trick, that is what that offer was. Offering her safety so that he could work on her at his leisure. She focused back in on the here and now.

She gave a bitter smile. “No, I cut him off before he could finish what he was saying. I don’t think so though. Maybe he doesn’t think women are meant to rule. Palpatine certainly seems to think it’s beyond us.”

Obi-Wan actually laughed at that. “No. There are many things I was wrong about concerning his character, but he never had that particular flaw.”

Oh, well wasn’t that nice to know.

She shrugged “Then I have no idea. Maybe he just hasn’t gotten around to it yet. It’s not something I’m interested in any way. What would I do with a galaxy-wide Empire? Sounds awfully boring.”

Her parents broke out into relieved smiles at her admittedly weak joke, but it served to break the tension a bit, which is what she intended. She felt herself yawn and thought longingly of her bed. It had been a long day on so many fronts, and all she wanted to do now was crawl into it and let the oblivion of sleep take her for a few hours.

“Is there anything else?” she asked.

Her parents shook their heads, “Then I’m going to bed.”

Obi-Wan stood “And I have to meet with Luke in my quarters. Leia, would you mind some company on your walk?”

“Sure.” So what did he want to discuss that he didn’t want her parents involved in?.

He was silent until they reached her door, “May I come in?”

She seriously considered refusing him entry. She was tired, and she didn’t want to fight with him right this second. On the other hand, they had put this conversation off for far too long, and waiting would only make it worse. Sighing she opened her door and gestured for him to come in.

He looked around, curiously, taking in the small space. “Cozy.” he finally offered.

“I don’t spend much time here so it doesn’t much matter,” she said simply. She let the silence grow. He was the one who wanted to talk, if he wanted to put it off, that was fine by her.

“Leia,” he began, then he sat tiredly on her bed “I’m concerned about Luke.” So apparently they weren’t going to address the issues between them. Fine, Luke was something they could agree on.

“Why?”

His hands twisted in his lap “His reaction to you being in danger is a bit, well, extreme.”

Her eyes narrowed “I don’t follow.”

“I understand that he is young, and not a Jedi padawan, but I’m worried that his anger against Vader is building into something that he will lose control of.”

It wasn’t an unreasonable fear. Luke’s anger at the Sith Lord had been bad enough in her original timeline when he just believed that Vader had killed his father, and set into motion the events that led to the murder of his Aunt and Uncle. Those were all still events that had happened here, and now they were adding his knowledge of who killed Bigg’s and her into the mix. Luke believed that Vader was a clear and present danger to her personally. And she had no way of reassuring him that wasn’t the case. Even if she told him right now Vader was their father and didn’t want her dead, he was still a threat to her because of what he wanted.

The months following Bespin had been a roller coaster of emotions for Luke. She hadn’t understood it at the time, lacking context and wrapped up in her own bone-numbing fear regarding Han, but she had noticed. Later, when they talked about that time, Luke confessed how hard it all of it had been for him. And yes, his anger at all the betrayal in his life, from almost everyone he trusted, certainly had been a big part of it. But he also mourned the loss of that anger that had driven him to confront Vader in the first place. That sense of righteousness, that need for justice to be done. It had been taken away and he had been left floundering in its absence.

“Doesn’t sound like a very Jedi concept.” she had told him.

“No, it wasn’t.” He said, “Which is why I wasn’t a Jedi yet when I left Dagobah the first time. But it was still there Leia, I still had to deal with it. Saying it’s not very Jedi-like isn’t actually a solution to processing anything. That’s just denial.”

She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “I can talk to him, try to reassure him, but I don’t think that is going to solve anything long term.”

Obi-Wan bit his lip “No, I don’t think it will either, but I don’t know how to deal with this.”

“Well, maybe you should stop with the stories of our wonderful father? Maybe not encourage him to be so attached?” she said snidely. Why had even started doing that? What possible purpose could it serve?

Obi-Wan stiffened “I haven’t said anything that isn’t true. And he wants to know.”

She gritted her teeth. He was worried about the wrong things. Leia was afraid of what it would do to who Luke became when he found out. Obi-Wan was worried about what Luke would do when asked to kill his father.  And here they all were, courting the exact same reaction the other Luke had, only on a much larger scale.

Would this send Luke to the Dark Side? Unlikely, she had more faith in her brother than that, but it could turn him into someone very different. He could be like her, someone who never found peace with their heritage, and held it all at arm's bay. She had always envied that about him. Not enough to emulate him, but enough that it gave her the odd twinge now and then. Especially when she considered that she knew her mother would have agreed with Luke. “Forgiveness is offered freely, not earned because we all make mistakes, and one day you are going to be the one asking.” she had told Leia many times when her spite against someone burned.

“You encouraging him on this path is a dangerous line of thinking.”

“No, this is the most important task, to annihilate the Sith. Luke needs to be focused on his training to accomplish that.”

That statement had a flavor of hate to it. “I thought revenge wasn’t the Jedi way.”

Obi-Wan blinked in surprise “You would disagree he needs to be stopped?”

He would ask that of her? Of all people? The injustice of the accusation was shredding her already tenuous control over her temper. It had been a long day, she was exhausted, and he was being stupid. “No I would disagree with you and Yoda turning us into unknowing patricides.” she shot back.

He blinked as if this angle hadn’t occurred to him. “You want him dead.” he ventured.

She rolled her eyes. “Yes, I do. But that is my choice, and I make it with all full knowledge of the particulars. If it's so important he be dead why don't you do it? You took him down before.”

He stood up, agitation pouring off of him “I told you he was half out of his mind during that fight. That is the only way I managed to win. There is no way I can take him now!”

“Then why didn’t you kill him then?” she practically howled. “You would have saved us all a world of trouble.”

He flinched and the pain that came across his face was an open wound. “Because you still loved him. That was..” her voice trailed off as too many word choices filled her mind. Stupid. Dumb. Suicidal. Ignorant. Then she stopped. She didn’t, couldn’t, understand why Kenobi loved such a monster, but it was clear he did and it was not her place to mock it or the pain it caused him.

“I don’t love Vader.” he said weariness in his tone “I loved Anakin and he is dead. All I can do is make sure his murderer doesn’t do the same to his son.”

Okay, they were heading into dangerous territory here. “That is your truth, but it's not the truth Obi-Wan," she said. This insistence on dividing Anakin Skywalker from Vader was foolish at best, delusional at worst. "And because you are clinging so hard to it you're fatally crippling Luke in any confrontation he will have with Vader.”

Anger, true and genuine swirled around them “You think I would ever place him in danger?”

“Willingly, no. But I know how this plays out.”

He sneered, the expression looking wrong on that elegant face. “You know how a possibility of it plays out.”

Her back stiffened “I know Luke. I understand you are asking him to do what you could not, and now can’t. I understand you are placing the burden on him of cleaning up your mess. I understand you are taking his choices away. I understand, better than you ever will that it would destroy him if he did kill Vader and learned the truth after.”

A smirk crossed his face “And if it’s so important, why don’t you do it?”

She actually stepped back at her own words being thrown in her face. In a very clean elegant way, he had hit on the guilt that was building every day she didn’t disclose the truth. Even now, with so much at stake, she couldn’t even imagine trying to break this to her brother.

She narrowed her eyes at the older man “You know why I won’t. Because it would cause him pain and break his heart, and I don't want to be the one who delivers the blow. And frankly, right now I would handle it so badly as to make the situation so much worse.”

And here she stepped up until she was right in Obi-Wan’s face “But I’m not the one who filled his head with stories about our father being kind, loving, and so wonderful. I’m not the one who did this deliberately to Luke to get him focused on his ‘murderer” so he will do what needs to be done. I think he would take it better hearing it from you and you would be better at delivering it, but not enough to wait much longer. This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been forced to make a hard decision and won’t be the last. We are going to run out of time on this, Vader is going to find out and believe me, he won’t be very quiet on that."

Obi-Wan scowled "You had the Alliance withhold Luke's name. Do you really think that won't work to keep him hidden?"

"He destroyed the Death Star!!" she shot right back "The Empire is right now marshaling every effort to learn the name of that pilot! You think you are protecting Luke from the truth will help in doing what needs to be done, but it's his choice to make, not yours."

Obi-Wan's face paled and took a step back from her. His jaw clenched and unclenched. "I will take what you said under advisement." he said finally, through gritted teeth. "Now if you will excuse me." he gave her a short bow and walked to the door.

Before he could exit she called out "Kenobi, a warning. If you don't tell him, and tell him soon, I will.” He didn't respond as he walked out of her room.

 

Chapter Text

 ABA - Day 51

 

Leia entered the gym in a foul mood. She hadn’t slept well, and her conversation with Kenobi was still preying on her mind. The only thing that could have made things worse was if Vader had come calling last night, but he was strangely silent. On the other hand, she had to admit, if only to herself, that it might have been useful to have him try to talk to her. It would have been very cathartic to vent all of her frustrations on someone without feeling guilty.

Luke was already running when she got there, the gym mostly empty. She waited until her brother lapped the circle to where she was at and she fell into step beside him. He didn’t say anything, was just determinedly moving forward. That wasn’t so strange, his silence in the Force however was.

She sent a soft “Hey,” at him, but he determinedly ignored her. Alright then, something was clearly up with him.

“Are you okay?” she finally asked out loud, as they completed the first loop and he still hadn’t said a word to her.

“Are you ever going to tell me?” he said back, hostility dancing in his tone.

She started, taken aback by both his tone and question, and she almost lost her rhythm on the run. “Tell you what?” she asked cautiously, heart in her throat, as she tried not to jump to any conclusions. Her conscience piped up that clearly the old man had taken her words to heart about Vader and told Luke last night. She had threatened to tell Luke, yes, but given his mood when he left her quarters she never seriously thought Kenobi would do it.

“About what Vader wants with you!!” that came through clearly enough, as did his anger. Leia felt a wash of relief go through her. So Obi-Wan had kept his mouth shut. She wouldn't have to face this particular hurdle today. Then she cursed herself for her hypocrisy and cowardice on this subject. She couldn’t avoid this forever, she knew that.

“No.” she answered, then caught the wave of hurt and disbelief on his face. “At least not yet.” she amended.

“Why?” there was a whine to that word that was grating to Leia’s ears. He’s young, she reminded herself. He’s only nineteen, and you are not. This was the first time since she had arrived here in this time, that the gulf between them had felt so large. She was so used to being in synch with Luke, that this misstep between them was jarring.

“It’s complicated.”

“Not complicated enough that you didn’t tell Obi-Wan!” there was jealousy there now. Why was he jealous? “Why do you trust him and not me?” Where in the hell had he gotten that idea from?

“Luke, what’s going on?” Leia asked, honestly baffled. He was holding himself tight in the Force, she could gather nothing from him without moving beyond passive listening and that would be a serious violation of his trust. No matter how much she wanted to know.

He actually stopped running, and she was so taken aback by that she actually kept going a few steps beyond him. She stopped and turned around to face him. His face was drawn into tight lines as he spat in a low urgent whisper “Why won’t you tell me?” So he wasn't so far gone in whatever this was not to be mindful of the other occupants in the room “I know you and Obi-Wan discussed it last night. He wouldn’t tell me either. Said I should let it go in the Force, and not worry about it.”

Oh, of course, the old man had given the worst advice ever. He should instead encourage Luke to actually acknowledge and process his anger. Or at the very least tell Luke he had the right to feel whatever he wanted. It was what he did with those feelings that was the issue. She shoved those thoughts aside, that was a problem for another time.

Luke continued on, stepping closer to her, agitation in his every step. “Whatever you said to him has him spooked. He came back from your quarters white as a sheet. Are you trying to protect me from the truth? I know I’m younger than you but I’m not a child. I can handle it.”

He most certainly could, at least he did before. But she wasn't sure that this was something she could handle. Not only did she not want to do this she wasn't sure she had the heart for it. How the hell had Luke had found the courage to tell her? And face Vader? All in the same night? She focused back in on this Luke, not the possibility of who he could be. The one in front of her was clearly upset, and platitudes like Kenobi had tried to placate him with would only make this worse.

She stuck with the truth. “I can handle this.” she insisted.

“I know you think that.” he countered “But Leia, I think this might be beyond even you.”

She scowled at him “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“I believe in you,” he said, then his face contorted like he was in great pain. “But it’s me I’m not so sure on. I can’t let it happen again.”

Leia blinked, suddenly the check he had on himself fell, and it wasn’t anger she was getting off him. It was pain and fear that slapped her like a great wave. “Let what happen again?” she asked bewildered.

“Come back and find that the Empire has killed my family.”

Fear, more specifically fear for her was what was driving this. This wasn’t the reaction she had expected. Of course, by the time the other Luke had discovered they were related, it was three years out from the murder of his Uncle and Aunt. They were also in the beginning stages of the Empire’s collapse and they all had known it. His Jedi training and the lessons he had learned during his three years with the rebellion probably helped him maintain an even keel. This Luke, the one standing before her, trembling with every fear and worry in his heart was nineteen, newly orphaned, and part of a guerrilla group facing an almost impossible task. She should have realized that, for all that they were similar, she shouldn't expect him to react in ways his alternate did. She should listen to what he was saying, not what she expected to hear.

She stepped forward, her mouth opening to tell him everything. Enough of her quibbling. This wasn’t fair to him. She couldn’t leave him in this much pain simply to avoid the inevitable truth. Before she could even utter a word he startled her by also stepping forward to grab her in a fierce hug. He was shaking. She tightened her own arms in response and reflexively sent comfort to him through the Force. His response to this was to practically collapse against her, and she staggered. There was movement in the corner of her eye, and she saw someone come over, concern on his face. She gave a shake of her head, indicating she didn’t need his help with this, and slowly lowered them both to the floor.

Luke sobbed, they were great wracking sobs that shook his frame. The few people left in the gym quietly exited, leaving the two of them with Luke’s grief. The wasn’t the first time someone in the Alliance had a breakdown in a public area, and it wouldn’t be the last. It was unfortunate their cause didn’t seem to attract more people who had training in mind healing. They did their best with counseling, but it was always a struggle to find people. It wasn’t like they could outright hire someone.

Luke didn't scream or shout, just continued to sob and sob as Leia whispered reassurances in his ear. She should have seen this coming. Luke had never been shy about showing his protectiveness of her. The incident with Vader yesterday had shaken him badly. On top of that, the mood Obi-Wan had been in when he returned to his quarter had only intensified his worry and concern. Luke had been like a detonator, with the fuse lit, waiting to explode at the first person with answers who cross his path.

She had promised Luke she would stay out of his dreams, but now she was regretting that she had not at least left her sense of him open. Vader threatening her like that, at least what he thought of as Vader threatening her, had ripped open every wound he had in his grief. If she had been paying attention to him last night, she would have been prepared when she walked into this room and not bungled this all so badly.

Luke’s sobs calmed down enough that he was able to speak. “I left because R2 tricked me into removing his restraining bolt.” He gave a soft hiccup “He showed a glimpse of your message and said the bolt was interfering with his ability to retrieve the whole message. Did you know that?”

“Yes,” she said softly, her own guilt in getting his family caught up in this hitting her anew. “He told me about it.”

“I couldn't chase him in the dark. Tatooine is not a place where you want to get caught out at night. I got up early that morning to track him down, and I took Threepio along for help. I didn’t even say goodbye to either of them I just bolted out of there as fast as I could. I knew that if I didn’t bring him back, and soon, Uncle Owen was going to tan my hide for being so damn stupid. Stupid gets you killed in the desert, fast. As Ben proved when the Tuskens came up on me unawares. Then I spent the morning with him. He tried to convince me to go with him to save you.” A harsh sob escaped him “And I refused. I refused to save my own twin….”

“No,” she said firmly, placing her head on top of his, and tightening her grip on him. “You had no way of knowing that Luke.”

“But I knew you were important!!” he wailed, “I didn't know why, but I certainly felt it. And I definitely knew the fight against the Empire was important. And I did nothing. “

Well, you would have done something if Obi-Wan would have bothered to open his mouth. So she was still a little raw at the old man for that. Thirty years of resentment of the two of them being denied that knowledge was hard to let go of. But that wasn’t the important issue here, Luke was. How long had he allowed this guilt and grief to fester without saying anything to anyone?

“Then heading back to the farm, all I could feel was my resentment building that they were keeping me on Tatooine. That they needed my help and because I loved them I couldn’t leave. Then we saw the smoke from the Jawa’s traveler. When Ben told me about why they had been attacked….” his voice trailed off.

That was when he rushed back home to find everything gone. Leia closed her eyes and merely continued to rest her head on top of her brothers. She couldn’t tell him about Vader, not like this. But for his sake, this fear and worry for her would eat him alive, she couldn’t put it off much longer. A day, maybe two at the most. But to do it now would shatter him into a million pieces. He needed to bleed this wound off, and the least she could do was help him with that. And perhaps offer a bit of comfort.

There was no pleasant lie she could give him, not one that he would believe anyway, as much as she wished otherwise. So she stuck with the truth. Lifting her own head up, she grabbed his in her hands she forced him to look her in the eyes.

“I can’t promise that I won’t die.” she said gently, a small rueful smile touching her lips “I am living proof that anything can happen. But I can promise this. That if the worse somehow does happen to me, that I never wanted to go. And that I made each and every one of them pays for every inch they take.”

He gave a watery chuckle “I wouldn’t expect anything less.” Then his expression sobered.  “And Vader?”

“I can handle Vader.”

His hands came atop of hers and he leaned in so their foreheads were touching. “You’re afraid of him.” he whispered, his voice hoarse “ I’ve never seen you afraid. Tired, angry, frustrated, but never afraid. And you’ve experienced involuntary time travel.”

She swallowed hard, “Of course I am, I’d be a fool not to be,” and oh how that confession burned, but this was Luke. Lying to him about her fear was like lying to herself, it wasn’t something she could get away with for long. “But I want you to listen to me, really listen to me.” She waited until she could feel him in the Force, attention fixed on her. “Am I lying when I tell you I can handle it?”

He searched her face carefully, measuring the strength of her resolve, then a reluctant “No.” A pensive look crossed his face, then he followed up with “You sure?”

“As sure as I can be.”

Luke let his hands drop from hers, and sat back, pulling himself from her embrace. He wiped the tears from his face. “I really don’t feel like finishing our run.”

“I don’t either,” she confessed. Then inspiration struck and she leaned in conspiratorially “Let’s go by the cafeteria and find the sweetest, fat filled, unhealthy breakfast we can and take it to my parent’s quarters.”

“With hot chocolate?” he asked hopefully.

“Pfft,” she said dismissively “As if we would get anything else.”

“You have a deal.” Luke’s eyes looked a little brighter. Then he whispered, “Love you.”

“Love you too.” And Leia hoped one day he would forgive her for everything she wasn’t saying.

 

ABA - Day 52

Leia was walking through the hanger deck, looking for Han, when she was startled to see Obi-Wan loading up one of the Alliance’s scout ships. She debated for a moment on letting him be, of walking on by and not saying anything. The rudeness of that gesture bothered her though. It was so small and petty. Not that she couldn’t be petty, but in general she preferred to do it on a grand scale.  They couldn’t avoid each other forever, she might as well get this over with now, where there were witnesses to reign both of them in. She walked up to the gangplank as he, without noticing her, picked up his box and started walking up the plank to deposit it in the ship.

“Did I chase you away?” she inquired to his back, only half in jest. She saw him momentarily stiffen, then deliberately relax.

He turned around and gently placed the box down. Leia was startled to not that it was one of the Jedi data archive boxes. “No, Leia. I just need to get these somewhere safe.”

“They aren’t safe here?” she inquired, puzzlement chasing away her irritation at him. They were well guarded here, and not so easy to remove. Who on this base did he think would try to steal them? Did Draven warn him about possible spies? The Empire might burn one of them to retrieve the contents, but it was an awful risk to take.

Sensing her confusion Obi-Wan gave a sigh. “Given what I’ve learned about the numerous successive bases the Alliance has had to leave in a hurry, no.” He rubbed a hand over his forehead, “We might have to evacuate this base at any moment. I do not want to endanger what we have, but neither do I want anyone to die trying to bring it with them. I spent most of yesterday going through the holocrons and removed three for the purposes of training Luke. The rest of them, the data archives and lightsabers I’m moving to a more secure location.”

Leia didn’t comment on the fact that it didn’t take long to figure out what was on a Jedi holocron. It should have taken him two, maybe three hours tops to go through all of them. But some of those holocrons more than likely had been created by dead friends. She knew well the hit that gave a person. She still hadn’t made it through the entirety of her photo holo. She could only look at a few before she had to shut it off. It was too painful to see old beloved faces that had soften in her memory, and that was with the knowledge that as far as she knew those people were still alive.

Removing such precious items from an active Imperial target made a great deal of sense when put that way. “Where are you taking them?” she asked curiously.

He opened his mouth to answer her, then looked around the hanger, remembering that there were ears everywhere.  A look of concern passed over his face and Leia realized with a jolt he was weighing if he could trust her with this. She took a deep breath in, let the indignation fill her, acknowledged the pettiness of it, then let it go with her outbound breath. He had the right to treat her as warily as she did him. Besides she was a high-value target. Chances were high she would be taken alive, and well...that line of thinking lead to unpleasant memories and increasing the odds she would have a nightmare tonight. The less she knew about this the better. She waited patiently for what he would say in answer to her question. His eyes met hers, assessing her, and coming to some sort of judgment. He murmured quietly “An old friend.”

Yoda. He was going to take this all to Yoda. She had to admit it made a great deal of sense. Dagobah was remote, isolated, and Yoda would make a dedicated caretaker. It would only take a few precautions to protect these items from the moisture in the swamp, but it was definitely the last place in the galaxy the Empire would look for them. Then another reason occurred to her about why Obi-Wan had selected that location beside storing their stolen booty.

“Going to catch him up on everything that has happened so far?” she asked, also mindful of all the ears on the flight deck. Obi-Wan was still enough of a novelty that he attracted attention.

A flare of disappointment came from him and his shoulders slumped “Must you always attribute everything I do to underhanded motives?’ he asked, frustration leaking into his voice.

Leia blinked, shocked that he had taken that so personally. It wasn’t just him, it was everyone who did things for multiple reasons. This had nothing to do with her wariness of him. “I attribute almost everyone to having second motives.”

He snorted “Then why do you only ever ask me?”

“Because you know I’m not everything I appear to be,” she said. “It doesn’t look out of character to you.”

A look of startlement washed over his face as if he hadn’t considered that fact. Then the suspicion came right back. “Your parents and Luke both know everything and I don’t see you interrogating them in this manner.”

Her eyebrow arched “That’s because I know them Obi-Wan. They don’t need to tell me all their reasons because I have a pretty good idea of them already. And if I don’t, I trust them enough to follow along with what they ask me to do.”

“You don’t trust me?” he said, sounding hurt.

Leia bit her lip. No, she didn’t, but she didn’t need the Force to tell her the precipice they were dancing on right now in regards to their relationship. What she said now could reverberate between them for years, and they would always have Luke caught between them. She had many reservations and worries about Obi-Wan, the main one being his blind and stubborn attitude towards Vader. It was placing Luke in danger. But she understood that he didn’t see it that way even if she thought he was a fool for doing so. Nothing he had done so far suggested he would ever willing betray or deliberately hurt Luke. He had sacrificed twenty years on that dustball to protect her brother and those actions had a lot of influence in tempering her words.

“Despite the enormous influence you have had on my life, and the lives of the people I love, I met you for the first time a little over a month ago Obi-Wan. I don’t know you. And what I do know of you is contradictory in the extreme. For all intents and purposes, you are a stranger, one who has enormous influence and power over people I love.”

His face lost its combative edge and grew thoughtful as he tugged his beard. “So you do like me?”

He had left his shields open to her, and all she could feel was his vulnerability and hope. Her opinion of him mattered. She didn’t understand why it mattered to him, but it did. “Yes, for the most part. I just don’t understand you. Which isn’t the best place to be, given how intertwined you are in my life.” She paused, then took a deep breath, wondering what she actually hoped his answer to this next question would be. “Luke is central to both our lives, we can’t forever be pulling him in two different directions. So Obi-Wan, I ask the same question of you. Do you trust me? Like me?”

He looked so sad as he answered her “Leia, I happen to care about you a great deal.” No answer to the trust question though. Han was right, he was a cagey bastard sometimes.

“Except when I scare you.”He looked away from her not meeting her eyes, taking a deep breath in. As uncomfortable as she was making both of them this wasn’t a point she could let slide. “I’m not blind Obi-Wan. It’s not often, I will give you that, but it happens enough.”

“This was not the situation I was expecting to walk into after twenty years in the desert,” he finally settled on, raising his eyes to meet hers “Can you blame me for taking time to adjust?” The fact that the Force, for whatever reason, had decided to bring her wasn’t the only thing she had done to scare him, and they both knew. There were times when he looked at her like she was a detonator that was about go off in his hand. But this wasn’t something she could press him on, not here in front of all these witnesses.  She allowed her frustration with him to fill the Force between them.

His face twisted into something like regret, but instead of addressing her point he offered “I had intended to fill in my old friend with all the current gossip, but I can certainly refrain if you wish.”

Now, here was a sticky offer from him. As much as she wished otherwise, the fewer people who knew a secret, the less likely it would spill, the smart move here was to inform Yoda. She rubbed the bridge of her nose, trying to massage away the tension headache she could feel building.  “He should be told. A lot of circumstances he was counting on have been thrown into flux.” And their twenty-year-old plan for bringing down Palpatine and Vader now had a lot of holes blown into it by her arrival. “Besides there is no telling if our light blue friend has already blabbed,” she said, a sour tone in her voice as she thought of the pushy and dead Jedi master.

Realizing that insulting his training master was perhaps not the most politic move right this minute she offered “My apologies I don’t mean to disparage him to your face.”

Obi-Wan actually threw his head back and laughed out loud “My dear, you are most certainly not the first person to have that tone when talking about him. And you were a good deal politer about it then most of the comments I’ve heard about him”

Oh, good, the man had been just as annoying in life. His face sobered as his mirth died.

She swallowed, wanting nothing more than to flee this conversation but she had one more point to press. “Luke told me a bit of what you said to him last night.”

His eyebrow arched “Oh?”

“Yes. In the future, I would suggest you might find better ways to advise Luke on how to deal with his feelings. Telling him to let it go is a wonderful way to sound mysterious and wise, but for practical purposes, it's next to useless advice to someone who wasn’t raised in a Jedi Temple.” She tried to keep the accusation out of her voice. It would only make Obi-Wan defensive and he wouldn’t listen to what she was trying to say.

Now it was his turn to sigh “I actually do know that. But I confess to being very rattled last night by our conversation and fell into old habits. I will speak with Luke when I get back and apologize. And try to explain better what I meant.”

“Thank you,” she said. She shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably. She wasn’t going to apologize for last night, she had meant everything she had said, and Kenobi certainly needed the sharp wake up call in some regards.

She gave him a sharp nod in farewell, ending the conversation “Well I hope everything goes well for you.” she paused then added, “May the Force be with you.”

He gave a nod back “Thank you, Leia. May it also be with you.”

 

ABA - Day 54

Leia and Luke arrived at her parents quarters for breakfast, only to be greeted by Threepio.

“Good morning Princess Leia, Master Luke.” the droid said, “Princess Leia your parents asked me to convey the message that both of you should meet them in the Alliance central command.”

Leia felt a cold frisson of fear dance down her spine “Did they say why?”

“I am very sorry, but that information was not left with me.”

“Threepio how long have you been here?”  Luke asked.

“Their highnesses were called into a command leadership meeting about two hours ago. Queen Breha instructed me to wait here for you about an hour ago.”

Leia whirled and took off running down the corridors, Luke on her heels. It took every ounce of her self-control not to use the Force to increase her speed. It would only buy her a minute at most, and the questions she would have to answer wouldn't be worth that.Her mind whirled with all the possibilities that this could be. She had checked in with the analysts last night, and everything had been reported as quiet on Alderaan. Maybe marshall law had been declared? A natural disaster of some sort? Had massive broken out? Someone they knew had been executed? A cacophony of worse case scenarios beat in her head as she raced passed startled personnel, weaving her way through the corridors. She tried to reason with herself, if her parents hadn’t sent C3-PO to the gym it couldn’t be that bad.

She burst into the Command Room, Luke at her heels. She came to an abrupt stop before she plowed into Admiral Ackbar. Every member of the Alliance leadership that was on planet were there, but there were no holographs of anyone off planet. That was a good sign, that meant they weren’t looking at a complete disaster.

All of them turned to stare at her and Luke, astonishment on their faces at their harried entrance

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Why were we summoned here?”

Bail and Breha exchanged looks with each other, then Breha said soothingly “Nothing has happened on Alderaan Leia, this isn’t about that.”

Leia sucked in air, trying to catch her breath, and regain a little decorum “Oh.”

“My apologies Leia that we weren’t very clear on what is happening. It certainly wasn’t my intention to panic you.” Mon said, calmly walking up to them “But it was of vital importance that the fewest people possible know what I’m about to tell you.”

Leia shook her head “It’s alright, I understand the importance of security precautions.” She and Luke sidled over to her parents, with her trying to ignore the piteous looks everyone was sending her. Well except Draven, he was glaring at her suspiciously as usual. Clearly, he had been outvoted in the decision to include her and Luke in this meeting. She was startled to see Obi-Wan standing next to Mon, looking haggard and tired. When had he gotten back? He was clutching a cup of caff in his hands like it was his lightsaber and she could see the exhaustion written all across his face.

“We have a mission for you and Lt. Skywalker, but I want you to know before we begin to debrief you on it that acceptance is strictly voluntary.” And here Mon gave a stern warning glance at both of them. “And I want you to hear all the details before you commit to anything.”

Dondonna looked up, surprised “But Mon-” he protested.

She shook her head. “I understand how important this is, but I do not like the odds on it and they get to choose.”

Leia snuck a glance at her parents. Both their faces were polite masks of indifference. This was something they didn't like then. What did Mon want them to do that had her parents so worried?

“Alright.” Luke said, curiosity in his voice “I’m listening.”

“General Draven,” Mon said, yielding her spot to the him “it’s your debrief.”

Draven gave her an unhappy look and then looked at the two of them. He sighed and said “Early yesterday morning we intercepted and decoded a message that was heading to the Outer Rim. We’ve verified its authenticity with two other sources.” He took a deep breath in “The Empire executed Grakkus.”

Leia felt her eyes widen “What? Why?” Swift trial and executions weren’t unheard of in the Empire of course, but Grakkus was a Hutt, one of some importance in the Hutt underworld. He was not a pawn to be sacrificed lightly. It was why the Empire hadn’t executed him last time around, they had merely imprisoned him at the Megalox Beta prison. The Empire had wanted to send a message, but they hadn’t wanted to fracture the alliance that was helping them hold down a rather large piece of the Outer Rim territories for them. What had caused this escalation in the Empire's response?

Draven’s face actually broke out into a genuine smile. “Seems Palpatine was very upset that Grakkus’ collection fell into the hands of a Jedi. And so publicly too.”

“We didn’t take all of it?” Luke offered.

“No, but you took enough. And what you did get was extremely valuable, at least from the perspective of trying to rebuild any Jedi order.” Draven gave Luke a long look “There is also now an arrest warrant for one Poe Dameron issued by the Empire. They still don’t have a good holo of your face, but they definitely will be looking for you now. You’ve also got a bounty being offered for your capture.”

Luke only looked thoughtful “How much?”

“Five million credits.”

Kenobi's eyebrow lifted in surprise “I thought it would be higher than that.” Easy for him to say. Only compared to his bounty did that figure look small. But that amount catapulted Luke into the top ten of the most valuable bounties that the Empire offered.

Draven shrugged “Rumor is it wouldn’t even be that high if Vader wasn’t the one who set it. Everyone knows how he feels about even the hint of a trained Force-user.” Yes, everyone did, but Leia had the sinking feeling that this bounty had more to do with her than Luke.  After all, Draven had stated capture, not kill, for that bounty. The man was a paranoid lunatic, but he was nothing if not precise in his debriefs.

“From what our sources tell us most of the Moffs are having trouble believing that the kid in the holos has any Jedi training. It’s not the performance I suppose they were expecting.” He gave Luke a long look “That was deliberate right? I hate to think that you and Obi-Wan aren’t doing anything useful out there in the jungle.”

Leia’s eyebrows lifted at the slight to her brother. “Of course not. That is just how far Luke is in his training. I mean would any of us have taken into account that the fight would have witnesses or be recorded?”

Draven transferred his glare to her and she felt her mother shift next to her, grabbing her fingers in a subtle warning. That was unusual. Her mother didn’t normally try to run interference for her. Just how much trouble had the general been giving her parents because of her? She had the sinking feeling that it was a lot more than they were saying.

‘Nonetheless,” Mon continued, effectively ending their argument. “We have to qualify this as a success. Any stresses that can be put on the Hutt/Imperial alliance is a victory for us. The more the Empire has to thin out its ranks to hold what it has, the more targets they present, and the easier those targets will be to hit.” There were nods of agreement all around them, and Leia frowned. She didn't remember the Alliance being this aggressive after the destruction of the Death Star. Of course in her past, they had also lost Alderaan, one of its founding members, a good third of their fleet, and their base of operations. Now that they were still hidden, her father was still alive, and Alderaan only under occupation, the leadership seemed to be willing to take a much more aggressive approach with its strategy.

“So how does this lead to a mission for Luke and myself?” she asked.

Willard spoke up for the first time. “In the encrypted message we intercepted, we also found a message demanding that the Hutts present themselves, or an envoy of their choice, to Weapons Factory Alpha for a meeting to renegotiate the terms of their alliance. Given Grakkus' actions and the current resource strain the Empire is under, we don’t think this will be a meeting so much as an extortion from the Hutt's for more supplies and less payment. We intercepted a Hutt shuttle coming in from the Outer Rim approximately four hours ago, carrying an associate of Jabba’s and two guards.

Leia fought to contain nothing but polite interest on her face. This was the Cymoon 1 mission. But that couldn’t be right, this was months before it was supposed to happen. Leia felt a chill work its way up her spine. She had a sinking feeling why she, Luke and Kenobi had been pulled into this meeting.

Mon continued on “We are hoping to switch out the crew, place our own people aboard and sabotage Weapons Factory Alpha.” It was the largest weapons factory in the Empire and was run to the twenty-four hours in a standard Coruscant day. When they had destroyed it in her past it had bought the Alliance much needed time to regroup. They had still been looking for a base at that point and the fleet was horribly vulnerable. Mon continued on "We realize it might be asking too much, but if at all possible we want you to conceal your identities while you are on this mission. While it's not the highest priority, we would prefer that the Empire think that the Hutt's who did this, not the Alliance." As helpful as it would be for the galaxy to realize that the Empire could be struck repeatedly by the Alliance, Leia could see the wisdom in placing emphasis in fracturing the alliance with the Hutt's. 

Luke looked intrigued “Why us?” he asked.

Ackbar cut in here “You did a good job with Grakkus and given that we only have two uniforms available we can only send a small team.”

Leia kept her focus on Draven. He was not happy about any of this, and she had a pretty good idea as to why. Ackbar could spout as much flattery as he wanted but she knew the real reason they were approaching the two of them, and it wasn't on the basis of a mission the leadership hadn’t even been debriefed on. She didn’t precisely care who got credit for that mission, and the apparently golden opportunity that had been dropped into the Alliance’s lap because of it. Her only concern lay with that past successes brought a weight to her words that she needed moving forward. But no matter how important an event taking Grakkus out was turning into this wasn’t about her and Luke's ability to pull off the impossible. This was about Han.

“General Kenobi has already agreed to go on this mission. His record in the clone Wars speaks for itself.”

“Knight.” Obi-wan corrected softly.

“Beg pardon?” Ackbar said.

“I prefer the title Knight, not General.” There were baffled looks all around, but the members of the leadership shrugged and nodded their heads.

Leia shot Obi-Wan a worried glance. “I really wished you had talked to me before accepting this mission.” she reached out to him.

He merely lifted an eyebrow in her direction.

Leia broadcasted her next thought across the room so Luke would hear. “Did you ask who is coming to negotiate on behalf of the Empire before agreeing?”

At his puzzled frown, she cursed to herself. Dammit.

Her mother shot her a questioning look, clearly picking up on her unease but it was Luke who asked the next question.

“Do we know who the negotiator for the Empire will be?”

Draven shook his head. “Jabba’s people didn’t know. We are hoping that if you get out of here fast enough you won’t run into them. It’s probably going to be one the higher level bureaucrats from the Navy. At least that was the one who handled it last time.” Oh hell, they didn’t even know.

Mon spoke up “As I said before, this is a strict volunteer mission only." Now she understood why her parents were so upset about this. This caveat must have been in to appease them. "The rewards of this mission are high, it would be a double blow to the Empire. We would simultaneously put more fractures in the alliance with the Hutts and push back their ability to manufacture weapons. We won’t get another shot like this anytime soon. However, I am deeply concerned about the lack of prep time and the frankly impossible odds you will be facing.”

She didn’t even know the half of it, but Mon still did have the right of it. True the Alliance’s position was not nearly as precarious as it had been last time, but this action would definitely remove a very valuable piece from the board. She weighed what not doing this would do to the long term survival of the Rebellion. There was also the consideration that it might not be Vader who showed up this time. His standing in the Empire had certainly taken a blow with the destruction of the Death Star. And as far as she knew he wasn’t doing much to repair that status, random executions in ballrooms aside. Oh no, he was focused on annoying her every chance he got.

She was willing to take that risk but was she willing to throw Obi-Wan and Luke into that gamble? She also wondered if all the hard earned credit she had been slowly amassing over the past weeks would be blown away if she refused to go. Would she be seen as a coward? Or too young and inexperienced? That the previous mission was a fluke, and it was Obi-Wan who truly pulled it off. Leia could feel all the options and plans she had for the future being closed off. Was there a way to refuse without refusing?

Mon asked “Princess Leia?”

Frantically she seized upon the only thing she could think of. “Of course, as long as our participation does not rely on us being able to convince Captain Solo to take us there.” There were startled glances all around the table. She wanted to snort, and Draven for once looked like he was in agreement with her. She wasn’t stupid. There was only one person on this base currently who was a known associate of Jabba’s that they could use as a reasonable replacement for an envoy.

“I’m with Leia.” Luke spoke up “He’s a trusted ally, but that’s it. He’s an ally. He’s not a member of this rebellion and has a reputation and livelihood outside of us.” Oh, she was banking on that. This was also too early for Han to be willing to take such a risk. If it ever got out that he was the one that helped them his smuggling career would be over. This Han was not ready to make that leap yet, at least not on behest of the Alliance. Maybe in a month or two but not right now. Now if she and Luke were the ones to do the asking…..

Mon gave her an enigmatic smile. “No, in fact, it doesn’t. We’ve already approached him and his only conditions were that he would only work with you two. And since anywhere Luke goes Knight Kenobi follows he also demanded that Commander Rex also come along to and I quote 'Keep on top of the crazy old wizard.'”

Well hell, she had gotten royally outmaneuvered on this one.

 

Five minutes later the five of them had gathered in Bail and Breha’s room to “plan” the mission.

“Leia, what has got you so rattled?” her mother asked quietly as soon as the door closed behind them.

Leia took a deep breath in, knowing the bomb she was about to drop on all of them. “In my timeline, Vader was the negotiator that was sent,” she answered back.

There was dead silence among everyone in the room for a few seconds. Then, almost all of them at the same time started speaking.

“We have to back out!” Luke said.

“Leia why didn’t you warn us about this?” her father demanded.

“Leia are you sure?” Obi-Wan asked.

She held up her hand for silence. As they all quieted she began answering them “Papa I didn’t mention it, because this mission is happening months ahead of when it did before. The Empire only imprisoned Grakkus they didn’t execute him. That’s putting pressure in corners I didn’t account for.”

“If you would only give us a general overview of what happened before we could help you figure out what you aren’t taking into account.” her father insisted stubbornly.

She thought they were past this. “Maybe, or maybe the leadership would be so focused on what might happen they wouldn’t see what is happening. If I had told them how things went with this in my timeline would they even have been listening as hard to see what the fallout was?” He didn’t answer that.

“I'm right, aren’t I? Your doubting that they would. And we would have missed this opportunity because we would have been looking for it far too late. This is a perfect example of where using my past as a guideline can lead us astray.”

She turned to her brother then “Luke we can’t back out. How are we going to explain that to Mon? Tell them her I’m a time traveler and there is a good possibility that Vader is going to show up? Besides, if we pull this off, it will be worth it.”

“Obi-Wan, I’m not sure if he will be there” She gave them all a wan smile. “This is months early, Vader is still in deep disgrace over the destruction of the Death Star. Maybe we'll get lucky and Palpatine decides to send someone else.”

Luke snorted “When has luck been on our side lately? I’m telling you, Leia, this is a very bad idea.”

Breha nodded slowly “Leia I’m hesitant to tell you what you can and cannot do. You are an adult, and your decisions are your own. But I agree with your brother. This mission was a long shot in the best of circumstances, but now..” her voice trailed off.

Leia sighed and pushed away her own fear. “It’s too late now to back off. We have a very small window to get that shuttle back on its course or it’s going to be very obvious something has gone wrong. Besides,” and here she grimaced “if Vader does show up, maybe we can use my presence to our advantage.”

“Leia no!” Luke said. “You haven’t done any training to hide your presence from him.” Great another thing she had to do because of Vader. She was getting tired of this. “There is nothing there that is worth putting you that much at risk.”

“Oh and you’ve mastered that trick have you?” she shot back, irritated with his double standards. He was in as much danger as her from Vader, perhaps even more because Vader didn't know who he was, and wouldn't hesitate to kill him. “We managed to blow the factory before, even with Vader there. This is doable!" Her brother gave a shake of his head

“If we do this we need to leave now,” Obi-Wan cautioned. “It's supposed to start in a day or so and the sooner we leave, the sooner we get there, and the less likely we will meet Vader there.”

“We can attach the shuttle to the Falcon using the docking ring and use that to make up for lost time. Last time we took them separately, and Chewie and Threepio were waiting for us when we arrived. We just jump in a few sectors before Cymoon 1 and follow the game plan as before.”

Obi-Wan sighed. “That will be cutting it awfully close for Rex, Chewbacca, and I to be in place.”

Luke perked up “So Obi-Wan and Rex go in with Han and we stay outside.”

She shook her head “Han will never agree to that. Hell, the only reason he probably agreed to do this at all was to watch ‘our’ backs, and he’s non-negotiable. He has to be the one walking in the front door.” And of all times for her to underestimate his growing loyalty to them, it had to be now. If he had still been just a tad bit more selfish her refusal would have worked.

“And what about the rest of the team?” Luke challenged “Are we going to leave them in the dark.”

“Rex is a soldier, he understands that sometimes intel isn’t shared.” Obi-Wan offered.

“Crappy way to treat your friend, General. ” Luke shot back.”And Rex may be a soldier, but Han and Chewie aren’t. The only reason they got roped into this is because they trust us. Are you saying we should abuse that?”

She didn’t like the fact they couldn’t tell Han, Chewie, and Rex about the deadline they were facing. Having half the team unaware there was a time crunch was counterproductive at best and self-sabotaging at worst.

The alternative though was to let the Empire’s main production line continue on unabated. Their own forces still were depleted, they need the small breather this would give them. It wasn’t as essential as it had been last time, but accomplishing this would help keep them on track. Nobody else could do this, it was Han or no one. And he had made it very clear he would only go with them.

She took a deep breath in. If she had more time, she was sure she could reassure Luke more gently. Or manage to convince him that the necessity of this outweighed the risks. That they were committed and there was no turning back.  But time was something that they had almost none of. Hating herself a bit, Leia used the argument she knew that would sway Luke and sway him now. “There are slaves in that factory,” she said softly, focusing in on his face. Luke’s breath came in on a sharp exhalation.

“No.” he protested. “It’s all automated.”

She gave a bitter laugh “Oh and the Empire never lies. The Empire never uses slave labor. It’s all ‘prisoners’ doing their just penance to society.” Luke’s face was ashen, but he still looked uncertain. She went in for the kill. “They’re there Luke. I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this. In my timeline, your alternate found them.”

Luke swallowed hard “Did you free them?” he asked.

Leia bit her lip, the sight of all those people being mowed down by Vader and the stormtroopers replaying in her mind’s eye.  “They died free,” she offered.

Luke closed his eyes, his need to protect her conflicting with his need to see this injustice right. She said nothing. Even at this young of an age, you could never tell Luke what to do. He had to come to his own conclusions or he would fight you the entire way. He could be persuaded, or swayed, but never ordered.

He sighed “I have a very bad feeling about this,” he finally offered, reopening his eyes and focusing on Obi-Wan, “but I don’t see a better choice.”

Breha’s eyes closed and she whispered, “May all the Gods watch over you then.”

 

Cymoon 1 was located in the Corellian Industrial Cluster, with a huge debris field surrounding it. That was fortunate for them. Leia found it ironic that despite her deep dislike of it, they kept using plans from her original timeline, with a few modifications to accommodate Obi-Wan and Rex, to go forward.

Obi-Wan, Rex, and Chewie would jump in on the far side of the moon, and power down to the lowest levels possible. They would use minimal thrusters and the debris field as cover and fall in a gentle arc towards the moon. They could fool the sensors into thinking it was just another piece of detritus falling to the moon’s surface, at least they had last time. Once near the surface, they would skim along until they landed the Falcon in one of the many trash heaps around the complex. Then Rex and Obi-Wan would head out to be their backup on the outside, while Chewie remained with the Falcon. 

She and Luke were dressing up as two of Jabba’s guards. With the facemasks obscuring their faces, they were hoping nobody could identify them. Han was just being Han, the whole plan relied on the Empire's spy network noticing his face.

“So it’s Obi-Wan, me and Chewie who are going to be watching your backs on the outside of the facility?” Rex asked as they stood in the galley of the Falcon.

Leia shook her head “Somebody, besides Threepio needs to stay with the ship.”

“And why did we bring Goldenrod?” Han asked dryly.

“We’re taking R2 with us,” she pointed out “Unless you want to rely on your slicing skills to erase all the footage of you being there and also set the power core to explode?” Han rolled his eyes, but he didn’t contradict her. “So we need Threepio to stay with the ship to talk to the Falcon if there is a mechanical failure somewhere on this bucket of bolts.”

“Do you have to insult my baby?” he whined.

“Her? No, she’s lovely. It’s your ability to keep her in the air I question.”

Rex coughed, interrupting them before Han could really get going. “And why does Chewbacca need to stay with the ship?”

“To keep the native scavengers from stripping the Falcon of all it’s component parts.”

Rex looked at her blankly “And how do you know this?”

“Research.” she said flatly.

“When did you find the time?” he asked, baffled.

“I made the time.” she said, then hoping to get him off this subject she asked, “Do I even need to bother asking you where you're going?”

“I’m with my general.” Obi-Wan wasn’t in the room to take offense to the thought that he needed watching. Rex had bullied the man into one of the sleeping quarters to take a nap until they arrived at the moon. Leia wasn’t surprised to learn that Kenobi had been pulled immediately into the meeting as soon as he landed on his return, the man looked like he hadn’t slept in days. She wondered if his trip to Dagobah had gone well. Given the stress that was pouring off the older man, she wasn’t inclined to think so. Yoda must not have reacted well to the news of her presence.

“Future problem,” she reminded herself “Focus on the here and now.

“Okay, we ready for this?” Han asked.

Luke and Leia nodded and R2 gave an affirmative whistle.

“Alright then.” He turned to Chewie “Don’t crash my ship.”

<You are far more likely to do that than I am.>

“It’s my ship, I can crash it if I want to.”

Rex grinned and turned to Luke. “You know your father had a very similar attitude to his ships.”

“Really?” Luke looked delighted “I thought he was a good pilot? At least that is what everyone tells me.”

“Oh he was great at flying, he could pull off moves you had to see to believe. Landing, on the other hand, was a different story.”

Leia winced but kept her mouth shut. This wasn’t like Obi-Wan, Rex didn't know any better and she couldn’t begrudge the man his loyalty and love to Anakin Skywalker. He didn’t know any better.

They dropped the Falcon out of hyperspace and the three of them clambered into the stolen shuttle still slave docked to the Falcon. As soon as he closed the hatch Luke knocked on it several times to let Rex know they were ready. Leia heard a slight hiss, and then there was a slight jolt as the shuttle drifted away from the Falcon. Within seconds both ships jumped into hyperspace.

 

They were greeted by the same warm welcome that they had received last time.  A loud snotty voice blasted over the shuttles' speakers the second that they dropped out of hyperspace. “Tatooine Shuttle,” and that was the name assigned to this ship. The Hutt’s had little imagination outside of making money and amassing power “your credentials have been approved. You are cleared for landing at the weapons Factory Alpha. Deviate from your approved flight path and you will be obliterated. Welcome to the Corellian Industrial Cluster. Welcome to Cymoon 1.” 

“Friendly,” Luke remarked dryly.

“Most Imperial officers thinks it’s beneath them to deal with smugglers and bandits.” Leia remarked cheerfully “Fortunately the Alliance isn’t so picky.”

“Hey!” Han objected.

Luke swallowed his amusement. “Is this going to be a thing with you two? Because once  again we are facing mortal peril and you two are flirting.”

“No we’re not!!” both of them shot back at Luke, who only grinned at them unrepentant.

“Get your mask on Kid,” Han grumbled as they approached the landing dock. “We got a factory to blow.”

 

They exited the ship down the gangplank. There was an Imperial official standing there, a phalanx of stormtroopers at his back, with one droid standing to his right. “Greetings in the name of the Emperor. He thanks you for joining us here today and hopes our negotiations prove swift and fruitful. I am Overseer Aggadeen. Whom do I have the honor of addressing?”

Aggadeen was not out of the ordinary as far as imperial bureaucrats went. Pompous, arrogant, and with just a hint of cruelty in his address. A petty man who believed he had more power than he actually did. Leia couldn’t remember if he was the one here last time. Probably, but then again these flunkies did tend to all blend together in her mind.

Han actually swaggered as he walked up to the man. Given that he was standing in front of her Leia couldn’t see the cocky grin that was on his face, but she could hear it in his voice as he replied “The official emissary of his High Exaltedness, the illustrious Jabba the Hutt. Mightiest of all the Hutts, Master of Tatooine and Grand Warlord of the Outer Rim.” She would accuse him of grandstanding, but that actually was how Jabba instructed all of his minions to refer to him as.

“My name is Han Solo. But you can call me Han.”  He reached out and took Aggadeen’s hand. Leia had to give Han credit for seizing control of the conversation The imperial looked like he would rather shake hands with a dead Mon Calamari then shake the hand of a known smuggler, but couldn't see a way to avoid the gesture without giving offense.

The droid standing next to the Overseer looked at Han and said. “Identity confirmed.  Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon. Known associate of Jabba the Hutt.”

“Yes well,” Aggadeen said, withdrawing his hand as soon as Han let it go. He subtly wiped it on his pants. “You'll forgive me for not recognizing you Mr. Solo. We tend to execute smugglers around here.”

“Don’t blame you in the slightest. We’re a shifty lot and liable to steal the clothes off your back.” Han slapped his hands together and rubbed them “Now if you don’t mind, I would like to get started as soon as possible. I don’t know about you but my boss is not what you would call a patient being.”

The Imperial sniffed. “Your ‘bodyguards’ and yourself need to surrender all your blasters here. There are no weapons permitted by outsiders on the factory floor.”

“Of course,” Han said smoothly. He turned and addressed them "Gentleman if you please.”

She and Luke unholstered their stolen blasters and handed them to the waiting stormtrooper ”Not that I don’t trust you, but I also need you to walk through these scanners” Aggadeen gestured to the tall black arch behind them. “The droid too.”

“Look If it makes you feel safer, then, by all means, lead the way.”

They all passed under the arch and Aggadeen looked to the tech who was reading the screen. “They're clean sir,” he said in a bored voice.

Leia felt her brother relax just a fraction at that pronouncement. She told him that his lightsaber wouldn’t set the system off. It was too rare of a weapon for the Empire to spend the time and money to program the scanners to look for it.

Aggadeen was talking to Han as they walked through the vast doors at the front of the complex and entered onto the factory floor. The room, no this wasn’t a room, this was a deliberately constructed cavern, stretched out before them. There were assembly lines upon assembly lines of TIE fighters being worked on. Leia noted that even here, all the ships were assembled my machine. Even to the Hutt’s, who certainly wouldn’t care and probably provided them with plenty of labor from the Outer Rim, the Empire was not showing its secrets. They continued at a leisurely place that set Leia’s teeth on edge, as Aggadeen went droning on and on about something. Leia could just make out that he was talking, but the words themselves were lost in the background noise coming from the factory floor. It was deafening and she had no idea if Han could even hear the man or was just nodding along out of politeness.

They finally made it to the end of the walkway and went through blast shield doors. As they closed behind them the Overseer gestured to a finely appointed conference room to her left.

“And here is where you will wait for the negotiator.”

“Looks quiet.”

“It’s shielded yes.”

“And this is where we will be negotiating?”

The Imperial snorted “It appears you have some misconceptions about what will happen here today Mr. Solo. There will be no bargaining. The negotiator will deliver the Empire’s terms and then you will accept them. Your organization will provide whatever materials we require and you will take the pay you are given, without complaint.”

“Why here?” Han asked, adopting his most aggravating attitude.

“Don’t be idiotic. Why would we hold negotiations on the factory floor?” The twit asked.

“Don’t you remember? You just said it yourself. We aren’t here to negotiate. R2!” Han barked, his own arrogant smirk crossing his face.

R2 gave a beep and then started dumping the liquid they stored in one of his compartments.

“Your droid appears to be...leaking,” Aggadeen said, faintly bemused.

Han didn’t flinch, didn’t lose focus as R2  brought out his arc welder and aimed at the liquid now seeping under several of their escorts feet. While not flammable, the sensors they passed on their way here would have noticed that it was highly conductive. The electricity shot up all the guard's legs and they collapsed before they even realized there was a problem.

Leia reached up and kicked the guard standing behind her in the knee. He gave out a cry as he fell to the floor and she quickly pushed his head down as hard as she could manage. There was a grunt, then he fell silent.

Standing, she looked over to make sure Luke had handled his guard to see him standing and pointing a blaster at Aggadeen. Seeing that everyone was down except the Overseer, she allowed Han to continue talking. She had no way of explaining why she knew where the power control room was.

“What kind of envoy are you?” Aggadeen asked, sweat starting to bead on his brow.

“Well,” Han said lightly, grabbing a fallen blaster from the floor and aiming it at him “We are the very aggressive kind. Now, where is the power control room?”

The man’s chin lifted in a sign of false bravado “I am an officer of the Imperial Navy. I do not give into the likes of you!!”

“Really?” Han drawled. Then he smirked and tipped his head to the droid. “What about him?” R2 rolled forward, still brandishing his arc welder and let the sparks fly menacingly.

Aggadeen gulped and then pointed to the corridor to his left “That way.”

“Kid?” Han asked under his breath.

Luke snorted. Taking that as an affirmative Han turned back to the officer “Thank you so much for your cooperation.” Then, using the hand not holding the blaster, he socked the man across the jaw. Aggadeen went down without another word.

“Let’s move.”

“We just can’t leave them all lying here like this.” Leia protested, what was it with Han and leaving unconscious bodies everywhere? “Someone is bound to notice.”

“What do you suggest we do? Drag them along with us?” Han shot back.

Leia glanced around her, hoping to find a closet or small room they could stuff everyone into. Then she spotted a chute door just a little to the right and behind where Han was standing. A wicked grin crossed her face. Oh, this was too ironic to pass up.

“We put them in there.” she said, pointing.

Han followed her finger and then taking in what he was seeing blurted out “You want to throw them down into the trash compactor?”

“Yes.”

A slow wicked grin crossed over his face. “I really love it when you’re mean to other people.”

She gave him a saucy grin in return “I know.”

“Do you need a little privacy to finish this? Or can we start throwing these guys down there?” Luke asked, a snigger hidden behind his reasonable question. 

Guilty they both turned and joined Luke in dragging the bodies over to the shoot. When Han had his back to them Luke tauntingly mouthing the word “Flirting!” over and over again. She scowled at him.

Mind your own business little brother.” she shot back.

He only gave her a bratty smile and continued on with their work.

“Okay, now can we go?” Han asked as the shoved Aggadeen down the chute.

“I give permission yes,” she answered back. Han rolled his eyes and they took off down the corridor. As they made their way to the power room Luke spoke into the comms. “Guys we’re in, heading to the power station now. How are things on your end?”

<These creatures do not understand ‘go away’> she heard Chewie answer, irritation clear in his voice, as she heard blaster fire follow his words. <But so far the Falcon is fine.>

“I must concur with Chewbacca.” Threepio chimed in “Though I feel compelled to inform you that the odds of him being able to hold them off for more then fifteen munites is 651 to 1. For now, all scans show that all internal and external systems are still intact.”

Things are nice and quiet on our end,” Rex volunteered. Chewie growled his displeasure over that and Leia heard more blaster fire.

“Tell them to keep an eye out.” Han interjected, “Aggo mentioned that an Imperial negotiator was on his way, so sooner rather than later, we're going to have company.”

“Did you copy that?” Luke asked.

“Yes.” Obi-Wan said.”We will remain here and keep watch.”

They entered the power room and Leia gave Luke a subtle head nod to the door that was in the back of the room. He nodded, showing he understood and quickly slipped away.

“R2?” Han asked.

[On it!] The droid chirped, heading over to one of the open data ports and plugging himself in.

As they stood in the silence, waiting for the little astromech to complete his task Leia offered “Thank you for doing this.”

Han snorted “Thank me when we get out of here.”

“No Han I mean it.” she insisted “You didn't have to help us, or the Alliance.”

He shrugged, clearly uncomfortable with her gratitude. “Win for me too. The fewer ships the Empire has to chase down smugglers like me, the better business is.”

“It’s still quite the risk.” she pressed, not wanting to let this go until he got it through his thick skull. Although this unexpected move made it so that she had few options but to walk directly into Vader's path, there was no way he could have known that. He was trying to help, and he deserved her thanks for it. “Even after R2 erases all the footage of you being here, and this place blows sky high, there is going to be an official inquiry. There could be survivors who identify you as to how we got in.”

“No risk, no reward.” he gave her a nonchalant look, “”Besides there is no telling what kind of trouble you and the kid could get into without me here.” Then, noticing Luke’s absence from the room, looked around “Speaking of which, where did he go?”

[Got it!!] R2-D2 beeped [All safety protocols have been disabled, and I’ve set the reactor to full power. We have about 15.63 minutes to evacuate beyond the blast range.] He disengaged from the port.

“Thanks, R2,” Leia said softly.

“I swear I take my eyes off one of you for just a second…” Han muttered.

Luke then reappeared, a small bruise on his face above the half mask he still wore, but other than that unharmed.

“Where did you go?” Han demanded, his hands falling to his hips.

“Found a complication,” Luke said simply.

“Now there is a surprise. You vanish and a complication appears.”

That was when a too-thin Twi’lek appeared behind her brother. Dressed in a tattered gray prisoners uniform, she looked around furtively searching for any guards.

“Luke?” Han hissed.

“Found them downstairs, locked away.”

Han groaned. “Them? How many is them?”

“About thirty I think.”

“There is no way we are going to be able to sneak that many people past the guards at the front entrance.”

R2 piped up [In the likely event of us being spotted, or running into an unforeseen ‘complication’ I studied the schematics of this base while I was in the mainframe. There is a maintenance tunnel, not three corridors down from here that runs underneath the base straight into the trash heaps.]

“Really? Leia asked the droid.

He gave her a burst of short whistles that was his version of laughter. [It pays to think ahead with this team.]

“What did he say?” Han demanded.

“That we are helpless incompetents who would all die without him.” Leia said dryly “Also there is a maintenance tunnel not far from here that we can use to get to the trash heaps.”

“Well then,” Luke said ‘let’s get going.”

 

R2 and Luke were at the head of their party, with Leia and Han bringing up the rear. They only had the three blasters stolen from the guards, so none of the former prisoners, slaves call them what they are Leia, slaves, were armed. Leia wasn’t sure even if they had any extra weapons she would give them to anyone.  Too many of them were shaking, whether, from outright terror or starvation, she couldn't really tell. And a few of them had a look in their eyes that said they would shoot anything that wore an Imperial uniform. Leia couldn’t blame them in the slightest for that, but so far they had managed to avoid attracting notice. She didn’t think any of those beings would take that into consideration.

They managed, by the Force or a minor miracle, to get the whole crew down the corridors to the door that led into the tunnel without being spotted. It wasn’t a blast door, just the standard width, so they could only stream in two people at a time, but they managed to stay undetected until she and Han were about to go through. The door suddenly slammed shut without warning. Both of them tensed, expecting the wailing of alarms to indicate they had been spotted, but there was nothing but silence.

“Han!!” Luke’s voice came out of Han’s communicator.

“Get them to Falcon Kid.” Han instructed “Leia and I will find another way out.”

“But-” he started to protest and Leia grabbed the com from Han’s hand to speak into it directly.

“We don't have time to argue. There are no alarms Luke, this wasn’t because we were spotted. It’s standard Imperial procedure to lock down all exterior doors before the visit of a high-ranking officer.” There was dead silence on the other end of the comm and she felt his panic, then it spurted away as he reigned it in.

She pressed on “Get them out of here Luke. They don’t deserve to die here.” reminding him of their fate in another time. “We’ll head to the back gate and call you and Chewie when we reach it. It’s got less defensive capabilities and guards, you can come get us.”

There was a heavy sigh. “Understood,” he said grimly.

“R2?” Leia continued on the comm  “How much time do we have?”

[Thirteen minutes Leia.]

“Okay.” she muttered, looked up at Han “Let’s go flyboy.”

“With such a nice invitation how can I refuse?” he asked.

Leia looked both ways down the corridor, trying to decide which way would be the most likely to lead to an exit. She could, just faintly in the distance, hear the sounds of the factory floor coming from her right “We’re going this way.” she said pointing to her left.

“Why?”

“Factory floor is that way.” she pointed down the hallway “Stands to reason that the back loading dock this place would be, you know, in the back of the factory.”

“Smartass,” but there was no heat in the word.

“Let’s go,” she muttered as they began walking down the hallway. She had to keep reminding herself that though the hallways were empty of people, it was not empty of cameras. It was bad enough they were wandering the halls of this base without an escort if they started running, or hell even walking fast, it was bound to catch someone's attention somewhere.

At every intersection, they would cock their heads, trying to determine which way they should go. Why the Empire refused to clearly label their exits was beyond her. Yes, in a situation like this, where there were intruders it did lead them in circles, but it also meant any personnel on this base would be screwed in case of an emergency. Then again the Empire didn’t much care about its people. There were plenty of ways to replace them if they died. There were all viewed as cogs in the machine. It was one of the most infuriating things about the Empire. It wasn't just that they didn't care about the people they ruled, they didn't even care about their own.

“Any ideas on what to do if we’re caught?” Han asked.

“No,” she admitted “making this up as I go along.”

He gave her a cocky grin “Oh don’t worry your Highness, talking my way out of sticky situations is what I am best at.”

Leia reminded herself that if she laughed right now he wouldn’t take it the right way. Han was charming and personable but his tongue got him in more trouble then it got him out of. But he was showing off, preening, in front of her in a life and death situation. It was adorable how this baby Han thought she would be impressed by these cool lines uttered under pressure.

As they reached another intersection Leia looked around and cursed. “Pretty sure we’ve come this way.”

“How can you tell?” whined Han “they all look the same.”

“Yeah, but if you pay attention-” Leia’s voice trailed off. A storm of cold dark fury just appeared out of nowhere. There was a long pregnant pause in the Force and Leia felt a quick flare of pleased surprise and shock wash over her. Then all of it just stopped.

“Pay attention to what?” Han demanded, but she heard him like a distant bug flying near her ears.

So Vader had just arrived in the system. So much for hoping that Palpatine would send anyone else. "Did you really believe that yourself?" Han's voice said mockingly in her mind. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as every sense went on alert. The one advantage they had was that he hadn’t been expecting her here. He was genuinely surprised she was on the planet.

“Leia!!!” Oh, wonderful, Vader was intense enough that Luke just felt all of that. There was panic and worry in his Force presence. She cut him off before he could even suggest what she knew he wanted to do.

We’ve got time till he makes planetfall.” she sent to her brother “ Get them out of here!!”

She got the sense that he wanted to argue with her, but then her comm crackled to life.

“Vader just entered the system,” Kenobi said over it.

Han’s eyes widened. “Are you sure?” he demanded.

“No Captain I just made it up to make you move faster.”

“No need to get snippy.” Han shot back.

“I’m informing you because it would not be wise for me to remain so close to the landing area. Rex and I are heading to the back gate for extraction. We’ll meet you there.” The comm dropped off.

Han gave her a long suspicious look, “Did you hear that?”

She arched an eyebrow “I’m not deaf, Han.”

“Just wanted to check since you drifted off into your own head again. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but it’s somewhat inconvenient when you do that while we are trying to flee for our lives.”

She wasn’t sure how to explain to him about why she had drifted off, but she was saved from having to give an explanation by the wailing of the alarms.

“Well, I’d say they know we’re here.”

Vader must have told them, and for once she actually thanked him in her head for his timing. “No sense in trying to be subtle anymore,” she muttered as she ripped off that damn face mask throwing it to the side. She took off at a dead run, the opposite way they had the last time they had been in this corridor. Apparently, she chose correctly this time because they came to a loading dock door.

She and Han placed themselves on either side of the door to avoid any incoming fire from anyone who might be on the other side.

“I go high, you go low.” he told her, his hand poised over the button to open it.

She rolled her eyes “I hardly think it would work the other way.”

His hand moved to press the button, and with a swoosh, it opened. There was no immediate blaster fire, so she stepped into the open doorway, dropping to one knee, and aiming her blaster straightforward. Han stayed standing, on the other side of the door, his blaster also pointing forward. There was only the long gray square that was the landing bay, bracketed on all sides by huge mounds of discarded waste. Leia never thought she would be so happy to see piles of garbage in her life.

“There they are!!!” came a cry from behind them.

Both she and Han instantly burst through the doorway and Han turned around to close the door. A few shot got through before they closed with a loud thud. Han shot the controls.

“That should hold them for a bit.” He pulled out his comm as he and Leia broke out into a run onto the tarmac. Those weren't blast doors and were much easier to cut through. They wouldn’t hold for long and they needed to be as far away as possible before the phalanx of stormtroopers came pouring out. Their only hope for cover was at least a hundred yards ahead of them.

“Obi-Wan where the hell are you and Rex?”

“About two minutes out Solo,” Rex replied.

“Put a little speed into it, we are about to have company and we need the backup. Chewie!!!”

<I heard you, Han, I’m on my way. But we have a problem with Luke he-> the comm crackled and the rest of Chewie’s sentence died with it.

“Someone just turned on a jammer,” Leia muttered.

“Of course Luke isn’t following the plan.” Han grumbled, “He never has before, why start now?”

Then there was a roll of anticipation and longing, and it wasn’t Luke she was sensing. Obi-Wan apparently had been correct that Vader couldn’t hide his presence for long if he was doing something else, despite his efforts to practice. There were cracks forming in his shields, and she had a pretty good bead on where he was in relation to her. He was heading her way and was far too close for her comfort. Leia felt the sweat trickle down the back of her neck as she and Han moved forward, heading to the edge of the tarmac, and temporary safety.

She reached out for Luke, who was also moving towards her, but much slower then he would have been if he had been in the Falcon. Great, he was on foot and heading their way. She stumbled a bit as Vader’s surprise and curiosity washed over her. In her haste to keep track of both of them, she had lowered her shields far too much and she felt like she had been scraped raw by the power of the Sith Lord’s emotions. Adjusting, she thickened them a bit and just as she reached the edge of the tarmac she relocated Vader’s general location.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Vader was peeling away from chasing her. What the hell had caught his attention? There were only two possible answers to that question and only one of them was stupid enough to try this.

“Luke! ” she called out “What are you doing ?”

Protecting you!” he answered back, his desperation making his mental voice clear.

A blaster shot whizzed by her head, missing her by inches. She whirled around and behind her and Han a whole cadre of stormtroopers peeled out of the door. Han grabbed her arm and cried out “This way!!!” He pulled her to the bottom of one of the trash heaps, seeking cover behind what looked like a broken TIE wing.

“Luke, now is not the time to play hero!” she shouted back “ Run !” She leaned out to the left, and let out three shots, and all three hit their intended targets before she pulled back to her cover.  She would have been more proud of that if it wasn’t for the fact she sure it was the Force guiding her more than her own reflexes. Her attention was badly divided here, and she was relying on it to cover both ends more than she was comfortable with.

“I can handle this! ” he insisted. Oh, by all the Gods he was going to get himself killed, and this was all her fault. She should have told him, he wouldn’t be rushing to confront their father if he knew the truth. And now he was about to be cut down like an animal at a slaughterhouse because she was a coward.

No you can’t!!”   she yelled back, “You think I can handle your death any more than you can handle mine? Luke, please!! There is no way I can do this without you. Don’t leave me here all alone.”

She felt a wave of surprise break through his anger, and he hesitated.

All right,” he said, “I’m heading your way.”

“Thank you.” Leia breathed a sigh of relief, and then the Force screamed. She looked up to see what was wrong and caught the glint of sunlight bouncing off a shiny metal object about two hundred yards in front of her. There was the smallest white figure moving out there on the trash hills and Leia felt her blood go cold. Sharpshooter.

She looked over to Han to see if he was okay and saw that there two of him. One was popping up, and shooting at the stormtroopers. The second one was in the process of ducking behind the TIE wing. She blinked in confusion, was this a Force vision? She never had one before, but Luke had mentioned them to her several times. So that left her with the question which one was the real Han?

As she sat there dumbfounded, the two Han’s switched places, the first one now the ground, the second one standing. If she was reading this right, the one on the ground seemed to be about thirty seconds behind the Han who was currently standing. Then the one standing jerked forward, as a blaster shot caught him in the back. He turned to face her, an almost comical look of surprise on his face. Leia could see the darkened area where the blast had passed through his chest.

“No.” she whimpered, the grief welling up in her like a desperate animal. Not again, she couldn’t lose Han like this again. She wasn't strong enough to survive losing him, especially since she had been given this second improbable chance. “NO!” she screamed. Then the shot Han disappeared and the other one, who was just now starting to rise turned to face her, a look of concern on his face.

“Leia?”

She didn’t even bother to answer, just used the Force to surge forward and tackle him to the ground. There was a burst of pain in her back, and she gasped out loud as it hit her full on. But it faded quickly enough. Okay, this wasn’t so bad, the shot she had taken on Endor had hurt worse than this.

“Leia?” she heard from below her. She turned her head to face Han as he laid below her, concern written all over his features. Leia tried to open her mouth to tell him she was fine, but strangely enough, the words wouldn’t come. His eyes widened and he placed his hand on her back. She still didn’t feel anything, but his face paled. He drew his hand back towards him and when it crossed her line of vision, she could see it was smeared with blood.

“Oh, no, no, no, no,” he said, voice rising in his panic “No you don’t get to do this.”

Then he was gone and time seemed to jump on her because now instead of lying on top of him, she was on her side, and Han’s boots were right in her line of vision. Oh, that was because he was standing, and from the sound of it, still trying to shoot the stormtroopers coming their way.

“About time you showed up!!” he screamed “Obi-Wan help me! Rex, see to her, she’s bleeding!!”

“I am?” she thought. She tried to focus, tried to get her body to move. They were still in danger, she needed to help Han. She needed to help Luke. They needed to get the hell off this rock.  Then she heard the familiar buzz of a lightsaber swinging through the air. When had Obi-Wan gotten here? She tried to fumble for her blaster and cried out as the pain spiked down her side in a jagged arch.  

Leia!?! ” two male voices screamed at her in the Force, and oh, she must have broadcasted that feeling across the whole damn planet. She tried to rein it in, Luke couldn’t be distracted right now. And wait, was that other voice Vader?

There were hands pressing on her side “Senator I need you to stay damn still!!” Somehow she had missed Rex was kneeling beside her, he was tearing fabric off her uniform. She tried to move again and he snarled at her “Every time you move you make it worse!!! If you don’t stay absolutely still I swear by all my brothers I will tie you up.”

Rex had never been anything but respectful to her. If he was reverting to treating her like a child then that meant this was bad. He only did that when Obi-Wan was being especially idiotic.

Rex, let out what sound like a swear in Mando and then said softly “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but I don’t have any pain meds on me right now. This is going to hurt.” She tried to brace herself, she needed to stay silent in the Force. Then there was pressure on her back and the pain wiped everything away. When she came to her senses she could hear herself screaming and could feel Vader and Luke's absolute panic.

“Leia hold on!” Vader was screaming, and moving fast towards her.

Leia I’m coming!!”  Luke cried out, just a beat after him.

No Luke, don’t!” she said. Or maybe only thought it, she couldn’t tell “Stay away, or he’ll find you too.”

There was no answer, and Leia could feel everything slipping away. She fought to remain conscious, fought to remain here. But she had limits, and she had hit every single one of them. Her last thought, before her eyes closed, and she slipped into the darkness, was that this was going to turn into the most awkward family reunion ever.

 

Chapter Text

ABA - Day ???

 

Leia was floating. She could hear voices above her, around her? Where was she?

Leia!!” that was Luke, why was he so upset? She tried to answer him, but she was so tired. Maybe in a bit. She slipped back into the darkness.

 

Leia!” It was louder this time. Leia stirred, and she tried to will herself to pay attention.

Luke don’t .” That was Obi-Wan's voice. Why was the man here? He didn’t belong.

But-”

“Luke you can’t go that far into her mind. It’s not safe. We don’t know how aware she is right now. She could attack you not realizing who she was hurting.” As if she would ever do such a thing. She knew Luke like she knew her own heartbeat. And as soon as she was able to open her eyes she was going to tell Obi-Wan off for thinking such stupid things.

“I don’t care.” There was her brother’s stubbornness. Good for him.

Then consider this, it’s also not safe for her Luke. Neither of you are properly trained enough to delve that far. Any stray thought, any strong feeling on your part and she will be wide open to it.”

“I can keep myself in check!!”

“She could pull you into one of her memories, or worse a nightmare, and you would be caught along for the ride.”

“I’m definitely not leaving her to that then.”

“And if in your panic in one of them you rip her mind apart trying to escape?”

There was a sense of worry, grief, of failure. That wasn’t right, Luke was doing fine in his training, as far as she could tell. “Alright,” he agreed reluctantly.

Leia felt a bit disappointed. She was tired, she couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this exhausted, but she was also lonely. A little company wouldn’t be amiss, but she fell back into the darkness before she could tell Luke that.

 

She was standing on D'Qar, inside the hangar bay looking out into the light gray tarmac, where the rows of X-Wings and ships littered the landscape. Leia frowned, this was wrong. She walked forward cautiously, her steps echoing oddly in the large room. It was empty. Her frown deepened she walked outside and into the tarmac. What was going on? Everywhere she looked it was empty, not just of the people, but of the droids too. She cocked her head, listening, It was deadly silent. Not only from the absence of people, and machines whirring, but there were no noises from the jungle surrounding the base.

“Hey, your worship.” a roughened voice said from behind her.

She turned to see Han standing there, sunlight reflecting off his gray hair, wearing that new jacket of his. He was casually leaning against Poe’s black X-Wing fighter, hands tucked into his pants pockets. He gave her a wide smile of greeting. “Miss me?”

There was something wrong about this, about all of this, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. But this was Han, she had never been able to long resist him, so she walked up to him and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his chest. His arms came up and wrapped around her too just as fiercely.

“Yes,” she answered hoarsely. “I missed you.”

There was something she was supposed to remember, something that was niggling in the back of her brain, something about Han. But she was so tired, and he smelled so good. Like grease, engine parts, and spices. Whatever it was it could wait, there were currently no emergencies she had to take care of. She could just stand here and breath.

He started humming under his breath as he rocked her, a tune from his home of Corellia, a lullaby, she thinks.  It’s soothing for all that he can barely carry a tune.

“You are the last person I thought I’d be saying this too but you can’t run from this Leia.” he said finally, his voice rumbling in her ear.

Oh yes, that’s what she had forgotten. Han was dead. Ben had murdered him.

“Watch me.” she grumbled, burrowing her face in his chest and counting the steady heartbeats she heard.

He laughed at that, “I give it five minutes before you are bored of out your mind.”

She leaned back, enough so that she could see his face, without having to let go of the hold she had around him. “Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure we can think of something to do to fill that time up. If my memory serves me correctly you are good for at least ten minutes of entertainment.”

His eyes light up at that and his voice deepened. “Don’t know. Age might have shortened that a bit.”

“We should test that theory.”

“God I love it when you have a plan.”

She laughed out loud and his mouth caught the end of the sound. She hummed in pleasure and rose up on her tiptoes to be able to meet him full on, long practiced in doing this with their absurd height differences. He might have a point about age catching up with them, she could definitely feel a crick developing in the base of her neck way earlier then she remembered in the past. She steadfastly ignored it and focussed on enjoying the feel of Han right beneath her hands. She wasn’t a hundred percent sure where she was, but she couldn't bring herself to care. She would take this, whatever it was, for as long as possible. They embraced like that for what felt like an impossibly long time.

He was the one to pull away first. She whined and tried to follow him, but he shook his head. “Leia, we need to talk.”

“About what?” she said.

“You know what.” Yes, she did, and no she didn’t want to talk about that. This was far more pleasurable activity. “Few more minutes.” she murmured, placing small nips along the underside of his jaw.  “It’s not like I have anywhere to be.”

“Uhh…” he swallowed hard. She grinned to herself. Yep, she still knew what moves to pull to distract him. “This isn't going to work.” he tried to say firmly, but his voice was breathy and high pitched.

“Yes it will.” she countered and bit just a little bit harder on the junction between his jaw and his neck.

He gave a small moan of pleasure “Okay, you might be right.” he admitted, but his arms fell away from her waist. “But Leia you were never one to be able to live in denial for long.”

Well hell, she wasn’t the only one who knew had to wield a weakness against the other. She gave one last kiss and pulled back, letting her hands fall away from his back. But she couldn't sever the physical connection completely and she grabbed both his hands in hers. She looked down at that sight, something she hadn’t done in so long, and she tightened her grip as tears filled her eyes.

“What’s on your mind sweetheart?” he asked gently.

She looked up to face him, his face blurry through her tears. “I’m sorry.”

There was honest bafflement in his voice “For what?”

“Where do you want me to start? For encouraging you to go after Ben? For letting you out of my sight and letting you go on that mission without me? For getting you killed?” those last words almost swallowed by the sobs she was repressing.

“Hey, hey, hey,” he said soothingly, letting one hand of her hands go to wipe away at the tears streaming down her face. “That wasn’t your fault.”

“You never would have tried if I hadn’t asked.”

A look of disappointment crossed his face “Look, I know I screwed up with leaving you like I did, okay? I completely and totally own up to the fact that it was a stupid move on my part. But Leia, do you honestly think I wouldn’t go after our son if given the chance?” there was a world of hurt in his voice.

“No,” she admitted. “But then again you’re probably a figment of my imagination.”

His smile became wicked and teasing “Dream about me?”

“Often,” she answered honestly. “For years.”

That smile slipped and he sighed, dropping her other hand. He rubbed his face for a moment, then looked her straight in the eyes. “I didn’t know what else to do. I knew looking at me was painful. All you saw was him.”

“No,” she shook her head, “that’s not true.”

“Really?” he stared at her steadily for a moment and she just stared back at him resolute. He wasn’t going to pawn off any of his bantha shit reasoning on her. He had wanted to leave, it was what he did when he was hurt. She couldn’t fault him for that, it was who he was. What she could and did blame him for was not coming back. She thought a few weeks, maybe months, and then the two of them would tackle the problem together. Instead, he had just kept running from her, for years. “I just wanted you.”

“Then why didn’t you say so when I left?” he demanded.

“I knew you needed a little time to lick your wounds in private. I did too. But I never thought you would abandon me!!!” she shouted back, “I thought it would have been obvious that I wanted you!”

“Not to me. I’ve known you a long time Leia, but unlike you, I don’t have a mystical energy field that helps me read people’s minds!!! Sometimes I need actual words, not things thought at me really hard.”

Okay, he might have a point about that. “I didn’t know how to ask.” she wavered.

“Why the hell not!”

“Because I was afraid you would say no!!!” she said, hurt and bewilderment in her voice. “Nobody else in my life has stayed around. My parents, all of them, Luke, Ben. Why should you be any different!!!”

His eyes closed in defeat “We really screwed this one up didn’t we?”

“Yeah,” she admitted. “And I’m making it worse by arguing with an aspect of my own mind.”

His head cocked and he regarded her thoughtfully. “Are you sure about that?”

“Of course I’m sure. You're dead!”

“Fraid so.”

“This is my mind,” and here she waved to the strangely silent background “I’m dreaming.”

“Yep.”

“You are not a Force ghost.”

His eyebrows went up at that “Light blue was never my color.”

“See.” she stated firmly, poking him in the chest for emphasis “Take all that together and it adds up to you not being real.”

“Leia, what were you doing before you got here?”

“What?”

“What were you doing?” he repeated, patiently.

She thought about for a second, then answered him. “I was on a mission, on Cymoon 1, and I was shot…” her voice trailed off.

“Yeah,” he leaned back a bit on his heels and gave her his ‘I’m so clever’ look.

“This isn’t possible.” she stated faintly.

“For someone who magically woke up thirty-four years in her past that isn’t a phrase that should be in your vocabulary.”

“You’re real?” she whispered, hoping against the impossible.

“What do you think?”

Of course, he wouldn’t give her an answer, why should anything be straightforward? This was why she hated all those mystical philosophical discussions Luke so often indulged in. She preferred a straight yes or no. As she stared at him, weighing if this was a cruel joke of the Force or her own mind, he stepped forward and placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

“You’re overthinking this.”

She swatted him on the shoulder in irritation “You’re the one who put the idea in my head.”

“Yeah, but I didn't do it to cause you pain.”

“Then why?”

“Closure.”

She let out a small pained noise. “I don’t want to.”

His smile was aching and sad. “I’m not a big fan of it myself. I lose you and you get to trade me in for a younger model.”

She crossed her arms across her chest, irritated with his trivialization of the situation. She huffed, “Younger, but also dumber.”

“That’ll change. You won’t give him much of a choice.”

“I don’t want to say goodbye.” she whined.

“It’s not, not really.”

“He’s not you.”

“No, and he never will be. Not exactly.” and here he grabbed her hands and kissed them both in quick succession. “But if he’s any Han Solo at all he will know that you are quite possibly one of the best things that ever walked into his life.”

She felt the tears come back. “Even with how it all ended?”

“Even then. Wouldn’t trade a thing. Well maybe a few things, but never you. Never the kid.” And then he swallowed hard, regret and grief on his face. “And not even Ben.”

“But-” she protested.

He placed a finger on her lips, silencing her. She narrowed her eyes at him, he knew she hated it when he did that. He gave her a watery chuckle. “I loved him, I loved being a father, and I loved our family, as loud and argumentative as we could all be.There were a lot of good, hell even great years.” He leaned forward and placed his forehead against hers. “And yeah it all went to hell, and I’m not saying that didn't cut my heart from my chest. But here’s the thing Leia, it was my life and it sure as hell turned out a lot more interesting and full than I ever thought possible growing up. You just can’t take the bad out and without affecting and changing the good things that happened. It doesn’t work that way. ”

“A lesson that I’m learning.” she said sourly.

He chuckled at that. “Knowing you, there were a lot of walls you ran into on the way.” She thought of all the decisions she had been making, on how she kept trying to change things for the better, only to have new and more vexing problems pop in their place. She scowled at him.

“I’m right aren’t I?” he crowed, “You only ever get that face when I’m right, and you don’t want to admit it.”

She humphed, and then her mind returned to one of the things she had been avoiding thinking about changing.

“I don’t know if I can forgive him.” she said her voice hoarse, “What does that say about me? I’m his mother and if he appeared in front of me right now I don’t know what I would do.” In the days following Han’s death and arrival here, she hadn’t let the full implications of what Ben had done hit her. But it wasn’t a truth she could avoid forever. And here, real or not, was someone who could understand that.

“It says that you're human, and as always being entirely too hard on yourself.” His large hand cradled her face “I worry about you.”

“I’m fine,” she reassured him. This was ridiculous and so like him. He was dead, and he was still fretting over her. Han Solo, rogue, pirate, smuggler, absolute mother hen with someone he loved.

“LEIA!!!!!!” a voice screamed across the landscape. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart started to pound madly. She actually flinched as the echoes of it bounced across the empty base. Oh wonderful, look who had decided to join the party.

“Speaking of my number one issue. Got that under control do you?” Han asked sarcastically.

She rolled her eyes at him. “Nobody has him under control, especially himself. But I can handle it.”

“Uh-huh.” There was a wealth of skepticism in his voice.

“LEIA!!!” a voice bellows “ANSWER ME!”

“Looks like tall dark and imposing is losing his patience” Han remarked.

She scowled. Angry that he wouldn’t leave her alone. Angry that even the thought of him brought old fears she thought long buried to the forefront of her mind. Angry, that Han was starting to withdraw, the look of goodbye on his face. She snarled one of Han’s favorite expressions “He can take a piss in the wind.”

Han laughed loud and hard “Thank you for that image your worship, I’ll take it to my grave”

She gave him a sad smile “Your already dead, I thought at the very least we agreed on that.”

His eyes sobered at that “Yeah, and you came pretty damn close yourself.” He traced a finger down her cheek “Don’t follow me, Leia. I mean it. You were always the strongest out of all of us, and I’m not expecting a little thing like reliving your life to stop you.”

Her eyes closed. He and Luke always had such faith in her strength. She never was able to convince either one of them that is was always the people around her that she kept fighting for. If it was for her, and only her, she would have given up long ago. “I love you, ” she told him, her eyes opening to take him in one last time.

He gave her that cocky grin she always wanted to smack off his face “I know.”

“LEIA!!”

She gritted her teeth “Does he ever give up?” she demanded of Han.

“Well sweetheart, you and Luke had to get it from somewhere.” She shot him a glare and he gave her a shrug. “I gotta go anyway. Places to go, people to see”   

She swallowed her instinctive rejection of that statement. Whatever this was, hallucination or Force dream, it was done, and no manner of pleading with him would change that. She cupped his face, reveling in the feel of that cheek, memorizing every wrinkle and line. Like so much of Alderaan, she had no holo of him at this age. It would be decades before she saw this face again, and that was if she could sort out her feelings for his alternate. She committed everything she could to her memory. “Goodbye”. He vanished under her fingers.

Then a loud mechanized voice behind her demanded. “Who was that?”

She swallowed back her tears and wiped her face, straightening her back. No matter how raw and bruised she felt right now, he was here, and it was time to focus on that. She turned to face him as soon as she was sure every tear and sorrow had been wiped from her face.

“None of your business” she shot back, as she let her anger wash over her to meet his. If he had just stayed away she could have had Han here longer.

Vader stood on the tarmac, not ten feet from her, fists clenching and unclenching “Was that your precious tutor?” There was jealousy, twisted all around him like a strangling vine.

“Why do you care who I do or do not let into my mind?”

“He failed you!” was the hissed response.

“Using what twisted logic did you come to that conclusion?”

“You were hurt because he wasn’t at your side protecting you!! Add now you let him traipse through your mind at the deepest of levels! He’s half trained and powerful. You have no idea what damage he could do!” Obi-Wan’s warning to Luke floated through her mind. At least she thought that was what that was. She wasn’t entirely sure she hadn’t dreamed that whole conversation between the two of them.

“And I let you in willingly?”

“I know what I am doing!!” he howled, his anger pulsing all around her. It felt like a thousand small cuts, all of them wielded against her mind. She took a sharp breath in, trying to raise her shields. All she felt in response was the thin gossamer one, not the thicker one, the multi-layered one she had spent so much time constructing, come up slowly. It brought her some small relief, but it was nowhere near what she needed. She tried to pour more into it but there was nothing there for her to give.

She stared at him. As much as she wanted to counteract that delusion he was operating under, that he knew more than he thought he did, she had no energy to push him out if it came to a battle of wills between them. Hell, she didn't even have the strength to project enough shielding to protect her from his surface emotions.

She didn’t have the resources for brute force to use here and she couldn’t afford to dwell on the subject of Luke for too long. If she was having this much trouble keeping him out, the Gods only knew what was leaking from her. Holes in shields went both ways, chances were good most of what she was thinking was probably bleeding into him too.

“That wasn’t him. It was a memory. Nothing more.” At least that was what she was telling herself. She would think about Han’s implication that he was real later. When this nuisance had left and she had time to think.

”Oh.” his shoulders actually slumped, and she could feel those ragged tears in his self-control rein themselves in. She gave a small sigh of relief, as the pain they were causing her faded.

Leia watched him warily, that first rush of anger and fear at his appearance had faded, and all she was left with was feeling tired. Even this deep in her own mind she could feel the edges of exhaustion nipping at her. She wondered how bad that shot had actually been. She wondered how the hell she was still alive. Then a terrifying thought occurred to her, the last thing she remembered was being on the ground, Han, Obi-Wan and Rex nearby. No Chewie with the Falcon, and definitely no Luke. He had been heading her way though, as Vader had been. She chewed her lip in worry.

First problem, she knew that once he gained access to her mind he wasn’t going to leave by choice. She was exhausted and tired, so the amount of information he could learn from her in this state could have devastating consequences. Second problem, she couldn’t ask him directly what happened, he would just lie to maintain an advantage over her. She had nothing she was willing to bargain with this time to make him tell the truth.  

“So if you can’t get into the castle from the entrance go through the side Leia.” she could hear her mother whisper to her. Good advice, let’s see how that goes. So, new plan, trick him into finding out what the hell happened at that factory and then somehow get him to leave.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“You don’t know where we are?” he demanded, panic causing his voice to escalate in volume.

Gods, he was being touchy, even for him. She looked at him in bafflement “Why would I?”

“This is your mind Leia, not mine. If you don’t know where we are then your injury is far greater than I thought.”

She took what she could from that. It wasn’t a confirmation that he knew what her injury was, it also wasn’t, unfortunately, a denial. It took her brain a few precious seconds to catch on to what he was actually saying and she just gaped at him for a moment. “Not here.” she said, waving her hands around her “I know where this is. Where are we actually?”

“In the Force, there is no difference.” he intoned.

Give him a Coruscanti accent, get rid of the vocoder, and he sounded just like Obi-Wan. She actually rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Was there a class in the Jedi temple on how to give vague and unhelpful answers?” she demanded before she could think better of it.

There was a sudden chill in the air, and he was so still that the only movement coming from him was his ventilator, moving his chest up and down. Even in the Force, he was quiet. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she berated herself. Luke had warned her, that Vader, his children excepted, did not react well to any associations with the name Anakin Skywalker. And at the top of that list was any mention of the Jedi. She was clearly too exhausted to guard both her tongue and her mind, but since he wasn’t obliging her in leaving so she was going to have to muddle through this.

There was a shift of something inside him, and there was nothing but incredulity from him. From her daring or stupidity, she wasn’t quite sure, but all he said softly was “You’ve been spending time with Kenobi.”

This isn’t anger, she reminded herself, you just got incredibly lucky that he didn’t react in anger. Play along. “Yes,” she admitted.

There was a strange mix of resignation and eagerness as he asked. “Decided to embrace your destiny at last?”

“Decided I needed help keeping you out.” she clarified, nipping that thought in the bud now. She most certainly didn’t need him thinking that she was training to be a Jedi. “Obi-Wan is quite helpful in that regard.” If in almost nothing else regarding her.

There was a flare of anger, and Leia fought to keep her mind and face blank as she could, as the pain that was causing her traveled up her spine. She would reveal no weakness to him, if he knew just how tenuous her position actually was, there was no telling what he would do. Her track record in predicting him was abysmal. Best to keep it simple.  

“He is a deluded old fool,” he spat “who only thinks he can help gifted children. You would do better to learn from me.”

The oddness of what he was offering made her head hurt. Did he even hear what he was saying? “You would teach me to keep you out of my mind?” she asked skeptically.

“In order to keep Obi-Wan from you, yes.” He wasn’t lying. He genuinely meant it. But Leia was more interested in the emotions accompanying that statement than the words themselves. There was jealousy there, given his obsession with her she wasn’t shocked by that, but there was fear too. Fear of what exactly? Did he think Obi-Wan would hurt her in some way? She had her problems with the Jedi, but she could never imagine that he would hurt her willingly in any physical way. The two of them echoing each other like this made her uneasy. They both clearly believed the other was a grave threat to her. She didn’t understand how Vader came to that conclusion, but all the proof she need was currently glowering not ten feet in front of her, his fear bleeding all over the place. Kenobi’s position was a lot more clear to her, for all that she disagreed with his methods of protection. She reigned her wandering mind back to her point.

“That still doesn’t tell me where he or my tutor are?” Take the bait, she urged in the recesses of her mind. Please take the bait. His answer would tell her a lot, even if he didn’t mean it to.

“Why is this so important to you?” he asked exasperatedly.

That startled her, and for a moment she felt an actual flicker of pity for him. Had he been removed from a genuine connection for so long that he didn’t understand this? Had he really been locked into that suit for so long he actually thought he wasn’t human anymore? “Because they are my friends are and I want to know if they are all right.” Even if that wasn’t the whole of it.

He cocked his head considering, she could practically feel his mind whirring, as he weighed his options, debating what he was willing to tell her. Finally, he said flatly “I have no idea what condition they are in. Your friends got away.”

That had the finality of truth behind it, and since there was no shading of that statement in any way, that meant there was no reasonable way he could find out. This wasn’t a situation where he had deliberately remained ignorant of their condition so he could weasel his way around that question. He really didn’t have any idea and no way to find out. Leia felt a wash of relief run through her, and she thanked whatever benign force looked after foolish and arrogant time travelers, who walked into situations they should have known better to avoid. “So that means you don’t have me.”

For a second there was only raging incredulity from him and he stated. “There is no possible way you can know that.”

She lifted her chin in defiance  “You don’t know and can’t find anything about their condition. You don’t have them, and therefore you don’t have me. They would never abandon me.” she stated simply. This was a fact of her world.

“Such faith.” he snarled.

“Truth,” she countered.

“You would do better than to trust Kenobi in this regard. He will only abandon you at your greatest hour of need.”

Now that was a twisted way to look at how Obi-Wan reacted to his falling to the Dark Side.

“And you haven’t?” she countered.

There was an ugly twist to his emotions in the Force. Too many things dancing around for her to separate them out, but disbelief and rage were definitely there. “What lies has Kenobi been telling you about me?”

At this Leia almost laughed. Obi-Wan said nothing about him to her. No all the warm and fuzzy stories were reserved for Luke. But then again she didn’t need those tales of a might have been father, she actually had one.  “Not a damn one. I don’t need him to tell me anything. You’ve already abandoned me once before.”

“You were kidnapped!!” he roared, his fists clenched at his sides, “I would never have left you!!”

Oh, he wanted to play that card, did he? Well, he wasn’t talking to some ignorant nineteen-year-old who didn’t understand anything about the Force. “What do think falling to the Dark Side is!?!” she demanded, “Do you think I am not intimately aware of what that does to a person!” As soon as the words were out of her mouth she wanted to claw them back in. She had no problems keeping her silence about her son with the people she loved and trusted. Why was it she kept mentioning Ben around him? He had nothing to say on the matter that she wanted to hear.

His frustration and anger drained away, and there only remained of all things a profound sense of regret. Leia didn’t even want to try to decipher what he was thinking, so she closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing, trying to find her calm center. She pictured the great stateroom of Alderaan, where she knew who she was and where she stood and there were no tall figures dressed in black armor to annoy her. She let the peace that image caused her to fill every corner of her mind, and slowly she opened her eyes. She was still on D’Qar, and he was still standing there. There was a long pregnant pause as the both stood there. She sighed, it was a small hope that he would leave on his own anyway.

“I-” he began, as soon as he was aware of her focus being back on him.

“Don’t,” she warned. “Whatever you are going to say, whatever platitude or excuse you have to offer, I don’t care.”

“Your son-”

“No,” and even she could hear how deadly calm her voice had become “He is not a subject that is up for discussion.”

His hands came up almost instinctively in front of him, in a placating gesture. “All right.” he agreed. She said nothing to that, letting the silence grow. He slowly lowered his hands, and she could see the subtly shifting he did from foot to foot, clearly waiting for her to speak. That would be a while, she didn’t want him here and had nothing to say. Maybe subjecting him to the silent treatment would convince him of his unwelcome.

He finally let a noise out that she thought was him clearing his throat, it was hard to tell through the distortion of the vocoder. “All your friends and you escaped on that ship.” he said in a clear firm voice, going back to their original topic.“I arrived at the back door just as your tutor was boarding it. I tried to give chase, but the explosion of the factory was quite the distraction and inconvenience for me in sending ships after you.”

Well if he was looking for a topic that wouldn’t set her off, he couldn’t have picked a better one. They were safe. Luke was safe, Vader hadn’t even really seen him. And Luke had beaten Vader to her using the Force, by quite a long bit it sounded like. Her brother had figured out something even their all powerful Sith Lord of a father hadn’t with that running trick. Or would have. Whatever. “You only have yourself to blame on that one.” she gloated, unable to resist the temptation to lord this over him.

“How so?” he wasn't angry strangely enough. He only sounded curious.

“You knew I was on the planet. I’m fairly certain you didn’t miss Obi-Wan’s presence either. If you hadn’t been so focused on” she searched for a word that wouldn’t immediately anger him, like kidnapping or stealing, “retrieving me, you would have realized we weren’t there to take in the sights.”

“That is correct.” he conceded, but before she could even comment on that, he continued on “However since your ‘retrieval’ was the only thing of interest to me the second I realized you were in the system I deemed whatever you had done to the factory to be irrelevant. If I had taken the time to find out and reverse whatever you had done, you most likely would have gotten away. If I moved forward and pursued you anyway greatly increased my chances of getting what I wanted.”

He had known, or strongly suspected, what they had done. And he came for her anyway. He had willingly sacrificed the most important weapons factory in the Empire, simply to increase his chances of catching her. Luke might have inadvertently saved her with his foolish action by drawing his attention away, no matter how briefly.

And this presented an even bigger problem. Luke’s presence had been enough to sway Vader’s attention, to break him off from his pursuit, even if it was for only a few seconds when a huge tactical asset to the Empire had not been. But was he chasing Luke because he wanted to kill a potential Jedi? Or was he hoping to capture him to use as bait for her? He was more than capable of using a loved one against a child to force their compliance. Either way she looked at this, it was not good.

“If you had just come to me when I asked you would not be in this situation at all. He clearly lacks the skills to adequately protect you. The fool was actually trying to head back to the factory and my way when you persuaded him to do otherwise.” So he had felt her talk to Luke but clearly didn’t hear what she had said to him. If he had this conversation would be going in a very different direction. Still best to be certain.

“How are you sure that it was me talking to him, and not Obi-Wan?” she challenged.

He huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. “Kenobi would never discourage someone from trying to kill me, no matter how doomed the effort.” So it was logic, not the Force, that helped him deduce who had reached out to Luke.

Leia felt her blood run cold as several nightmare scenarios ran through her mind's eye of how that could have gone if they had met face to face, if she hadn’t been able to persuade Luke to alter his course. ”He thought he was protecting me.” she stuttered as she focused on all her training to banish those thoughts from her mind. Who knew what he could pick up from her?

“Protect you? From me?” he was actually radiating hurt. “I would never harm you, Leia.”

That brought her focus back in on him. Liar, it was far too late for him to say that. “No, you just leave it to one of your stormtroopers to shoot me!!” she spat back.

Vader stilled at that, “They were aiming for you?” he asked in an almost calm voice.

Leia repressed the urge to back away. This sudden switch from volatile to almost placid calm was more frightening than had he started raging to the skies. Best not to push him on this one.  “No.” she finally answered “They were aiming for someone else. I got in the way of the shot.”

“Your tutor was not there, neither was Kenobi. Who were you protecting Leia?”

Okay, there was cautious and then there was no way in hell. He already had Luke, her parents, and Obi-Wan to use against her. There was no way in hell she was giving him Han, no matter the cost. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and just glared at him mutinously.

At her refusal to answer him, he started pacing, clearly too agitated to stay still, but not willing to end whatever the hell this was. Conversation? Interrogation?  

As she watched him warily, she could feel herself starting to sway, only a little, but it was there. All she wanted to do was sleep, but she wasn’t sure if that was even possible in this place, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to do it while he was still here. Time to push hard on the second part of her plan.

Let’s see if manners would sway him. “Well this has been most enlightening,” she said evenly, trying for a calm even tone “but I believe that we have both learned what we wanted from this meeting. Please leave.”

He stopped his pacing and turned to face her. “I respectfully decline.” Well, at least it was a polite refusal.

“What do you want?” she asked, opting for the direct approach. Who knows, maybe his request would be simple.

“Many things,” great he was never going to leave. “But for now I'll settle for the name of your tutor.”

Leia was too tired to play games with him, but this was really beyond belief. “Look at the arrest warrant. Or better yet that bounty you put on his head.

He snorted, actually snorted. “If his name is Poe Dameron then mine is Hondo Ohnaka.”

Leia’s head cocked, attention caught despite herself. There was that name again. “Who the hell is Hondo?” she demanded. “Rex mentioned him too.”

There was a wave of incredulity “Rex?" There was a pause, then "Captain Rex? He is still alive?" Now his voice took on ominous tones "And with the Rebellion?!?” Dammit. She really needed him to go, she was talking too much.

She chose not to answer, merely stood there as his anger grew again and once more he started pacing. “He chose to betray the Empire?” He chose to betray me? That wasn’t what he said but Leia heard it nonetheless. She wasn’t sure is he was talking to her or himself. Hell, she wasn’t sure if he even knew.

This, she couldn't let stand. She couldn't mitigate his anger towards Obi-Wan and her parents. She couldn’t shake him from his obsession with Luke, but maybe, just maybe she could sway him here. “Funny attitude from a man who needs a chip in his commander's head to get him to obey.”

“I did no such thing!” He stopped his pacing, and whirled, his cloak moving along behind him in a dark wave. He sounded offended.

“But you were more than willingly to go along with it once you knew? After the Jedi were exterminated those chips were left in. I didn’t ever hear of you do anything to change that. Or did I miss something?”

He said nothing to that, but his silence was enough of an answer. She pressed on. “Rex removed his, sometime during the Clone Wars. That’s why he didn't comply with the order to kill the Jedi.”

“That explains a great deal. The last time I saw him he was with...” he trailed off. Explained a great deal about what? Rex was with who? And he still hadn’t answered her question about who the hell Hondo Ohnaka was. For a man who was constantly demanding answers from her, he never gave any back in return. Let’s not focus on that part, it will only make you angry, and you don’t have the energy to be angry right now. She could feel the trembling starting in her hands and she crossed her hands in front of her chest to hide it. Focus, the issue here is Rex.

She forced a nonchalant shrug “He doesn't know about you. Obi-Wan lied through his teeth when he asked about your fate.”

Vader’s head cocked, “There is something you are hiding in that statement.”

Oh great, that he picks up on. Was there any way to train in lying around other Force users? Maybe, but it was probably something Jedi doctrine didn’t encourage. She wondered if she could get Vader to teach her. It seemed like a Sith Lord specialty. If she could stand being in his presence for long enough without trying to kill him, it might be a useful thing to learn. She dismissed the idle speculation and returned to the matter at hand. “Rex really doesn’t know.” He didn’t answer her, only stared, silently demanding more. Gods, he was noisy. “Obi-Wan told him that Vader killed you,” she elaborated.

“Obi-Wan said what!” his voice was indignant and shocked.

Okay, maybe that was a topic she shouldn’t have brought up. But it did bring home that Rex didn’t ‘betray’ him, and it’s not like with this revelation she was adding more fuel to the fire of his hatred of Obi-Wan. The man had left him to burn, after all, she’d be pissed at him too.

She knew that what she was about to say wouldn’t save Rex if he ever had the misfortune to be in the same room as Vader, but maybe she could mitigate the Sith Lord’s desire to actively hunt his old commander down. Time to see how far this ‘caring’ of her really extended.

“Rex was there, on Cymoon 1. He was the one giving me medical attention. When he put pressure on the wound that was when you heard me cry out the second time.” His anger came rising up again and she hurriedly went on “He probably saved my life.”

Vader underwent one of those lightning-quick mood changes and he shifted uneasily  Leia frowned “That was your voice I heard? Not some other random Force user?” she asked, suspicions dancing in her mind, that’s all she needed, Palpatine's’ attentions.

“Yes,” he answered forcefully, then the hesitation came back “I was...unprepared, for how loud you would be.” If he was overwhelmed what had Luke gone through? She was amazed he even made it the ship. “Then you vanished. I thought you had been killed.” There was grief there, actual grief.

She just stared at him not sure how to respond to this vulnerability on his part. Was he even aware of how much he was projecting right now? On how much she could pick up because of how deep he was in her mind? “Oh.” she finally settled on.

Now his posture became defensive “You thought I wouldn’t feel that?”

She didn’t know how to handle this. She wasn’t sure she believed that he had any real depth to his feelings for her. But maybe that wasn’t the point. He believed they were real and genuine. It was probably a lie he was telling himself, for whatever reason, but she was in no place to contradict it. The truth, that she was useful to him alive, and that was the real reason she believed he wanted her, probably wouldn't go over well. She settled for saying “I haven’t really thought about how you would react to me getting hurt.” There, that was factual, and it was also tactful. Her mother couldn’t have come up with better.

He actually seemed hurt by that. “You're my daughter!”

Okay, there was placating him, and then there was letting him think that their blood ties mattered to her. “Yeah me. So that makes me special enough to be treated as a sentient creature?”

He was drowning the Force in his frustration and confusion. “You mistake my meaning.”

“Frankly I don’t care enough to even try to decipher that.”

“This wouldn’t have happened if you would just come to me.” This again. Did he really think she was in any way tempted by such an offer?

“Why? So I can join you in the dark side of the Force and we can rule the galaxy together? In one big dysfunctional family mess?” She snorted derisively “Thanks but no thanks.”

“You almost died!” He really wasn’t letting that go, was he?

She shrugged “But I didn’t.”

“I forbid you to go on any more missions!” he thundered.

Leia felt her eyes go so wide they felt like they would pop out of their sockets. “Are you trying to ground me?” she asked incredulously. She didn’t give him time to answer. Her hands dropped from her chest and she waved them around her face, to every line, wrinkle and gray hair. Even with his visor distorting his view, there was no way he could miss this. “Even if I was inclined to listen to you, which I am not, I would like to remind you that I am older than you.”

He gave a growl of frustration “Then if you insist on pursuing this foolish course you need to be more careful!”

She surprised herself, she found a genuine laugh escaping her at that statement “That is very rich coming from you. I’m not unaware of the insanity of some of the moves you pull.”

“You’ve studied me?” he seemed surprised, and there was a thread of pleasure wrapped in that.

She was not leaving him with the impression she had done it to know him. She had done it because she was trying to kill him. For her parents, for Alderaan, for the galaxy as a whole. She didn’t even know he was her father at the time. But as she opened her mouth, she could see the background behind him waver. Hell, she couldn’t afford to really piss him off. “Know your enemy.” she retorted, not willing to let it go, but not willing to be really pissy about it either.

He took a step forward at that. She quelled the urge to back up. No weakness, not even a tiny hint. “We are not enemies.”

She blinked. He really did need this spelled out for him, didn’t he? “You, Imperial Agent,” she said pointing a finger at him. Then she poked her chest. “Me, Rebel insurgent. I admit there is a lot of gray areas that exists in this galaxy, but that is not one of them.”

“Why do you think that matters to me? What lies have you been fed about me?” he actually seemed indignant at this.

“Your actions speak louder than any words? I won’t turn to the dark side. I have no interest in running your Empire. What use am I to you?”

“Don’t be obtuse. You of all people know not everything is about power.”

What? Did she just hear that correctly?  “I’m sorry but who is the Sith Lord in this conversation?”

“But you are not a Jedi.” he countered “Therefore you are not an enemy.”

Well wasn’t that generous of him. “So all those people you killed in the name of your Empire? What were they if not your enemy?”

“In my way.”

Well wasn’t that bloody practical of him. Leia thought of all those people, Rebels mostly, but civilians and Imperials too, that statement included. To have all those lives and possibilities snuffed out of existence for no more a reason then he couldn’t bother to even attempt to find a better way. She didn’t have clean hands, she had killed before, and more than likely, given the when of where she was, would do so again. But she was aware, so aware, of the costs of those decisions. She might not regret many of them, but she sure as hell wasn’t dismissive of them either. There was a cost to those actions, and that was always, always, to be remembered. He seemed to regard killing as a mildly inconvenient chore.  “I’m done with this.” her voice filled with disgust “Get out.”

“Leia-” he came forward again. He was far too close for her comfort, she could feel the licks of fear growing into something more. The background flickered momentarily to her cell in the Death Star, before returning to the lush landscape of D’Qar.

“No,” she shook her head, and immediately regretted the action. Bright spots started dancing across her eyes. What did that say about her energy levels right now? She was in her own mind and was starting to see the physical effects of fatigue. She tried to reason with him. “You wanted to know if I was still alive. I am. You wanted the name of my tutor. I’ll see you in hell before I ever answer that question. There is nothing here for you, so please just leave.”

“If you would only listen to me-” he practically begged, coming towards her. Now she did step back and felt the blood rush to her head at the motion. Fuck. This was bad, this was so bad. There was only one other time in her life she had felt this tired and helpless, and he had been there too. This far in her own mind, how long was it before she flashed back there?

“Now.” she insisted, but her voice came out sounding thin, even to her own ears.

He actually stopped at that, his blaze of furious determination being replaced by concern. “Leia are you alright?”

No, she wasn’t alright, she had just been shot and her overbearing possessive Sith Lord of a biological father wouldn't get the hell out of her head, and she was on the verge of a flashback. “I’m fine” she lied, then wobbled on her feet.

He ignored that and began rapidly heading towards her again, his arms coming up as if he intended to steady her.

“Don’t touch me!!” she warned, but he didn’t stop.

Those mechanical hands, encased in their gloves grabbed her upper arms firmly, practically holding her up as her legs gave up the fight and collapsed under her. Her head fell to her chest, suddenly weighing as much as a rancor, and impossible to hold up.

“Leia,” he said in a strong demanding voice “Look at me!”

She didn’t want to. She had been warned about him. That he had strange abilities and could peer into your very mind through your eyes. She couldn't afford to let him see. She had so very much to protect.

“Leia!!” he demanded and the panic in his voice made her reluctantly look at him, trying to find the source of his fear. If she knew that maybe she could use it against him? 

She met his eyes and the room was suddenly so cold. She was puzzled by that, hadn’t she been warm a second ago? Hadn’t she been somewhere else? Then he shook her, and the nausea that action caused brought her focus back in on him. She was standing, of a sort, alright Vader was holding her up by her arms, and she was in that gray cell that had been her prison for the last few hours.

“Look at me!!” He demanded, but she didn't want to. He had given her something, in that droid of his. It might her all floaty and detached, and strangely compliant. She had been expecting pain, why wasn’t there pain?

"Why use pain? That always gets you horrible results, and everyone starts babbling and crying for their mother."  She knew that voice. It was familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. That was also weird thought to have, where had that come from? Then Vader was demanding the location of the base.

“What base?” she asked him dreamily, trying to puzzle out where she was.

“The Rebel Base.”

She said the first planet that came to mind. “Coruscant.”

He actually shook her in his frustration and the nausea came up again fiercer this time.

“You do that again and I’m going to throw up on you,” she whined. It was only polite to warn him after all. Even though he was causing the problem in the first place. He stopped what he was doing and she let out a sigh of relief as her stomach somewhat settled.

"You should have puked all over his boots." That voice remarked.

Mama taught me better than that.

"Forget manners, he deserves it."

“Where is the base your Highness?” he asked again.

“I don’t know. Around.”

“Very well, we do this the hard way.” He pushed her back and she dropped back onto the cold bench behind her with a hard thump. She whimpered, that had hurt, and sitting was going to be an issue for a while. He was kneeling in front of her, hard hands cupping her face, forcing her to look at him. Huh, they had no give, must be artificial. Or maybe he really was a droid underneath all the armor.  

"No, Leia, you need to let me go. I don’t need to see this." that voice was pleading with her now, desperation and in pain.

Well, she didn’t want to live it, but what was done was done. There was a cold hard touch in her mind. Leia squirmed in her seat, trying to wiggle away, but his grip wouldn’t let her. That touch spread into her mind like she had eaten a frozen dessert too fast and had brain freeze. Only she couldn’t make this stop by pressing her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

Where is it?" he said, no, that wasn’t right, he thought it at her. Then that touch went rummaging in her mind, trying to see what answers that question brought up. Leia couldn’t keep him out. Vader was walking through her mind, tossing aside memories of training, of family breakfasts, the smell of her mother's hair, her father’s laugh, the first boy she had ever had a crush on. He ran through all of them, dismissing them all. The totality of her life and he swatted it around like she was nothing more than an annoying insect. And everywhere he went that cold fire, with its maddening howl, followed.

What was worse was the apathy, she could feel it clinging to him. He was doing this because he had been told, but he didn’t care. About any of this. He was trying to tear her apart, piece by piece, to find the Rebel base, and it didn’t matter to him at all. She didn’t matter, she was just another in a long list of annoyances and obstacles.  

She fell further and further into her mind, trying to escape him and his endless question of Where? Where? Where? She drew further and further into herself, towards that core of her she trusted, solid walls made of her strength and her secrets. This is where her luck came from. This was the place that whispered to her of warnings she had learned to heed. This was the place of the wild song that she could almost frustratingly understand the words to. This was the place in her mind of her greatest secrets. And this is the place where that cold fire crashed into, unable to crest over its smooth strong walls.

There was shock, surprise, and a good dose of wariness from him. She could feel him, running tiny waves up and down all along those walls, looking for a weak spot, looking for a place to ram. She braced herself for the blow, but instead of a strong hammer, what felt like a thin blade of fire was swiped across them. Everything In her mind screamed at the unexpected form of the attack, and for a second she was lost in it.

Where?” he demanded in that deep baritone.

“Leia, please.” That mellow voice was back again, and there was something about it, something that she knew she didn't like about it. “You need to wake up. This is hurting you to re-live it.”

Cracks started appearing around the area he had sliced through, and she tightened her grip on everything here, deliberately keeping her mind blank. If she didn’t think about what she was guarding, then he wouldn’t be able to find it.

That slice came again, and Leia didn’t even try to hold in her howl of pain, and then one precious memory slipped thru that sliver of fracture in her mind.

She felt his pleasure and confirmation, then it turned to disgust as he realized it was of her father, telling her, finally of his involvement in the Rebellion. She had been fifteen, and so sure she wanted to join the fight and wanting, at last, the divulging of all secrets between them

I already know this.” and across those cracks, the feel of his voice hurt. But she took comfort in the fact she hadn’t betrayed her father. She hadn’t told Vader something he already could prove. She strengthened her resolve, and despite the pain it caused her, tried to pour all of her strength into those cracks, shoring them up.

WHERE IS THE REBEL BASE?” he screamed, and this time it was accompanied by many slashes on that one point, over and over, trying to whack away everything she was pouring into them to keep them closed.

She felt herself wavering under the onslaught, and her for just a moment her grip slipped. She had a second to decided and she clung to the base with all her might. Her oldest secret, a much wondered about face, filled with sadness and kind eyes, slid out.  It was the only memory she had of her birth mother, and it was treasured for all her parents told her that she had been too young to know what the woman looked like. Leia had been too young when she died, she couldn’t possibly remember her. But she did, she knew that this woman was her mother and that she was important. At her instance that it was real, fueled by the belief of the very young, her parents had given up on convincing her of the impossibility of what she saw. Instead, they firmly entrenched in her head the importance of never discussing that face with anyone. And now he would see.

She shouldn’t have worried. He didn't even look at it. She could feel his cursory examination, but he really didn’t see that beloved face. He only saw that she was Leia’s birth mother and that she was long dead. His disbelief was a slap to her senses along with his questions. Why had she fought so hard to protect a dead woman? She was a nothing, a nobody, and this had nothing to do with the rebellion, it was unimportant, so why would he even care about her?

"You should have saved yourself the trouble." he told her sneeringly in that deep mechanical voice.

"Padme," said that voice that wasn’t her voice, and it was full of grief, pain, and a towering inferno of incredulous disbelief. Wait, she hadn’t known her mother’s name. Not then. She had only learned it later, from Mon, of all people. She really wasn’t here, she had been on D’Qar. No that wasn’t right either, she had been on Cymoon 1 and she had been shot. Then she had been in her own mind, and Han, her Han had come. Then he had left because Vader-

Vader. That was Vader’s voice, the one he spoke to her with when he wanted something. Oh, gods, he was here, living this with her, and what if he saw-

Everything abruptly shifted back to D’Qar as he let her go and she fell to the ground.

She lay there for a moment, eyes closed, the rough pavement scraping her cheek, trying to catch her breath. She could hear Vader’s respirator breath in and out, so he was near her, and by the sound of it, he was also near the ground. “What the hell had knocked the wind of his sails?” she thought bitterly.

She tried to move, and nothing came, just a feeling of her body telling her that it had enough of this. She focused on opening her eyes, at the very least she would then be able to see him and reality was always far more preferable then to what her mind could come up with on its own. Most times.

She struggled, and by a feat of extreme willpower and stubbornness, managed to open them. He was kneeling in front of her, not three feet away, but he wasn't touching her, just staring.

“Go away.” she tried to say. Nothing came out. Okay, time to move to the second option, no matter her revulsion using this method with him. “Go away.”

He started at that, broken out of whatever he had been thinking.

“I cannot leave you here like this.” he said.

Force after all that and he still wouldn’t leave. He had everything he wanted, didn’t he? He knew what happened on the Death Star. He couldn’t have possibly missed where the Rebel Base was. The only comfort she had was that he cut her off before she could even think of Luke. “I’m done talking to you.”

“I meant,” and there was a wealth of exasperation in his voice “I cannot leave you here lying on the ground like this.”

What the hell did that matter? It’s not like this was real. This was just another excuse he was using. “What difference does it make where you leave me in my own head?”

There was only incredulous disbelief flooding from him. “Your focus determines your reality. Didn’t you learn that?”

Not a Jedi. she reminded him.

“This is a manifestation of your mind, Leia. What happens here can have actual physical consequences on your body. That is what I meant by in the Force there is no difference between here and the physical world.”

Oh, that was a nice straightforward explanation. Why the hell couldn’t Obi-Wan put it that way? “So go and leave me to my rest.”

“And if I leave you here like this what do you think that will do to your actual physical self?” sarcasm creeping into his voice.

He had a point there. What she was manifesting here was not her nineteen-year-old body, with its wonderfully forgiving nature of the abuse she heaped on it. Still, she wasn’t sure what would happen if he tried to touch her again. “I don’t need your help. Go away.”

He sighed. “Where are the sleeping quarters?”

She knew this was all bullshit, he was trying to learn the layout of what he thought was the Alliance's current location. “This isn’t our base. It’s one after you died.”

“Given the fact that I just saw you tortured for the information on the Rebel Base and I still didn’t learn where it is, I can’t say I’m not surprised by that.”

Leia felt a wash of surprise flood her, followed by her anger. “Don’t lie to me!!” she said as strongly as she could, tears of frustration welling in her eyes. After all this time and the bastard finally had pried the location of the base out of her. She didn’t need his pity on top of her failure.

He stilled at that. “I am not lying Leia,” he said it slowly, calmly, emphasizing every word. She started to try to contradict him but he continued on, “I have not once lied to you. I really don't know where the Alliance is currently located. You are correct in the fact that if you don’t name a thing it makes it harder for someone to find it in your mind. Even if that someone who is there was trying to break free and didn't mean to eavesdrop.” He leaned forward, making sure she was looking at him “You never once referred to the base by name. Your secret is still safe.”

Hadn't she? She quickly went back over the incident in her mind. No, she hadn’t. She hadn’t failed. She hadn’t. Everyone she loved and her cause was still safe. Relief made her giddy, and then the exhaustion followed in its wake made her yawn.

“You need to rest.” he intoned, and Leia resisted rolling her eyes at him. She already knew that, thanks. He leaned forward even more, and Leia just managed to stay silent. Probably because she didn’t have the strength to scream at him, but she was going to take what victories she could from this.

He must have picked up on her unease though because he flinched and drew back. With a groan, he pushed himself to his feet. Before she could even guess at what he intended to do, she felt the Force wrap around her. She felt herself rise from the ground like she was being cradled in someone's arms.

“Sleeping quarters Leia?”

Was he seriously going to tuck her into bed like a wayward child? She had to admit though that the thought had a lot of appeal. She debated with herself what to do when he threw in another consideration for her.

“The sooner you are in bed the sooner I leave.”

Well, that clinched it. “First hallway on the right you come across in the hangar bay.”

Without another word, he moved her forward until she was in front of him. She assumed he started walking towards the hangar bay because it started to pass her by.  

Leia fought to keep her eyes open, but whatever reserves she had were fading fast. Figuring that if she closed her eyes she would have more energy to stay conscious she let them slide close. He could learn nothing from here anyway. There were no people occupying this landscape and since the sun was out there were no stars that he could use triangulate the location of this planet.

As she swayed in the Force’s embrace she became aware of a barely leashed under layer of anger and pain underneath that solid grip. It was the Dark Side, she was no stranger to its presence, but then again she had never been held by it before either. He seemed to be trying to reign himself in, so as not to hurt her, but she could feel the build up of his rage underneath that calm veneer he was scrambling to hold. Why the hell was he so pissed? He wasn’t the one who just had to relieve one of his worst nightmares because someone was a pushy bastard and wouldn’t leave.

“I’m not angry at you Leia.”

Had she said any of that aloud?

“No,” he answered, “But you are exhausted and your shields are not what they should be. I’m trying not to listen, but you are being very loud.”

Oh, manners again, Then she wondered who was he angry with. She didn’t lay good odds on their survival.

“That is very true. I would love to be able to kill him, slowly. Unfortunately, he is someone far beyond even my reach.”

Now, who could he talking about? She tried to think of everyone mentioned in their conversation, but they were all people he wanted dead anyway. This anger had the feel of something fresh and new. It took her brain an unusually long time to puzzle out the answer. She was blaming her exhaustion and the sheer strangeness of the answer to why it took her so long.

“Did you just threaten to kill yourself?”

They stopped abruptly, and Leia tried to fight the nausea that rose up in her at the sudden motion.There was a long pause as he seemed to absorb this and she swore she heard something that could be classified as a chuckle come out of him.

“Yes, I suppose I did.”

Okay, she really didn’t energy to speak again but she couldn’t let that go “That is the oddest thing I’ve heard in years, and I just recently time traveled.”

“Is it?” that deep mechanical voice doesn't contain much ability for modulation of tone, but even with that factor, she could hear the sadness in his voice. What the hell had she said to make him sad? He made no sense.

“I make a great deal of sense. You’re simply not listening.” Was he lecturing her about listening? Him? The one who couldn’t take a simple “Go away.”

Then his words struck something in the back of her mind. He wasn’t the first person to say that to her. Someone else had too, and it was recent. Someone older and annoying but she couldn’t quite bring up who it was. Then she felt herself being lowered into a bed.

“Sleep Leia. I will not bother you again this night.”

Uh-huh. Her mother had raised no fool. There was a wave of anger and self-loathing from him at that thought, guess he heard that too, although she had no idea what she had said to set him off this time. All she understood was that she wasn’t sleeping until he as gone.

“Fine. I will leave.” He used the Force and she felt a blanket being pulled over her body. Was he tucking her in? This just kept getting stranger and stranger. Then that storm that was the Dark Side was gone. She forced herself to wait a few moments, to see if he was really gone. Satisfied that he had left, she slipped into sleep.

 

 

ABA - Day 62

 

There was someone holding her hand. That was what Leia was most aware of. There was someone holding her hand and they were crying. Leia slid her eyes open, just a bit, to see who was there. Her mother had her hand and was holding it as she rocked gently to herself. Why was Mama upset?

“Mama,” she croaked.

Her mother’s head snapped up “Leia?” her face was a track of tears and her eyes were red-rimmed. This was odd, usually, when Leia dreamed of her mother she was smiling.

“What are you doing here?” she said.

“Where else would I be?”

“Dead.”

Leia heard an intake of air from someone else that was in the room. Something passed over her mother’s face and she leaned forward. “Why would I be dead Leia?”

That wasn’t important, her mother already knew that. “Why are you sad?” she asked, troubled by that fact. Her father’s face appeared next to her mother’s, also pinched with worry, but it relaxed a bit when he saw her looking at him. Oh, that was the other person she heard. She tried to reach out for him, but her hand was pushing against something soft and wouldn’t move up. Why wouldn’t it move up? Oh, because she was pushing it against the bed. She frowned, she was laying on her front, why was she laying on her front?

“Leia,” Papa said, “Do you know where you are?”

That was a silly question. “Infirmary. Drugged.”

There was a look of relief on his face “Yes, that’s right Leia.”

That was all well and good, but that didn’t answer her question. “Why are you sad?” she asked her mother.

Her mother’s eyes widened “Because you are hurt.”

No, that couldn't be it. “You weren’t sad the other times I was here.” she pointed out.

The blood drained out of her mother’s face “What?” she asked.

“The other times I was hurt.” she explained patiently “You came to me then too, but you were never sad. You were always so happy to see me.” She closed her eyes, remembering “I was too. But then I would wake up and for a moment I thought you were still alive. Then the grief would come again when I remembered you weren’t really there anymore.”

“Leia honey, we're not dead. Remember?” her mother’s voice was insistent.

“Of course you are. You left me all alone.” her eyes opened again, and she felt the tears roll down her cheeks, even in her drugged state. “I know it wasn’t your fault. It was mine. And Tarkin’s. Mostly Tarkin’s. But he killed our world because of me. Because I wouldn't tell Vader where the base was.”

Her mother’s face grew horrified. “Is that what happened?” and she swung her head to look at her father. Whatever she saw there wasn’t what she was expecting “You knew.” she said flatly.

“You knew too.” he tried to placate his wife. That wasn’t going to work, Leia could tell. Her mother was furious.

“I knew Alderaan had been destroyed.” her mother hissed quietly. “I didn’t know it was done to make her talk. I didn’t know she watched it happen.”

But Leia was losing patience with this dim recreation of her parents. “You’re not her.” she mumbled “She knows she’s dead. Go away.”

“Leia, love,” but whatever this fake ghost of her mother had to say was lost on Leia as she slipped back into sleep.

 

ABA Day - 63

 

Leia was drugged. She knew this, she just didn’t seem to be able to make herself care. There was pain, so much pain, but it was behind this fog of non-caring that was quite nice. She opened her eyes, curious to where she was and found herself lying face down on a bed. She could hear the whirs and beeps of what was the all too familiar sound of a med bay.

Han was asleep in a chair right in her line of sight. His head had fallen to rest on his chest, and wow, that was a decision he was going to regret in the morning. Or night. What time was it?

She contented herself to just looking at him. He was so very handsome, even with the days of beard growth on his face and his hair muffled so badly.

“So pretty,” she said. “You were always so pretty.”

His head jerked up at the sound of her voice and his wide eyes meet hers.

“Leia?” he asked, scrambling to sit up and moving the chair closer to her bed. “How do you feel?”

“Floaty.”

“Yeah, I bet you are.”

“Han?”

“Yeah?”

“Why am I sleeping on my front? I hate sleeping that way. You know that.”

His eyes widened at that statement, although she wasn’t sure why, but he said gently “Well you got shot in the back and the armor you were wearing shattered. It cut you up pretty good. The medics don't want you resting on it because the skin is still pretty fragile.”

Oh, that made sense. Still, “I don’t like it.” she complained.

“Shh, I know.” he dragged his fingers across her forehead in a gesture of comfort. “It’s just for a few more days, till the bacta treatments have time to do all their work.”

“Fine.” she huffed. She looked at him, with his face all scrunched up in concern. It was cute.

“I’ve always liked you.” she said dreamily.

A look of pleasure crossed his face. “Really?”

“Uh-huh.”

Then he leaned forward and whispered “I’ll let you in on a secret. I like you to.”

She blew a raspberry at him “Not much of a secret.” she let out a huge yawn “I even like you when you are driving me crazy.”

“Really? I’m going to have to remember that.”

“You should. Except when you are being stupid, you should stop doing that. Only makes me mad. And not the fun flirting type of mad either.”

“When have I been stupid according to you?”

“When you shot the door in the trash compactor. That was really dumb. Did you think the rest of us hadn’t thought of that? You almost killed Luke.”

Obi-Wan’s face appeared out of nowhere and he asked mildly “Captain Solo did what to Luke?”

Han looked a little miffed. “I have no idea what she is talking about. They must have given her the really good stuff. I have certainly never been in a garbage compactor with her and Luke.”

“Chewie was there too.” she reminded him. “He complained about the smell for years.”

“Did he now?” Obi-Wan’s eyebrow lifted, and he looked at her bemusedly. “I’m sure he had a good reason.”

“It was the only way to get out of the hallway,” she told him earnestly. “It’s not like I wanted to go down there.” It was very important he believed her about that.

“Of course you didn’t.” he soothed. See, it was fine, Obi-Wan agreed with her. He never agreed with her, so she must be in the right here.

She settled for looking at Han again, marveling at how young he looked. Baby Han, she thought fondly, then she frowned. The other Han had been here too? She remembered talking to him. She looked around the infirmary for him, well she craned her neck up and down a lot. He wasn’t here. Did he leave her again? She scowled and then brought her attention back to baby Han. She better spell this out clearly for him.  

She frowned “And you were being especially stupid when you left me, just because I forgot to use my words. That was so dumb. I didn’t like it.”

“Left you?” he looked so confused. Good, so was she, she hated to be alone in that.

She yawned again, wow she was tired. Why was she so tired? “You’re lucky you're cute, or I would have shot you on Takodana when you showed up with that new jacket. That would have been a shame.”

“Wait? Takodana? You know Maz?”

“Who doesn’t know Maz?” she asked, puzzled.

Obi-Wan’s voice broke in “It would have been a shame to shoot Captain Solo?”

“No,” Force he was slow on the uptake. “Ruining the jacket. I liked it.”

Han blinked, trying to keep up. “Uh-huh, Leia-”

“Sleepy,” she said. “Quiet now.” Then she closed her eyes and went back to her rest.

 

ABA - Day 65

 

Leia came to with a pair of hands on resting on her back. She was no longer on her front, which was an improvement, but now she was laying on her side, which also wasn’t ideal. The floating feeling was also gone, which meant they had taken her off the heavy drugs. There was a wave of energy in the Force and she felt something inside her unclench.

“That’s it Luke, nice and slow. You don’t want to overwhelm her system.” Obi-Wan’s calm voice floated from somewhere below her feet.

“What?” she started to say but stopped when a croak was all she could admit.

“Leia!!” Luke’s voice was loud, excited, and directly in her ear. She winced and he immediately followed up with a much more reasonable “Sorry.”

“Water?” she asked him, not willing to try to speak again, but so desperately thirsty.

“Sure,” then his hands were gone and he was pulling her shirt back down. She felt the bed shift and the pad of his steps. Then there was the light touch of something against her lips. A straw. Greedily she took a few sips and the dry scratchy feeling in the back of her throat faded.

Slowly opening her eyes, and blinked a few times to clear them. Luke was sitting on the bed next to her, holding the cup up to her face. “Where?” she asked.

He gave her a tight smile. “Yavin. We’re on Yavin.”

“Oh.” Hell, she felt sore, like someone had taken a small hammer and beat it up and down her whole body. Slowly, pain medication tended to make her nauseous, she moved her head, trying to see around the room. Obi-Wan standing at the foot of her bed.

“Han?” she asked, she vaguely remember talking to him about something. Or had that been a dream? She remembered him being both young and old.

“He was here earlier Leia, but Chewbacca dragged him back to the Falcon to get some much-needed rest a few hours ago,” Obi-Wan informed her.

She nodded and looked back at her brother “What happened?”

He scowled “You got shot.”

“I know.” the scratch was back so she took another small sip of the water he was still holding in. “After that?”

Obi-Wan’s calm voice floated over her “The Falcon landed shortly after you lost consciousness, Luke arrived not more than a minute after it landed. We bundled you on board and left the system.”

“There was no way it was that easy.” she said to her brother.

His face twisted. “Easy? You think dodging the three Imperial cruisers that accompanied Vader to that planet easy? With thirty scared hysterical sentients on board? All the while Rex was trying to keep you from bleeding out? Then, when we realized you didn’t have the time to make it back here, rerouting the entire fleet, with the medical frigate, to meet us? Then the six hours of surgery to fix your back and internal organs, along with three days in a bacta tank? No Leia, none of that was easy.”

Okay, when he put it that way. But she thought of the major complication that had been at that factory that he hadn’t mentioned. “Vader?” she croaked.

Luke’s mood darkened, even more, twisted by...something. Something she couldn't identify. “Still alive.” But she already knew that, didn’t she? She pushed that thought away, she could have hysterics about that episode in her mind later.

“Factory?”

The scowl dropped from his face “A smoldering wreck.”

“Slaves?”

And here his face softened even more, and a smile broke his face. It was small, but it was there. “Free.”

“Here?”

He shook his head “No, they’re-”

“Ahhh, you're awake.” a new voice joined them, then there were footsteps and a human male walked into her line of sight. “Good afternoon. We were wondering when you would decide to join us. My name is Healer Banok.”

She waved her hand in a greeting gesture, not willing to waste her few precious words on this man. He was tall, a redhead, built thickly all over, and perhaps in his early thirties.

Obi-Wan spoke up again “If you don’t mind Leia, I will go inform your parents and Captain Solo that you’re awake.” She nodded her acquiescence and she was surprised to see him cross in front of the healer and lean down and placed a light kiss on her forehead. “I’m glad to see you are alright Leia, you gave us all quite the fright.”

She could only stare at him in astonishment and the words and the physical affection. Obi-Wan didn’t do this sort of thing. Not with anybody, even Luke, who she knew he loved and adored. Gods how bad had she been injured to promote this kind of reaction?

The healer waited until Obi-Wan left the room before turning to Luke. “If you don’t mind Lt. Skywalker, could you give us the room?  I’m about to discuss private medical concerns with her Highness.”

Luke's face grew mulish and Leia said “No.” she reached out for Luke’s arm and failed to grab it. He turned, lightening quick, and caught it before it could fall. “Stay,” she said to him.

His face softened and she pulled on his arm, indicating that he should get back on the bed with her. He stood, and bit his lip, contemplating the best way to do it. He ended up crawling back in behind her, where he had been before when she had woken up, spooning her from behind. With her brother at her back, Leia whispered “How bad?”

The Healer, who was watching them with avid fascination, and she wondered what gossip would travel around the base about this incident, jerked his attention back to her. “All together you were rather lucky." If she really had been lucky she wouldn't have been shot in the first place, but she continued to listen to the Healer.

"Let's start with bad news. Unfortunately for you, the armor was of an inferior make, my understanding that it’s quite cheap, and it shows. When the shot hit you, the back piece actually shattered into your back leading to multiple deep lacerations all along your spine. You also had a two-inch piece of the armor that, melted into the wound, greatly increasing your chance for infection and septic shock. If that piece of shrapnel had been even an inch more to the right it would have severed your spinal cord."

Okay, she could see why everyone was so upset. "Good news?"

"Well, as cheap as that armor you were wearing was, it did take most of the brunt of the impact. The recoil lead to two of your ribs being broken, but the shot itself did not pass completely through your body. So the internal damage was limited to a depth of about two inches. That includes your collapsed lung and the fractured shoulder blade from the heat stress.

"You were lucky that your friends were quick witted enough to radio the Alliance, and that you had enough pull for them to redirect the fleet. If you had been delayed treatment by even another hour I can’t say you would have made it.”

“Oh.”

He hmmmed. “After your surgery, you required three days in the bacta tank. You're going to be tired over the next few days, and I want you back here in a week for a follow-up. The muscles in your right arm have atrophied a bit, so we’ll start you on light PT tomorrow.”

Sounded good to Leia. “When can I leave?” he scowled a bit at this, but before he could answer her a voice cut across the room.

“Leia!!” he said, a wide smile breaking across his face as he took her in. His hair was sticking up at all kinds of angles, and his clothes were wrinkled, but he had shaved his face. She felt the same rush of love, bemusement, and guilt she always did when she saw this younger version of her husband.

Closure.” she heard her Han say in the back of her mind, and that conversation suddenly came flooding back. For a moment all she could feel was a profound sense of loss and grief. Luke’s arms tightened around her as he reacted to heartache.

“Later,” she promised herself. She would think about that conversation, and whether it was real or not later. For now, she needed to focus on this Han.

She forced herself to give him a wide smile. “You’re alright,” she said, relief in her tone, as she looked at his chest. That Force vision image of him dead playing across her mind’s eye.

His smile vanished and a scowl replaced it. “Of course I’m alright. Because you took a shot meant for me.” he stalked towards her and sat on the chair near her bed. “Don’t do that again,” he said darkly. “I don’t like owing anybody anything.”

She could feel Luke’s amusement, as he too heard what Han wasn’t saying. That he was supposed to protect them, not the other way around. “You don’t owe me anything Han,” she said gently. “That’s not how this works.”

“Not in my world sister.”

The Healer once again cleared his throat and all of them looked at him.

“As I was saying,” he said “or perhaps there is more guilt tripping you would all like to indulge in?” They all shook their heads. “Good.” he turned back to focus on Leia “To answer your question Princess, I would like to keep you here for at least one more day for observation. You can be discharged tomorrow, but I do insist that you stay with someone so they can monitor you.”

“She can stay with me.” both Han and Luke said at the same time. Han scowled at Luke, and then for the first time seemed to actually notice how her brother was positioned around her. His scowl deepened, and jealousy crossed his face.

“Or perhaps she should stay with her mother and father?” a mild voice asked from the doorway. “Given that we at least have some moderating influence on her. Knowing Leia, the first time she’s able to stay awake for more than five minutes she is going to throw herself into her work full speed.”

Healer Banok scowled, from yet another interruption, or the prediction of what she would try to do when she left his infirmary she wasn’t sure. He wagged his finger in her direction. “You are restricted to light activities only for two weeks. I want you to rest and relax.” she opened her mouth to protest and he shook his head. “No your highness, I must insist on this, or I won’t let you out of here that entire time. Your body has been through a horrible trauma and you need to give it time to heal. I know most patients are more comfortable in familiar surroundings then here, but I will keep you here if you don’t promise me you will take it easy.”

She scowled, she had too much to do, and she was a grown woman, she knew her limits. But her father's voice came across stern and demanding “Leia.”

At her back, Luke’s arms tightened around her “You’ve done enough for now, please Leia.”

She sighed “I promise.”

The Healer’s face brightened “Good. I hate to tie up this bed for that long simply because you were being difficult.” Well, that was one of the subtlest smackdowns she had ever received in her life. “Do you have any more questions for me?” She shook her head. “Good. I’ll schedule your PT for tomorrow, and after that is done I will release you into your parent’s care.” And with that, he bustled off.

Her father slightly shifted to let the man pass, and then he came into the room, “Luke,” he greeted her brother warmly, then he turned to Han “Captain Solo,” which was not quite as warm, but not as hostile as it could have been.

“Sir,” Han responded, wiggling in his chair uncomfortably.

“You are looking a bit more refreshed than the last time I saw you.” her father offered.

“Yeah,” and here Han ran his hands through his hair, “The nap helped.” Then he seemed to notice that he was sitting in the only available seating in the room and he stood up hastily. “So this is a bit crowded for my tastes. I should get going.” He shot a look at Leia, who was simply baffled by the abrupt turn that this conversation had taken. “I’ll see you later Princess,” and with that, he beat a hasty retreat from the room.

All three of them watched him go and Leia blurted out “What did I miss?”

Her father sighed. “I seem to make him even more nervous when I treat him with respect.”

She focused in on her father “Respect?” she asked. Her father tolerated Han, but respect was a bit of a stretch.

Papa sighed and sat down in the chair Han had just vacated. “I’ll be honest Leia, I still don’t like him. But respect has very little do with liking a person.” Her father gave her a rueful grin “I was there for all the debriefing on this mission. He defended you. He could have run, in fact before all this happened I would have laid good money down that faced with this situation that’s exactly what he would do. But he didn’t. He stood, out in the open, and defended you.”

She scowled, insulted on Han’s behalf “Of course he would.”

“That may have been obvious to you Leia, but it wasn't as clear to me.”

“That’s because you were looking Han’s inability to be loyal to organizations.You were confusing that with the ability to be loyal to people.” Luke blurted out.

Both she and her father turned their heads, her brother blushed under their scrutiny but continued on. “Han’s loyal to people. He really doesn't care too much about the ideas Leia and I are fighting for. One government is the same as another to him. But he does care that we care.”

Her father hummed in the back of his throat at that. Leia let it lie. Maybe her father would never like Han, but if he was willing to give his respect, that was something she could live with. She could feel her lids drooping, but there was one more thing she needed to know before she went back to sleep.

“The slaves?” she asked.

Luke gave a delighted huff. “They’re fine. We left them on the medical frigate. They were all in pretty rough shape, and command didn’t think it was wise to let them know where the base was.”

“They are going to need counseling,” she warned “and new identities. We can’t just let them go with no help.”

Her father laughed and ran his fingers across her foreheads “I know Leia, this isn’t the first time I’ve handled something like this. Luke and I have it well in hand. Go to sleep.”

Well if anyone would have a good idea of what was needed for those people it was her father and brother. Confident that they were in good hands, she drifted back into sleep.

 

ABA - Day 66

 

It ended up being her mother who escorted her from the med bay. “Your father wanted to be here,” she said gently, as she helped Leia to her feet. She was wiped from the PT session she had completed that morning and had just woken up from her nap. “But he was pulled into an emergency meeting about a last minute change to the plan to rescue Drusil Bephorin.”

Leia frowned “How’s that going.”

“No work your Highness,” Healer Banok warned. “I mean it. Just rest.”

She shot him a glare, but her mother only chuckled. “I’ll see that she behaves,” she assured him.

He gave her a long dubious look but shrugged. “Just remember to be here again tomorrow for PT.”

Leia nodded, ready to promise him anything, as long as he let her leave this place.

“Ready?” she asked Mama, and Breha nodded.

They made their way slowly down the corridors. Leia knew that she wasn’t allowed to sleep in her own quarters, as they were too small to accommodate Luke to watch her. So for the next two weeks, she would be sleeping in her parent's quarters.

“Are you sure about me staying with you?” Leia asked her mother again

Her mother hummed and patted Leia’s arm affectionately. “It will be fine.”

“One of you should be staying in my room, rather than sleeping on a cot.” she pointed out. Her parents had informed her that their bed wasn’t big enough to accommodate all three of them. So they had brought in a sleeping cot to place on the floor, and they would take turns sleeping on it, as she stayed on the bed. Leia would have protested, this body could handle the hard comfort of the cot better than theirs, but honestly, right now she felt like she was ninety, not nineteen, so she swallowed her pride and said nothing.

“Maybe after a few nights,” her mother conceded. “Depending on how much sleep we end up actually getting. But if you think either one of us will be sleeping well in a place where we can’t get up immediately and check on you, you are sadly mistaken.”

Alright, that was fair. They approached her parent’s door and Leia could only feel gratitude. Even this short of a walk had left her physically exhausted, and she thought longingly of the big bed where she could rest for a few minutes. Her mother guided her into the bedroom and stayed with her as she gratefully sank down to sit on it.  

Her mother watched her intently for a minute, then she got up and closed the door to the bedroom. Leia frowned, what was this all about?

Her mother turned and faced her, but didn't come back over. She stood there for a moment, staring at her then said softly. “Leia, there is a question I want to ask you.”

Okay, her mother had been in and out of the infirmary over the last day, along with Luke and her father. What did she want to ask Leia that they, and the medical staff terrible gossips that they were, overhear? “Alright,” Leia answered her cautiously.

“I really want you to think about this and give me an answer. Not your immediate instinctive response, not what you think I want to hear, but the truth.” There was the aura of command around her mother, and the formal request helped sink into Leia’s mind that whatever this was her mother was treating it with the utmost importance.

“I promise Mama.”

Her mother took in a deep breath, centered herself, then asked flatly “Do you want to die?”

Leia felt as if she had been kicked in the stomach. “What?” she managed.

“Do you want to die Leia?”

“No!” she shouted back.

“I wanted you to think about it.”

“There’s no need to think about it. The answer is no.”

“Are you sure? Because from where I’m standing it doesn't look like you want to live.”

Leia felt bafflement and hurt rising within her. How could someone who knew her so well, was this close to her, think that?  “How did you come to that conclusion?”

Her mother gave a small sob. “When you work yourself to the bone day in and day out without taking a rest or relaxing in any way. When you go on impossible missions, where the odds are so firmly stacked against you I can’t even imagine how you think you will survive. When several people warn you that the plan you are embarking is foolish at best and suicidal at worst and you ignore them. When you know that Vader is going to be somewhere, and you go anyway!” her mother wasn’t shouting, but there was an intensity to the look in her eyes and a tightness around her mouth that suggested it was only decades of training that kept her voice even.

“I didn’t know for sure he would be there.” she protested, sticking to the one fact in that speech that she could honestly refute.

“Don't you dare try to fool me Leia Organa.” her mother's voice was sharp and bitter. “You can lie to yourself all you like, but don’t you dare sit there and tell me you thought the chances were good he wouldn’t be on that planet.”

Leia had nothing to say to that.

“I have held my peace until now. You are an adult, even if you were the age your face says you are, and you are far past the age when I have any right to forbid you to do anything.”

Leia felt panic rise in her at that statement. “That’s not true.” Leia protested “You are and always will be my Queen.” If her mother refuted that it was a cut at the core of her identity at the deepest level.

Breha gave her a sad smile “Yes, I am, and Leia you are, above all else, Alderaanian. But greatest importance to me is that foremost and first, you are my daughter. To order you to do such a thing would forever make me your Queen first, not your mother. And since it is a mother’s wish to keep you out of danger, it is not something I can allow myself to do.”

“Sometimes the personal must be separated from the political. The Queen of Alderaan is wholly made of you, but the Queen of Alderaan is not wholly you.” It was a saying her mother had given her growing up, as she wondered at her mother’s public stance on  Alderaan’s neutrality on the subject of the Rebellion. She couldn’t understand how her mother, who she knew was a supporter of the Rebellion, would not say as much in public.

Breha sighed and wiped a hand across her face, discreetly wiping away her tears. “I can’t blame you if you are. Your husband is lost, the life you had built, however dark it might have been, and don't say otherwise,” she warned Leia as she opened her mouth to speak “I know you were not in a happy place when you make this leap, even taking in account Han’s death. You are not as careful with the details as you think you are. Not for someone who knows you and is listening. And I’ve been listening very hard, Leia. Your silence on the matter has left me little choice.”

Leia opened her mouth to say, yet again, her reasons for her silence, but her mother put up a hand to forestall that. “I know you have your reasons., I even agree with some of them. But that doesn't take away my worry. That doesn’t remove my desire to know . The life you built, no matter how imperfect, is gone and you have found yourself once more in a fight you thought you had won. I can’t imagine the toll that has taken on you.”

Leia sat there, trying to listen to what her mother was saying. “I don’t want to die,” she said finally. “I acknowledge that this has been hard on me. I know that it looks like I’m being reckless and foolish. But I can promise you that I’m not.”

“You knew Vader as going to be there Leia.”

“He doesn’t want to kill me.” she countered “And I also knew what a victory at that plant would bring the Alliance. I made a calculated risk. I’ve done it my whole life.”

“You never gave so little weight to your own survival before.”

“This is worth it!” Leia insisted “Trust me it was true when I was nineteen, it’s even more true now that I know what victory will bring us.” It had been temporary, but it had been real.

“No, it is not.”

“How can you say that?” Leia asked, aghast.

“What good is the defeating the Empire if you are not around to see it?” Breha demanded. “Leia, my love, why do you think your father and I fought so hard for this! It was to make the galaxy better for you!! And it’s all for naught if you die.”

“Because I’m the future?” she asked bitterly “Because your line dies with me if I don’t survive? I can promise you Alderaan’s culture would survive. It is much stronger than that.”

“Because you’re my daughter and I love you!!” Her mother was trembling, “This isn’t about legacies or bloodlines, or the fact you are my heir. This is about how I believe the Galaxy is a much better place with you in it.” Whatever energy she seemed to posses left her and Breha’s shoulders slumped. Wearily she sat down on the bed next to Leia and took her hands in hers.

“We tried so long for a child,” she whispered, her voice soft. “No matter what we did, or medical procedure we tried, it all came to naught.” She looked up at Leia then, eyes sad “Then Bail brought you to me.” Breha’s left hand came up and cupped Leia’s cheek. “And you were perfect. Loving, bright, and so full of life. And I felt so guilty because I knew you were meant to be ours, but a friend had to die to make that so.”

She shook her head sadly. “Leia, we didn’t take you in simply to turn you into a weapon against Vader and the Emperor. If that had been the case there were certainly better places to put you that wouldn’t put you so prominently in their paths. We took you in because we loved and wanted you.”

“I know you love me, Mama,” Leia said brokenly. “I never once doubted that.”

“Then you know the agony when we received the call from Obi-Wan saying that you had been hurt. That the healers weren’t sure if you would survive.” Her hand fell away from Leia’s face and a soft sigh escaped her. “Or maybe you can’t. It’s not the same. There is a special twist of pain to the agony of not knowing the fate of your child.” Breha’s voice trailed off as she took in Leia’s face.

Leia fought to keep her reply in check. Yes, she knew this, she was all too bitterly intimate with that particular pain. And all she could feel was sorrow and regret that she had put her parents through it, however unintentionally. She searched for the words to apologize, to say she hadn’t meant to be that thoughtless, that it had been decades since she had to even consider such a thing, but she would be more careful in the future. She focused on her mother, opening her mouth to say all of this, but her Breha’s face was no longer filled with anguish, but a kind of muted comprehension.

When Luke had explained that she was strong in the Force, a great many things about her intuition made much more sense to her. But her ability to read people, their body language, their faces, the words they choose to use and not use, that she had learned at her mother’s knee. And those keen eyes were paying close attention to her now.

“You do know what I’m talking about.” she whispered, stunned.

Leia felt panic rise in her chest. “I don’t want to talk about this.”

“Leia, you had a child?”

“Mama, I really don’t want to discuss this.”

But for once her mother wasn’t listening to her, too wrapped up in the discovery she had just made. “Leia, what happened to them?”

Leia shook her head, the thoughts of Ben pulling on her heart, along with her rising fury at him. The two were too closely linked to her to ever fully pull them apart again. “I’m tired, Mama.”

Her mother said nothing for a moment, then said softly “All right, we’ll table this for now. I’ll leave you to your rest then.” She got up and headed to the door “Leia, please do think about what I said.” she gave a small smile “And if you ever want to talk about your child I will be here for you when you are ready.”

Leia waited until her mother left the room and crawled into the bed, determined to use the oblivion of sleep to escape all of this.

 

ABA Day - 71

 

Mon was sitting at her desk when Leia entered the room. She looked up from the datapad she had been reading and gave her a wide smile. “Leia, thank you for meeting with me. How are you feeling?”

Leia gave a smile in return and came into the room sitting on the chair on the other side of the desk. “Better. I can go a whole five hours without wanting to take a nap.”

“Sleep is good.”

“Sleep is annoying but necessary.” Healer Banok had been frustratingly correct on her limits.

Mon regarded her solemnly for a moment then she said quietly “Do you have any idea why I asked to speak to you?”

“I’m assuming it has to do with the mission to Cymoon 1.“

“Partially, yes. I’ve read your debriefing, along with the rest of your team’s and it raised a few concerns that I have put off for far too long.” She sighed and rubbed her forehead “Leia how long have we known each other?”

Decades, but only on Leia's ends “Since I was ten. That was the year you finally managed to attend one of my father's birthday parties.”

Mon gave her a faint smile. “Yes, I’ve known you for a long time. Outside of being friends and allies with your parents, I do care for who you are Leia.” She folded her hands together and placed them in front of her, along the top of her desk “Which is why I requested the meeting, in private, with you.”

Leia sat up straighter, this probably wasn’t going to lead anywhere good. “Mon-” she started, but Mon shook her head.

“No Leia, this isn't an interrogation. I am asking as your friend, not your commanding officer. You are not under any obligation to answer this question.” The woman drew in a deep breath and said firmly “Leia, what exactly happened in that cell between you and Vader?”

Leia felt all the air whoosh out of her lungs. “What?”

“I normally wouldn't pry, but as far as I can tell everything starts from that point.”

“What starts from that point?” she demanded.

“This radical shift in your personality. Ever since your escape from the Death Star you’ve been distant, remote. Almost every friend you have on this base you’ve withdrawn from.”

“That’s not true.”

Mon gave her a patient look. “Leia when was the last time you and I spoke?”

“Three days before I left for Cymoon 1.”

Mon shook her head. “No, we were working, planning the mission to rescue Drusil Bephorin. I meant actually talked, about something besides the Alliance.”

Leia fell silent, her mind coming up with nothing.

“Except your sudden relationship with Lt. Skywalker-”

“What’s wrong with that?” Leia demanded hotly, first, she was too remote, now she was too friendly.

Mon blinked, startled. “Not a thing. He’s not only a valuable asset to this cause, he’s quite the remarkable and charming young man. But Leia, as you said, I’ve known you since you were ten, I’ve never seen you trust someone so fast.”

“And you are obsessed with work. Any hobbies and activities you once did for fun I’ve yet to see you do. It’s not healthy Leia. I’ve mentioned it to your parents but they assure me you are fine.” She gave a delicate snort “Anyone can see you are not fine.”

“Mon,” she protested “I am fine.”

Mon ignored that, and kept talking “And then there is Vader.”

A chill went down Leia’s spine at the mention of that name “What about him?”

“Let’s start with this.” Mon slid the datapad across the table.

Leia looked down to see an Imperial bounty notice with a holo of her taken while she was in the Imperial Senate. “I don’t understand what the problem is Mon. I’m not the only one in the Rebellion with a bounty on my head.”

“Look at the amount and details Leia.”

Leia glanced down, expecting to see the ten million credits that had been on her head last time. She saw in big letters twenty-five million, with the caveat alive and unharmed. Leia felt the blood drain from her face. She was, with this amount, the most wanted fugitive in the Empire.

“I didn’t know about this,” she whispered, her fingers tracing the amount reflected on the screen. She should have though. Had she been thinking clearly, and not letting her own prejudices blind her, she should have realized this was exactly what Vader would do. It was the exact same terms and conditions for Luke’s capture, once upon a time.

Mon’s voice was gentle but firm, “No, I can see that you didn’t. That’s not the only thing. He’s interviewed, personally, everyone on Alderaan who was in the smallest way associated with your life. Old school mates, teachers, family.”

Leia’s head shot up, worry making her heart pound, “My aunts?” she demanded. She hadn’t heard anything about their capture, but that meant nothing. It was well in the realm of possibility that a decision was made somewhere in the chain of command not to tell her.

Mon shook her head “As far as we know they are still free. They went to ground as soon as your parents gave the evacuation order at the palace. They haven’t resurfaced as far as we, and more importantly, the Empire, can tell.” Leia let out a long sigh of relief.

Mon went on, “But he has talked to every distant cousin he was able to track down. He’s even interviewed every seller at the local market to the palace. All he asked them about was you. Your likes, dislikes, every important memory they could drudge up. He personally oversaw the seizure of the Alderaanian Royal Palace, and rumor has it that everything that is yours he personally confiscated. The stormtrooper who shot you?” Leia nodded “Vader had him and his entire squadron executed.”

Leia fought her rising panic “That could be because we destroyed the base and got away. Vader doesn't look kindly on failure.”

“Maybe,” Mon said doubtfully “But he tends to hold individuals accountable, not entire groups of people. And then there was that business with Pandion.”

“Because he killed some Imperial flunkie who insulted him? It’s not like he hasn’t done that before.”

“No Leia, because he personally lobbied hard that Piett be given the post of Governor of Alderaan. And he objected, quite strenuously, to Pandion's appointment. And when he wasn’t listened to he removed the problem, in public , using a method of execution he normally only employs against rebels and traitors. He doesn’t involve himself in the political appointment of governors Leia. At least he never had before. Every spy we have near him says that he is obsessed past the point of reason with you.”

Leia put the pieces together, finally. “This is why Draven thinks I’m a spy.”

Mon sighed “He confronted you about his suspicions?"

Leia nodded.

Mon actually rolled her eyes, "Of course he did. Yes, this is why.”

“That makes no sense,” she protested “Why would the Empire sacrifice a major imperial asset to place one spy in an organization that the Death Star could easily wipe out?”

Mon shook her head. “You are looking at this the wrong way Leia. No, the Empire would do no such thing. But Vader easily could.”

Leia frowned. Vader was the Empire’s will, it’s brutal enforcement. He was who was sent when a clear message was needed. Then that conversation that she wasn’t dwelling on up floated in her mind. That wasn’t true anymore, not strictly speaking.

“Draven thinks I’m Vader’s spy.” If the situation wasn’t so dire Leia would break into hysterical laughter at that thought. If only he knew the truth.

“Yes. Vader was never a fan of the Death Star Leia. We know this. He fought against its construction from the beginning. He is on the record stating that he thought it was a massive waste of time and resources. By destroying it, we have greatly weakened the Empire's position yes, but more importantly from his standpoint, we removed a potential political rival in Tarkin, weakened the Emperor's position among his own men, and allies that Palpatine has used fear and intimidation to make cooperate, and removed a weapon he viewed with great distaste.”

“You think he’s moving against the Emperor?” she asked.

Mon shook her head. “We’re not sure. I’m not convinced that is the case, even if Draven is. Vader is definitely making more of an effort to court the Imperial Navy hierarchy” translation, he wasn’t killing them as often, “But I remain skeptical a coup is what he has in mind. He simply could be shoring up his own support in the wake of the Death Star’s destruction. It makes no sense, after all these years of being Palpatine’s attack dog, he would turn on his master now.”

No, from Mon’s point of view it didn’t. However if he believed he had another player, who could help him do it, it did make sense. Winning the actual fight with Palpatine was one thing, lining up support for your rule was another. He needed her for the first, but not the second, but he was clearly making moves to prepare for that eventuality.

Leia swallowed and looked at the women who had been her mentor and friend for decades. Heart in her throat she asked, “And do you think I’m a spy?”

Mon stared at her for a long moment then said firmly “No.”

Leia let out a sigh of relief. At least she hadn't screwed this up.

“And the rest of the Alliance leadership?” she asked.

“They had their doubts. About half of them took Draven’s warnings seriously, but when none of the false information we passed to you got sent to any Imperial, much less Vader, then his theory lost credibility.”

Leia felt her anger rise “When they what?” she said deadly serious.

Mon gave her a chastising look “I never believed what Draven was saying. We are all trapped in our own world views, Leia. His is that betrayal can come from any person and that anyone acting suspiciously is automatically a traitor.” Her face twisted in regret for a moment

"Did my parents know that you had done this?" Leia demanded.

Mon shook her head. "No, of course not. I would never put them in that position."

"You mean Draven didn't want to risk them tipping me off."

"No Leia, I mean that they are my friends, and I didn't want to make them choose between the cause the have dedicated their lives to and their daughter." She sighed "It all came to nothing anyway. Draven was ordered to suspend his surveillance of you, and that's when I suspect he confronted you with his suspicions. He was hoping to spook you into making a mistake."

“I want to be very clear here Leia, I don't think what Vader was doing necessarily meant that you were his plant. It was too obvious he was interested in you, and this reward,” and here she tapped the pad “put too much a target on your back to make you of great use to the Alliance. Even for Vader, who is not known for being subtle, it was too much. However, I acknowledge my affection for you could be blinding me. I was also facing pressure from several quarters that it was better to be safe than sorry. They were having issues believing that you could have so easily escaped his grasp.”

Leia unconsciously rubbed her neck, remembering those few terrifying seconds when he had her in his grip “I wouldn’t say it was easy.” she countered.

“No, but you are alive, in one piece, and sane. Not many people can say that.”

Leia acknowledged the point with a nod of her head.

“By your own admission, he was going to pull you to Coruscant. You say you don’t know why, and I chose to believe you on that point, but something has clearly caught his attention about you. And something happened in that cell between you. Something that has altered you drastically. As your friend, I’m asking you to confide in me. Or if you can’t do that, given my position in the Alliance, at least someone. You are the future of this rebellion and any government we hope to build afterward. I know it makes you uncomfortable but we can pull rank and make sure you have access to one of the mind healers.”

Leia just stared at her, wondering what she should say. My personality didn’t really undergo that radical of a transformation because I’m thirty-four years older. Vader’s obsessed with me because I’m his daughter. I’ve got just as much potential in the Force as Luke and if you knew that, friend or no friend you’d be pushing me to train along with him. Because I’m a decent politician, but being a Jedi is a rare talent and it would of be more use to you, and this future you want to build. I see all our hopes and dreams murdered by my son.

Instead, she said, “Thank you for the concern Mon, but I have this under control.”

Mon’s eyes registered disappointment, but all she said was “Very well. If you change your mind, you now where to find me.”

 

Leia walked out of Mon’s office, head whirling with all the everything she just learned. She wasn’t paying much attention to where she was going, too lost in her own head, so when a hand grabbed hers, she gave a small jump of in startlement.

She looked up to see Luke’s face in front of her, “Luke,” she said, pleasure in her tone, and then that feeling faded as she took in his serious and drawn face.

“What’s wrong?” she asked concerned.

He shook his head. “Not here.” He tugged on her hand, indicating he wanted her to follow him. He pulled her through the bustling hallways past the flight deck, into the open landing field. He said nothing the entire way, and he was keeping a tight reign on his emotions so she wasn’t able to get even a hint of what this was. When they reached the edge of the landing field, to where she had taken him when she confessed their relationship to him, he finally stopped and dropped her hand.  

“Luke?” she said to his back.

“I was waiting until you were feeling better to bring this up,” he said, his voice tight and controlled. “And then I thought it would be best to have this conversation in private, away from everyone.”

“Luke what is this about?” impatience creeping into her voice, she already had filled her quota of hard conversations today, and she had the sinking feeling she was about to land herself into another one.  

“What does Vader want with you? Because I know it’s not your death.”

Leia felt the blood drain from her face. “And how do you know that?” she demanded. There had been nothing, not in the mission reports, not in Vader’s account, nothing, that suggested the two of them had talked.

“Because he told me.” Luke finally turned around to face her with that statement, face blank.

Leia felt lightheaded with fear. “He spoke to you!?! Luke when was he close enough to do that!”

Luke shook his head, “Not with words Leia.” he trailed off and didn’t continue. He seemed to be thinking about how he wanted to phrase this and then he sighed. “Let me show you. I think that will be the best way to explain this.”

There was a tap on her shields and she let them down, scared as she hadn’t been for so long, at what she would find in her brother's memories.

 

He was running, Leia’s plea ringing in his ears. He had left so much of his family alone and been left alone in return, that he couldn’t bring himself to do that to her. No matter that this was probably the only chance he would get for a long time at a shot at Vader, he couldn’t ignore his sister's fear for him on this. Leia feared almost nothing, and to realize how much he was scaring her with his actions was enough to make him think, not react, to Vader.

Then her pain was dancing across the Force, sending shooting spikes of agony up his sides. The breath was stolen from his body for a moment, then he was frantically trying to recenter himself so he could focus enough to call out to her.

“Leia!!!” he screamed.

There was no answer, she always answered him when he called. Something had gone wrong, very very wrong. He could feel it in the Force, it whispered in his ears to move faster. He pulled every bit of it in himself he could, till he felt like he would burn up with all the energy and light that was contained within him, and he moved. The landscape passed by his eyes in a blur, but that was okay because he knew where the obstacles were, he knew the best path forward. It was like breathing, he didn’t even have to think about it, as he ran faster than he had ever dared to before.

He was almost there, he was so close, when another, more brutal scream of pain ripped everything away from him. For a moment all that was in his world was that pain, then it faded back to more manageable levels. He came to himself, feeling raw and bleeding, only slightly in the metaphorical sense. He was on the ground, skid marks behind him to show how he fell and how the ground brought him to a harsh stop. He ached all over, and he was sure he was covered from head to toes in bruises. His back also felt wet, and with a trembling hand, he placed a hand on it, trying to see how bad it was. It was dry, despite everything in him insisting that he was bleeding. This was her blood he was sensing, not his.

Leia I’m coming,” he sent to her determinedly then raised his shields as tight as he could. As much as he needed the reassurance that she was still alive he couldn’t afford to be distracted like that again. The Falcon roared overhead, heading in the direction to where Leia was. He gave himself a good shake, all over, trying to figure out if any of the injuries he felt were actually his and if he would make it worse by running on them. He was sore and injured yes, but nothing that couldn't wait. He opened himself to that great ocean of power and took off again.

He arrived to the ship in a burst of speed to find Han staring at him gobsmacked. “Where the hell did you come from?” he demanded as a blaster bolt whirled by his head. He cursed and then turned around to return the fire. Obi-Wan was ten feet in front of him, beyond the shelter Han was crouched behind, deflecting the majority of the shots, heading their way.

“Nevermind that!” a voice roared from the ground. Luke looked down to see Rex leaning over Leia, his hands soaked with her blood, he roared “Luke, take the General’s place, General you’re going to have to use the Force to pick her up.”

Luke was puzzled until he got a good look at his sister's back. The back half of the body armor was gone. He could see the under cloth soaked through with blood, and near her shoulder, there was a large piece of melted armor sticking out. Clearly, this is where the shot had gone in. No wonder Rex didn’t want to pick her up, any odd movements of that piece could cut across an artery.

“LUKE!!” Obi-Wan cried out. Luke brought his attention back to his teacher.

“Right,” he said determinedly, and brought out his lightsaber, igniting as he stepped forward to deflect the blaster bolts being aimed at Han. He wasn’t the best at reflecting them directly back at their shooters, but Han had a steady aim, and the last few stormtroopers started to fall.

Chewie roared something, and Han spat out. “She’s in the ship, let’s go.”

“Go,” Luke ordered, even as he started backing up himself., “I’ll cover you.” He heard Han’s footsteps beat a hasty retreat. As soon as he heard the familiar clang, clang, as his boots hit the gangplank Luke sped up his own withdrawal. He had one foot on the gangplank when across the field the back doors of the facility opened. Luke swallowed, bracing himself for more stormtroopers, but it was a solitary figure that stepped out. As it methodically started heading towards them, and Luke could, even at this distance,  see he was tall, and dressed from head to toe in black body armor.

Luke felt the air whoosh out of his lungs as he realized who he must be looking at. This was him, this was Vader. Luke had seen holos of the man, everyone on the Rebel base had. It was accompanied with the warning that if you ever saw this creature on the battlefield you run. He felt his presence when he entered into the system, that aura of pain and misery was hard to overlook. But to see the entire package together was a sight that wouldn’t leave Luke, ever.

Luke took an instinctive step forward, all thoughts of escape blown from his mind. Vader was here, and apparently unarmed, he could end this now.

The figure continued his slow methodical walk, then stopped, his head tilting.

Luke braced himself, clearly, the creature had seen him, but what happened next was completely unexpected.

So you are her tutor.” a male voice intoned in his mind, despite the fierce shields he had put in place to stop this. There was jealousy and possessiveness beating hard underneath every word.

What? ” Of all the ways Luke had imagined confronting Biggs and his father’s killer, this scenario had never even remotely crossed his mind.

You are shorter than I expected.”   Luke scrambled to find his bearings. He had been expecting death threats, not petty insults to his height.

He focused on the fight in front of him. “I’ll die before I let you have her!!” he howled, sure that this nightmare could hear him.

"That does not provide much of a hindrance to me.”  and he began walking again, steps sure. Then there was a ripple of something, across the Force. Luke cursed himself, he should be able to figure this out. Ben would know what that meant, Leia too probably. It was only him and his ignorance that left them all vulnerable.

And Vader apparently understood it too because he stopped and said. “We don’t have time for this.”

“Make time!!” Luke shot back "You killed my father. I’m not letting this go so easily.” 

There was a wealth of exasperation following the answer to that challenge “You are going to have to be more specific. I’ve killed a lot of father’s.”

Anakin Skywalker, Luke thought, remember him? You betrayed and murdered him. But there was no answer from the figure, no reaction at all. Damn it he had let his focus slip and Vader hadn't heard that. He took a deep breath in, trying to bring his concentration in line with this one simple task, to make sure Vader heard every word, but before he could that ripple in the Force shifted into a whirlwind.

“You need to get her out of here.” Now, all that anger was gone, a deep chilling fear put in its place.

“If you think for one second I’m going to believe anything you have to say-” Luke started, but Vader cut him off.

"Don’t you feel that boy!!” he demanded “She’s running out of time! If you have even an ounce of the love and loyalty for her that she does for you, YOU WILL LEAVE!!”   The last was said on a roar, and even through his shields, Luke could feel the scorching heat of them.

Luke stood there indecisive for a moment, then he heard Ben’s voice “Luke, we need to leave. Now!!”

He powered down his lightsaber and turned to head up the gangplank. That voice followed him “ A warning boy, if Leia dies there is nowhere in the galaxy that I won’t hunt you down.”

He headed into the Falcon in a daze. He knew Leia wasn’t telling him everything about her encounter with Vader, but what in all the hell had that been about?

 

 

Leia's eyes flew open as her brother withdrew from her mind.

“Well?” he demanded.

She pressed her lips together, trying to find the words beyond hysterical screaming. Oh gods, Luke had almost told him. In that disaster of a mission, at the worst possible time ever, Luke had come so close to telling Vader the truth. Only his inability to project words when he was upset had saved them all. She pressed her hands to her mouth, trying to keep the screams inside.

“Leia?” now Luke’s face was full of concern.

She had done this. Through her cowardice and avoidance of this subject, she had left them all vulnerable. Cymoon 1 could have so easily turned into another Bespin, where Luke’s life was on the line and everything he had known and trusted had come tumbling down around him.

“Leia, what’s wrong? You're trembling?” he pulled her into a hug. She hugged him back as fiercely, thankful that nothing had happened, that Vader didn’t know, that Luke hadn’t paid the ultimate price for her arrogance and stupidity.

She forced herself to back away from him, and he let her go, reluctantly.

“Luke-” she started.

He shook his head. “Forget it. We’ll talk about this later, you are in no condition to explain anything to me right now.”

Leia wanted, oh how she wanted, to take the escape he was offering her. As she had done so many times in the past three months. To avoid all of this and put it off for another day. But she couldn’t. Luke’s own actions showed she couldn’t. He wasn’t going to let this go.

“About Vader-” she started again.

His face darkened “Don’t worry about it, I’ll handle it.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” she said and his face twisted even more.

“You think I can't take him?” he demanded.

Now, no. Later though….she had seen what Luke was capable of as a full-blown Jedi Master. It was something she was beginning to realize that was beyond what the old Jedi order had been capable of producing. It was a great and terrible thing to see, and none of them, not her parents, not Obi-Wan, not Yoda, and certainly not Vader, could even imagine such a thing existing.

“I think you’ll be able to yes, but the question is will you want to?”

“Of course I will!” he waved his hands around, indicating the galaxy in general. “Do you think there is another way to stop him?”

From me, no. From you, possibly. But he wouldn’t understand that answer yet. “Revenge isn’t the Jedi way.” she cautioned, worried about the hate she found beating in his heart.

“This isn’t revenge!” he shot back “This is self-preservation. He’s threatening you! Why I don’t know, but whatever he wants from you, it can’t be good.”

She bit her lip, trying to find the words, but Luke kept going on “May I remind you of all that he has taken from me. He killed Biggs! He killed our father!

There was no avoiding it now. “No Luke,” she said gently, “he is our father.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The words were finally said, the truth was out, and all avoidance of this topic had come to an end. And Luke’s reaction was nothing. Not horror, not disbelief, just an eerie blank nothingness. She waited with bated breath, and it felt like everything around her, including the usually noisy jungle, waited in breathless silence with them. Then in a hollow tone he finally asked. “I’m not the child of Anakin Skywalker?”

She frowned. Why was this his first thought? Where is this coming from? This wasn’t even on the list of reactions she was expecting, and she shook her head, “No, of course, you are Luke.”

In a split second his numbness vanished and confusion took its place. “But you just said Vader is our father.”

“He is Luke.” Her voice full of grief for the sorrow that was about to come to him. "He is our father."

He frowned at her, concern filling his face. He stepped up close to her and grabbed her chin in his hand and peered into her eyes. “Leia, are you on any pain medication? Any drugs at all?”

“What?” she asked, baffled at his response, “No?”

“Any dizziness? Disorientation?”

Suddenly he was a healer? What was with all the questions? “I’m fine.” she insisted.

“You’re not fine. Something’s wrong. You’re not thinking clearly.” Luke bit his lip in worry. She could feel the Force, like a distant echo, pulsing with urgency and confusion. Oh, wonderful, he’s calling for Obi-Wan, that’s just what this difficult conversation needed added to the mix.

“Do you understand what I just told you?” she asked.

He shook his head. “You aren’t making any sense.” He grabbed her hand and attempted to pull her back to the base. “We need to find your parents. You need to see Healer Banok.”

She dug her heels in and pulled back the hand he held in his grasp. “No, Luke. I don’t need to see the healer, and we definitely don’t need Obi-Wan. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine!” he protested. “You’re speaking in riddles.”

She yanked her hand, hard, out of his grasp.”No, I am not.” He stopped and turned, reaching to take her hand again, his face set in determined lines, worry and fear dancing along the edges of her shields. It clicked then, what was going on. Hell, he didn’t understand what she was telling him. The concept of Vader and Father being so apart in his mind he clearly wasn’t comprehending what she had said.

“Luke, stop!” his own hand dropped as he looked at her with wide eyes at her strident tone. She took a deep breath in and stepped into his personal space, grabbing his chin and forcing him to look her in the eyes.

“Are you listening to me?” she demanded.

He nodded, clearly trying to placate her. So she was going to have to make this as simple as possible. She understood, all too well, his desire to flee from this. To take any refuge, and any hole to wiggle through, so as to not have this knowledge permanently etched into his mind. But his own actions left her little choice in the matter. If he was going to survive any of this he needed to know, and now. The time for shielding him from this was past, long past if she was going, to be honest with herself. It was only her cowardice after all that was keeping him in ignorance.

“We are twins.” He frowned at her when she didn't say anything further. After a beat he nodded in the affirmative, agreeing with her simple statement. Good, he was paying close attention to her now.

“Anakin Skywalker is our biological father.” He nodded again, a little more firmly this time.

“Anakin Skywalker is not dead.” he started to shake his head in the negative, but she used a bit of the Force to strengthen her hand so he couldn’t move it.

“Listen!!” she said firmly, “I want you to really listen right now Luke, in every way.” His eyes wide, she could feel the Force wrapped around her as he opened every sense to her.

“Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader.”

She watched as the knowledge slowly sank into his face, his heart, and his mind. Satisfied that he understood what she was telling him, she let his chin go, and took a step back. She was still close enough that if he wanted physical comfort she could offer it to him easily. But the little bit of space was also so he didn’t feel trapped.

His face paled, and she felt something like grief tear through him. There was a long pause, and then he said in a tiny whisper. “That’s not true." He sounded so lost. "That’s impossible.”

This was a response she understood. This she knew how to react to. “Why?” she asked, keeping it level.

“The Empire makes slaves.” Luke’s voice was almost childlike in its appeal for her to make this all go away “The Wookies were made slaves. The Twi'leks were made slaves. The Empire supports the Hutt’s, and they are open slavers. Vader is the enforcer of the will of the Empire. Are you telling me that our father used his freedom to take it away from others?” His voice broke with this final statement.

The older Luke had never really discussed with her his reaction to learning Vader was their father. He never went into the details about how he made peace with the fact that Vader was a Sith Lord, a mass murderer, and the right-hand man of a brutal dictator. He had only broadly generalized his reactions during that time of his life. “Be truthful Leia,” she chided herself “You didn’t want to know, and he was respecting your wishes in that regard.

She wished she had asked now. Because this angle of thinking is something that never occurred to her. She more objected to the mass subjection the galaxy and the killings. But this struck at the heart of who Luke was to his bones. He was Luke Skywalker, the first of his line to be born in freedom in a very long time. She loathed slavery, it violated every principle she had. But that was nothing compared to the raging storm Luke held inside himself on the subject. With every fiber of his being, did he hold the practice in contempt. In the way only those who have lived around it, who have been threatened by it, whose family experienced it in living memory, did he viscerally despise the practice.

“Yes,” she said slowly, treading so carefully. “You can say that.”

His face crumpled “But why? Why would he do that?”

For her.” She heard him howl in her mind, for a second she once more in that cramped cell on the Death Star. She brushed that reasoning aside, it might be true, it might not. Vader certainly believed it was, but she knew, hell her own life was proof, how easily memories could be twisted along the passage of decades. And even if it was true that was certainly no reason to keep on that dark path after Padme died. If anything he should have turned on Palpatine for not keeping his word. Instead, he had taken his anger out on the galaxy.

“I’m not really sure,” she answered truthfully. Nor did she really care. She wasn’t interested in Vader’s sad tale of woe.

His eyes went huge and vacant. He didn’t need any pushing right now, and she could feel the storm brewing underneath that blank facade. So she waited, patience wasn’t her strong suit, but for Luke, she would wait eons if she had to.

When he finally focused back in on her, she could see the thousands of questions dancing in his eyes. He started with the one she was least eager to answer. “Who told you?”

She swallowed hard, bracing herself. Here it comes. “Your alternate.”

She could see the flare of betrayal, which was quickly followed by denial. She knew her brother and could anticipate his line of thinking on this. If she had learned just before she arrived here, he had an excuse to forgive her for withholding information this important and vital. “When?” he asked, desperate. “When did you learn about him?”  

Her mind flashed back to Endor. She was standing among those tall trees, that in all likelihood started growing at the founding of the Old Republic, with her brother. Luke’s gentle face, slightly different than the one before her, that one had been marred by a wampa, had been so kind, and filled with compassion as he shattered her world into a thousand pieces. She prayed to whatever benign force that would heed her that she could be as gentle with this Luke as his alternate was with her. Even though she knew he was going to lash out at her in anger. Somehow, she had the feeling that thirty years didn't qualify as not enough time to learn to deal with this, no matter how devastating.

“When I was twenty-three.”

He blinked as she saw that hope of an easy escape from accusing her die with her answer. His quick mind did the math. “Decades!?!” he demanded “You knew for decades!!! And the whole time you’ve been here, you said nothing!?!” He shook his head in disbelief. “No worse than nothing. You lied to me?” his voice was becoming more and more strident as the full implications of what she had done hit him.

“No, I never said our father was dead.” she refuted, taking refuge in the one distinction she had drawn for herself.

His nostrils flared “Don’t you dare use that diplomatic bantha shit on me, Leia. You knew and you said nothing!!!”

“I’m saying something now.” her voice almost a whisper.

He began pacing at this, trying to work off his rage. She waited, silent. She would only anger him with pleas for understanding, or for forgiveness. He had a right to be furious at her, and they both knew it.

His physical exertion failing to calm him, he whirled on her, chest heaving. “Who else knows Leia?” he demanded.

She flinched at the raw hurt and anger in his voice. No, not just his voice, it was also there in the Force, whipping around her in small slices, cutting into her shields. She strengthened them in response to his slip, she doubted the rest of this conversation would be any easier on his control. There was no telling what she would be blasted with, in an unguarded moment on his part.

“Who?” he shouted, his voice startling several of the native birds in the jungle into flight when she didn’t answer him fast enough.

“My parents.” He nodded, clearly expecting that answer. “Obi-Wan.”

“Obi-Wan knew too?” Luke stopped his frantic motion and stilled at that. There was a long pause on his part and he said bewilderingly “That can’t be right. He’s been encouraging me to kill Vader.”

There was a sharp edge of fury in his tone as he continued to pelt her with questions, “He told me that he and our father were close. Was that a lie too?”

She shook her head “No, as far as I can tell they were.” Vader believed Obi-Wan betrayed him. You only get into that mindset with someone you felt close to and trusted.

Then dawning horror crossed his face “He’s been encouraging me to kill my own father?” As heartbroken as she was for him, part of Leia sighed in relief. He was starting to see the two as the same man. His conscious mind may not be fully there yet, but there was a part of Luke that knew she was speaking the truth.

“Yes.” She had her own betrayals of trust to deal with, and she warned Obi-Wan what he was doing was a bad idea. He was on his own with that decision.

”No,” Luke shook his head, “you must be mistaken. There is no way Ben would do that to me.” Oh gods, she was going to have to break his heart even more. For a moment she felt a flare of true hatred at Obi-Wan for this, for putting her in this position. If he had just kept his damn mouth shut, she wouldn't have to be here.

“Who do you think put him in that suit Luke?” she asked, somehow maintaining that gentle tone. This wasn’t about Obi-Wan and his complicated relationship with the truth and Vader. This wasn’t about her feelings and issues. This was about getting Luke through this.

The Force whipped up then, and not just in her senses. Small gusts of wind started swirling around them, picking up stray fallen leaves and twigs from the jungle floor. They all whirled around them, in reactions to Luke’s anger as it came, blazing, hot, and looking for a target.

“Did Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru know? Did everyone in my life that claimed to love me lie to me?”

She stammered, startled by his loss of control, and not expecting this line of attack. “I don’t know.”

“Don’t lie to me, Leia!!”

She put her hands up in a defensive gesture “I really don’t know Luke.” He stared at her, his mouth pressed into a thin line, then she felt his touch in the Force, rough and uncaring, so different from his usual hesitation, all around her, verifying the truth of her statement. She swallowed the hurt. He had every right to question everything she told him right this second. Keeping an eye on the small tornado building around them, she held her hands up in a helpless gesture “Your alternate didn’t know either. I told you, everyone who knew anything was dead by that point.” The eye of this little storm they were in the middle of started to contract in. Leia's eyes widened, but Luke continued on speaking.

“But that is not the case now. You haven’t thought to ask?”

She thought of Obi-Wan’s offer to explain the circumstances of their birth and Vader’s intrusion into her mind. She had so many secrets to keep, after that scare she hadn’t wanted another thing to conceal. It wasn’t worth the cost in her mind. When Vader was dead, then she would ask. “No.”

His face twisted “I said don’t lie to me!!!” The whirlwind she could see and feel were both roaring, she could feel it in her bones.

“Alright,” she said placating, “I thought of it, yes. But I didn't want to know in case Vader-” she stopped herself, but it was too late.

His face paled “Vader knows.” And she saw, all the frantic motion around them come to a disconcerting stop. The debris hung motionless in the air for a second, before everything dropped back to the ground.

She wasn't afraid of Luke. She actually probably had more training than he did at this point, and she wasn’t Obi-Wan, she was fully capable of blocking any blow he might accidentally send her way. But she was frightened, so frightened, for him at this second. Because she would bet every credit she had that Luke hadn’t even noticed what he had just done.

She had never seen the other Luke do anything like this. Nor his students, the few times she visited the Jedi school, or even Ben. In fact, the only time she could recall anything of the sort was the shockwave Vader had released in her cell on the Death Star.

Vader hadn’t noticed what he had done either, granted tossing a few sticks around wasn’t anywhere near the level of damage Vader had done to those supposedly impenetrable walls, but she had a feeling it was lack of focus, not power that was the main cause of the differences between the two events. Vader wanted to destroy something, Luke merely wanted an outlet for his rage. She nodded her head in the affirmative to his question, not trusting what her voice would reveal this second.

He turned baffled eyes to her. “That’s why he’s pursuing you the way he is?”

She nodded again, wishing for a second he wasn’t quite so clever, so she take a few seconds to catch her breath.

Hurt filled his face “You told him and not me?”

“No!!” for the first time Leia actually shouted. Luke flinched back as her own panic and pain over his perceived betrayal rolled over her shields and hit him full in the Force. She took a deep breath in and re-centered herself. Calm, she must remain calm. He didn’t need her feeding into his emotions and creating a feedback loop between the two of them. “I didn’t tell him anything, Luke. He figured it out.”

Then at what had to be the worst possible moment ever, Leia heard Obi-Wan’s smooth voice coming from behind Luke. “Luke, what was that Force storm? What is wrong with Leia?”

Oh gods, Obi-Wan. She had completely forgotten that Luke had called him here. This was the last thing they needed.

Luke whirled, he might not know how to directly express his rage at her, feedback loops were a bitch as she well knew. But he had no such problem with Obi-Wan.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he roared, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides, looking like he would like nothing more than to strike the older man.

Obi-Wan actually took a step back at the unexpected feint, both physical and verbal. “Tell you what Luke?” he asked, baffled. Then he noticed Leia. She wasn’t sure what emotion was on her face, but he seemed to pick up the subject under discussion from it quickly enough. “You told him,” he said disapprovingly.

Oh no, he wasn’t shoving this mess onto her. “I warned you I would.” Her chin coming up in defiance of his obvious disapproval.

“Did you order her not to tell me?” Luke demanded, pacing up to the older man, tension running through him. Leia was more than willing to let Obi-Wan pay the price for his sins with Luke, but she wasn’t going to let him take the blame for a decision that was hers.

“No Luke,” she shook her head, and he stopped and turned to look at her. “He didn’t order me to do anything. I did think it would be better if you heard this from him, he has a better diplomatic tongue then I do. But I did warn him that if he wouldn’t, I would.” But now she did let her disapproval radiate, and she glared at Obi-Wan “I did however strongly stress the foolishness of telling you stories about our Father the Jedi hero.”

Obi-Wan merely clasped his hands in front of him. “Nothing I told you wasn’t true,” he told Luke.

“I’m sure it wasn’t” Leia snapped back. “You just conveniently left out what he did later.”

“Anakin is dead.” Obi-Wan said simply “Vader killed him.”

Luke just stared at him flabbergasted. “Then who is running around in that suit?” he demanded.

“Vader.”

“And who put him there?”

There was a screaming wave of pain in the Force, Leia’s breath caught as the guilt, fear, and love threatened to drown everything, even through her reinforced shields. Then as quickly it had come it was gone. Obi-Wan’s face didn’t even twitch to reveal that he had been the source of that maelstrom. “I did.”

Luke was looking at him, shock and confusion vibrating all around him, the Force practically twisting itself into knots as he could feel the belief behind what Obi-Wan was saying. But he also knew she wasn’t lying. Leia’s teeth gritted, couldn’t Obi-Wan make this the tiniest bit easier on all of them? Obi-Wan’s strange mental dance on this issue needed to come to an end, but he had been telling himself this lie for almost twenty years, she didn’t want to get into a clash of who could out-stubborn who. She honestly wasn’t sure who would win. Fine, if a frontal assault wouldn’t work, let’s try to flank him from the sides. “What is Vader’s birth name?” she demanded.

Obi-Wan looked at her, eyes narrowing as he saw where she was going with this, but all he said was “Vader.” It still rang true. What was his problem? If Luke had been thinking, instead of reacting, he would simply march up to her parents and demanded they collaborate either her or Obi-Wan's version. She knew what her parents would tell Luke if he asked. Why was Obi-Wan doing this?

“No, it’s Anakin Skywalker,” she said, trying to maintain her calm in the face of the implacable stubbornness. Luke’s gaze swung back and forth between the two of them. “Anakin Skywalker is in that suit. You fought with him on Mustafar. I assume you removed his arms, given that they are both cybernetic, and probably his legs too, but I don’t have confirmation that they are mechanical. Then, instead of doing the smart thing and putting him out of all of our misery, including his own, you left him to burn on that planet, probably thinking no one could survive that. But he did, or” she conceded “Palpatine made sure he did because I sincerely doubt Vader designed that suit he got stuffed into, in the condition he was in.”

She took in a deep breath “And somehow, in the middle of that mess, our mother was involved. He hurt her, she gave birth to us, and died. That is what happened.”  Obi-Wan’s face took on an ashen hue, but Leia would not relent. “Play whatever word games you like with yourself Obi-Wan, but don’t you dare play them with Luke.”

“This is not a game,” Obi-Wan said, voice hoarse. “My Anakin is dead!”

There, there was the crack in his reasoning. If she could just pry it open enough, maybe he would admit the truth in front of Luke.

“Really?” she shot back “Then why did you refuse to kill Vader on Mustafar? What stopped you?”

“Your mother was hurt. I didn’t have time.” Those fissures in him were widening the more she pressed. Luke stood, riveted, as she walked past her brother, to get closer to the older man. To use the truth to hammer him out of this hole he had dug in his own mind.

“And what precisely, was she doing on Mustafar? A senator of the Old Republic?”

“Imperial,” Obi-Wan muttered. “It was Imperial by then.” She ignored his correction, he was looking for any excuse, any avenue, for him to escape this interrogation. Well, he wasn’t the only one who had been taught to use their words as weapons. If it had involved anything but Luke’s understanding the full extent of the danger he was in she would let the man be, she knew how hard it was to achieve peace with the past, and she could certainly understand why he went with this method. But Luke was in danger, so she pressed on.

“What was she doing there Obi-Wan? She asked, voice gentle now, inviting confidences, inviting him to share his pain.

“She thought she could save -” he cut himself off, his eyes flickering over her shoulder to Luke. Dammit, it was the misguided notion he was protecting Luke that had stopped the completion of that sentence. And they had been so close.

“Save who?” Obi-Wan looked at her, stubborn refusal in his eyes “Anakin?” she asked. He didn’t answer but she could feel the Force ring like a bell. Luke’s breath drew in on a gasp of comprehension, so he felt that too. “She wanted to save Anakin from a Sith Lord? How exactly was she planning on doing that? A politician against a trained dark side user? I don’t know much about our mother, but I do know she couldn't have possibly been that foolish.”

She could feel Luke’s presence behind her, torn between two impulses. On one hand, he cared about Obi-Wan and clearly wanted her to stop, to let the old man step away and lick his wounds. On the other hand, he was desperate to know, everything, even if the knowledge fractured everything he thought he knew about his origins.  

She gave Kenobi the bait to follow. “Or was Anakin already dead by that point?”

“Of course he was dead by then!!!” Obi-Wan hissed “I don’t know what she thought she could do! I should have stopped her, but I needed her to lead me to him, but I never thought he would-” again his voice trailed off.

“What? Hurt her?” He had admitted this much to her. But again he retreated from any confession.

“He was dead.” he insisted.

“For a dead man he seems awfully eager to claim his daughter.” she remarked, frustrated.  

“He’s dead Leia! My brother vowed never to kneel in subservience to another again. My brother would never have murdered the defenseless younglings in the Jedi Temple!!” Obi-Wan’s face was heartbroken. “My brother would not have harmed a hair on Padme’s head. Everything that made up my brother is gone!”

He had switched words on her, from dead to gone, and that schism within him was growing so wide she was surprised he hadn’t split in two. “No he is not!!!” she howled back. If she could see the truth of what her own son had become, why the hell couldn’t he admit the same about Anakin?

“Twenty-five million credits Obi-Wan.” Obi-Wan visibly flinched at that and took a step back. “That is the bounty Vader put on my head. Alive and unharmed. Does that sound like someone who wants to repudiate everything he once was?” She shook her head. “Vader, Anakin, what you call him doesn't matter. He’s the tall one, dressed in head to toe black body armor, running around doing the gods only knows what in the name of the Empire. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was born on Tatooine, that he was your student, your brother, a Jedi, and the fact that he’s trying to retrieve me like some sort of lost possession he misplaced. It’s still him. Twisted, warped and distorted, but him.”

“But it can’t be,” Obi-Wan said.

“Why?”

“Because how can I still love and miss him, when I know such a monster is currently living in his skin!?!” Obi-Wan howled. He stood there, panting hard. Leia stepped back, giving him room. She had gotten what she wanted she could leave him be.

“I need to go,” Luke stated.

Both of their heads swung to him, he was looking at both of them with such horror in his eyes. She had gotten so caught up in making the old man see the truth she had forgotten that Luke was the point of all of this. “Luke-” she whispered, reaching out to confront him.

He stepped back, avoiding her touch. Leia could barely contain the gasp of pain at that rejection of her aid. Luke shook his head “I can’t-” he started. Then looked at Obi-Wan “I don’t-”

It struck Leia then at that moment he never looked more like her other Luke. With the lines of pain and betrayal set around his mouth and eyes. “Luke I’m sorry.” she offered.

“Sorry for what Leia? Sorry for not speaking up? Sorry for not telling me when I first asked? Sorry for letting me go in on that mission blind? Sorry for letting me put us all in grave danger?” He gave a bitter laugh “I wasn’t easy about keeping Rex, Han, and Chewie in the dark about what we knew, I just never considered you would do that to me too.” Then he shot Obi-Wan a disgusted look “Or that you would be heartless enough to try to have me kill my own father.”

“Luke I-”

“Were you ever going to tell me?” he asked, more hopefully than expecting a negative answer to his question. Obi-Wan’s silence spoke volumes. A look of profound disappointment crossed Luke's face. He ran his hands through his hair, darker now that he wasn’t daily in Tatooine’s dual suns, and gave a harsh laugh. He was still shaking his head when he started to walk away.

“I didn’t mean -” Obi-Wan started to say to his retreating back.

“Don’t. Just don’t.” He turned around. “I need to be away from you both. I need to think. I just need….” his voice trailed off, but Leia could see what he wasn’t saying. I need this not to be true. And with that pronouncement, he stalked off. She and Obi-Wan watched him go, and as soon as he entered the great cavernous hangar bay the older man turned to face her head on.

“Why did you tell him?” there was no emotion in that icy voice. Whatever he was thinking it was locked tightly away.

“He needed to know. And we were running out of time.”

“So you said before Leia. But that doesn’t tell me what event precipitated this sudden move on your part.” She could hear the anger, flowing under that icy reserve. Good, she wasn’t the only one who was pissed off. She needed to be calm for Luke, she was under no such obligation with Obi-Wan.

“You focusing him in on his father’s killer,” she spat back, Luke’s unsent words dancing in her mind. How close they had all come to disaster because Obi-Wan couldn’t let his ghosts be.

“You're repeating yourself Your Highness,” he said in an arch tone “I fail to see what relevance that answer has to my question.”

“Vader talked to him Obi-Wan!!” She howled, the fear that had been nipping at her since she exited Luke’s mind sharpening her voice.  “On Cymoon 1 Vader reached out to him!!”

Obi-Wan’s face paled and she could hear the fear in his voice. “What? Why?”

Why the hell did he think she knew? She was his daughter, not his translator. “Who knows? Maybe he was curious about the lightsaber wielding person who wasn’t you? He wanted to see your student? He wanted to know who my tutor was?”

“What do you mean your tutor?”

This was not the point, but she could concede, even if only in her mind, Obi-Wan probably needed to know this. In fact, she should have told him ages ago. The only reason she hadn’t was her extreme reluctance to even think about that conversation. This day was shaping up for all kinds of unpleasant truths, wasn’t it? “Vader wanted to know who I taught me how to build my shields. I never gave him a name, just referred to Luke as my tutor.”

Obi-Wan snorted “But you had no problems giving him mine.”

She knew he wasn’t as understanding of that decision as he said he was at the time. “I had to give him someone Obi-Wan. Or would you rather if I had actually given Luke’s?”

He glared at her, but she counted it as a win when he didn’t say anything in return. She returned to her earlier point. “When Vader reached out  Luke told him, that Vader killed his father. And it’s only by the grace of the Force Luke managed to botch sending the name of that father!!” she gave a hollow laugh “I thought that mission couldn't get any more screwed up, but clearly I was wrong. Can you imagine if Luke had sent it? What Vader would have said? What Luke would have said in return?” She shook her head.

“I only wanted to stop Vader from inflicting more harm. It wasn’t about making Luke hate him” he said, voice shaking as he realized how close to a disaster they had all come. “Revenge is not the Jedi way.”

She wasn’t touching that rationalization with a dead Hutt’s tail. But he was failing to see her larger point.  “Justice is the Jedi way. Or at least that is Luke’s understanding of it,” she countered. And she got closer to the older man, adrenaline was making her shake a bit. “And here is where you are talking past him Obi-Wan. Luke doesn’t see justice as this pristine dispassionate thing handed down from on high. He wasn’t educated to the philosophical texts and the concept of the rule of law. He’s from Tatooine. To him justice is the weak being freed from the strong. Justice is anger, directed and given righteousness. Justice is the weighing of balance.”

Something in the Force twanged at that, although she didn’t have a clue as to why. But Obi-Wan did, something like comprehension flashed across his face, twisted by profound regret and sorrow. What the hell had she just set into motion with her simple analysis of Luke? That wasn't something to worry about right this minute, she would worry about this complication later. Right now getting Obi-Wan to understand where he was going wrong was the goal.

“And in no scenario, you can imagine does he ever deliver justice without telling the person in question why.  There is no way Luke would ever confront Vader and not tell him who he is. There is no Luke Skywalker who grows up on Tatooine who doesn’t do this. Your plan to have him kill Vader and be done with it was never going to work.”

“I think I understand Luke better than you. You are conflating the him of now with whom he could be.”

She wanted to start tearing her hair out she was so frustrated with him. “Why are you not listening to me?” He paled at that accusation, “Or to anyone who holds views different from your own?”

He opened his mouth to refute that, but she continued on “Twenty years on that dustball and you never learned any of this from the residents of that planet? Did you ever talk to anyone there, or were you sitting on the edges of the desert sulking?”

“I was not sulking,” he hissed back “I was protecting Luke.”

“From anything physical, yes. But did you ever think to wonder how growing up in that culture would shape him? How it would alter his world view from a Jedi initiate?”

Obi-Wan flushed “His family were good people.” He said defensively. “I will not have you besmirch their character when they are no longer here to defend themselves.”

“Of course they were good people!” she snarled back, “You think I don’t know that! You aren’t capable of surviving what he is capable of enduring, with your sanity intact, if a very solid foundation of love and support wasn’t put there in the first place.” Although that hadn’t saved Ben. She shoved that thought aside, that wasn’t the point right now.

Profound disappointment crossed the older man’s face. “You’ve just made this all so much harder.”

Her teeth gritted, this habit of his of changing the subject when he was losing ground against her was annoying. “It is his choice Obi-Wan.”

“Then who is going to kill Vader? And the Emperor? You are the only other one who even has a hope of doing so.”

“I. AM. NOT. A. JEDI!!!” she screamed, tired of having to explain this over and over again.

A sneer crossed his face “Please, by all means, continue to tell yourself that.”

Her fury came to an abrupt halt and panic crawled up her throat. “I’m not.” she protested “I only know a few tricks.”

He snorted “Yes, a few “tricks” that most Jedi Masters in the temple were incapable of doing. A few “tricks”, like talking mind to mind reliably to whoever you wish, which is a skill even Anakin never managed. You might have no knowledge of the philosophical teachings, and you do not wield a lightsaber, but you are committed body and soul to the defense of those who cannot defend themselves, and you use every weapon you have in your arsenal to see that Justice is done. And that includes the Force.”

She wanted to refute this, all of this, but the words were stuck in her throat. He gave her a deep patronizing look “As you said, it doesn't matter what name you call it, it still is. By how you skillfully manipulate the force, Leia you would at the very least be considered a senior level padawan. No, you are not a Master or even a Knight, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a Jedi.”

That wasn’t true. She wasn’t a Jedi. She couldn’t be in ant way shape or form be considered a Jedi. She wasn’t blind, nor naive, she knew what the Force was pushing her to do in this second chance she had been given. What being here in this time, with a Vader who knew she was his daughter, was forcing her to do. Well, no mystical energy field could tell her what to do with her life. She was too angry, too full of impatience and had no desire to curb either trait as her brother had done, to embrace that way of life

“And since you refuse to see the truth, and made things much harder for Luke, we are all facing centuries of rule by the Sith. Because you refuse to see the sacrifices required.”

The condescension in his voice voice set her on edge. Well here, on this matter, she was on much more solid ground.

“Like I should have sacrificed Alderaan?” He actually flinched like she had struck him “Is that your line of thinking? Because if I had, if I had done nothing different, and let everything play out as it once did, it would have ensured victory. Of course, you are dead in that scenario too so I’m not sure how well that works out for you.”

“That is not what I’m saying.”

“That is exactly what you are saying. The good of the many outweighs the needs of the few? It’s a convenient line of thinking when you aren’t the one making the sacrifice, but making that decision on behalf of others.”

“You think I haven’t made sacrifices? That this war hasn’t taken everything from me?” his voice actually rose till he was shouting at her. “I’ve been fighting this war since before you were born.”

“That is not the point Obi-Wan.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You lost everything but you got a chance to take it all back. So don’t you dare lecture me about costs.”

“No, I’m lecturing you because I’m telling you there is a better way, and you aren’t listening!!”

“As you claim so loudly you are not a Jedi master, I think I am the best judge of how to train Luke, stop interfering!!!” His hands came to his hips as he glared at her. It was eerily reminiscent of Vader’s stance when he tried to ground her from missions. He was trying to use his authority to make her back down. Well, that trick had been tried on her by the likes of men much more twisted and dark than he ever hoped to be, and she hadn’t hesitated with them either. When needs must, she would always speak truth to power.

“I know, better than you, the potential Luke has. You hope for who he could become, I’ve lived it. I’ve seen him turn the whole galaxy around with nothing more than his compassion and will.”

“Compassion? You think compassion will win this? The Jedi had compassion, and look where that got us?”

“So compassionate that you ignored your mandate to the citizens of the galaxy? So compassionate that you became helplessly entangled into the affairs of the Senate. The Jedi were meant to be a bulwark against the Senate, along with the Courts. The Jedi were meant to defend the individual citizens of the galaxy, not the status quo. You were the Senate’s watchers, not it’s lapdog.”

His eyes narrowed as she struck at the heart of his identity. “You dare!!”

“You’re damn right I do! What in the kriffing hell were you doing leading an army “General”? An army of sentient creatures who were little better than slaves!! Had the Jedi truly lost their way that much? Maybe Dooku had a point.”

He spat out. “I will not be lectured about the war from someone who takes Dooku of Serrenno’s side."

“The Separatists and he weren’t wrong about the Republic!!” Gods knew there were enough of them in the Rebellion. Leia had understood, from a very early age, their criticisms of the Old Republic. She had agreed with almost all of them, it was only their method of exacting change she disagreed with. Burning down the whole galaxy wasn’t the best way to go about achieving a fair and just political system. “Just because he was fallen doesn't mean he didn’t have valid points.”

He gave her a nasty smile “No, I tend to take a dim view of Dooku’s positions because he was a Sith.”

Leia felt the breath knocked out of her ”What?” she managed.

“Didn’t know that did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” she whispered shocked. Any history she could find only said that Dooku was a rogue Jedi. She figured it had been all Imperial propaganda, another way to frame the Jedi for the start of the Clone Wars, and their supposed play for power. After the destruction of Alderaan, when she was much more in their company, she talked to the few remaining veterans of that war and heard of the atrocities that had been committed by Dooku, or those directly under his command, she had revised her opinion to that he had fallen. But a Sith? Why hadn’t her parent’s told her that? This wasn’t like her parentage, at nineteen she was more than capable of handling that information.

Then a more insidious thought occurred to her. Did they even know? Had anyone outside of the Jedi Order known this?

“In all your all encompassing other life that never came up? He was a Sith, it was a two-man con, and Palpatine was the winner.”

She narrowed her eyes “Did you ever tell anyone that he was?”

“Of course not. The order was already on the precipice as it was in public opinion. The last thing we needed was the Senate to find out that the boogeyman of the past had returned and one of our own members had fallen in league with it.”

"And those ‘slaves’ were commissioned by Dooku precisely so the Jedi would be able to enter into the war. It was too thin out numbers in the ensuing conflict, and help turn the public against us.”

“You still didn’t refuse to use them.” she pointed out.

His smug look vanished and he looked uncomfortable again. “The Senate were the ones who authorized that.”

“And again I return to the point of being their lapdogs.”

“What else were we supposed to do? The Republic was fracturing and everyone wanted us to fix it. We always intended to see that they were recognized as sentient creatures.”

She sneered at him “What, after half of them bled and died for you?”

“They slaughtered us!”

“Because they had no choice!! And if you had done the right thing when presented with them you never would have been put into that position in the first place.”

He tugged is hair in frustration “You can’t save everyone, Leia!! We made a choice.”

“It was the wrong one. And no, you can’t save everyone, but that is no gods damn reason not to try!!” she shot back.

“It must be easy for you to look down on what we did from the lofty perch of hindsight!”

“No, it’s easy because the cost of the decisions you made were left for me to pay! For Luke to pay!!! And then you left it to us to fix your mess while leaving us completely in the dark about how it all fell apart in the first place.”

His eyes sharpened at that. “Is that what happened to you? At least the Republic lasted a thousand years before it fell apart. You couldn't seem to have even managed even thirty.” Dammit, he was too good at picking up on what she wasn’t saying.

She drew in a deep breath as her temper flared. “You speak of things you have no knowledge of.”

“And why is that? Because you won’t tell us.”

“Aren’t you the one always going on about how the future is always in motion? I can’t unknow what I know Obi-Wan, any more then I can make myself actually nineteen again. But I’ll be damned if I don’t try to make it better. Better for all of us, for the galaxy at large. Isn’t that what the Jedi are supposed to do? Offer protection and to fight for those who cannot?”

“That’s what we did!” he insisted, red-faced.

“No, you were preserving the existing order, at all costs. No matter the corruption in the Senate, which you certainly weren’t blind to. Or the indifference of the Courts, which was obvious to everyone. You were the third pillar of the government and you failed.”

“That’s not true,” he shook his head “We did a lot of good.”

“For who Obi-Wan? The Senate or the citizen's?  Because they are not at all the same thing.”

“And what would you have had us do? Destroy both of the other branches and seize power for ourselves?”

“Why is it always extreme’s with you? You could have gotten involved in the Senate. Tried to reform it from the inside. Perhaps seized back functions you had given away?”

“The Jedi were above such matters!”

“Refraining from political acts is a political act Obi-Wan. If you don’t take action someone will do it for you.”

“It wasn’t done. We needed to maintain our neutrality.”

“For what? Defend an ever shrinking Republic, as your power base was whittled away? You weren’t doing anything but trying to survive.”  

“And what, in your oh so wise view, do you think we should have been doing?”

“Anything!! Crackdown on smuggling? Actually, enforce the trade deals that the Banking Clan was continually breaking?  Break apart the Hutt’s control of the slave trade?”

“That’s not what we were meant to be!”

She threw up her hands in frustration “And where is your compassion now Master Jedi? Where is your sense of justice? If all of those people weren’t worth saving because that wasn't what you weren’t meant to be, why did the Order even bother? Why do I?” She was shaking, she was so furious “Anything I say just goes in one ear and out the other. Simply because I’m younger than you? Because I’m less experienced than you?” She could hear the whining in her voice, but she was too upset to stop it. “Because I’m less trained in the “wise ways” of the Jedi?  Because I upset your precious “balanced” worldview? Is that why you brush me off and won’t listen to me!!”

“You always say that Anakin but that is not true!!” he shouted back.

Leia felt the air whoosh out of her lungs as if she had been hit in the solar plexus. “What did you call me?” she whispered, shocked.

His face didn’t even show confusion “Leia.” he said promptly.

She frightened him, she knew that. She would do or say something and his fear would bleed all over her. And when she confronted him about it, Obi-Wan had refused to tell her why.  If this was the reason if it was because she reminded Obi-Wan of him...

He frowned at her, then a mangled look of grief and regret passed over his face. “Leia-” he started

She shook her head in denial and started the walk back to the base. She was done with all of this.

 

It was a long walk back to her quarters, she had gone about half way before the adrenaline surge started to wear off and all she felt was the ache of exhaustion deep in her bones. She had stupidly pushed herself today. Between Mon, Luke, and Obi-Wan she was all done with any more conversations today.  She started to pull on the Force, to bolster her reserves, when Obi-Wan’s accusations floated up in her mind. No, she would not be doing that, she would stop using the Force in this manner. She had helped topple an Empire without conscious use of the Force, she could do it again. Besides it’s not like she had never been tired before, she would muddle through.

So of course, when she finally managed to enter the hangar, after she felt like she had been walking for days, that is when Han found her.

“Hey-” he started a wide grin on his face, that died when he got a good look at her. Appropriate, today she was making everyone who loved her miserable.

“What’s wrong?” he demanded, coming up to her.

She shook her head “Nothing.”

“Okay normally I would be happy as hell to play our little banter back and forth about how you are a terrible liar, and you insult me in fun and inventive ways.” He cupped her cheek so softly, “But you are white as a sheet, so let’s skip that for today.” She savored his touch for a second, then determinedly pulled away, she needed to go to bed, not cuddle with Han in front of everyone.

He gently placed a hand on her shoulder “Leia, stop.”

“Need to go to sleep.” she whined.

“Yeah, I'm not arguing with you there,” he said mildly “but you’re heading the wrong way.”

She looked at him, it was so hard to keep her eyes open and a large yawn forced itself past her lips. What was he talking about?

“Quarters.” and she pointed down the hallway for emphasis.

“You're staying at your parent’s? Remember?” He pointed to the back of the hanger “You know the ones that way?”

Oh, that was right. They were staying on the opposite side of the Temple from her rooms. She shuffled and started heading towards the back of the bay, instead of the right side. Han came up right beside her and looped his arm into hers. His grip was anything but casual though, he was doing his best to make sure she stayed on her feet.

“You sure you don’t need to go to medical?” he asked, concern loud in his voice, as they moved slowly through the hanger, gently steering her from walking into anyone.

“Tired,” she mumbled. “Pushed myself too far.”

“Yeah, I’m shocked by that.”

She scowled, she wasn’t a child, she knew her limits. “Didn’t mean to, people kept ambushing me with feelings.”

“Uh-huh.”

She could feel eddies of curiosity in the Force as he led her through the hanger bay. She felt the distant roar of panic in her fogged brain. Even though she was exhausted, she had her shields in place, and she was still receiving this much? What doors had she opened in her quest to protect herself from Vader? From listening to the other Luke and starting any training despite her deep reservations? She had the sinking feeling that it was far too late for her to turn back now on this path.

Adding to her heartache, like a storm on the horizon, she could feel Luke. He was still on the base, somewhere, and his shields were slipping, the mix of emotions too entangled for her to get a proper read, but the chaotic roll of them were enough for her to realize that he was still riding the wave of his anger. She tried to shore up her own shields, he had a right to be mad, he didn’t need her regret and pain bleeding all over him. She found she had nothing to give though, they remained stubbornly full of weak spots and holes. Reluctantly, she called on the Force for this one task. Hell, she was not even able to go five minutes without using something she hadn't even been aware of for a good quarter of her life.

“Here we are,” Han said with false cheer.

She looked up to see the door to her parent’s quarters. She fumbled for the button to open it, stumbled forward as she lost her balance, and only by sheer luck managed to hit it.

“Whoa," Han said, as caught her before she could tumble to the floor. "Okay, don’t take what I'm about to do the wrong way. And definitely don’t tell your father I did this.” And with that he swept her up into his arms, cradling her to his chest.

She snuggled into that warm body, and familiar scent, too grateful and relieved to complain about his presumptuousness. “I won’t if you don’t”

He strode into the room and seeing the door to her parent’s room headed to it. “Can you get the button?” he asked, “This isn’t as easy as it looks and I don’t want to drop you.”

She did as he asked, grumbling. She wanted to go to sleep, not move. “I don’t see why not, I’m very tiny.”

“Not personality wise,” he said back. She felt herself being lowered into the bed. He gently removed her shoes and pulled the blanket over her.

“Go to sleep Princess.” she thought she heard him say, but she was already drifting into oblivion.

 

Someone was shaking her shoulder “Leia,” her father’s voice was low and soft. “Leia are you hungry?”

Blearily she opened her eyes to find him sitting on the edge of the bed. Blinking, confused she mumbled, “What time is it?”

“Twenty standard hours.”

Leia bolted straight up. “What?” she asked confused, if that time was right she had been asleep for most of the day.

He gave her a reassuring smile “You didn't miss anything. You’re on medical leave remember? Han told me that he had to escort you back to our room. Your mother and I have been in and out all day keeping an eye on you.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?” she asked, rubbing at her eyes to remove the sleep seeds from them. “I missed my PT appointment.”

Bail patted her arm reassuringly, “Leia, it’s alright. You are allowed to have a bad day.” She shook her head in denial.

Her mother’s voice came from the doorway. “I canceled your appointment when I came in at lunch time and saw that you weren’t stirring. We figured you needed the rest more than the PT.”

Papa sat down next to her and rapped her nose lightly “But you also need food, so I thought I’d see if you would wake up.”

She didn't feel particularly hungry, but if she really had slept through the whole day, then yes she should get something to eat. She started to shift, to get out of the bed, but he put a restraining arm on her. “No need.” he turned his head “Threepio?”

“Yes Senator Organa?” came the droid’s voice from the living space.

“Can you please retrieve a tray of dinner for Leia from the mess hall? You know what she likes.”

“That isn’t necessary.” she protested. “I’m not an invalid, I can go.”

He gave her a smile “Indulge us.”

She heard Threepio exit the room, presumably, in order to retrieve her food. She slumped back down on the bed as the day’s events crawling back into her mind.

“Do I want to know why you are so tired?” her mother asked gently as she headed over to the bed to sit on the edge of it at Leia’s feet. “Or am I going to have to lecture you about taking it easy?”

She shook her head, “No, it was nothing like that.” She started plucking at the blanket with her fingers, too restless to stay still, but also too tired to move out of the warm comfy bed she was in to start pacing.

“Leia?” her father prompted.

“I had a fight with Luke,” she muttered, and because if there was one lesson she had been reminded of today, it was, to be honest with your loved ones in matters that concerned them. She sat back up as she confessed. “And Obi-Wan too.”

“Ahh.”

She looked up “You already knew that.” she accused., taking in the look on both their faces.

Papa spoke up. “Know? No, not for certain.”

“But suspect? Oh yes.” Mama gave a rueful shake of her head. “It’s a small community, Leia. The entire base is gossiping about the three of you going out in the jungle, and both Luke and Obi-Wan coming back looking ready to kill someone, and you looking like death warmed over.”

She swallowed nervously “Do you want to know what it was about? Or did the gossip mongers already fill you in with lurid tales?”

Bail gave her a condescending look at her flippant remark. “Given how close you and Luke are there is only one subject I can think of that would make him that upset with you.” He sighed “But we were wondering why you chose to tell him now.”

She looked away, not sure if she could bear to see the disappointment on their faces as she revealed her cowardice. “He needed to know.”

“Why Leia?” Her mother asked.

Leia’s eyes flew up to her mother’s. “You know why.” 

“I know why I wanted to tell him.” her mother corrected gently. “But I don’t know why you do. It does seem a little strange to us your sudden move to inform him.”

“We are not very clear on your thinking Leia,” Papa said, “You’ve been most adamant in your refusal to discuss Vader, in any capacity, with us.”

She swallowed hard. They had done their best by her, she knew that they had their reasons as to why they concealed the truth from her, just like she did with Luke. That didn’t remove the sting of betrayal that she felt at them for it though. For so long she had mourned them and brushed aside even questioning the hurt they had done to her. It seemed, traitorous, somehow to accuse them when they weren’t there to defend themselves.

But now that they were here, she had a hard time remaining rational about even talking about that time in her life. It had been filled with so much triumph as they brought the Empire down. And so much inner conflict for her, as she learned the creature she loathed the most in the galaxy was her own biological father. That her beloved parents, the ones that had brought her up, taught her to be true and moral, to always weigh the consequences of her decisions and the effects they would have, would willingly let her remain in ignorance and with a good chance that she would become an unwilling patricide.

She didn’t object to killing Vader, but like she told Obi-Wan, that was her choice. And if there was one thing that Leia hated above all others, was the feeling that her choices had been taken away from her, no matter how well meaning.

But that wasn't something she wanted to discuss with them. Ever. So she stuck to the practical aspects of her decision. “Vader is hunting me and there is no mission that I could go on that Luke wouldn't insist on accompanying me. Having those two so close to each other was asking for disaster.” She gave her parents a worried look “Luke almost told Vader on Cymoon 1 who he was Papa. I couldn’t leave him that vulnerable.”

She looked up at her father, he had a patient look on his face “And?” he prompted.

“And what?” she said defensively.

He shook his head “Leia, you have changed in a great many ways that I do not fully understand, yet, but you still have the exact same look on your face when you think you have done something wrong, and don’t wish to confess.”

Leia had her parents back in her life for three months, and she was still trying to get used to the fact that they knew her, and her tells, so well. It was odd to be both be a stranger in so many ways to them but to have them intimately understand the fundamentals that shaped her personality in ways that even Luke and Han could never had. “I was a coward,” she whispered.

“In what way?” her father asked.

“What do you mean in what way? I should have told him sooner. He needed to know the minute I confessed I was his sister and from the future.”

“Maybe you should have.” her mother said, softly, placing a hand on Leia’s knee in comfort “Why didn’t you?”

Leia closed her eyes and admitted, “Because I wasn’t ready to.”

“Then maybe that was for the best that you didn’t.”

Leia looked at her mother flabbergasted. She was the one who had disapproved of her starting any relationship with Luke while withholding such an important piece of information from him. “Leia I don’t think you realize how shell shocked you were when you first arrived. Do you think you would have been able to handle this subject any better then?”

Leia, squirmed uncomfortable “No,” she admitted, “but that is no excuse.”

Her father pinched the bridge of his nose “I can never understand why you can be so understanding of the weakness of others, and plan accordingly, yet are incapable of extending that courtesy to yourself.”

Because she needed to be better than them. She knew better, she had been taught better, and she had the strength to fight for what was right when others didn’t. It was her power and her responsibility to always hold that line.

“He’s angry at you too,” she warned them. She knew how much her parents had grown to love Luke, and she had dropped this huge bomb into their relationship with him without even bothering to consult them. Obi-Wan had at least gotten a warning from her about her intended actions.

“Yes, I imagine he will be. And he has every right.” At her startled look, he shook his head “Leia, I am an adult, and I could have told him just as easily as you did. Your mother and I have had multiple discussions with Obi-Wan about this, it wasn’t just you who saw the danger in keeping Luke in the dark. But like you, we could have said something to him. We are under no obligation to obey the wishes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, as much as we respect his opinion.”

“Then why didn't you?” she asked curiously.

Her mother sighed, “At first because we felt he wouldn’t believe us. He liked us, but he didn’t know us. All we would be doing was sowing discord and confusion in a situation that required as much trust and finesse as we could manage. As he grew to know us we hesitated because he was clearly trying to run from his grief over the loss of his family, and we felt that this might be one blow too many. However, after you were injured it became clear to both of us that if he had any say in the matter he would accompany you on any mission you have off base. That would increase the chances of him encountering Vader.”

Leia opened her mouth to ask, but Breha shook her head. “He didn’t tell us either Leia that he spoke to Vader, and it’s definitely not in any of the mission reports, classified or not. Luke’s standing in the Rebellion isn't under any suspicion, as far as I know.” Well, that was a small comfort.

Bail continued on “We wanted to talk to you first on how to best broach the subject with him. We were waiting for you to get the all clear for light duty, since we knew this would be hard on you physically, especially at this stage of your recovery. ” And here he glared at her. “Which you decided to ignore, and tell him otherwise.”

“I panicked,” she said softly. “When I saw what he almost had done, all I could think was that I couldn't let anything like this happen again.” She rubbed her forehead, trying to ease the ache there. “And in the worst way.  There was no softening the blow at all, I just blurted it out.”

“Is there really any gentle way to break news like this?” her father asked, curious.

Leia shook her head, “Luke managed it.”

Breha gave her a disappointed look “Leia, you are not your brother, your temperament is different than his. It doesn’t make you a worse person than him, just different.”

“I should have been able to find a way, gods knew I had enough time to think about it.”

“When Luke told you was he mysteriously transported to the past, facing a wealth of new problems all while trying to make sure the best parts of the future he remembered come to pass?” her mother asked neutrally.

“No,” she admitted, but he had been only told of there relation a few days prior, and then he was marching off to his certain death. At least that was how she saw it, Luke, of course, had proved her wrong. His ability to get people to listen to him never ceased to amaze her.

“I understand he is angry now, and justifiably so, but Leia you have to give him time.” her father warned. “He’s just had his entire worldview shaken up on him, and from his perspective, it came out of nowhere.”

“I know.” she whispered, “But what if he never forgives me?” then she let out her greatest fear. “What if he never trusts me again?”

“Do you really have so little faith in him?” her father asked. “He loves you Leia, and more to the point, he knows you love him in return. He’ll come around.”

“Love is no excuse for causing pain.” she countered “And you didn’t see his face.” She could see that riot of emotion that crossed that so young face, a look there she had never seen aimed at her. “You didn’t feel what he was feeling. I lied to him. I’ve never lied like this to Luke in my entire life. Either of them.” She felt a tear slip down her cheek “I have no idea how he’s going to react to this.”

“You’ve never kept a secret from him?” Papa sounded worried “Leia that doesn’t sound healthy.”

She shook her head  “No, of course, I’ve kept secrets from him, just like he kept them from me. Military maneuvers, intelligence briefings, other people’s confessions, things along those lines. But it was all things he wasn’t entitled to know, and he knew that.” She gave a short laugh that was almost entirely devoid of humor “I think we can all agree he was entitled to know this.”

Her parents exchanged helpless looks, unable to refute what she was saying. They merely drew her into their arms as she cried.

 

ABA - Day 72

 

Luke didn’t appear for breakfast.

 

Leia didn’t leave her parent's bedroom the entire day.

 

 

ABA - Day 74

 

She woke the next morning, thoroughly sick of herself and her self-pity. Enough was enough. She was due back in the Med Bay tomorrow for the follow up that would hopefully let her at least let her back to light duty. She had missed two days of PT and now she was terrified that she would not be considered fit for even doing paperwork. Yes, this situation hurt and was all of her own making but there were still things to do.

The Rebellion was still in full swing, despite the fact that her world had come crashing down all around her. The Empire certainly didn’t care that she wasn’t in the mood today to fight them, and was still chugging along, doing its brutal work. She had her sulk, she had indulged herself, now it was time to get back to work. Even with that speech ringing in her head, it wasn’t until lunch time she managed to get out of bed, and head to the mess hall.

When she arrived at the hall, with a tray of food in hand she looked around for somewhere to sit and eat. With a sinking heart, she realized that there was no one here that she felt comfortable just siding up to and asking to sit down with. To even converse casually with. Maybe Mama and Mon were right. She was too focused on the Rebellion, and with Luke not here, she was at a loss of where to sit.

She scanned for Evaan, Han, Rex, hell she’d take Wedge at this point, he knew when it was best to be quiet, but there was no one. All she got were questioning looks by the people who did dare to meet her eyes, and a feeling of curiosity hanging in the air. It wasn’t malicious, just that she was a person of interest in the latest drama rolling the base. It would pass as soon as someone else did something worth talking about. But until then anywhere she sat with people she would be peppered with questions.

Sighing she made her way to a clear spot at one of the tables and sat down. She needed to eat, she needed to be out of her parent’s room, socializing wasn’t on her list of things to do this afternoon anyway. She had been sitting quietly for a few moments, eating her food when she felt a thump beside her. She turned to see what brave soul had decided they wanted to directly ask her what happened in the jungle, only to see Han staring at her face intently. 

“Where’s your shadow?” Han asked.

She gritted her teeth. He had to have heard the gossip by now, everyone knew Luke was avoiding her and Obi-Wan, hell even her parents had heard it, and they were in command. He was just playing dumb. She continued to eat her food, not deigning to answer. She didn’t have the strength to deal with either his jealousy or protectiveness of Luke right this second. Maybe if she gave him the silent treatment he would get the hint and go away.

“You two have a fight?” he pressed.

She slammed her fork down and turned to glare at him “Trying to move in on me now?” she sneered, maybe anger would get him to move.

“Hey,” he said, grabbing her hand to prevent her from standing up and walking away. “This is me concerned, alright? You’ve been hiding in your room, clearly miserable, Luke looks like a gundark kicked him in the gut, and neither of you are talking. I’m worried.”

She drooped, there was no other word for it. Maybe this had all been a bad idea. Maybe if she just stayed in her room for the next thirty years everything would work out on its own. Oh, her mistake, not her room, her parent’s room, like a sick child.

“Leia,” Han said gently, cupping her chin and forcing her to look at him “It’s going to be alright.”

“You don’t know that.”

“No, but whatever this is all about I’m sure you two can work it all out.” He gently wiped the tear from her cheek, then his eyes slipped past her and narrowed. She didn’t look, she didn’t want to, and she resisted the urge to expand her senses in the Force to find out what caught his ire. It didn’t matter, even through her shields, she could feel the hungry gazes of those around them, taking in the latest episode of the drama unfolding around them. Wonderful, not only was her strength in the Force being honed ever more but what would the gossips make of Han’s act of kindness and interest in this?

“I’ve got an idea.” he said smiling “You come back with me to the Falcon.”

That was fast. She thought it would be at least another month before he started propositioning her. She arched an eyebrow “That confident of your skills to entertain me?”

He blushed at that. “No,” he said firmly, then hearing what he said, grimaced and quickly corrected to “Not that I’m not. Entertaining. I’m very entertaining. I’ve had compliments.” She just stared at him, bemused. He was that entertaining and distracting, at least to her, but damn if she was going to admit that to this Han so early in the game.

He rushed on clarifying “I meant to eat in peace, maybe watch a holo. Away from prying eyes.”

That sounded delightful. “Let’s go,” she said, quickly picking up her tray, not bothering to wait for him as she walked out of the hall. She heard him curse behind her at her speed, and there was the quick patter of his boots as he hustled to catch up with her.

The Falcon was still its weird blend of new and old, but she ignored the dissonance that caused. In the chaos that was her life currently, this was far down the list of things that were most upsetting her. She plopped her tray down on the the dejarik table and threw herself into the wide circular bench like it was a second home. Which it was, even if Han didn’t know that. Han stared at her for a moment, as she made herself comfortable, then asked her awkwardly “I don’t really have many holos to choose from. Do you have any preferences?”

“Do I look like I care?” she said, picking up her fork and began to eat again. “Put on something you want to watch.” It’s not like she was all that up to date on the latest, well, anything. The Resistance had consumed everything from her, including most of her free time to read anything not work related or watch the latest holos, in her effort to flee the pain her son had caused.

She paused and thought the implications of that sentence through. Is that what she had been doing here? Still running from actions that may or may not happen? It certainly hadn't been the first time in her life she had used her mission to out run her pain was it? After the destruction of Alderaan, she had shut everyone from her old life out. It was Luke and Han who managed to reach her then, to pull her back from the brink of self destruction. They had showed her it was okay to laugh again, to have trust again, to love again.

Ben hadn't just destroyed are her hopes and dreams, he had caused a severing in the two relationships she used to keep herself grounded. Neither of them had left her with that purpose in mind. At least not in Han's case, if she was to believe that vision she had, and she was almost certain that was the case with Luke too. They both had their own demons they were running from. But neither Han or Luke had ever backed down from her, when they thought they were right, no matter what she had thrown at them. Without them there to pound into her admittedly thick skull, that what she was doing wasn't healthy, or wise, she had sunk into old, and very isolating habits.

It had been such a gradual change in her old life, she really hadn’t noticed that it was happening. She was sure their were people around her that tried to tell her, that she needed to take a break, a rest, not obsessively work, but she more then likely blew them off. And because she was the "General" they let her. Well, she could start correcting that behavior now, she knew she was courting burnout with the behavior she had done over the last few years, and it was time to catch up on everything she had missed over the last seven years.

Then a small grin lit her face, no she was nineteen again. She was up to date on most forms of entertainment. In fact, strictly speaking, she was ahead of the curve.

During her ruminations, Han left the hold and returned with the holoprojector. He placed it on the edge of the table. “There was a race on Malastare, about a week ago. Haven’t watched it yet.” There was a defensive tone in his voice as if he was expecting her to mock him for having such low brow tastes.

She shrugged, it’s not like she hadn’t figured that was all he had on hand. She knew him too well to believe there was a holo of the latest opera hiding somewhere on this hunk of junk. “It’s fine.”

A flicker of relief passed over his face and then he leaned over to flick it on. He very hesitantly sat down on the opposite side of the bench, and then scooted in until he was, not right next to her exactly, but close enough that she could touch him if she wanted to. She could feel him watching her, looking for what, she wasn’t sure, but she steadfastly ignored him in favor of finishing her lunch.

Eventually, he lost interest in staring at her and turned to watch the ships zoom across the track. As soon as she was done eating she placed her fork down, and she could practically feel him tightening up at the thought that she was leaving. She shoved the tray to the edge of the table, not on the side that held the the holo projector and pushed herself till she was sitting right next to him.

“Who’s winning?” she asked.

“You follow racing?” His tone expressed legions of doubt about that concept.

“No, but you clearly do. So tell me.”

He pointed to the screen “That’s Delan Vook, currently the favorite to win this, and is in second place.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“Oh, he’s right where he wants to be,” and Han was off, explaining in detail every racer, their current position, and past history. She watched his animated face, and just basked in it all. She actually knew most of this, well sort of. Han had always been nothing if not vocal in his appreciation of the sport. She really hadn’t cared, but she liked how passionate he was he was going on about the subject, and apparently, she had absorbed more than she thought she had.

He broke off “You’re not listening to me.”

She gave him a smug smile “Yes I am. Loo Re Anno is currently ranked third, is now in fourth place, and you think she's going to win.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” he looked at her puzzled. “You don’t care about this do you?”

She shook her head “No, not really, but I like the way you talk about it.”

His eyebrow went up “Really?”

She smiled “Really.”

“Okay then.” He leaned back against the bench, his arm coming up behind her, clearly offering her a place to snuggle if she wanted. Sometimes, so rarely, he could be so slick.

If she really was nineteen she would have stomped out right this instant, in a righteous storm of indignation. They had been having a perfectly lovely conversation and he had to start flirting in the middle of it. But her nineteen-year-old self had been rather self-involved in seeing certain things. Han was just a tactile person. He needed to touch people, and flirting wasn’t always what he had in mind. He was always touching her, but also Luke, Chewie, Ben. She slammed that thought right off. He needed this right now and she did too if she was being honest with herself.

Without a word, she let herself relax and slumped against his chest as she took him up on his offer. She heard a surprised noise escape his throat as she rested against his side, enjoying the scent of him all around her, that steady heartbeat beneath her ear. His arm left the top of the bench and settled on her shoulders, and she made no noise of protest at this.

They continued to watch the race, mostly in silence, though Han did make a few disparaging remarks here and there when a racer did something he thought was incredibly stupid. She could feel herself unwinding as time past, the tension in her muscles draining away as she took in the race, Han, and nothing else. Maybe Mon and her Mother had a point. She had been so focused and driven that she was wound tighter than a spring.

She wasn't sure how long she was there, enjoying the quiet solitude with Han when Luke’s voice drifted up.

“Hey Han,” he called out, his footsteps echoing down the hall as he climbed up the embankment ramp, “You up here? I thought I could try to make that modification to-” his voice trailed off and he came to a dead stop when he saw her, and Leia saw his face shift from open and friendly to closed off and remote. His shields came down in a rush in the Force, that she could almost feel the backlash of.

“Kid!!” Han said, his forced cheer evident. “Look who I found in the mess hall eating by herself,” Luke said nothing, just kept staring at her, his face tight and anxious. She felt the calm and tranquility that she had been building up slide away. She sighed and pushed herself out of Han’s embrace. She needed to go, Luke clearly needed someone to spend some time with, and she wouldn’t do anything right now to make her brother’s life the littlest iota harder.

“It’s okay, I should be going anyway.” she told Han as his hand came out to grab her arm to keep her from leaving.

“No, you don’t” Han protested to Luke “Tell her she doesn’t.”

“It’s fine,” Luke said flatly. “I only had one question, then I can go.” Okay, even Han could see that was a big fat lie.

I’ll go.” she sent in the Force, not willing to hide behind Han’s request to force her brother to stay here with her. She saw Luke’s eyes flare with a refusal, so she continued on. “It’s not fair to put him in the middle.

She saw his jaw tightened, and aiming for levity she added “Really it’s okay. I know I was raised as an only child, but I do know how to share.” She didn't feel any answering flicker from him but Luke relaxed slightly, and she saw the smallest nod from him.

She turned to Han “Thank you for the racing lesson.” she smiled “It was...educational.”

“Anytime.” But his eyes were flicking back and forth between her and Luke, taking in his frosty air, and her guilty face. He had heard the rumors on base, who hadn’t at this point? But sitting here he was getting a damn clear look at how upset Luke was with her, even if he was baffled as to the why of it.

She extracted herself from the bench, and swinging out as far out as she could in the tight space, walked around Luke. He said nothing, didn’t move, didn't twitch. Gods he never was going to forgive her was he? Well, if their positions had been reversed would she?

She was a few feet out of the Falcon when Chewie's voice rumbled from her behind her on left <Good afternoon your Highness.>

She paused, wondering at his formality. Had she done something to upset him? Then she reviewed the last few months in her mind and if she could have she would have slapped herself for her stupidity. She had never given Chewie permission to use her name. “It’s Leia,” she stated firmly “Not your Highness.”

He cocked his head <Titles are important to my people. It would be rude to refer to you as such. Didn’t your tutor tell you that?>

She smiled at his dismissive tone of this clearly defective unknown Wookie. “He did. He also told me that titles don’t matter much among friends.”

He let out a small snort of surprise <There aren’t many humans who would claim a Wookie for a friend these days.>

She gave a dismissive wave of her hand. “Well, they’re all fools and not worth your time.”

He let out his loud barking laugh <On that we are agreed> there was a small pause then <Leia.>

She gave him a full smile and on impulse ran over to give him a hug. He was stiff for a moment, startled, then she felt him bend, a lot, to return the embrace.

<Don’t worry about Luke,> he rumbled softly <Han and I will look after him during this.>

“Thank you,” she whispered and squeezed him tighter in response. Then, she took a few steps back, “See you around Chewie.”

<Of course.>

Satisfied that she had done at least one thing right today, she headed to her parent’s quarters for her afternoon nap.

 

ABA - Day 75

 

Healer Banok was strict. Oh, he was charming enough, but the look he gave her as she asked on her progress held nothing but durasteel patience in it. She would know as soon as he was done with his examination and not a moment before. As she went through all the motions he requested of her she had to concede the man was nothing if not thorough in his assessment of her healing shoulder.

“Looks good,” he murmured, as she rotated it, his hands laying flat across her shoulder blade, to feel the muscles. “You’ve regained most of your strength back. Your bloodwork came back all clear as well.”

“So I can go back to full duty?”

His eyebrow shot up “So eager to throw yourself back into danger?”

“So eager to be out of my parent’s room.”

He laughed at that. “Well, I can’t say I blame you there. You can go back to light duty. And I do mean light.” He wagged his finger in her face “Half days only, and you still need to continue on with your PT for at least another week. But yes, you can move back to your own quarters.”

She gave a small sigh of relief. She loved her parents, but if she didn’t escape their constant ever vigilant presence she was going to scream. She had scared them, and badly, she understood that. But did they have to watch her like she was going to disappear right in front of them?

She was fifty-three years old, she was long past the age of needing a minder. She had been taking care of herself, and living by herself, for years. It was hard to readjust to having other people constantly in her space, and the hovering they indulged in didn’t help.

When she had arrived in this time she hadn’t done that to them. Of course, she, was discounting the times she would wake up, thinking that they were still dead, and this was all a dream and the waves of panic that would send her into. And maybe, just maybe, on those days she was a bit eager for their family breakfasts. Or the times she had almost slipped and referred to them in the past tense, while they were right in front of her. And perhaps, sometimes, she would randomly hug them, no matter where they were or who was watching, simply because she could. But even given all that, she still didn’t hover over them.

“Thank you, Healer Banok.”

“Anytime,” he said giving her a warm smile “And by that I mean I hope to never see you in my infirmary again.”

She laughed “Will you be offended if I hope for the same thing?”

He patted her hand “That’s what I like all my patients to say” he assured her.

 


Leia was walking into the main data bank room, rubbing the back of her neck to ease some of the tension there. She was tired, but it wasn’t the fatigue of healing, just the ache after a day, half-day, she corrected ruefully, of work. She needed to eat and get to bed, she wasn’t anywhere near pushing herself too hard, and she wanted to keep it that way. But she hadn’t been by here since she was injured on Cymoon 1, and it was a habit she was going to get back into.

She headed to the back, where there were a wealth of personnel who were tasked to listening to all Imperial propaganda, so she could take a quick look at all the data readouts. She was looking for news of Alderaan in that day's feed. She didn’t believe anyone was deliberately trying to keep information from her, or more importantly, her parents, but the analysts were only really paying attention to the higher ups. They couldn’t be expected to remember all the names of friends and acquaintances to listen for. She was searching for personal information, not state secrets, and the lists of people incarcerated and killed were public knowledge, and so far blessedly short But every day that passed without hearing any loved one's names was made a better day.

When she walked further into the room she was startled to see that Evaan was standing in the corner, a readout already in her hand. Her focus was so intense on the days’ data that she didn’t see Leia until she cleared her throat to get the taller woman’s attention.

Evaan’s head came up at the noise and stared at Leia for a few seconds as she tried to register who was trying to get her attention. Then a deep blush washed over her face and she gave Leia a formal bow. “Good evening Your Highness.” she offered, as she came up, pad still clutched in her hand. Then she frowned “What are you doing here? Aren’t you still on medical rest?”

Clearly, Leia had acquired an entire flock of nursemaids to watch over her every move after the mission to Cymoon 1. “No, as of this morning, I’m on light duty,” she informed the blonde “Besides my visit has nothing to do with the Rebellion,” she waved a hand over the various techs slicing and crunching the data. “I used to come every night, before I was injured, to see if I recognize any of the names.”

“Oh,” Evaan said, somewhat sheepishly.

“Anything on your family?” Leia asked, as gently as she could manage.

Evaan’s face tightened, then rolled back into a smooth mask. “No. Governor Shale seems to have a “firm” grasp on things though.”

Leia’s mouth twitched “Were you expecting anything else?”

“With her reputation, no.” the blond looked down “Are you going to tell me that no news is good news?”

Leia shook her head “No news is a form of torture. Because they are both alive and dead and you don’t know which one is true.”

Evaan’s eyes flew up and met hers, startled. “Your mother would disagree with that.”

Leia shook her head “I love my mother, but I’ve never been able to emulate her calm approach to life. She’s a realist, but prefers to err on the side of optimism.”

“And you’re a pessimist?” Evaan asked, a wry twist to her lips “I tell you I’m shocked.”

“Expect the worst, if it happens you’re prepared. If it doesn't you end up being pleasantly surprised. I find it’s a good way to live.”

“In a war yes, but for your whole life?” Evaan frowned thoughtfully “You’d be living constantly on the edge, always afraid that something was going to destroy your joy.”

Well, in general, that was what happened in her life, so she had good reason to adopt the attitude. She frowned as she thought that over. When exactly had she lost the certainty that things could get better? When Ben turned? Or before that, as she could see the New Republic began its downward slide into fatal ignorance? When the whispers of the existence of the First Order and what they were doing in the Uncharted Territories reached her ears? Or had it begun earlier than that? When she learned Vader was her father? When Alderaan was destroyed? She didn’t always use to think this way. She wouldn’t have joined the Rebellion in the first place if she had that attitude.

Mistaking Leia’s expression as a recrimination against her, Evvan stiffened. “Forgive me, your highness, it’s not my place to say.”

Leia found her frown deepening. Did the woman really see herself as Leia’s subordinate? “Leia. My name is Leia.”

Evaan blanched at that. “That-I mean” she cleared her throat “That wouldn’t be proper.”

“Are we friends?” Leia asked, wonderingly. She had thought so, not especially close ones, but friends nonetheless.

“What?” The woman couldn't have been more surprised if Leia had announced her true parentage to her. Clearly, Leia was very out of practice at this sort of thing.

“Are we friends Evaan?” she repeated.

Evaan stammered, looking flustered “I would never presume-”

“Please, presume away.” Leia interjected, “I know I’m very bad at making overtures in the traditional way, but I can assure you that I consider us friends.” She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “It has been brought to my attention that I seem to be withdrawn and a little work focused. That for the sake of my mental health I need to do other things than work."

"I denied that initially, then tried to come up with a list of people I socialize with, and it's shockingly small." She gave Evaan a small smile "But you are one of those people. If I’m wrong, and please feel free to tell me if I am, but I thought we had fun together.”

“We beat the crap out of each other in the sparring room.” Evaan said slowly “That’s not most people’s idea of fun bonding.”

“Is it yours?” Leia asked, curious.

A slow smile crept across the woman’s face “Yes. Yes, it is.”

“Good.”

“Alright...Leia.” the blonde gave her a shy smile. “I’ll see you later then.”

 

 

ABA - Day 81

 
When Leia was called into the Alliance leadership council, she felt a tiny thrill go through her. Finally, she was getting somewhere, Draven’s suspicions seemed to be cast aside, they were finally trusting her to do something big. She wouldn’t have been called into a meeting like this, just her, unless it was something big. When she arrived at Mon’s office, she found the situation the exact opposite of what she was expecting.

Luke was there, a scowl on his face when he saw her enter, that was then efficiently wiped clean when he noticed Mon’s and Ackbar’s attention on him. His desire to hide from her must be one hell of a motivation, his shield work clearly had improved by vast strides, since she had not a clue he was in the room until she walked into it.

Leia contained the flinch the reaction of seeing her brother, but not being able to feel him caused in her. She would rather have his anger and pain beating on her. This echoing void where she had just gotten  used to his presence in the Force again was unbearable. It was too close to the years she spent calling out to the other him in vain. She had never lost a limb, but she imagined this feeling was as close as she could get to it, to constantly reach for something that wasn’t there, only to find it missing. 

She could ignore it when he wasn’t near her, she was used to this Luke wanting privacy when they weren’t in the same room. But this was the first time since their encounter in the Falcon that they had been in each other’s presence and it hit her anew.

“Ahh, Leia,” Ackbar said cheerfully. “Now we can begin.”

“Begin what?” Leia asked cautiously, wondering why she was here at all.

Mon gave a tight smile “The Admiral and I felt, given the limited resources you had on your last mission, and the success it was, that it was time to send Lt. Skywalker in his first solo mission.”

“Despite the fact that you didn’t want us going at all,” Leia thought a little bitterly. Mon had been right about the dangers, Leia’s own injuries could attest to that, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t worth the cost she had paid. Mon had always had the knack for implying full credit on things she had come just shy of outright forbidding. The prime of example of that being the Scarif mission, where she had withheld her open support, but when that mission had led to the destruction of the Death Star, Mon had ridden that wishy-washy endorsement for all it was worth. It was one of the reasons she was such a successful politician. Leia wasn’t sure if she was more disapproving or envious of that talent.

Mon, ever aware of the undercurrents in a room, gave her a tight smile in response to Leia’s inquiring look. “We wanted to ask for Lt. Skywalker’s help in another mission that you are familiar with Leia.”

“Help with what?” Luke asked. Leia was right there with him. If Mon and Ackbar wanted them to go on a mission together right now, in some weird attempt to force them to patch things up, that was courting disaster.

“We need to send a negotiating party to Rodian. We are hoping to purchase weapons from them.” Ackbar clarified. Leia frowned, that meant her participation was out. There was no way they were sending her, and her twenty-five million bounty, to a world that far under the thumb of the Empire.

“And Leia is here because?” Luke asked, tone coolly civil, echoing her own thoughts.

Ackbar and Mon turned to look at her expectantly. She looked back, genuine lost, she had no idea what they wanted from her. She blinked in surprise as the answer occurred to her with Mon’s prompting of “Leia?”

Leia tried to keep her irritation off her face. They really had called her into this meeting simply to try to force Luke and her to be in the same room? For information that she was sure they both knew? In some misguided attempt to help them reconcile?  She fought to keep her voice level “Because I did all the background information and research.” she said, giving in, and shooting both Mon and Ackbar a glare.  

“I thought the Rodian were staunchly Imperialist?” Luke asked skeptically, picking up on her hesitation.

Well, that wouldn't do. It was the two busybodies in the room she was doubting, not the mission itself. “They are. But it’s the Chattan clan that is currently ruling Rodia. Their closest rivals for power, the Chekko clan, are also in the business of manufacturing weapons.” Leia found herself lecturing.

“You think they’ll help us to spite the Chattan?” There was a twist to those words. Luke clearly didn’t want to touch her mind with the Force, but he also wanted the answer.

She nodded. “That’s what I believe yes.” She couldn’t give any special meaning or emphasis on any of her words. Mon knew her far too well and would wonder what was going on. The woman had enough to deal with, she didn’t need to doubt herself on her belief to Leia's loyalty to the Alliance.

Luke picked up on the answer though, because there was the barest hint of recognition in his eyes as he processed that yes, this was possible.

Luke looked from Ackbar to Mon. “Who’s going with me? And how am I getting there?”

“We can’t send any Alliance vessel.” Ackbar said mournfully “Rodian space is too tightly controlled for that to work.”

“Han?” Luke asked, his face brightening.

Ackbar’s nostril slits flared in irritation “Certainly not. Using smugglers is an unwise and unnecessary risk.”

Both her and Luke’s eyes narrowed at the insult to Han. Mon, sensing the defense that both of them were going to launch about Han, hurriedly spoke up. “Captain Solo is currently unavailable to help us. We did ask,” and here she shot a glare to Ackbar, “but he is currently on another assignment.”

“Smuggling for a criminal enterprise you mean,” Ackbar corrected.

“Admiral,” Mon sighed “the man does have to eat.”

“Then who are we using?” Luke asked, “If not Han?”

“Nakari Kelen.” Mon said.

“Kelen?” Luke’s head titled thoughtfully “As in Kalen Biolabs?”

“His daughter,” Ackbar explained, “She has offered us the use of her private vessel, the Desert Jewel, to get you into Rodian space.”

“When do I leave?” Luke asked.

Mon smiled faintly at his enthusiasm “As soon as you're ready.”

“Great.” Luke walked out of the conference room without another word to her. Both Mon and Ackbar watched him go, disappointment on their faces. Leia felt her temper rise. If they had bothered to ask her, instead of treating her and Luke like recalcitrant children, she could have told them this farce would never work.

She shot them a glare. Ackbar got a defensive look on his face, but Mon just shrugged. “It wasn’t just about trying to get you two to make up, it was also to see if Lt. Skywalker could act like a professional around you, while you two are in this dispute.”

“Of course Luke would act professionally,” Leia said, indignant at the slight to her twin.

Mon didn’t rise to the bait though, she merely raised a thoughtful eyebrow “You are very defensive of a person that everybody says you are currently furious with.”

Leia’s eyes narrowed “You shouldn't believe everything you hear Mon.” The older woman said nothing, silently waiting for an awnser. “I am not mad at him.” she finally elaborated.

“And Obi-Wan?” Ackbar asked.

Leia flushed, but merely raised her chin and responded coolly “I don’t see how that is any of your business Admiral.”

He gurgled in irritation, “It’s my business when it starts affecting the Alliance.”

“In what way is our personal business affecting the Alliance?” she asked, incredulously.

“Luke stopped his Jedi training,” he spat back “So, yes that does make it my business. We need all the Jedi we can get if we ever have a hope of taking down Vader.” He stopped his rant and took in the look on her face. “You didn’t know that, did you?” he asked surprised.

No, she hadn’t, but it wasn’t a huge surprise to her either. “It’s his choice Admiral. If he feels that this isn’t the course for his life, then we should respect it.”

“I would agree with you except not anybody can use the Force, we have a limited pool to work with, thanks to the Empire’s determination to wipe out or co-opt anyone with the hint of Force talent.”

“So your solution is to force him?” she sneered back, panic in her throat. This could just as easily be him talking about her. “Like the Empire forced those poor souls to become Inquisitors? How do even begin to square that with the ideals that we are fighting for!?!”

“Of course we aren’t going to force him,” Ackbar said, his tone somewhat gentler as he realized his misstep with her. “But I would like to know what is going on between the three of you so I can talk to Luke about this.”

“Ask Obi-Wan.” she shot back.

“I did. He refused to answer.”

“And you thought I would be the weak link?” she asked, fury rising at his presumption.

Mon held up her hand for silence, and they both fell quiet. “No Leia, we thought you might be the rational one in all of this.” Well, that was flattering, but not the case.

She crossed her arms across her chest “You were mistaken.” she said “Stay out of this. We will work it out on our own.” When neither of them said anything more she inquired “If that is all?”

Mon sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Yes Leia, that is all. You can go.”

She stormed out of the office, and caught a glimpse of Luke, turning right, at the end of the corridor. She gave a sigh, that took longer than she thought, and if she hadn’t let her temper override her good sense she would have walked out with him. With a snort of derision at her lack of commitment to her decision to not use the Force, she checked both ways down the corridor to make sure they were deserted. Then she put on all the speed she could racing down the hallway to catch up to her brother.

She was at the intersection of the hallway in a second, and called out “Luke.”

He stopped, and for one heartbreaking minute, she thought he was going to ignore her. He did answer her. Over his shoulder, not fully turning around to look at her, but he did awnser. “Let me guess, you wanted to assure me that little ambush wasn’t your idea?”

“Ahhh, no.” she answered, startled.

He whirled then to face her, anger on his face. “Then it was your idea?” he demanded, indignant.

She rolled her eyes. “Of course not. I just assumed you knew that I had nothing to do with it.”

“Oh.” he seemed to deflate a little at that, but he did walk closer to her so they weren’t shouting at each other. When he was two feet in front of her he gave her a sour, “What did you want then?”

“On this mission…” she trailed off, wondering how to best phrase this ”Above all else, remember to be yourself.” She had been out of the loop for two weeks, and she was still playing catch up. She had no idea if the Kupohan’s spy was anywhere near Llanic at this point. Or even if Nakari was planning to use that as their jump point. But if they did end up there, and that ship with the spy on board was also there, she needed him to save it.

“More cryptic advice, thanks.” So he still wasn’t ready to talk to her. That didn’t matter, this did.

“This important the Rebellion Luke,” she pressed.

He sneered “If it’s so important why don’t you tell me directly? Or is this another thing you think I’m too young to understand?”

Leia felt her anger rise a notch. It was one thing to blow her off, he had earned that. But he had no right to endanger their cause simply because he was mad. “You know why I don’t get more specific.”

“Because you have an abundance of control issues?” he offered snidely.

“Alright," she hissed "If you’re going to act like a child, and not listen to me simply because you're pissed, I suppose I'll have to treat you like one.”

He took a step forward, deliberately pushing into her personal space “And you are such a great judge of deeming what is important and what isn’t? I have the most utter confidence in you given your track record.”

The sneer on his face snapped her last fraying nerve and she snapped. “Fine you want specifics, I’ll give you specifics. If you see a Kupohan ship being chased by Imperial ships do whatever you have to do to save it.” And she stormed off, heading away from him, before she said something more damning, and couldn’t take it back.

 

She was on one of the outdoor observation platforms, high in the air, trying to find her center when Rex found her.

“Leia,” he said as he climbed up the ladder “Mind if I join you?”

She gave him a smile, while she didn’t want to seek company, she wouldn’t send it away either. “If you don’t mind that it’s going to be a bit crowded.”

He laughed “If there is one thing my years in the Clone Wars taught me, it was not to be bothered by cramped spaces.” He finished his climb up the ladder and stood beside her, leading on the rail.

“Waiting for the Desert Jewel to leave?”

She nodded, not in the least surprise he was keeping track of when Luke went off world.

“Luke still pissed at you?”

She nodded again.

“I have no idea what is going on between you, Obi-Wan, and Luke, but my ear is always open if you need it, Leia.”

She gave him a sad smile “Thanks.” Then the use of her name caught a snag in the back of her mind. Rex had never called her Your Highness or Senator. It was always Leia. Why? Because Rex always paid attention to how people introduced themselves to him, and never changed that unless they asked. He was the only one on the base who was allowed to call Obi-Wan “General”, and that was because the older man had never asked him to stop.

<Titles are important> she remembered Chewie saying. Yes, they were. So why then on Cymoon 1 had he suddenly started using hers?

“Rex?” she asked.

“Hmm..”

“Why did you call me Senator on Cymoon 1?”

He turned to stare at her, blankly. “When I was on the ground, bleeding out. You threatened to tie me up if I didn't stop moving. But you didn’t say, Leia, you said Senator.”

He stiffened, it was subtle, but it was there “That's your title isn’t it?” he challenged.

Oh yes, she was onto something here. “One you have never called me by before,” she said mildly.

He had nothing to say to that for a moment, then reluctantly “For a second I thought you were someone else.”

Someone who looked like her, was a Senator, and that he could have possible met. That narrowed the possibilities considerably. She wondered why he hadn't said anything to her about this before. “You mean my birth mother?” she asked gently.

A look of profound relief crossed his face “You know.”

“I know.” More than you unfortunately.

“I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to say anything in case you had been left in the dark.”

“A soldier to the end.” she observed.

“I suppose you could look at it like that.” A look of consternation crossed his face “It was more the fact that it wasn't my place to tell you if you didn’t know. I had no proof, just my intuition.”

“When did you figure it out?” she asked curiously.

“The moment I saw you sitting on the General’s floor next to your brother. And if I hadn’t put it together then, I certainly would have the first time I saw you practice shooting your blaster on the target range.”

She gave him a surprised look, and he laughed “Your mother was one hell of a shot. Did no one ever tell you that?”

“No,” she said, “I was mostly told she was an effective and honest politician when they were in short supply, she was fully committed to her ideals, and she was a believer in democracy, ”

“That too,” he agreed, “but I’m not the best one to judge her skills as a legislator. But in battle, especially for a civilian, she was someone you definitely wanted on your side.”

“How do you know this?” she asked, fascinated by this new side of her mother.

“She found herself in a scrape or two during the war," a fond smile broke across his face "The first time I ever met her though was at the first battle of Geonosis.”

“She was there?” Leia asked.

“Yes, she was.”

That had been mentioned nowhere in any of the histories she had read about Padme Amidala Naberrie. Mon hadn't said anything either. She pondered this information for a second, then put it to the back of her mind for further thought later. There was a more pressing issue she had to address with Rex first.

“Do you think anyone else ‘guessed’?”

He gave a sad laugh. “Probably not. If anyone has an inkling it’s Mon. She worked with your mother fairly frequently in the Senate, but I can’t say for certain. There weren’t a lot of people who remember them now.”

She frowned "I wouldn't say that."

"Oh no, their legends are certainly remembered," he said, his grief naked on his face. "But who they were as people? No, that is being forgotten."

“You remember,” she said gently “enough that you were able to spot both of their children when they were sitting right in front of you.”

“They were my friends,” he said simply “how could I not?” He reached out and gently touched her cheek “You look so much like her. Have her sense of duty too. Not that General Skywalker didn’t have one” he hastened to add “but he was more loyal to people than ideas. You and your brother though,” he sighed. “You both carry duty to your ideals to the extreme like she did.”

Except for the obvious reference to how much they looked alike, nobody had ever compared her to her mother before. It was nice to know that she might have inherited something besides a tendency towards megalomania and a connection to a power she didn't much care for.

She heard the Desert Jewel exit the hangar before she saw it. As it’s bright red hull came into her line of sight, Leia watched intently, as it rose into the atmosphere, and away from Yavin.

“He’ll forgive you.” Rex offered.

“You don’t even know what we are fighting about.”

“No, I don’t. But he’s your brother and he loves you. As long as whatever you did wasn’t to deliberately hurt him, he’ll forgive you. He’s too much like his mother not to.” He gave her a watery chuckle “I might not know much about how families work, but one of the things I do know, if the love is there, eventually they forgive you.”

He would know, his brothers had also done some unspeakable things. There were a few of them, besides Rex, who were members of the Rebellion. Even though Rex had never turned on his Jedi, never done the things that the Empire had ordered the clones to do later, he treated them with nothing but love.

She looked up to the sky. Luke was going on his first mission without her, Obi-Wan or Han to back him up. It was Luke, and she had the utmost confidence in him, but the universe was a harsh and unforgiving place. Did she really want her last words to him before he left to be ones of anger?

May the Force be with you,” she sent out to him. He didn't answer her, but that didn’t stop Leia from keeping track of him in the Force until he left the system.

Chapter Text

Leia was still staring at the spot that the Desert Jewel had vanished into when she heard Rex clear his throat.

“You okay?” he asked. She used to have such a good sabacc face when it came to concealing her emotions from everyone. What had happened to that?

“You now have people who know you, and not your legend.”   That little voice sounded suspiciously like Luke, the older one, not the one who was so furious he didn’t know what to do with her.

“Yes.”

Rex gave her a disbelieving look. “If you really believe that I have a planet to sell you on the Outer Rim.”

It had been years since she had this many people around her that cared about her, Leia Organa, rather than the General. She was thankful for this, she hadn’t realized had lonely she had become, how isolated, until she found her herself in this time. The downside to all of that love and attention was it was very hard to conceal anything from their sharp gazes and none of them would allow her to hide for long. Why did everyone she love, have to be so smart? “I don’t like it when he goes on a mission without me,” she muttered.

“I know that feeling. I don’t like it much when the General goes without me either.” He shook his head “For decades I thought the man was dead, you think that would make it easier.”

She thought about that for a moment, staring out into the great canopy of Yavin's jungle. “I would have thought it made it worse. Now you know what it’s like to lose him. You went through it and have no intention of doing it again.” The gods only know what would happen to her if she lost her parents again, or Han. That was why she didn’t regret, beyond the heartache she caused others, her actions on Cymoon 1. She would have rather have died than have Han, any Han, be ripped away from her again.

“Huh, never thought of it that way.” He pondered that for a moment, “You know that feeling includes you and your brother right?” Startled she looked at him. There was a wealth of feeling in that statement, and in the Force. Rex had relaxed that iron control of his, and she could feel his protectiveness of her swirl around him. He wanted her to know this, in every possible way. This was more than looking out for the children of two dear friends. This was caring and concern for their own sake. She thought he had come up here to comfort her, it never occurred to her that he was also worried about Luke.

All of this made her wonder what that other Rex had known about her. The Force knew she was in Luke’s company enough, no matter what timeline she found herself in. If this Rex had put it together that she and Luke were related, on nothing more than seeing them sit together, chances were good the other one had put it together too.

She couldn’t remember if he had joined them on any other missions besides Endor. And even on that one, had he gone, not because it represented the best chance to bring down an Empire he loathed, but because he figured, with Han leading it, the odds were good her and Luke would be there too? Had that Rex been trying to protect them? Why hadn’t he ever said anything to her? Or to Luke? Or approach them after it became public knowledge that she and Luke were related? How much of her life did she not know about, and was now only getting the full details of?

Rex, miss reading the expression on her face, reassured her. “It’s fine, you don’t have to say anything. I just thought you should know.”

She shook her head and leaned forward so she could stare directly into his eyes. “No Rex, never that. It just took me by surprise, that’s all.” She gave him a grin “I had my aunts growing up, who taught me how to fight, how to shoot, how to out-think the enemy.  I would be honored if I had an Uncle who would expand on that knowledge.”

A shy grin crossed his face “Really?”

“Really.” then her pleasure faded and she looked to the sky once more, worry for Luke nibbling away at the back of her mind.

“He’s capable, he’ll be fine.” She didn’t know who he was trying to reassure more her or himself.

“I know that,” she insisted “it’s the rest of the galaxy I don’t trust.”

“Yeah, General Skywalker was always itchy when he wasn't on a mission with General Kenobi.” The comparison didn’t sting as much when Rex made it, she noted clinically. Maybe it was because of the fraught nature of her and Obi-Wan’s relationship. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Rex had no idea what had happened to his beloved General. He had no idea what comparisons he was striking up in Leia’s mind with his innocent observations.

“And when Ahsoka was on a mission there really was no living with him.” he added.

“Ahsoka? Ahsoka Tano?” she asked, her mind racing. So Vader had known her, not just of her. “You mean the first Fulcrum?”

“Yeah,” a fond smile crossed his lips “She was his padawan.” Leia gave him a blank look, not understanding the word. Rex elaborated “It was a Jedi term for apprentice. Like your brother is to the General.”

She was his what? “I didn’t know he had one,” she said, shocked. Luke had never mentioned that Vader had any Jedi pupils. She knew about the Inquisitors of course, but it was a stretch to call them pupils. More like victims of brainwashing.

Rex nodded “They were close. She was a real spitfire back then.”

“Then?” Leia said wryly, trying to cover her shock “I only remember meeting her a few times, but I don’t think she outgrew that.”

“Oh trust me,” he said, a fond smile tugging on his lips, “she became more focused as she got older.”

He gave a weighty sigh, “I miss her. I miss him. Hard to think that the last time we were all together was so long ago. Sometimes I feel like it was yesterday. I’ll just turn the corner and there they will be, laughing and joking together.” He closed his eyes in remembrance. “It’s strange to think fondly of times that were so violent and chaotic.”

Leia could sympathize with that feeling. Sometimes, in the long slog of the Resistance, she had longed for the days of the Rebellion. When things were so easily defined. Where you knew who the bad guys were, and you could strike at them directly. When she had Luke and Han at her side, keeping her grounded and watching her back.

“When was the last time you saw them?” she asked, offering him a listening ear if he wanted it.

“During the Siege for Mandalore,” he said softly, his eyes coming back open. Leia straightened, that was only days before the end of the war. “The Generals were called away to rescue the Chancellor. He had been kidnapped by Dooku. Ahsoka and I stayed behind so we could deal with Maul.”

“Maul?” Fascinated, she couldn’t keep her questions to herself. This was a part of the galactic history that had been severely distorted by the Empire’s propaganda machine. Between the shortened life span of the clones, the purge of the Jedi, and the lives lost during the Rebellion, by the time the Empire had fallen, there were very few people left who had actually fought in the Clone Wars.  One of the first acts Mon commissioned as High Chancellor was an inquiry into what actually happened during that turbulent time. Historians and academics could then actually study, instead of parrot the party line, that time period. But without access to many first person accounts and so many records destroyed, it was almost impossible to sort fact from fiction.

“He was a Dark Side user.”

“Was he a Sith?” she wondered because apparently there had been more than just Palpatine running around.

Rex shook his head “I don’t think so. At least not by then. What I do know is that he orchestrated the death of the Duchess of Mandalore, and in the ensuing chaos seized control of that world. He was going to use that as his base of operations to take over the galaxy on his own terms, and destroy both the Jedi and the Sith. If you want to know more you are going to have to ask the General. I’m not too sure on the whole history there, they were all pretty tight-lipped about it.”

With that small bit of information, Vader’s weird half mutterings in their last conversation suddenly made sense. He had left Rex with Ahsoka. That is how she survived the first purge.

“And then came Order 66.” she said softly.

Rex’s eyes darkened and his face took on a tight look, “Yeah, that was a nightmare of epic proportions. One minute we were all on the same page, we had finally trapped Maul into a ray shield. Then we get a priority transmission, and they all turned on her.”

“And you?”

He fingered the scar on his forehead “I already had removed the chip by then.” His face twisted bitterly “The irony was Ahsoka wasn’t even a Jedi at the time. Didn’t matter, my brothers still turned on her.”

So there was more to this story. She had wondered why her parents had never mentioned that Fulcrum was a Jedi like they had told her about Obi-Wan. “Why wasn’t she in the Order?”

“It’s not a pretty story.”

“Was anything from the Clone Wars pleasant?” she asked.

He grunted “Point.” A look of profound tiredness washed over his features “She had been framed in a set of bombings that happened at the Jedi Temple. Instead of protecting her, the Order threw her to the mercy of the Military courts.”

Oh, that didn't sound good. She waited a minute, to see if he would continue. He said nothing, just the songs of the native birds reaching her ears. “And then?” she prompted.

“It all came to light that she had been framed, by a friend no less, but by then it was too late for her. She walked away from the Order. Not that I could blame her. She needed to find out who she was outside of the Jedi. General Skywalker was crushed.”

“Why?”

“Your father was a good man,” he said softly “but he was also a very passionate one, and sometimes it ruled him. He felt like the Order should have defended Ahsoka, not leave her to the mercies of then Admiral Tarkin.”

At that name Leia shuddered, so she had found something that she actually agreed with Vader on.

“Met him?” Rex said dryly at her reaction.

“Once or twice. And that was enough.” The smirk on his face as he ordered the destruction of Alderaan.

“I know he was human, but he was without a doubt the most cold-blooded person I ever met. Nothing but ice in his veins. General Skywalker always took the failure to protect the ones he cared about personally.” He sighed “He was a brilliant General and a loyal friend, but there was a friction between him and most of the other Jedi I never could quite understand. The whole situation with Ahsoka just made it even worse.”

Maybe they were sensing the evil that was lurking under his skin, but then again she could admit he seemed to have a legitimate grievance with the Order in the treatment of his apprentice. How many other issues were there that she wasn’t aware of? And did she care enough to ask about them? Nothing could migrate Vader's culpability for the actions he took later in his life. 

But none of that was Rex's fault. The truth didn't change the swirl of emotions being projected by the man next to her. “I’m sorry,” she said, aware of how inadequate those words were, but not able to maintain her silence in the face of his grief.

“It was long ago.”

Not to you, it wasn’t, but she wasn’t going to say anything that would upset this man’s hard-won peace.

She returned instead to her vigilant staring at Yavin’s sky, giving the man time to collect himself. Rex stayed with her for a few minutes more, the silence between them comforting instead of awkward.

Then a soft beeping filled the air. Rex looked down at his chrono and winced. “I’m sorry, but I actually do have an appointment to get to soon.”

She waved her hand brushing away his apology “Of course, go.”

He turned to head down the ladder and asked over his shoulder “You coming?”

“No,” she said, “I think I’ll stay up here for a while. But Rex?” He swung around on the ladder, then waited there at the top for her to continue. “Thank you.”

He only looked puzzled “For what?” Was she really this out of practice with pleasantries like this?

“For coming to find me. For telling me about my mother. For being you.”

A wide pleased smile crossed his face “Anytime Leia,” His chrono beeped again.

She laughed “Except now. Go” she said shooing him with her hand “You’re going to be late.”

After his departure, Leia felt like she was somewhat at loose ends. On any other day, when her movements weren't being restricted and monitored, she would simply throw herself into work until she dropped. That was infinitely more pleasant than the itchy prickling under her skin that insisted that everything was about to go horribly wrong without her there. Not that Luke currently wanted her on Rodia but still…

That avenue was cut off to her though. She had already met her assigned duties for today, and if she tried to sneak back in Mon would definitely tattle to Healer Banok. Leia was only three more days from being given the all clear, she didn't want to jeopardize that. So she stood there, on the tower, letting her mind wander and fill with nothing. It wasn’t until she heard the familiar sound of an engine she knew like her own heartbeat, that she realized she had fallen into a meditative trance in the Force.

Scowling, she really didn't mean to keep using the Force, she adjusted her eyes to see the Falcon, heading into the docking bay. Grinning, Han was always an excellent distraction, she set off to head down the ladder to greet him and Chewie.

 

When she got there she found Han already outside the Falcon, talking to the deck officer. She waited until the two of them were done before she came up behind Han, using the ambient noise of the bay to hide her approach.

“You’re back early.” She told his back.

He stiffened a bit in surprise, the turned around slowly, giving her a wide flirtatious smile. “Keeping track of my schedule?”

Yes. “No,” she said primly. “Heard that rust bucket you called a ship fly in and came down to see what trouble you had landed yourself into this time.”

“Of course, it had nothing to do with how you’ve been pining away for me?” he said in half-mocking tone.

“Yes,” she said, meeting his sarcastic tone with her own, and waved her hands down herself “as you can see I’m wasting away here. I’m all skin and bones.”

He followed the path of her hands with his eyes, and remarked casually “Not from where I’m standing.”

<Han,> Chewie’s voice floated in from behind her, a long suffering air about it, as he exited down the gang plank <When you are done flirting with Leia do you want to come with me to the mess hall to get some food?>

Han didn’t even bat an eye at the Wookie’s scolding tone, he just looked at her questioningly “You bothered to eat yet?”

She was about to tell him she didn’t need a nursemaid when her stomach let out a huge growl. Han frowned “Get caught up in your work?” he demanded, worry lines appearing at the corner of his eyes.

“No,” she said defensively “I was just up in one of the watchtowers and lost track of time.”

“Doing what?” He didn’t look like he believed her.

“Nothing,” she muttered, embarrassed by that fact. She didn’t know why. It made no sense. She had been forbidden from doing anything useful, and anything else she could have been doing would have been just as frivolous as staring vacantly up into space.

“Really?” He looked skeptical “You were up there, doing nothing, and lost track of time?”

“Yes,” she said, “and if you don’t believe me ask Rex, he was with me for some of it.”

Han grunted, “I’ll take your word for it.”

“More like you want to continue to avoid Rex,” she countered “You know not everyone in the galaxy is as forgiving as I about your big mouth.”

“Hey,” he protested “I have friends.”

“Name some besides me, Luke, and Chewie,” she countered, expecting at least the name of Lando to appear. Huh, she wondered what Lando was up to right now. Maybe she could convince Han to drop in on his old friend and see how he was doing?  Perhaps he would like join them in their helpless crusade? Or were the two of them in one of their fight phases? It was frankly hard to remember.

A surprised, and pleased look crossed his face,”We’re friends?” he asked softly, wonder in his tone.

She swallowed. She knew she had been running hot and cold with him over the last few months. It was hard to reconcile her Han with this younger rougher version of himself. But she hadn't thought she had made him this uncertain. She didn't think she was any more contradictory than when she had actually been nineteen and trying to run from everything he provoked in her. When all she wanted to do was retreat into her personal mission to destroy the Empire and block out her pain.

Or maybe this Han was more certain in getting an honest answer, instead of a sarcastic retort from her? Gods, time travel made this all so confusing. She knew him and at the same time didn't. The core of him was still blessedly the same, but she sometimes she would see glimpses of who he could be and wasn’t quite yet, and she would ache in mourning. Then he would show her this soft side, the one her Han hadn’t dared showed her until after his rescue from Jabba, and she was breathless with the courage this one was showing her in baring his vulnerabilities.

She owed him an honest answer. “Of course we are laser brains.” Of course, nobody said it had to be said in a nice way.

His face flushed in pleasure, and Chewie gave a soft woof of approval. This was Han though, he was never long without his words. “Well when you put it so nicely, how can I refuse?” He bowed low, just this side of mocking “Would my lady like to join us for lunch?”

“I would love to” she answered.

 

When they entered the mess hall, there was a small drop in the volume of the chatter, but it wasn't nearly as noticeable as it would have been even three days ago. Clearly, she wasn’t quite the person of interest she once was and the gossips of the base had moved on to more salacious subjects. Although what that could be Leia wasn’t sure. Nobody ever shared gossip with her. Maybe everybody thought it was beneath the dignity of a Princess?

Or maybe you haven’t been the most approachable lately ”, a voice that sounded like Mon rang in her head.

She sat down at the long table with Han and Chewie sitting directly in front of her.

“Yum,” Han said, picking up the food off his tray. “Protein bars.” The Alliance was going through one of its phases of not having a great variety of food to offer. Leia knew of several raids planned on Imperial depots that were in the works, one should be heading out for tomorrow in fact, but for now, they were down to the cheap, bland, if nutritional, option.

Leia shrugged “It’s food.” And without hesitation, she proceed to dig in.

Han looked on in somewhat baffled amazement, Chewie joining him in the staring.

She swallowed her first bite “What?” she demanded.

‘I just thought, as royalty, you’d have a refined palate or something.” He offered.

Leia shook her head “No, not at all. I was taught from a very early age that you eat what is in front of you, as long as it is offered in good faith. It would be rude to do otherwise.”

“Diplomatic banquets?” he asked. “Thought the high and mighty would serve better food at those.”

“Ahh, but not all those high and mighty ones are human, or even have anything close to  human based physiology.” she countered ‘And some dishes can venture on the…” she trailed off, looking for the diplomatic term for some of the things she had eaten in her life, “adventurous.”

Not quite the whole truth. The Resistance had just as many, if not more, problems acquiring supplies. She had gotten used to eating ration bars, often times it was the only thing they could afford to purchase. And the handy option of robbing the First Order was definitely out since that would have been a clear act of war.  Both sides, but especially the New Republic, were very interested in maintaining the status of that fake peace. At least until the Starkiller was ready for the First Order. Leia shoved that away. She was here, Alderaan and Hosnian Prime stood, the Death Star was gone, and the Empire had to die before she could even begin the real work of killing its replacement in its infancy.

She went on “Besides it’s not just them. Sometimes it’s a person who is offering you the best that they have.”

He looked thoughtful at that. “Makes sense. At least as far as your parents are concerned. They seem to be decent people.”

She arched an eyebrow “Seem to be?”

“Your father is scary.” he confessed.

She actually laughed “You are the only one on this base that thinks so.”

“It's always the well-mannered ones you have to watch out for in the galaxy Princess.”

“And my mother is not well mannered?” she countered.

He gave her a fond smile “Oh, she is. But she has a bit of the whimsy and mischievous in her, just like you.”

She almost choked on her bar at the plain simple compliment. She wasn’t expecting him to get this sweet with her so soon. The man was continually full of surprises.

She took a sip of her water to help her swallow the food down. “And my father doesn’t?”

<A rule follower,> Chewie said, speaking up for the first time. <through and through. There is no mischief in him.>

“Odd thing to say about a man who helped found a conspiracy to overthrow a government.” she observed.

<No,> Chewie countered, smiling and showing his teeth in a fierce display <He’s just following rules from a time long gone if it ever existed.>

She pondered that thought. Chewie had been badly burned by the Clone Wars and the Emperor’s betrayal of the Wookies. If it wasn’t for the fact that he loved Han, and then later expanded that love to included her and Luke, he never would have gotten involved in the Rebellion. He had told her once, after the death of the Emperor, but before the liberation of Kashyyyk, that he had been without hope for so long, that sometimes he didn’t know what to do with the sensation. He had begun to believe that things could actually be better for his family, for his son, then they were for him. Well, maybe she could help him find that hope again.

She turned to face Han, and returned to their earlier, and less fraught subject matter “I really don’t have an opinion on food one way or another. You need it to keep going, and except for caff, of which I need vast amounts of to function, I really don’t care, as long as it doesn't taste foul.” Random kitchen raids for comfort food aside. But that was chocolate! Who wouldn’t indulge in some petty theft for chocolate?

“Just food,” he snorted “I really need to cook a meal for you sometime and show you what a real meal looks like.”

Leia stilled at that.