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The Road to Hell

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Padmé Amidala groaned as she rubbed her temple, trying her hardest to ignore the headache that was blossoming behind her eyes as she searched for her most recent memory.

She remembered being in the Senate. There had been a hearing scheduled for that day— something about the Separatist movements in the Outer Rim. She remembered the Chancellor giving a speech and then—

Nothing.

She rose to her feet, taking a moment to check her surroundings. She was on a ship—not her own, and not one that she recognized either. She could feel the hum of the hyperdrive beneath her, which meant that she was in space. Which also meant that she was not on Coruscant.

“Hello?” she called out, reaching instinctively for her blaster only to find it gone. She inhaled sharply, realizing the extent of the danger she was in.

Don’t panic, she told herself as she checked her surroundings once more. She was in a room, small and cluttered with useless things. Do not panic.

She made her way out of the room, glad to find that the door was not locked. She ventured into a corridor, her movements cautious and her eyes sweeping for any sign that she was not alone.

“Hello?” she called again, keeping her voice calm and steady. “Is anyone there?”

Padmé kept her steps as light as she could as she made her way down the narrow and winding corridor, her hands brushing against the wall. She half expected someone to come walking out, but the only footsteps that she could hear were her own. Save for herself, Padmé appeared to be the only person there.

What was she doing there?

Her memory was too unreliable to tell her. She couldn’t explain how she had gone from a Senate hearing on Coruscant to waking up on this strange and unfamiliar ship— nor could she explain her reason for being there. She must’ve been kidnapped. It was the only explanation. But if that was the case, then how—?

Her memory tugged at her. Distantly, she could hear a panicked voice urging her to move quickly as blaster shots filled the air around her. There were other voices too, desperate and scared as a familiar hissing sound filled their ears followed by a red glow…

The red glow of a lightsaber.

Her eyes widened as she felt her stomach drop. The sound of approaching footsteps filled her ears as she once again found herself reaching for her blaster, only to remember that it was gone-- confiscated by her abductor. She would have to make do without.

The footsteps grew louder as she ducked behind one of the adjacent walls, her hands curling into a fist as she mentally prepared herself for what was about to happen. She knew she was no match against a trained Sith, but that didn’t mean she was going to go down without a fight.

A figure made its way into the hallway. She couldn’t see them from where she was, but she could see their shadow from her hiding spot. She watched as they came to a stop, their footsteps ending abruptly as silence filled the air.

“I know you’re there,” came an unfamiliar female voice. It wasn’t Ventress’s— the tone was much too soft, but still goading. “And I know what you’re trying to do.”

“And what’s that?” Padmé asked, keeping her voice as regal and as senatorial as possible. She wasn’t about to show her captor any weakness.

“You’re trying to escape,” she answered before adding; “it won’t work.”

There was a moment of silence as Padmé considered her options. Not that she had very many to begin with seeing as she had no weapons or Force abilities to protect herself with.

“I know you must be very confused,” the woman continued. “I can answer your questions if you come out.”

“And why would I do that?”

“Because you don’t have any other choice,” was the scathing response. “And I am beginning to lose my patience.”

Padmé wanted to scoff at that, but she knew that wasn’t going to get her anywhere. She was weaponless, and alone… If she wanted to make it out of this alive, she would need to cooperate and bid her time. This was not the worse situation she had ever been in— nor would it be her last.

Slowly, and with the grace befitting of a Queen and a Senator, she stepped out into the hallway. It took her a few moments to fully meet the other woman’s eye, but when she did, Padmé couldn’t help but do a double-take.

She was younger than she had been expecting, dressed almost entirely in black save for the red cape that flowed behind her— an elegant touch to an otherwise utilitarian outfit. Her brown hair was intricately braided, even more so than Padmé usually wore hers, and her face, although young and pretty, was marred by a scar that ran down the length of her left eyebrow. Her eyes were yellow— cold and gleaming as Padmé felt a shiver run up the length of her spine.

“Ah, there you are Senator,” she smiled as she catches her gaze and oddly enough, Padmé is suddenly and very oddly reminded of her husband— of someone who was battle-hardened and scarred by war. Someone who had seen and done terrible things. 

There was a moment of silence as the two of them stared at each other, sizing each other up; calculating.

“Who are you?” Padmé finds herself asking. Of all the people who had it out for her, Padm was surprised to find that she did not recognize this woman at all. “Where am I? Did you kidnap me?”

“You’re on my ship,” she says, leaning casually against the wall. “And yes, I suppose you could say I kidnapped you,” she shook her head before adding; “not that it was hard. For someone as high profile as you, kidnapping you was much easier than I thought it would be.”

Padmé ignored the backhanded remark that was directed towards her security team as well as her handmaidens. She would rather not think about what had happened to them… At least, not until she was safely back on Coruscant.

“The Jedi won’t let you get away with this,” she said, using her Queen voice before adding; “kidnapping a Senator of the High Republic—”

“The Jedi don’t scare me,” was her brutally honest response. “And neither do you, Senator.”

“How did you get past my security team?” she asked. “My handmaidens—”

“Your security team was no match for the power of the dark side,” she said as a knot began to form in Padmé’s stomach. “As for your precious handmaidens, they are still alive. Your Captain, however…” she trailed off as Padmé inhaled sharply.

No, she thought. Not Typho. Please…

“He… He’s dead?” the words felt as hollow as Padmé felt.

“Along with a few Clones,” there was no remorse in the woman’s voice. None at all. “Although, if it’s of any consolation, I wasn’t trying to kill him,” she said before adding; “he just didn’t know when to quit.”

“You murdered him,” she gasped. “He— he was trying to protect me and you—”

“I did what I had to,” she said. “I’m not proud of it, but I made a choice.”

“That’s not a choice,” hissed Padmé. “Gregor Typho and those Clones were just doing their jobs.”

“I had my reasons,” said the woman. “Not that it matters anyway. When I finish what I came here to do, I will have saved billions of lives. Their deaths are— inconsequential."

Padmé stared at her as if she had grown two heads, which she might’ve just done. This woman was mad… And dangerous.

"You'll pay for this," sneered Padmé. “The Jedi will find you and when they do—"

“They’ll what? Hunt me down?” asked the woman, pushing herself off the wall to stand in front of her. She’s shorter than Padmé by a few good inches— not that it makes her any less intimidating. “Good. I am quite looking forward to meeting General Skywalker. I hear your husband is a good fighter— they call him the Hero with No Fear do they not?”

Padmé paled. “Husband?” she choked.

No, no, no

“Yes, your husband,” said the woman. “You know, the one you married in secret on Naboo about—” she paused as if calculating something in her head before adding; “two years ago.”

She didn’t say anything— couldn’t say anything. The breath had been stolen out of her lungs.

“What? You thought you could keep your little marriage a secret forever?” she says, her words slicing and cutting like a lightsaber as she gives Padmé a cunning smile. “Surely you are not that naïve, Senator.”

“Who are you?” Padmé asks at last, voice cracking. She had wanted to give this strange woman the full force of her Senatorial voice, but her words are weak, and they carry almost no weight behind them, and she knows it. “How do you know—”

“How do I know about you and Anakin?” she asks, running her finger across the panels in the durasteel wall as she eyed the Nabooian Senator, her yellow eyes never quite leaving Padmé’s brown ones as she took a few languid steps closer to her. It takes almost all of Padmé’s strength not to take a step back as she finds the woman’s face only a few inches away from her own, her breath tickling at her skin.

“You’re very beautiful,” she says at last, yellow eyes still peering up at her she soaked in her appearance. Her voice is soft now— full of something that makes the Senator uncomfortable. “Just like he described.”

“Who are you talking about?” she asks as the woman pursed her lips. “Who is this he?”

“My father,” she took a few steps away from her, the curiosity melting into cold indifference. “My biological father… He always told me you were the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Like the Angels on the moons of Iego.”

At that, Padmé is almost certain that the ground beneath her has disappeared. She can feel her stomach twist, the woman’s words echoing in her head along with that of her husband, childlike and so full of wonder.

“I never understood why he would describe someone in such a way,” she said before adding; “but now, I can see why.”

“What do you want?” rasped Padmé, voice still cracking. She’s trying so hard to keep her composure— to not let it fall and shatter around her like glass. 

She watched as her daughter— hers and Anakin’s daughter— reached into her pocket and fished out a comm before tossing it to her. Reflexively, she caught it as she stared down at it, unable to meet the beady yellow eyes that were still fixed on her.

“I want you to make a call."

Chapter Text

Something was wrong. Anakin could feel it.

“The Council has a new mission for you,” said Master Windu, his blue form flickering as Obi-Wan and Anakin shared a glance. “Senator Amidala has been kidnapped.”

At the mention of her name, Anakin stiffened. If Obi-Wan had noticed, he didn’t make any mention of it as his eyebrows furrowed.

“Do we know who was responsible?” he asked slowly, keeping his voice as calm as possible. 

“No,” said Windu before adding; “the Chancellor has requested yours and Kenobi's help in the investigation. You are to return to Coruscant immediately. We will share all that we know with you then.”

Anakin was about to open his mouth and demand answers, but fortunately, Obi-Wan cut him off before he could do so. “Of course. We will see you when we arrive. May the Force be with you.”

“And with you,” said Windu before his hologram flickered off, leaving the two of them alone once more.

Anakin glared at Obi-Wan, but his Master paid him no attention as he made his way out of the briefing room and onto the bridge, Anakin following after him.

“Set course for Coruscant,” he ordered before adding; “the Council has given us a new mission.”

At that, Rex and Cody shared a glance. “On Coruscant? Has something happened?”

“Senator Amidala was kidnapped,” said Anakin, his voice low and calm. He almost didn't recognize it. “We are to return and investigate at once.”

Rex blinked. “The Separatists?”

“Who else would be responsible?” asked Cody. “Although I have to admit, this is a bold move even for them."

“We aren’t sure that it is the Separatists,” said Kenobi before adding; “although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Count was the one behind this. Senator Amidala has many enemies in the Confederacy of Independent Planets.”

“Enemies who want her dead,” sneered Anakin as he felt his fists curling at his side. He tried to keep his temper in check, especially around Obi-Wan and the others, but the thought of his wife being held captive at the hands of the Separatists, especially someone like Nute Gunray or Count Dooku was sickening enough.

“Anakin,” began Obi-Wan, his eyes narrowing, “I know you and the Senator are good friends, but you shouldn’t let your emotions get the better of you.”

As much as Anakin wanted to glare at his former Master. He wasn’t a Padawan anymore. He didn’t need to be lectured by Obi-Wan. Especially not now that his wife had been kidnapped.

Your secret wife, he reminded himself. Now was not the time to make anyone suspicious of his and Padme’s relationship.

“Of course,” he replied dryly, then glancing at the others in the room, he squared his shoulders and set his jaw. “Excuse me. I’m going to go meditate.”

With that, he made his way off the bridge. He could feel Kenobi’s eyes on him, but he didn’t care. He would meditate for now— or at least, he would try. The moment they were back on Coruscant, he would find out what happened to her and who took her. Nothing would stop him, certainly not the Jedi or Obi-Wan.

He would bring Padmé home safe.

And nothing would stop him.  


 

It was raining when they arrived.

Master Windu was waiting for them, his hood pulled over his head to protect him from the pouring rain as he watched both Skywalker and Kenobi make their way down the ramp.

“Welcome back to Coruscant,” Windu said in his usual cadence. “I wish it was under better circumstances.”

“Did you find out who the kidnapper is?” Anakin asked before Obi-Wan could start talking. “Have they made any demands?”

“Not yet,” said Windu, turning around as they began to follow him. Even from where he stood, Anakin could see the apprehension in the Jedi’s face. “As for their identity, that remains to be discovered.”

“Separatist?” asked Obi-Wan as Windu shook his head.

“We aren’t sure,” he admitted. “We were, however, able to recover footage from the Senate Security databanks. The kidnapper was a Force user," he said as Anakin's eyes narrowed.

"Sith?" 

"They had a red lightsaber," replied Windu. 

Anakin couldn’t help but stiffen at that, but if anyone noticed they didn’t say anything as they continued on their path towards the scene of the crime.

Obi-Wan stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Surely if they have gone to such lengths to kidnap her, they must have some demands. Why else would they kidnap such a high-profile Politician like Senator Amidala?”

“Are you sure it wasn’t Dooku?” Anakin found himself asking, his voice betraying his calm demeanor at the thought of the former Jedi. It would be just like the Count to do something like this… He was certainly emboldened in that respect.

Windu shook his head, “this person was female.”

“Ventress?” Obi-Wan dared to ask as Windu once again shook his head.

“No, she was human,” he added, his shoulders tensing up even more than they usually were. Anakin could see the worry in the older man’s eyes at the severity of what such a revelation meant for them. If it wasn’t Dooku or Ventress, it meant that whoever this person was— whoever this dark sider was, they didn’t know a single thing about them… Or what they were capable of.

The thought sent chills up Anakin’s spine. He didn't like not knowing who his enemy was.

Anakin felt his eyes narrow. “Great. So we don’t know anything about this person or what they want.”

The words came out sharper than he intended; low and seething. Of all the ways this day could’ve gone, having his wife kidnapped by an unknown dark side user was not one that Anakin had been expecting.

“We should take a look at this footage ourselves,” said Obi-Wan as he eyed his former Padawan. “I take it the Council has already reviewed it?”

“In-depth,” Windu confirmed as they made their way into the Senate complex. Usually, the building was bustling with activity, but now it was nothing more than a crime scene as Clones and other law enforcement officers stood guard. Save for them, the place was practically empty. “The Chancellor has halted all Senatorial proceedings for now,” said Windu as he noticed the look on Anakin’s face. “At least, until we’re done processing the scene.”

“I can’t imagine the Senate is pleased,” commented Obi-Wan as Windu shook his head.

“They’re more worried about what this could mean for them,” said Windu before adding; “the Senate building has never been breached in such a manner until now. Everyone is on edge for good reason.”

The Senate building was supposed to be the most secure building in the entire Republic. The fact that one person had managed to break in and kidnap a Senator— and a high profile one at that without so much as a blip would be enough to set anyone on edge. It certainly made Anakin uncomfortable.

They made their way to the docking ports where the actual kidnapping had taken place. There were even more Clones, all of them guarding the perimeter as the three of them stepped off the turbolift. Fox had been waiting for them, his red armor gleaming in the rain as he tilted his head in greeting.

“General Kenobi,” he greeted before sending Anakin a glance. “Skywalker.”

“Tell us what happened,” demanded Anakin. Not unkindly, but the authority in his voice was present. He would be answered.

“The Senate had just gotten out of a meeting,” began Fox. “Senator Amidala was in the process of leaving when her escort was attacked by an unknown assailant.”

Windu opened the comm as the holo-footage appeared on loop. Despite the high-quality recording, Anakin could hardly see anything in the chaos. There was blaster fire as well as shouting, but then he could see the attacker. They didn’t bother to hide their identity as Anakin stared at the young woman— definitely not Ventress or Dooku. She was dressed in dark robes and she was brandishing a glowing, red lightsaber.

“We did everything we could,” Fox continued as they watched her deflect their blaster shots, her red lightsaber slicing and arcing through the air. Anakin watched in silence as she cut down a Clone, slicing them from neck to shoulder. “But we were unprepared. Whoever she was, she was efficient… And deadly. She killed three of my men and injured at least four others.”

“What about Amidala’s security team?” asked Anakin, his voice eerily calm.

“They faired better than us,” Fox replied. “Two injured, one dead.”

“Captain Typho?” asked Obi-Wan.

Windu shook his head as Anakin inhaled sharply, his metal fist curling at his side.

“So that brings the death toll up to four,” commented Obi-Wan.

“The others are being treated at the Medcenter as we speak,” said Fox as Windu shut off the holo recording before adding; “they’re all expected to live, but some of them were pretty badly banged up. Mostly lightsaber wounds.”

“Whoever our attacker was, she knew what she was doing,” said Windu as he pointed at the alarms. “She managed to disable the alarm system as well as the communication channels. She also knew when the Senate Security would be changing shifts."

“But she didn’t disable the holo-recordings,” mused Obi-Wan, his brow furrowing in consternation. 

“Maybe she forgot?” Fox offered, but Obi-Wan shook his head.

“Or she didn’t care,” said Anakin as Windu glanced at him.

“I think Anakin might be right,” said Obi-Wan, thoughtfully. "Which begs the question, just who are we dealing with?"

“Clearly someone who doesn’t care about hiding their identity," Windu replied, resignation lining his features as he stared at the scene. Anakin knew the look on his face-- and it almost never meant anything good.

"Well, we know she can't be a Sith," said Anakin, trying to sound reassuring. "There's only ever two and we know who they are."

The words were supposed to be comforting, but they were anything but as Windu turned to look at him, his eyes shadowed and his lips pulled into a tight line. The Force around them churned, as did Anakin's stomach.

"The Force is clouded... Even more so since the arrival of this person," he shook his head. "The Rule of Two is clear, but I worry we may be dealing with someone even more powerful than Dooku or Ventress."

At that, Anakin and Obi-Wan shared a glance, not liking the sound of that one bit. 

"Lovely," said Anakin, using sarcasm to mask his own fear. "Just when I thought this War wouldn't have any more surprises," he commented dryly. Then, squaring his shoulders as he looked back at the others, his jaw clenching in determination. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go see the Chancellor."


 

The atmosphere in the Chancellor’s office was… Tense. Anakin didn’t have to use the Force to know that as he, Windu, Obi-Wan, and Fox strolled into the room.

The Chancellor was there (of course) as well as Master Yoda and Master Gallia. Plo Koon was also there in holographic form as well as Senator Organa.

“Ah, gentlemen,” greeted Palpatine. “Back from the front at long last. Although, I do wish it was under better circumstances,” he stood, ushering them to take a seat. “I assume Master Windu has been filling you in on the details?”

“As best he could,” confirmed Kenobi as he took a seat beside Master Koon. “But I’m afraid we are still very much in the dark about what occurred at the Senate building.”

Palpatine sighed, “I’m afraid we all are, Master Kenobi.”

“We were just in the middle of discussing who could be behind this,” said Organa, nodding towards the newcomers before turning back to the Chancellor. "The Separatist would be the most obvious answer, however, they have yet to step forward and take responsibility nor have they made any demands.”

"The Separatists would be the most likely culprits," agreed Windu. "However, we have no evidence to support that claim at the moment... Nor are we positive that it was them who was responsible."

Bail’s eyebrows furrowed at that, “if not the Separatists, then who?”

“That is the question of the hour,” said Palpatine as Master Koon shook his head.

“I do not know who else would be after the Senator,” he began. “Organa is right. The Separatists would be the most obvious culprits, but I do not think it was them who orchestrated this,” he shifted in his seat before adding; “have we considered the possibility that this person was working alone?”

“It is a possibility,” agreed Windu.

“What does the Force tell you?” asked the Chancellor as Yoda shook his head.

“Hmmm, clouded the Force is,” he said, his hands clasped around his cane. “Dangerous, this woman is. Separatist or not.”

“Whoever she is,” drawled Palpatine, his eyes falling on Anakin, “her appearance is a most unwelcome surprise… She cannot be allowed to get away with this. She must be brought to justice and Senator Amidala must be returned safely to us,” he said before adding; “I fear for her life at this hands of this… mysterious woman.”

“Rest assured, Chancellor,” said Anakin before adding; “we will get her back.”

“What my former Padawan means to say is that we will do our absolute best,” Obi-Wan gave him a side glance that did not go unnoticed by the Chancellor, “but I’m afraid we are walking quite blind here. Is there any more information that could help us?”

“Does anyone know what ship she escaped on?” asked Anakin. “If we knew the make and model, we could send word to all the nearest Republic outposts to keep an eye out."

"We didn't get a clear look," said Fox before quickly adding; "however, there was a ship that made an unauthorized jump to hyperspace a few minutes after the attack on the Senate. When Traffic Controllers tried to contact them, they received no answer."

"And you think that was the ship she escaped on?" asked Obi-Wan as Fox nodded.

"They managed to lift the VIN number from their holo-recorders. From there, we were able to trace it back to a shipping yard on Corellia where it was stolen a few days ago by a woman matching our kidnapper's description," Fox explained as Obi-Wan nodded.

“What was the model of the ship?” asked Anakin.

“A Corellian YT-1300 light freighter,” Fox replied as Anakin raised an eyebrow.

“Seriously?” he questioned. “A freighter?”

“What is it you always tell me?” asked Obi-Wan. “Never underestimate a ship or her pilot?"

Anakin snorted at that, “maybe so, but a freighter? They’re transport ships... Not exactly known for its speed or combat readiness."

“She must be a very good pilot then,” commented Obi-Wan as Anakin shook his head.

“Still, an odd choice for a ship,” mused Anakin. “Everything that she’s done appears to have been meticulously planned out. She disabled the Senate comms as well as the alarms. She even picked a day she knew security would be light… But then of all the ships she could’ve used, she picks a freighter?"

“Why is that odd?” asked the Chancellor. “How do you know she didn’t just steal whatever was around?”

Anakin shook his head, “you’re probably right, Chancellor. It’s just… Weird."

“Right, you may be, Skywalker,” said Yoda before adding; “but important, it is not. Know the model of the ship we do. Send out an alert, we must.”

“You can question her taste in ships once we have her in custody,” said Kenobi as Anakin’s eyes narrowed. He had a feeling that arresting her was not going to be easy, but there was nothing that would stop him from making sure that his Angel was safe and alright. If she hurt Padmé… If she hurt his wife in any way, shape or form— well, getting arrested would be the least of her problems.

“Hopefully that will be soon,” said Senator Organa before adding; “the Senate is in chaos. Everyone is on edge. The sooner this is resolved and Senator Amidala is returned, the better.”

“Agreed,” said the Chancellor. “And I trust the Jedi will get the job done. There is no one more qualified than Master Kenobi and Anakin in keeping our dear friend Padmé safe.”

At that, he rose to his feet as everyone else did the same. “Soon, this will all be behind us and hopefully this woman will become nothing more than a blip in our collective memory.”

Anakin wasn’t entirely sure what the Chancellor had meant by that, but he didn’t question it as he watched everyone begin to make their way out of the office, the meeting having officially come to an end so that the Jedi could continue with their investigation.

He was about to make his way out when he felt Palpatine grab him by the shoulder.

“Anakin, would you stay a moment?” he asked as he waved goodbye to the others.

Anakin sent Obi-Wan a glance, to which the older man responded with a curt nod before he too exited the room. Once they were alone, Anakin turned to face the older man, not failing to notice the tired look in his mentor’s eyes.

“I know this must be very difficult for you,” he said before adding; “you and Senator Amidala are such good friends. Surely this pains you as much as it does me.”

Anakin swallowed, “I do worry for her safety.”

It was a safe admission, he thought as he watched Palpatine nod.

“You fear for her,” he said as Anakin frowned.

“Fear is not the Jedi way,” he said, his words mechanical.

“Fear is a perfectly natural emotion, Anakin,” he said before adding; “the Jedi may try to tell you that it is not, but they are wrong in that respect.”

If Obi-Wan was there, he would tell him that fear was not an emotion fitting of a Jedi. But it was just the two of them, and Anakin knew that he could talk a little more… freely in the Chancellor’s presence.

“I worry what this woman’s plans for the Senator are,” he said truthfully before adding; “the fact that she has yet to step forward and make demands does not sit well with me.”

“Nor does it sit well with me either,” said Palpatine in understanding before adding; “to think that one person could create so much chaos… Murder innocent Clones and abduct a member of the Galactic Senate, not to mention breach our capitol— the very heart of our great Republic. It makes me wonder what more she isn’t willing to do to get her way.”

“She won’t get away with this,” promised Anakin. "Whoever she is, she will stand trial for her crimes against the Republic."

"I know you intend to keep your word," said Palpatine. "But will happen after she is arrested? Surely you don't think someone like her could be safely locked up. You saw what she did to those Clones and to poor Captain Typho..."

Anakin had seen what she was capable of. And it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Maybe Palpatine was right. Maybe she was too dangerous…

He shook his head, “it doesn’t matter. She must stand trial.”

“Of course, of course,” Palpatine admonished. “You are right, Anakin. But I do hope that when the time comes, you will trust your feelings.”

“Chancellor?”

“I know it is not the Jedi way,” he continued. “But after everything that she has done… It if comes down to it, I know you will do the right thing.”

“I should get going,” said Anakin, squirming with anxiety at the look in the Chancellor’s eyes. “Obi-Wan is waiting for me.”

“Of course,” he nodded. “I wouldn’t want to hinder your investigation anymore.”

“Goodbye, Chancellor,” Anakin made his way towards the door before turning back to face the older man once more; “and thank you for the advice. I will take it to heart.”

With that, Palpatine gave him a wry smile. “Of that, I have no doubt."

 


 

Padmé ?” asked Anakin as soon as his form flickered into view. She could see the relief on his face as soon as he saw her as well as in his voice. He sounded almost out of breath as she felt her chest tighten.

She closed her eyes as she savored the sound of his voice. It hadn’t been that long since she had seen him. Only two months, but it felt like a lifetime ago that she had last held him in her arms. Force, she had missed him.

“Padmé?” he sounded worried. “Are you okay? Where—”

“I’m fine,” she answered, fighting back the tears. She wasn’t fine, but she didn’t want Anakin to know that. “Really, I’m fine. I just…”

“Where are you?” His voice was eerily calm… She almost didn’t recognize it.

“I— I don’t know,” she said before adding; “She hasn’t told me—”

She?” Anakin demanded, this time his voice not betraying his true emotions. He was angry— no, scratch that. He was furious. “Where is she? Is she there?”

Padmé risked a glance over her shoulder at the woman. She had been watching the scene silently, her arms crossed over her chest and her eyes fixated on Anakin; watching him like a hawk that was on the hunt.

Padmé watched as she straightened out, her shoulders squaring and her jaw raising— she must’ve had political training, the Senator noted as she took a languid step into the projector view, her movements both elegant and graceful. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Anakin visibly tense as they stared at each other.

“I’m right here, Skywalker,” she said, not bothering to spare Padmé a glance as she gives Anakin a cunning smile.

Padmé watched as the two of them stare each other down, neither one of them breaking the tense silence.

“My,” the woman said, turning to address Padmé. “I seem to have rendered your husband speechless.”

What? How do you--" he blinked before he managed to regain his footing. "Who are you?" he demanded, his words barely above that of a snarl as he glared at her. He wasn’t even trying to use his General voice— no, they were well past that point. There was a look in his eyes that Padmé hadn’t seen since his mother died… And it scared her. 

But the woman doesn’t seem perturbed at all. She seems to be enjoying herself as she gives him a playful smirk. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Look,” he jabbed a finger at her, his eyes narrowing. “I am not in the mood to play games. Tell me where you took Padmé--"

“Or what?” was the woman’s sarcastic response. “You’ll kill me? Good luck with that.”

Padmé could see the anger swelling in Anakin, and she knows she has to do something. Despite them not even being in the same room— or even the same star system for that matter, Padmé knows that if they could, they would be dueling this out right now… And she doesn’t even want to think about the implications of that.

“Anakin,” Padmé was using her Senatorial voice now, and it was enough to grab her husband's attention as his darkened eyes snapped towards her. “You need to calm down. She’s trying to—”

“Calm down?” he was almost vibrating at that point. “She kidnapped you— she killed Typho! And now you’re telling me that I’m the one who needs to calm down?”

Padmé couldn’t help but wince at that. It was true that she had killed Typho… Which was not something that she wanted to be reminded of. She could understand Anakin’s anger, and she would be lying if she said she too wasn’t angry. But Anakin didn’t know what she knew, and he wouldn’t if she didn’t find a way to tell him.

“You should listen to your wife, Jedi,” the woman drawled.

“Shut up,” he snarled, earning a smile from her in return.

“Such anger,” she commented. “I can see why Sidious wanted you.”

“Sidious?” he seemed taken aback before he narrowed his eyes. “Is he your Master?”

“A Sith Lord may have only one apprentice at a time,” she said before adding. “There should be. No more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it.”

“But you know him,” said Anakin. “You know who Darth Sidious is.”

“He was my Master’s Master,” she said before adding; “but he was never mine.”

“So what?” to Anakin, it feels as though she is talking in riddles. “You’re Dooku’s new apprentice?” he scoffed. “What happened to Ventress?”

She shrugged, “I never said I was Dooku’s apprentice.”

Anakin frowned, “then how—”

She rolled her eyes, “I cannot possibly answer all of your questions. That’s not why I contacted you.”

“What do you want?” Anakin was never particularly good at negotiations, especially when his patience had been thoroughly tried. 

“I’m going to send you a set of coordinates,” she said before adding; “I want you to meet me there. And by you, I mean just you. No Clones and certainly no Kenobi.”

At that, Anakin couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. “You expect me to come to some undisclosed location all by myself?” he scoffed. “No way.”

“If you want your wife back, you will,” she said before adding; “besides, this doesn’t involve them.”

“Doesn’t involve them?” said Anakin before adding; “what are you talking about?”

“I have vital information that I would be willing to share with you,” she said before adding; “information that might be able to put an end to this War.”

“You’ll tell us who Sidious is?” he asked, considering what such a revelation could do for the Republic… For the war.

She smiled. “I’ll tell you that, and so much more.”

Anakin considered her words a few moments. “And if I do this, you’ll let her go?”

“Yes.”

There was a moment of silence before Anakin said, "fine, I'll do what you want. But you should know. If you hurt Padmé... If you so much as lay one finger on her. I will kill you."

"I thought you might say that," was her honest response. "but I do intend to keep my word. I have no intention of harming your wife... That's not what I came here to do."

Padmé watched as her husband absorbed that information, twisting around his mind as he examined it with equal caution and suspicion. "You better keep your word," he said at last, the words grating against his teeth. "Or you'll find out just how angry I can get."

"Trust me," said her daughter as a haunted shadow crossed her features. "I already know."

 

Chapter Text

“Why are you doing this?” asked Padme as soon as her husband’s form flickered off, leaving her with a hollow feeling that did not sit well with her. Her voice was quiet, so so quiet, and in the silence, she could hear her heart pounding—

“Why am I doing what?” asked the woman, not bothering to spare her a glance as she pocketed the comm.

This,” Padme didn’t feel the need to reiterate everything that had happened within the last twelve hours since she had been abducted. “All of this,” her thoughts drifted towards the Senate, to the dead Clones, Typho, Anakin. “What do you think you’re going to accomplish?”

At that, the woman stared at her, twisting and turning that phrase inside of her mind over and over before finally saying, “even if I told you, you wouldn’t understand.”

Padme looked for an angle, but the woman’s demeanor remained unchanging; her lips pursed and her features etched in stone. She couldn’t glean any emotions off the woman, and nothing in the woman’s countenance was telling Padme anything. If the situation hadn’t been so dire, she might’ve been jealous. The way her daughter carried herself was enough to make any politician envious.

“I think,” she swallowed thickly before continuing; “I think I could.”

She took a step closer to the woman— her daughter. Shiraya, she can hardly believe that this woman is hers and Anakin’s child… But even now in the dimming light of the cockpit, Padme can see traces of her husband in this woman’s face. Eerie as it is, she can also herself. “If you explained it to me, I think I could understand.”

“No,” she said, leaving very little room for argument. “You wouldn’t understand because you haven’t lived through what I have had to,” she says, squaring her shoulders and clenching her haw. “There are things that you don’t know, Senator. Things I can’t explain to you.”

“Then explain it to me,” huffs Padme, giving the woman an equal amount of stubbornness that even Anakin would be proud of. “Or at least tell me why you kidnapped me.”

The woman turned to leave.

“Please,” Padme has never been one to beg. Her tenure as Queen had taught her to make demands instead. But even now, she knows that won’t work. She wanted answers— no, she needed answers, and if that meant having to beg… “You owe me that much.”

At that, the woman paused. She was halfway to the door, her back still turned on her, but Padme didn’t need the Force to feel the conflict in the other woman.

“The future that I come from,” she began, turning back around and meeting Padme’s imploring gaze. “You don’t know what it’s like… All the pain, the devastation, the suffering,” she swallowed as her eyes glistened then sharpened. “I made a choice. Maybe it wasn’t the best choice, but it was a choice.”

“And that choice brought you here?” asked Padme.

“Yes,” she watched her daughter’s eyes darken. “You have no idea how much of the future depends on the here and now. I can stop it all from happening. Everything.”

Padme blinked. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen someone so— broken. Not even Anakin in all of his grief at losing his mother had looked as sad as this woman was now.

For a moment, she could see the woman’s eyes flicker, as if struggling to reveal the true color behind the yellow.

“What happened?”

Padme had thought that maybe she could use the moment of weakness to her own advantage; learn more about the situation and come up with a plan. But the moment she asked the question, her daughter’s eyes visibly darkened, all hints of weakness disappearing in a matter of seconds as her fist clenched at her side.

“Sidious,” she sneered. “That karking—”

“Sidious?” Padme asked. “Is that the Sith Lord the Jedi have been looking for?”

She remembered what Anakin had told her in passing, and so the name was familiar to her. But that was all that Padme knew. Her husband had always been cautious about sharing information like that with her so as to not scare her, but she knew enough.

At that, the woman laughed humorlessly. “Looking for? They needn’t look for him, Senator. He’s always been right in front of them, right under their pretentious little noses—”

“What are you talking about?”

The humored smile on the woman’s lips faded, giving way to something much, much darker. It almost made Padme take a step back as she felt herself weathering an intense look that sent shivers up her spine.

“What if I told you,” she began, her words painfully slow. “That the Sith Lord was in charge of the Republic?”

Was that a rhetorical question?

“I would say that’s absurd,” was Padme’s measured response. “And impossible.”

“Improbable,” corrected the woman. “But not impossible.”

Padme stops, startled by this new development.

“Sidious has been controlling both the Separatists and the Republic. This entire War has been nothing more than a game, and everyone in it his unwitting pawns,” she finished, her words echoing as Padme stared at her in stunned silence.

Padme tried to process this, her mouth opening and closing again when the words failed to come to her. It was too much. All of it. Too much.

“But that would mean—” ice filled her bones, her voice filled with horror as sudden realization dawned.

That would mean the Chancellor--!

“Palpatine,” she choked. “He… He’s Sidious?”

He had been her mentor. Ever since she had joined the Legislative Youth Program on Naboo all those years ago. He had been the one whispering in her ear, giving her advice through the guise of mentorship... She had trusted him. 

They had all trusted him. And Anakin—

Anakin had trusted him most of all.

Her stomach twisted and churned, nausea pooling in the back of her throat as a bitter taste filled her mouth.

“Senator…” the woman stopped and took a deep breath. “Padme,” she corrected herself, “I know this must come as a shock to you—”

“How?”

How could the Jedi not know?

“Sidious is very powerful,” was the woman’s response. “More powerful than the Jedi could ever know or think.”

She swallowed.

“What is he trying to do?” she asked, her voice sounded strange, even to her own ears. “What… What does he want?”

“For the Republic to fall,” she answered.

In a daze, Padme found herself slumped in the pilot's chair as she stared numbly at the passing stars, the cracked leather cushion beneath her all that she could feel in that moment. The cockpit controls sparked ominously as the lights flickered.

“Does… Does he succeed?” she asked, throat too dry and words too quiet.

“Yes,” the woman whispered. “He did.”

“In order to ensure the safety and continuing stability,” she continued as Padme watched her out of her peripheral. “The Republic was reorganized into the first Galactic Empire. For a more safe and secure society.”

“The War…” Padme swallowed.

“Caused the Republic to fear for its safety,” she said as Padme closed her eyes. “And that fear that was what enabled the Senate to willingly give up liberty in place of security,” her voice horrifically monotone as she recited history. “You wouldn’t believe how much they cheered and applauded the death of the Republic… That’s how dictatorships start. With excitement and fervent nationalism.”

Padme’s head was spinning. “What about the Jedi? They couldn’t have stopped him?” asked Padme, desperation clouding her mind.

“With what power?” she asked. “Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t the Jedi take orders from the Senate?”

“Well, yes. But—”

"But the Jedi don't have any political power," she finished, cutting Padmé off before she could get a word in. "The Republic is corrupt, Senator. It has been for quite some time now. There was nothing the Jedi could do to stop what had already been put into motion. Nothing they could've done would've fixed anything... Not that they didn't foolishly try to.”

"What did they do?" asked Padme. 

"They attempted a coup," she explained. "And of course, it failed. Spectacularly."

“Do you know how crazy that sounds?” she breathed. “You’re telling me that the Jedi tried to take over the Senate?”

“No,” said the woman. “But they did try to arrest the Chancellor— who had been granted so many emergency powers at that point he might as well have been the governing body of the Republic. They failed to take that into account, as well as his popularity. So when the Jedi tried and failed to kill him, Palpatine was able to turn the Senate and a large portion of the public against them,” she said before adding; “and then he got rid of them."

“How?” demanded Padmé. “There are over ten thousand Jedi--"

“The Clones have organic chips built into their genetic code to make them do whatever someone wants,” she explained. “Even kill the Jedi, if they are ordered too.”

“Who put it there?”

“Who do you think?” she sneered.

Padmé shook her head, “no, that can’t be. We know where the Clones came from. It was a Jedi who ordered their creation.”

“That’s what he wanted you to think,” she shook her head. “Think about it, Senator. An army of Clones appears magically out of thin air when you need them most because some Jedi who's been dead for ten years supposedly ordered and paid for their commission to fight in a war that he somehow knew was coming,” she said before adding; “if you ask me, that sounds a little bit… Too convenient.”

 Padmé was too stunned to say anything.

“It was called Order 66,” she continued, her voice much softer. “But to everyone else in the galaxy, it was known as the Purge. When the Empire heroically rid the galaxy of the warmongering, power-hungry Jedi.”

“When?” she choked, her voice hoarse.

“Two days before my birth. Two days before—” she started, her voice catching and threatening to break.

“Two days before what?”

She closed her eyes and inhaled, steadying herself before continuing. “We don’t have much time. In less than a year Palpatine will make his move and then everything will go to ruin. I have to act quickly—”

“Two days before what?” demanded Padme, bringing the conversation back to the beginning. It hadn’t escaped her attention that the woman had faltered, and something told her that she wasn’t telling her everything.

The woman faltered, her eyes refusing to meet Padme’s as she shook her head. There was a moment in which Padme was certain the woman was not going to answer her, but then the next words out of her mouth stopped her dead in her tracks.

“Two days before your death,” she said, meeting her gaze as a muscle in her jaw rippled with tension.

“How?” she breathed, gut churning and chest clenching. Maybe she didn’t want to know— maybe ignorance would be better. But morbid curiosity was getting the better of her, the desire to know why she hadn’t been there for her daughter—

“You died in childbirth,” she said as Padme tensed and then exhaled. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything more than that. I’m sorry."

Padme knew the words were meant to be comforting but coming out of this woman’s mouth they were anything but. No wonder her daughter treated her like a stranger. For all intents and purposes, they were.

“And Anakin?” she asked. The thought of her own death was unpleasant, but it paled in comparison to the thought of her husband dying.

“Dead,” the woman was quick to answer, her words sharp and without an ounce of compassion.

Padme closed her eyes as she felt her world crumble and fall— shattering into a billion little pieces in front of her. She had never imagined how fragile her life was until now, how suddenly it could all be taken from her.

No. Not her Ani.

She could feel tears running down her cheeks as a sob threatened to spill out of her covered mouth. The situation had gone from insane to dire in a matter of only a few seconds. The reality of what was going to happen soon— the Republic falling, the rise of an Empire, Palpatine’s status as a Sith, her impending death… It was almost too much. But knowing that her husband was going to die? That was like a kick to the gut. Worse than that. Padmé felt as though her heart had just been ripped out.

She needed to compartmentalize. She was good at doing that, especially when faced with unpleasant things— the likes of which she had gotten used to seeing in the Senate. The Senate that would soon willingly allow the creation of an Empire and the murder of the Jedi…

“Okay, okay. I— I can see why you came back,” she took a deep breath. “But that still doesn’t explain why you kidnapped me.”

For all the talking that her daughter had done, she had still managed to get around answering that one simple question.

Why?

“I thought that would be obvious by now,” said the woman before adding; “to get to your husband, of course. He’s the reason I came back. Why I kidnapped you… I knew he would come after you.”

“So you could warn him?”

At that, the woman shook her head, unable to meet Padmé’s gaze. “No… Not exactly.”

Padmé kept staring at her, silently demanding an answer to her question as the other woman sighed.

“I didn’t come here to warn him, Senator,” she inhaled. “I came here to kill him.”


 

“Endor, designation IX3244-A. Grid coordinates H-16,” said Rex as he read the star chart in front of them before glancing over at Anakin. “A Sanctuary Moon? That’s where she wants you to meet her?”

Anakin stared at the planet, slowly reading through all of the information that they had on it. It was in the Moddell Sector, which was in the Outer Rim. It was… hardly an important place. Of all the places she could have picked for their first meeting, this was not what Anakin had been expecting.

“It’s… An interesting choice,” Anakin admitted as Cody scoffed.

“I’ve never heard of this Endor before today,” said Cody as he too glanced at the information. “There aren’t even settlements there.”

“It’s pretty isolated,” Anakin agreed.

“And definitely off the beaten path,” said Obi-Wan as he strolled onto the bridge. “Perfect place for an ambush if you ask me.”

“You think she’s gonna try and ambush him, Sir?” asked Rex as he glanced back at his General.

“I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility,” Obi-Wan replied as he eyed the star chart. “Anakin said she was very adamant that he come alone.”

“Are you sure you can trust her?” asked Rex as Anakin shook his head.

“Not one bit,” replied Anakin as he crossed his arms over his chest while Obi-Wan frowned beside him, clearly not liking their prospects either.

“Anakin,” he started. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Anakin snorted at that. “Oh, I know this a terrible idea. I just don’t see any alternative at the moment.”

“Sir, I think it goes without saying that I don’t feel comfortable with General Skywalker going by himself,” said Cody before adding; “I still think we should accompany him to the ground in case she tries to pull a fast one.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” said Obi-Wan. “In fact… I may have an idea.”

Chapter Text

“I didn’t come here to warn him, Senator,” she inhaled. “I came here to kill him.”

Padmé froze. Surely she must not have heard that correctly. Surely she didn’t mean… Her face paled as she realized that the woman in front of her was dead serious. She knew the look in her daughter's eyes. It was the same determined look that she recognized in Anakin.

“You… What?” she asked, eyes wide and pleading, hoping that she had indeed heard her wrong.

“I came here to kill him,” was her simple response. “After the Rebellions defeat and my brother's death… The galaxy was consumed by darkness,” she hadn’t moved a muscle since her revelation, her body rigid and tense. “I knew I couldn’t save it. No matter how hard I tried. Even though Palpatine was dead, his legacy still lived on… As did your husband's."

“I don’t understand,” breathed Padmé, pupils blown and hands clammy. “What are you talking about? What could killing Anakin possibly accomplish—”

“Everything,” was her ice-cold response. “Anakin Skywalker’s death would change the entire future for the better.”

“How?” Padmé demanded. It just wasn’t adding up. How could her husband’s death prevent the future that this woman had described?

The woman shook her head, “you have no idea what your husband is capable of… The darkness inside of him. It’s only a matter of time before it consumes him. And when it does, the rest of us will be left to pick up the pieces.”

“What are you talking about?” she cried, frustrated tears pouring down her cheeks. “What darkness?”

Her eyes narrowed. “You know what he did to the Sand people after his mother was killed. How he slaughtered every man, woman, and child in that village. Innocent or not.”

The woman stepped closer until they were only a few inches apart, yellow eyes meeting glassy brown ones as Padmé took an involuntary step back, her hand bracing against the wall as she felt her legs begin to shake.

“When Palpatine issued Order 66,” she continued, still closing in on a cornered Padmé. “There was a Jedi who betrayed the Order. He was the one who led the Clones into the Temple. The one who slaughtered his fellow Jedi for the promise of more power. That Jedi was your husband,” she spat.

“No,” Padmé choked. “You’re wrong. Ani would never do something like that. He would never—”

“Never what?” the woman’s eyes darkened. “He would never slaughter innocent younglings? Never murder his own fellow Jedi if it meant saving your life? Never torture his daughter and then force her to watch as her homeworld was destroyed by the Empire? Never cut off his own son’s hand?” she sneered as Padmé covered her mouth in horror.

“Oh and that’s only the beginning,” she continued. “I was there when your precious Ani,” she said mockingly, “murdered his own Master.”

“Obi-Wan?” whispered Padmé, eyes wide as saucers as the woman nodded. “He…” her stomach churned and rolled. “He killed Obi-Wan?”

“Him and so many others,” said the woman before adding; “but they aren’t the reason I’m here. I’m here because my brother— my twin brother is dead because of your husband. Not to mention the man that I loved,” her voice was beginning to crack. “They’re gone because of him. The two people I loved most in this galaxy.”

“So this is about revenge?” Padmé could hardly believe what she was hearing. The woman had turned her back on her, but she could see that her shoulders were starting to sink.

It was about revenge. That’s what this was all about.

Padmé felt sick.

“No,” she said firmly, turning back around so that she could face the former Queen. Her denial only served to confirm what Padmé already knew, but judging from the vitriol on the woman’s face, she wasn’t about to back down. “This has nothing to do with revenge. This is about saving the galaxy. Don’t you see that this is the only way that the galaxy can ever be whole again?”

“Whole again?” cried Padmé, jumping up from her seat. “You think this is whole? Killing your father in cold blood?”

“He’s not my father!” she snapped, eyes blazing. “My father— my true father,” she inhaled sharply, “was Bail Organa who was murdered by the Empire while your husband forced me to watch. That monster,” she spat, “was never my father nor will he ever be if this goes according to plan.”

Padmé was shaking her head, her hands coming to rest on either side of her head as she closed her eyes in an attempt to drown it all out. She wasn’t sure what to think or feel, or how to even respond to something like that. It was too much. All of it. Too much…

If this wasn’t about revenge, then what—?

Nor will he ever be if this goes according to plan...

Her eyes snapped open with sudden horror, realization dawning as she felt her body freeze and then shudder.

No, no, no

“You… You’re trying to erase yourself from the timeline, aren’t you?” she dared to ask. “You and—” she swallowed, “you and your brother.”

Her silence was answer enough.

“Don’t look at me like that.”

“You’re so full of hate,” said Padmé, lips pulled into a sad frown. She probably looked as lost as she felt as she watched her daughter’s mouth twitch in the light of the controls. “And so much pain.”

“Please stop.”

“I’m sorry,” Padmé continued. “For whatever happened to you… For all the things that will happen,” she took a deep breath. “This is not what—” she had been about to say Anakin and her, but she decided against that very quickly, “this is not what I would have wanted for you.”

“You’ve been dead for twenty-eight years,” she said, her voice hoarse and dry. “Your wants and desires died with you, Senator.”

Padmé closed her eyes as the heaviness between the two of them grew and grew. There was so much that she wanted to say, but the words never left her tongue as she watched her daughter take the ship out of hyperdrive.

“Where are we?” asked the Senator as she stared down at the green world below them. She doesn’t recognize it— not that she was expecting to.

“Endor,” said the woman, face tight and lips pursed. “I know it may not look like much, but in my time this where the battle for the future of the galaxy was fought.” There was a moment before she added; “this is where I lost everything. Han… My brother.”

At that, her eyes darkened once more as Padmé swallowed.

“Rebellions are supposed to be built on hope,” she stared down at the moon with distant eyes. “This is where that hope died.”

“You don’t have to do this,” Padmé shook her head, face wrinkling and eyes pleading. “We can find another way. There’s still hope—”

“There isn’t any other way,” she continued, eyes darkening. “This is the only way.”

“No,” Padmé shook her head. “I don’t believe that. You’re talking about murdering my husband… The man I love!” tears poured down her cheeks. “Please, don’t do this. I— I can’t lose him.”

Mournfully, and with shadowed eyes, her daughter turned to face her. “You already have,” and then; “you just don’t see it yet. Anakin Skywalker was lost the moment Palpatine set his sights on him,” she shook her head. “Now, it’s only a matter of time.”

Padmé didn’t say anything as she continued.

“And at least this way you’ll get to live,” the smile that graced her lips was sad, not quite reaching her eyes. “You and Han,” her voice cracked. “You and so many others. You’ll all get to live.”

But at what cost?

“Surely you don’t think that killing Anakin will be enough to save us,” asked Padmé, pointing out the very obvious flaw in her daughter’s plan. The foundation had already been laid. Anakin’s death wouldn’t change anything so long as Palpatine continued his rise to power.

“Of course not,” she shook her head. “I know that Anakin’s death alone won’t stop what’s already been put into motion,” she took a deep breath. “The only way to do that is to rid the galaxy of the Sith entirely. Palpatine, Dooku…That’s why when I’m done with your husband, I’ll go after them as well.”

She made it sound so simple… So easy.

“You—” Padmé’s mouth twisted, bitterly. “You really believe that you’re doing the right thing, don’t you? That this is just going to fix everything.”

“Not everything,” she closed her eyes. “But most of it, yes.”

“And then what?” asked Padmé, hollow. “After you’ve destroyed our family and erased you and your brother from the timeline… What then?”

She turned to look at her mother with tired brown eyes that spoke of sorrows incomprehensible. And Padmé realized at that moment how broken the woman in front of her was.

“Then I can finally be with my brother again.”


 

Endor stared up at him mockingly through the observation window as Anakin crossed his arms over his chest, doing his best to drown out the noise and emotions of everyone else on the bridge. The Force was thick with apprehension as well as tension— not just from the dark presence that was emanating from the moon below but also from the crew.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to accompany you?” Obi-Wan asked, strolling over to the viewport so that he too could inspect the insignificant moon. “It might be good if we faced her together… As a team.”

“Thanks for the offer,” Anakin inclined his head. “But I don’t think she’d like that. She was very explicit in her instructions.”

“And you trust her?” asked Obi-Wan, skeptical.

“Do you?” Anakin snorted sardonically as Obi-Wan stroked his beard thoughtfully.

“That begs the question,” Obi-Wan sent a furtive glance back towards the viewport. “Can we trust her information?”

Anakin put his hands on his hips, his shoulders tensing and untensing as he stared up at the star chart. “I don’t know,” he said finally before adding; “I want to believe she was telling the truth, but if that’s the case… Then why share it with me? And why kidnap Padmé to do it?”

No. She definitely had ulterior motives. But what those motives were remained a mystery.

“To get our attention?” Obi-Wan offered as Anakin shook his head, dismissing the possibility completely.

“She could have told any Jedi. It didn’t have to be me,” he said, fists clenching in frustration. “What are her motives? What is she trying to accomplish?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Obi-Wan before adding; “I just know that I don’t like this. The Force is clouded… I can’t sense anything.”

Which was true. Beyond the black hole that was the Sith’s presence, the Force seemed to be… Stagnant. Anakin didn’t know how else to explain it, or if he even could. It was strangely odd and eerie at the same time. He didn’t like it either.

“Sir,” came Rex’s voice, interrupting their conversation as he strolled over to them. “We are done making preparations and are ready to leave whenever you are.”

“Have you located her ship yet?” asked Anakin as he nodded.

“Our scans picked up a ship in the Campalan Mountain Range,” he said before adding; “a Corellian freighter.”

“Great,” replied Anakin tersely. “Let’s hope she’s in a friendly mood to receive company.”


 

Endor was green. For as far as the eye could see there was nothing but vast forests and mountains that sloped gently against the horizon. Relatively untouched by humans, Anakin could see why this place was a designated sanctuary.

“I guess this is it,” said Anakin as soon as the Clones had finished setting up the perimeter. His nerves by then had been shot, but his determination was unwavering— as well as his conviction to save his wife. Beside him, he could sense that Obi-Wan was equally as apprehensive, but he too was prepared. “Any advice?”

“Yes, be careful of the Natives,” said Obi-Wan before adding; “they may be diminutive in stature and appearance, but I hear they have a taste for human flesh.”

“I meant about the Sith,” said Anakin as Obi-Wan blinked.

“Oh, right,” he patted Anakin's shoulder. “Don’t die.”

“Thanks for the words of encouragement,” said Anakin sarcastically before adding; “you always know just what to say.”

“I try my best,” Obi-Wan hummed. “Rex, Cody, and I will stay back. We’ll wait for your signal. If we don’t hear from you—"

“Assume I’m dead and send in the cavalry,” said Anakin as Obi-Wan nodded. “And if I really am dead, avenge me.”

“Revenge is not the Jedi way,” replied Obi-Wan as Anakin rolled his eyes.

“Right,” was his dry response. “How could I forget.”

He turned to look out at the trees, tall and foreboding. Even there, he could feel the darkness seeping into the very air— like a wound that was festering. Not even Dooku, in all of his sinister ambition and lust for power, felt quite like this… A fact that both surprised and terrified him.

“You shouldn’t keep her waiting,” said Obi-Wan before adding; “the Sith are not known for their patience.”

Neither was Anakin if they were being frank.

He went to leave, looking back at Obi-Wan once more out of habit as the older Jedi placed a hand on his shoulder. “I would wish you good luck, but—”

“There’s no such thing,” finished Anakin. “At least, according to you, there isn’t.”

“Right,” was Obi-Wan’s dry response as he patted his shoulder. “May the Force be with you, Anakin,” he said as his eyes scanned the trees, feeling the overwhelming darkness that seeped out of them with a barely contained shudder. “I have a feeling you’ll be needing it.”

Chapter Text

“Kriff,” muttered Anakin as he felt his shoes sink into the sloshy ground, caking his boots in fresh mud. He would need to clean them off before leaving or they were going to make a mess all over the freshly cleaned ship— a mess that Obi-Wan would make him clean up seeing as the cleaning droids were currently out of commission thanks to an incident earlier that week (that hadn’t been his fault no matter how much Obi-Wan tried to blame him).

It should’ve been the last thing on his mind, but the prospect of having to scrub the mud off the floor under the guise of a disapproving Obi-Wan made him even more irritated with the Sith than he had been before.

This is why when he finally did reach the clearing where she was waiting for him, he didn’t bother with pleasantries.

“Where is she?” he demanded, his voice echoing through the trees at a heightened volume that surprised even him. He glowered at her as he came to a stop a good ten paces away, close enough so that he could see her features under the clouded light but far enough so that he could act quickly in case she tried anything.

He watched as she cocked her head, her yellow eyes sparking with mild interest as she took in his appearance.

“I thought we had a deal,” she said, at last, her voice smooth and controlled. “You were supposed to come alone.”

Anakin took a moment to gesture dramatically around them. “I came here alone. Just like you asked.”

“Really?” she raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Then how come I can sense Kenobi from here?”

“You said I had to meet you alone,” he countered. “You didn’t say anything about having backup.”

There was a moment of silence as she regarded him, her expression unreadable. He shifted his weight, trying not to squirm under the weight of her yellow stare.

“What?” he said finally. “You thought I would actually come here alone?” he scoffed. 

She raised an eyebrow at his bravado before shaking her head. “No,” she agreed. “I had a feeling you might be… Difficult. You always were.”

He narrowed his eyes at her odd remark but didn’t comment on it as he took a moment to properly look at her. She was dressed head to toe in black utilitarian robes that were similar to his own, but also admittedly fancier than what Anakin usually wore. It contrasted with the bright, red cape that flowed behind her in the gentle Endorian breeze. Her lightsaber hung from her belt, but she made no move to grab it.

“What?” she asked, giving him as much bravado as he had earlier. “Never seen a Sith before?”

He had. More times than the Jedi had ever once thought possible.

“Oh, I’ve met one or two,” he said before cockily adding; “but I have to say, I think you’re the shortest one to date.”

If Obi-Wan were here, he would highly disapprove of Anakin’s goading of a Sith, but he just couldn’t help himself. She was so tiny… She barely reached his shoulder.

Obi-Wan had been right. The locals were diminutive in both appearance and stature.

She tilted her head at that, “is that the best you can do, Skywalker? Mock my height? Surely you know better than to underestimate your enemy."

Not at all. Despite being vertically challenged, Anakin knew she was dangerous. This was the woman who had breached the Senate in broad daylight and had kidnapped his wife without so much as breaking a sweat. This was the woman who had murdered Typho and several Clones without thought or remorse. Anakin would be a fool to underestimate her and he knew it.

“Is that what we are?” he grabbed his lightsaber, but he didn’t ignite it just yet. “Enemies?”

It was a question that didn’t need answering— he knew without a doubt what she was to him and vice versa. He just wished he knew where she had come from and what her motives were.

She smirked, “what else could we be?” she asked, her words carrying a strange weight behind them as the Force around them swelled with anticipation.

“I won’t ask again,” he narrowed his eyes at her, his hand curling tightly around his lightsaber. “Where is my wife?”

“On my ship,” said the Sith before adding; “handcuffed, of course. For her own safety.”

“How thoughtful of you,” he sneered. “Now, let her go.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that just yet,” she said, sounding almost regretful. “I can’t have her interfering with what I’m about to do.”

“And what’s that?” he demanded, using his General voice. If he was irritated before, it didn’t amount to the level of frustration and anger he was feeling when she didn’t respond, leaving his question unanswered.

With a snap and hiss, he ignited his lightsaber. It may not have been the Jedi way, but at that point, Anakin could hardly find it in him to care. He was tired and cranky. And all he wanted at that point was to get his wife, kill this Sith, and get back to the War. Every moment he spent away from the front was more time the Separatists had to regain the lead. His Clones were dying. His fellow Jedi were dying. He didn’t have time to play Sith games.

He gave her a wary look as he stepped closer. He was expecting her to ignite her own lightsaber, but she still made no move for it. Instead, she stared at his— a pained expression crossing her features.

“My brother’s lightsaber looked just like yours,” she said before adding. “His was blue as well.”

Anakin was taken aback. “Your brother’s a Jedi?”

“Was,” she corrected him, eyes snapping back towards his own as they flashed with anger and hatred. “This is where he died. In orbit around this very moon.”

Anakin frowned at that odd bit of information, but he kept his saber trained on her. “Sorry to hear that,” there wasn’t any empathy in his voice as he remained neutral. “That must’ve been difficult for you.”

“It was,” her eyes narrowed. “That lightsaber… I’ll be taking it,” she said before adding; “after I kill you, of course. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” was his sardonic response. “I just hope you don’t mind having to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.”

At that, a feral smile crossed her lips, clearly excited at the prospect to come as she reached up and unclipped her cape before tossing it aside, her hand reaching for her saber.

“Fine,” she said, igniting her crimson red blade before adding. “So be it.”

There was a moment of silence as their blades hummed, the only sound that Anakin could hear in the forest save for his own breath.

In and out. In and out.

Her blade rushed at him, arcing through the air before clashing with his own blue one. He used his brute strength to push her back, swiping at her as she sidestepped out of his reach. He rushed her, the Force powering his steps as she held her blade up defensively.

“How do you know of my marriage?” he asked through gritted teeth, their sabers locked. Anakin knew that she was at a disadvantage when it came to strength, and he could tell that she was having a hard time holding him off as he increased the pressure behind his blade.

Her arms were shaking under his weight, her brow wrinkled in consternation. “I have my ways.”

She pushed herself back and out of the way of his blade. Taking a few steps back, she twirled her blade in her hand before moving back into a recognized stance, her eyes trained on him.

Without warning, she Force jumped towards him, her blade raised for the kill as Anakin blocked her attack. It continued like this for quite some time, both of them finding themselves evenly matched as they struggled to gain the upper hand.

This was not what Anakin had been expecting when he had studied the holo-footage from the Senate. Her technique was good, but what surprised him most was her brute strength in the Force as well as the visceral emotion behind every swing and block.

He was not dueling just an average Sith with unknown motives. He was dueling someone who stood to lose everything, and he knew it.

Which made this fight even more deadly than he had originally anticipated.

She didn’t even look winded as she threw herself back just in time to avoid one of his strikes as if she somehow knew from experience that he was going to try and cut off her saber hand.

If she hadn’t been as quick as she was, her hand would’ve been gone by now.

“You always were fond of that little trick,” she commented before adding; “good thing I know all your moves, Skywalker.”

Anakin didn’t have any time to register her words before she brought her blade down on him again, this time swiping at him at such fast intervals that Anakin had barely any time to block them as she drove him back.

Distantly, he could hear someone screaming, but he drowned it out as he focused all of his attention on holding the woman off.

“STOP!” screamed a familiar voice as Anakin came to a grinding halt, his lightsaber stopping in mid-air as he felt a powerful wave of emotion through the Force. It was so powerful and overwhelming; he couldn’t help but stagger back in surprise and confusion.

What was—?

His eyes met a pair of achingly familiar brown ones, wide with unbridled fear.

“Padmé?”


 

How had it come to this?

Anakin and their daughter were fighting— and from what Padmé could see from the cockpit where she had been cuffed, neither one was holding back. Blue against red… Light against dark.

Her husband had freely walked in a trap put in place by their future daughter, who was also a Sith, which by itself was a terrifying thought, but it paled in comparison to what now hung in the balance.

Bile crept into her mouth. If she hadn’t been as determined as she was, she might’ve vomited from the sheer weight of it all. But Padmé Amidala Naberrie Skywalker was made of thicker stuff than that. She needed to stay calm… She needed to think.

And most of all she needed to do something before one of them killed the other.

Despite most of her hairpins having fallen out during the course of the last twelve hours, Padmé had managed to save one in the sleeve of her burgundy dress just in case something like this happened. However, considering that both of her hands were cuffed to the piping above her, getting that hairpin was going to take time.

Time she didn’t have.

“Padmé?”

Was that—?

“Obi-Wan?” she called, listening to the sound of approaching footsteps. Her heart leaped with joy as soon as he made his way into the cockpit along with Cody. “Obi-Wan!”

“Are you hurt?” was the first question out of his mouth as he quickly assessed the scene. He ignited his lightsaber and swiftly cut open the restraints, freeing her from her spot as he reached out to steady her.

“No,” she rubbed her wrists. “She didn’t hurt me.”

He nodded, “come on then. We need to get you out of here and I need to go help—”

She brushed past him, not listening to him.

“Padmé?” he chased after her, bewildered. “What— where are you going?”

“To stop them,” she said, looking desperately around the lounge for any sign of her blaster— it had to be here, somewhere.

“You can’t.”

“Like hell I am,” she snarled as Obi-Wan grabbed her by the arm.

“Are you crazy?” his grip on her was tight and his voice was nothing short of authoritarian. “You can’t fight a Sith, Senator. You don’t even have a weapon!”

Padmé felt her eyes narrow. “I don’t need one.”

Obi-Wan frowned, but his frown soon turned into shock as she twisted around before punching him square in the face— not hard enough to break bone, but hard enough that he staggered back in surprise, letting go of her arm while a stunned Cody watched.

Padmé tore out of the ship, her feet carrying her to where her husband and daughter were still fighting.

“Senator!” Cody and Obi-Wan were hot in her heels, but she hardly heard them.

“Stop!”

They continued fighting.

“STOP!”

At the force behind her voice, they both halted to a grinding stop— lightsabers still in the air as they turned to look at her. She was out of breath and panting, but that didn’t stop her from meeting her husband's bewildered gaze.

“Padmé?” he blinked, looked back at Obi-Wan and Cody, then back at her again. “What—”

Padmé didn’t have any time to react. It all happened so fast. One moment Anakin had been looking at her and the next the hand that was holding his lightsaber was gone.

A well-aimed blaster shot ripped through the air as her daughter fell to the ground.

Anakin staggered back, his mechanical stump sparking as he stared down at the woman with eyes as wide as saucers as Padmé felt her stomach drop. She didn’t know how long she stood there before she was running towards her daughter.

“No,” she gasped. “No, wait— please—”

Her daughter shuddered in her arms, writhing and in pain… But alive.

She was alive. She was alive and so was Anakin and— and there are no words to describe to the relief that flooded her body. Her daughter let out a small groan, her eyes fluttering as she tightens her grip on her. Until now, Padmé had never known what it felt like to be maternal, but the feeling was instinctual as she cradled her injured child.

Padmé?” came Anakin’s strangled voice.

She didn’t acknowledge him.

“Are you okay?”

Her daughter didn’t respond as her body began to shake, a sob escaping her mouth. Distantly, Padmé could feel everyone’s stupefied eyes on them, watching them. She could see Rex making his way out from the trees where he had been hiding, a blaster in hand as he kept a wary gaze on the two of them, ready to shoot again if need be. But she didn't care as she held onto her crying child.

“I know,” she said, eyes stinging. “I know.”

Her daughter was in so much pain. She could feel it as if it were her own— pressing down on her and crushing her beneath its weight.

What happened to you? She wanted to ask, chest clenching as she reached up to cradle her daughter’s head, her hair smooth and silky between her fingers.

“Just let it go,” she encouraged. “Let it go.”

Let it all go. Whatever it is that you’ve been holding onto for so long… Let it go. Be here.

“I can’t,” her daughter gasped. “I— It’s all I have left.”

“No, it’s not,” said Padmé, reassuringly. “You have us. You have me, and you have Anakin—"

“Excuse me?” was Anakin’s choked response. “What are you talking about, Padmé? What’s going on here? Who—”

“It— It was supposed to be simple,” her daughter hiccupped. “It was supposed to be—”

“It was never going to work. Not like you thought it would.”

Her daughter shook her head, “it would’ve… It still could.”

“No,” Padmé closed her eyes, her hand brushing against her belly— against her secret. She took a deep breath and braced herself. “It wouldn’t have worked because I am already pregnant.”

It was strange how those words carried the weight needed to grab her daughter’s attention. Padmé could see it in her eyes— the way that everything just seemed to fall apart at one simple word.

“Pregnant,” she tested the word, still blinking.

“Yes,” Padmé nodded, taking a moment to glance at Anakin, her chest clenching at the lost and confused look in his eyes. She had wanted nothing more in the galaxy than to share this moment with him… This was supposed to be theirs. This right here.

But now it belonged to her and her daughter. She will have her time with Anakin later. Right now, her daughter needed her more.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she breathed. “All this time—”

“Because you were so adamant,” she said, blinking through the tears; “and I didn’t know how to tell you.”

Didn’t know if it would change anything. If that would’ve been enough to stop her from killing Anakin. Now, Padmé will never know.

“Leia—” she breathed as the woman’s eyes widened. “That’s your name, right? Leia,” the name was spoken with reverence. The name that she and Anakin had decided on when children were nothing more than a distant but shared dream between the two of them… When they had held each other and imagined a future together with no war, no Jedi, and no politics.

She nodded, albeit weakly. “It was.”

“Leia, you can’t kill your father,” she said before adding; “you can’t erase yourself from the timeline. We will find another way to fix this. Together.”

“Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” asked Anakin, eyes wide and desperate as he looked between Padmé and Leia, not understanding. 

At that, Leia rolled her rid-rimmed eyes. “Are you really that dense, Skywalker? You need someone to explain it to you?”

“Explain what?”

“Anakin,” Padmé breathed. “Leia is… Ours,” it felt so good to say the words aloud, finally. She sucked in another breath, bracing herself. “She’s our daughter from the future.”

Chapter Text

“She’s our daughter from the future.”

 

Padmé kept her eyes trained on Anakin, her hold on Leia tightening as she watched her husband’s face shift and change, processing the information— or at least, he was trying to.

“I— what?” his brows furrowed and then unfurrowed. “What are you talking about?”

There were not enough words in any language to describe the myriad of emotions that crossed his face. Shock, confusion, disbelief. The one that was becoming more and more apparent, however, was anger.

“No,” he shook his head. “That’s not possible. That’s—”

“Anakin—”

“What did you tell her?” he snarled, turning on Leia with blazing eyes. “What lies did you fill her head with?”

Leia’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t fill her head with anything, Skywalker. I told her the truth.”

“The truth?” he was practically vibrating at that point. “What— what kind of sick game is this? Did Sidious put you up to this? Is that what this is about?!”

He took a step towards them as Padmé felt herself scrambling to her feet, her hands coming out to stop him from further enclosing on their daughter as she pressed on his chest, stopping him dead in his tracks. But the anger was still there— anger that Padmé thought she would never see again.

“Anakin, listen to me—” her voice was soft and soothing, but urgent as she tried to placate him. “Leia is our daught—"

“Do you even hear yourself?” Anakin asked, eyes snapping towards her. “Can you even hear how crazy that sounds?”

“But it’s true—!”

“Padmé,” he said, placing his hand on her shoulder and staring down into her eyes. “Time travel isn’t possible. Whatever she told you is a lie—”

“I am many things,” hissed Leia as she rose to her feet, her eyes darkening as they began to flicker. “But a liar is not one of them.”

Padmé may not have known her daughter that well, but she knew she wasn’t a liar. In fact, Leia was quite the opposite. She was painfully truthful— her words cutting deeper than any knife or lightsaber ever could. Maybe it was because Padmé hadn’t liked what she had said, or maybe it was because nothing hurt more than the truth.

“What are you trying to accomplish here?” demanded Anakin, his nostrils flaring as his grip on Padmé's shoulder tightened (almost possessively). “Who put you up to this?”

“Anakin—”

“WHO?” he bellowed as Padmé frantically tried to hold him back, her hands grasping his robes as if her life depended on it.

“Anakin!”

He started to make his way towards Leia before she raised a hand, drawing upon the Force before unleashing it on him. He cried out as it hit him square in the chest, sending him flying across the clearing as Padmé gasped.

There was a moment of silence as a dazed Anakin struggled to his knees, orienting himself. Rex went to help him, but Kenobi held him back.

“Nobody put me up to this,” breathed Leia, her voice raspy. “Search your feelings. You know it to be true.”

He shook his head in silent denial— but Padmé could see it in his eyes. Something was changing.

“No,” he rasped. He tried to stand, but he slipped in the mud. Padmé rushed over to help him, but he hardly noticed her or her outstretched hand as he sat there, staring up at Leia with wide, horrified eyes. “You… You're—"

He shuddered as Padmé placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, feeling the way that his body tensed and untensed. His breathing was labored, although she wasn’t sure if it was from the shock or the pain from his injuries— or both.

“Leia?” Padmé asked, her voice echoing across the clearing.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said hollowly. “The ritual—”

“What ritual?” asked Padmé.

She didn’t answer her. Just shook her head in silent resignation.

“What ritual?” she repeated, her voice firm as she took a step towards her daughter. But before she could, her husband’s hand grabbed onto her, stopping her in her place as he clung to her.

Her eyes flickered to Anakin, taking in his pained features. His eyes were wide and his face—

She closed her eyes as she felt her chest clench.

“Well this has been quite an interesting turn of events,” said Obi-Wan dryly, speaking up for the first time in what felt like an eternity as his eyes flickered between the three of them. Both Rex and Cody stood beside him, their helmets gone, and their features shrouded in stony silence as they too watched the scene unfold before them. “I’m still not quite sure what to make of it,” he added, still unreadable as usual. But there was something in his eyes, some measure of sadness, tiredness. Disappointment.

And it wasn’t just directed at Anakin either. He was disappointed in both of them.

“We can explain,” whispered Padmé as she reluctantly pulled away from Anakin, noting the way that his fingers had weakly held to her, clinging to the threads of her clothes for as long as they could. She glanced briefly at Leia, silhouetted by the setting sun over the Endorian mountains. “We— I will explain everything to you,” she said hoarsely before adding; “just please don’t hurt my daughter.”

“Your daughter,” breathed Obi-Wan, eyes glittering with something that was all too familiar to Padmé. She met his gaze, silently urging him to see. To understand. She and Anakin weren’t the only ones reeling from this revelation. She could tell that Obi-Wan was trying to wrap his mind around it as well, and admittedly he might’ve been doing a better job at keeping his cool than any of them.

“Sir?” Rex had been uncharacteristically silent until then, but his voice was enough to snap Obi-Wan out of his reverie.

“If you had asked me yesterday if I believed time travel were possible, I would have laughed and said no,” said Obi-Wan, wryly. He was speaking more to himself than anything, and yet he had the attention of everyone present. He shook his head, “but I don’t need the Force to see what is plainly evident,” he said, his eyes drifting towards Leia. “I can sense the truth, no matter how impossible it sounds.”

As soon as the words were out, he seemed to deflate. His shoulders tensed and then sagged as if someone had placed a heavy weight upon them. “Which is why I am terribly sorry for what I’m about to do.”

Padmé wasn’t sure what he meant by that until she saw him reach for something on his utility belt, metal glinting in the fading light as she felt a knot begin to form in her stomach.

The seconds passed in unbroken silence for what felt like an eternity as Padmé watched Obi-Wan approach Leia, a pair of Force inhibiting cuffs dangling from his fingers.

To her surprise, Leia wordlessly held out her hands. Accepting her fate with far more grace and restraint than Padmé was capable of.

“In the name of the Galactic Republic," he said as Padmé closed her eyes, bracing herself for what was about to come. "You are under arrest."

 

Chapter Text

Padmé sat next to her husband on the transport vessel as she rested her head on his shoulder tiredly. Neither one of them had said a single word since leaving Endor— the both of them content to silently draw strength from the physical closeness of one another without having to worry about their secret.

Leia sat opposite of them, her hands cuffed as she stared blankly ahead while Cody kept a close eye on her, his hand trained on his blasters.

Obi-Wan wasn’t any better, and despite the deceivingly calm demeanor that he was exuding, Padmé could tell that he too was on edge— his fingers never straying far from the utility belt that carried his lightsaber. Even though Leia was cuffed, he still saw her as a threat. They all did.

And Padmé, no matter how hard she tried, couldn’t find it in herself to blame them.

After everything Leia had done. The crimes she had committed… She was lucky to still be alive.

Beside her, she felt Anakin shift as she allowed her eyes to wander over to him. He had his arms wrapped around his chest, his mangled hand hidden away in the folds of his robes as he stared down at the floor, his face shrouded in darkness.

At that moment, all that Padmé wanted to do was hold him in her arms and let him know that she was there for him; that they would get through this together. But at the same time, Padmé knew her husband well enough to know when he needed his space.

“We’ll be landing shortly,” said Rex, making his way from the cockpit. “The medical bay is on standby.”

Obi-Wan nodded, bit his lower lip, and looked away.


 

It felt like hours, but it was probably only a few minutes. Twenty standard minutes, maybe. It could’ve been more— it felt like more— but Padmé was too preoccupied to care.

But what she did know was that Anakin and Leia were going to be okay. Anakin needed a new prosthesis— they were prepping him for the surgery while a droid was applying bacta patches to Leia’s burns, one by one as she sat still, her features stoic as she stared blankly at the wall in front of her.

Anakin, on the other hand, was an entirely different story.

“No! No! Don’t touch that— ack!”

His mechanical stump sparked at the medical Droid’s prodding as a faint burnt smell filled the air. He clutched at his stump, his features creased and his lips twisting—

“Ani,” said Padmé, making her way towards him as she placed a soothing hand on his flesh arm. “You need to let the Droid’s do their job.”

“I would if they actually knew what they were doing,” Anakin snarled, causing the poor medical Droid to back away in fear.

Anakin had always been defensive of who he let tinker with his arm. Even now, he was barely letting any of the medical Droids near it. If they were in any other situation, Padmé might have found it endearing.

But Padmé had never seen Anakin get angry with a Droid before, and it worried her.

Padmé sighed. “They’re just trying to help.”

“Well I don’t need it,” he grumbled, staring down at his stump sullenly.

Padmé took a moment, allowing the air to cycle through her lungs as she stole a glance at Leia on the other side of the room. The Droid’s had finished bandaging her up, but she was still as silent and impenetrable as always, staring straight ahead. If she was listening to them, she made no indication of it.

Obi-Wan, on the other hand, made no move to hide his interest in their conversation.

Padmé hesitated, then turned her attention back to Anakin. Even though she couldn’t see his eyes, she could tell that he was hurting.

“Anakin—” she started but stopped as soon as the Medical Officer ripped the privacy curtain back.

“We’re ready to take him back,” he said as Padmé silently cursed his timing.

“Of course,” she nodded. “Can you just give us a moment? Please?”

He nodded before stepping away, his back turned to them to give them some semblance of privacy— not that it really mattered in the end. They already had an audience.

She didn’t know what they were going to do now that their secret was out. Yet… A part of her was almost glad. They didn’t have to pretend anymore. They didn’t have to sneak around, constantly looking behind their shoulder hoping that no one caught on. They could be together, finally.

But at the same time, the logical part of Padmé knew that there would be fallout from this. There would be consequences.

Consequences that she knew would hurt.

So, she sat with him on the bed and carefully wrapped her arms around him, pressing her cheek to his shoulder as she listened to him breathe.

He didn’t move. Not at first, but after a few moments, he finally leaned into her embrace, as if they were the only two people in the room.

“Is it true?” he croaked, just loud enough for her to hear. “Are you… Are you pregnant?”

“Yes.”

He let out a shaky breath, his grip on her tightening. Although she couldn’t see his face from this angle, she could feel the emotion there… Rolling and seeping into everything like waves crashing on the shore. It reminded her of when she had held him on Tatooine after his mother’s death.

After a few moments, he pulled away, eyes wide with shock. She knew it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Not after what had happened on the surface of Endor, but she also knew how hard this was for Anakin to wrap his mind around.

He was still struggling to come to terms with the events that had happened earlier. And Padmé didn’t blame him one bit.

“That’s… That’s…” he trailed off, the words dying on his tongue. A million emotions flashed across his face as he processed her words: uncertainty, nervousness, dread, joy, fear. His eyes darted towards Leia, mouth twisting and eyes creasing.

He wanted to say something more, but the words just never came.

She watched then as he shut his eyes, tight. As if trying to wake himself from a bad dream. “Force, this can’t be happening,” he muttered.

“Ani…”

No, no,” he shook his head. “Don’t. Don’t do that.”

“Do what?” she blinked.

“That,” he huffed. “Try and make me feel better. I— I don’t understand,” he said before adding; “I don’t understand any of this. I’m trying to wrap my mind around it but…” he trailed off, mouth swallowing as he looked at Leia. “I don’t know what to think.”

At that, he seemed to deflate; shoulders tensing and then sagging under an invisible weight.

“It’s a lot, I know,” agreed Padmé. “I’m still trying to come to terms with it myself. But…” she trailed off; eyes fixated on the woman sitting on the other side of the room.

Anakin raised his head. “But?”

She inhaled deeply. “I know she’s ours. As impossible as it sounds… I know Leia is our daughter,” she said before adding; “I can feel it in my bones.”

Anakin’s looked at her as Padmé felt her chest clench. It felt like she had been stabbed in the chest— but she knew it wasn’t her own emotions she was feeling. His eyes were wide and so full of hurt, and it seeped into her like a sponge.

“Then,” he breathed sharply, voice strangled. “Then why did she try to kill me?”

Padmé didn’t even try to respond to that question. She felt too far away.

This wasn’t a question that she wanted to answer. Not yet and certainly not here in front of everyone.

“Why did she kidnap you?” continued Anakin, his voice raspy. Eyes refusing to leave her. “Why… Why did she kill Typho? The Clones? Why—”

Why?

“I— I can’t answer that,” was Padmé’s brutally honest response. “It’s not my place.”

He scoffed at that, dismissing her words as he shook his head. His flesh hand flexed, knuckles turning white as the air around them seemed to swell and churn. The corner of his mouth tugged into a deep frown as he looked back at her.

“You know something, don’t you?”

It wasn’t necessarily an accusatory statement, but there was an edge to his words. Sharp and glinting, there was a hint of unease in him. But he hid it well.

“You know why she’s here,” he continued, not mincing his words. “And you know why she tried to kill me.”

“She was desperate,” said Padmé before adding; “I’m in no way defending her actions, but…”

But she had been so desperate to stop the future… To stop Palpatine and save the galaxy. Anakin couldn’t understand. Not now. He still had no idea what the future held in store for them nor could he possibly hope to understand Leia’s actions.

“I don’t entirely understand her motives,” was Padmé’s honest response. “But I know she had a reason.”

“A reason, huh?” was his sardonic response. He shook his head, exhaling deeply as the muscles in his jaw twitched. He looked away, mouth curling and twisting. Padmé thought that maybe he would try arguing with her claim further, but he didn’t. “Fine,” he conceded. “I can accept that.”

She blinked before narrowing her eyes in disbelief. “Anakin…”

Please,” he held his hand up to stop her, his voice drained of the sarcasm and stubbornness. “I don’t want to do this right now, Padmé. I… I need to get my hand fixed and you need to rest.”

“I’m fine.”

“You were just kidnapped and I’m guessing you haven’t slept any. Plus, you look like bantha poop,” he said before sheepishly adding; “no offense.”

“None taken,” she sighed. Anakin was right. She was exhausted and eager to have the medical Droids check on the baby— or babies if Leia’s words were any indication.

Force, she was pregnant with twins. Twins.

“When you get out of surgery, I will be right here,” she promised him. “And I will explain as much as I can to you.”

Anakin nodded but said nothing more as she grabbed his hand and squeezed it reassuringly— although she wasn’t sure who needed it more, her or him. She watched as they wheeled Anakin back into the sterile operating room, feeling everyone's eyes on her. But she couldn't find it in herself to care. 

Not anymore.

Chapter Text

“I can hear you thinking.”

Obi-Wan glanced over at the Senator, her eyes fixated on the spot where Anakin had been only moments before. They had already taken him back, leaving them alone in the sterile room as the Droids and medical Clones went about their business around them. The Sith— Leia, Obi-Wan reminded himself, gently— sat in silence while Obi-Wan and Padmé had been left glued to their spots. Cody was there too, but he was so still and quiet that he had almost forgotten he was there at all.

“That loud?” he found himself asking.

She said nothing in response, just balanced on the balls of her feet, arms crossed over her chest. Obi-Wan wished that he could read her mind, to know what she was thinking. It might’ve helped ease the already tense situation.

“You’re quiet,” she said at last. “Too quiet.”

“Yes, well,” he drawled. “My mind has been a bit… Preoccupied.”

She nodded, “I suppose I can understand that,” she said before adding; “it’s a lot. I know.”

A lot was an understatement, but Kenobi didn’t see the point in pressing the matter. At least, not yet, and certainly not in the middle of the medical bay either.

But he had so many questions.

“How long” he began, throat dry and lips cracked, “have you and Anakin been married?”

She considered the question for a few moments, eyes still not meeting his as he stared at her, awaiting her answer. It was as if she wasn’t there, but somewhere else; remembering.

“We married shortly after Geonosis,” she said quietly. “When Anakin escorted me back to Naboo. We uh… We had the ceremony at the lake house. It was only us and the Priest,” she said before adding; “and Artoo and Threepio.”

“That was nearly three years ago,” muttered Obi-Wan. “Anakin had just been Knighted… You mean to tell me that you’ve been married this entire time?!” he asked, mortification rising inside of him. He had always suspected that there was something more between Anakin and Padmé. But this?

“We had to keep it a secret,” her reasoning seemed weak, but she held her ground as she finally turned to face him. “It was the only way we could be together.”

“Force,” muttered Obi-Wan as he pinched the bridge of his nose before wincing in pain.

“General, are you—”

“I’m fine, Cody,” said the Jedi, waving the concerned Clone Commander off with his hand. “Just bruised.”

“I guess I should apologize for that,” said Padmé, eyes traveling over the damage that she had done to his face. She seemed almost guilty, but Obi-Wan had bigger things to worry about than a bruised face.

“I always knew you two had something going on,” he said, shaking his head as he ran a hand through his beard, exasperated. He had always suspected, as had everyone else, that Anakin and Padmé were together. They had always been close, especially after Geonosis… But in all of his musings, Obi-Wan had never considered the possibility that they were this involved. “But three years…” he muttered, lowering himself down onto one of the vacant bio-beds. “I don’t… How could I have been so blind…?”

“We can’t have been too obvious if you’re this surprised,” commented Padmé as Obi-Wan snorted.

“You are much better at hiding things,” he said before adding; “But Anakin is about as sharp as a marble when it comes to keeping secrets. But I never thought you two would be so reckless,” he continued, disapprovingly. “What were you two thinking?”

“I love him,” said Padmé defensively. “Maybe it wasn’t the best decision—”

No,” he said, firmly. “It wasn’t.”

She flinched. “Are you going to tell the Council?”

“I don’t know,” was his honest response. “I haven’t thought that far ahead, truthfully.”

“They’ll kick him out.”

The words sounded automatic, but they held weight. Enough weight to make Obi-Wan stop and think about what such actions would mean for Anakin.

Was he willing to do that to his former Padawan?

The door to the medbay swished open as Rex strolled into the room. “Sorry to interrupt,” he began, eyes darting between the occupants in the room. “But medical has finished discharging the prisoner and we need to move her to the cellblock.”

“Cellblock?” blinked Padmé. “I… You can’t…”

Obi-Wan nodded towards the Clone. “Thank you, Rex. I’ll take it from here.”

Rex looked like he was about to vehemently refuse, but Padmé beat him to it. “You can’t be serious.”

“Unfortunately, I am,” he said, not sugar-coating his words. “Daughter or not, she has committed serious crimes against the Republic. Theft, kidnapping, murder…” there was more he could’ve added to that list, but he knew that his point had already been made. “Until we can ascertain whether or not she is a threat— and you know as well as I do that she is— we have to ensure the safety of everyone on board this vessel.”

“Obi-Wan, look at her,” pleaded Padmé as she pointed towards the woman. “She needs help. Our help. That’s why she’s here… That’s why she came back.”

“She will have a chance to explain herself,” explained Obi-Wan. “But I will not have a Sith running around this ship unsupervised. I’m sorry, Padmé,” he said, earnestly. “I really am. But I have a duty to the Republic, as I’m sure you understand.”

She opened her mouth, but the words never came. He could feel her frustration building, as well as her anger, but she managed to hide it under a stony expression as she considered his words carefully. “I would never question your loyalty to the Republic, Obi-Wan. I know you have a duty to this ship and your men, but Leia is my daughter,” she breathed before adding; “and Anakin’s. Doesn’t that mean something to you?”

“Of course it does,” he could feel the heat rising to his face. “It means everything to me. But you’re letting your sentiments cloud your judgment, Senator.”

“I’ll have to agree with Kenobi on this one,” Rex said, face grave and solemn. “I know she’s your daughter, Senator. But she murdered three of my brothers and tried to kill General Skywalker,” he pursed his lips before adding; “I don’t trust her. None of us do.”

It was eerie how much weight Rex’s words held, and the way that they seemed to wrap around Padmé as they watched her take them in, eyes closing in resignation and defeat— and it hurt. Obi-Wan could feel it, seeping into the Force…

“I’ll go,” said Leia, speaking for the first time since leaving the surface of Endor. Her voice was a rasp, ill-used and almost grating as if there was something caught in it.

Obi-Wan watched quietly as the woman pushed herself off the bio-bed, brushing off her robes before holding her head high. She made her way towards them, her steps slow and tired as she held her hands out in front of her.

Rex went to put the cuffs back on her, but Obi-Wan held his hand out, feeling something strange emanating off the woman.

“No,” he found himself saying. “Let me.”

Rex didn’t question him as he handed over the Force inhibiting cuffs. He could feel the woman’s— Leia’s (he was still trying to get used to her name) eyes on him as he stepped forward and gently placed the restraints on her, his eyes refusing to meet her’s as he secured them with a click.

He felt like he should say something to the woman standing in front of him, but with the already tense situation, he felt it would only make things between them even more awkward.

“I will escort her down to the cellblock,” he said before adding; “Rex will stay with Padmé and Cody—”

“Sir, I think it would be best if I went with you,” said Rex, eyeing Leia with thinly veiled contempt.

“Your concern is noted,” he said. “But that won’t be necessary.”

His words left no room for argument as Rex and Cody reluctantly stepped aside. He could feel Padmé’s eyes on him as he led the woman out of the room, but she didn’t follow them.

“There are two Jedi and hundreds of Clone troopers aboard this vessel,” said Obi-Wan as soon as they had left the medbay, his eyes having caught her staring at the two lightsabers that hung at his side. “Even if you try, you won’t get very far.”

“Do you think I’m that stupid?” she asked, almost offended if her tone was any indication.

“Not at all,” he says, his voice calm and even friendly. “Consider it a warning, though.”

“You can rest assured that I have no intention of trying to escape,” she said before muttering under her breath; “yet.”

“You seem to be cooperative,” began Obi-Wan as they walked down the corridor. “I would advise you remain so. You might find your stay here more… Pleasant if you do.”

“And if I’m not?”

“Then I will have no choice but to inform the Council of our present situation,” he said before adding; “and I would have to return you to Coruscant to stand trial.”

She scoffed, “you would put a time traveler on trial?”

Obi-Wan had to agree that the idea seemed almost… Ludicrous, if he was being honest. But that didn’t change the fact that Leia had still committed egregious crimes. Crimes that she would need to answer for, one way or another.

“I would rather not,” he admitted truthfully. “I wasn’t lying when I said I would give you a chance to explain yourself,” he said before adding; “and I think we’re all a little curious as to what you’re doing here.”

“I don’t have to tell anyone that.”

“You told Padmé,” he said, glancing at her as they passed a group of Clone Troopers. He couldn’t help but notice the way her eyes followed them, as if they were the threat and not her. “You didn’t have to, but you did.”

She didn’t say anything to that as Obi-Wan resisted the urge to look at her again. He hadn’t noticed it before, but Leia’s eyes were no longer that sickly yellow color that he hated so much. Now they were brown, just like her mother’s…

“I won’t pretend to know anything about the future that you come from,” he continued. “But I know you came back here for a reason,” he said before adding; “what that reason is, I don’t know. But I know desperation when I see it.”

“You’re right,” she swallowed. “You don’t know anything about the future. If you did know… You wouldn’t be trying to stop me.”

“I doubt that even with knowledge of the future I would be okay with your murdering Anakin,” said Obi-Wan, sharply. “Or with anything that you’ve done, quite frankly.”

“You have no idea what I’m trying to prevent,” she sneered. “None.”

There was such venom in her voice that Obi-Wan had to resist the urge to step away from her. Her presence was a blazing vortex that he felt he was too close to, but he held his ground. She was not the first Sith he had ever encountered, nor would she be the last.

“I’m trying to do you a courtesy by giving you the chance to explain,” he said before adding; “not because you’re Anakin and Padmé’s daughter, but because I believe that deep down you have good intentions.”

It was almost painful to admit, but Obi-Wan trusted his intuition. He just hoped he was right.

They stopped in front of the cellblock, taking a moment to stand together as they stared at the cell that would serve as her quarters for the foreseeable future. Until, at least, she was deemed no longer a threat. Obi-Wan didn’t know how long that would take, or if it was even possible at that point.

“Stay your blade and we will help you,” he said at last. “Whatever it is that has led you here, we can face it together.”

Leia received his words stoically. He tempted to probe; to glean her emotions off of her because he didn’t like not being able to read people. He had always been good at judging others and figuring out their desires and motives. After all, they didn’t call him the Negotiator for nothing.

“Stop trying to be my friend. I don’t need your help, nor do I want it.”

He sighed, “I thought you might say that. Still, my offer stands.”

Leia remained silent as she was escorted into her cell. But Obi-Wan can tell that his words affected her. Maybe, just maybe, she will accept his offer.

He hoped for her sake she would.


 

Cody was the first person to greet Obi-Wan (he must’ve been following him), so he was the first person to see his withered face, lined with worry. “Are you all right, Sir?”

He only made it a few steps before he slumped onto a crate. He felt bone-deep tiredness all of the sudden, and he knew it wasn’t the physical sort. It was hard— being around someone with such anger and hatred inside of them. He felt drained; and just… Strangely empty.

“Cody?” he managed, not sure why the other man was there. “Have you been following me?”

“Guilty,” said the Clone. “Thought you would’ve noticed by now.”

“I’ve been distracted,” said Obi-Wan, wondering how he had missed the other man’s presence. They had spent so much time together here and on the battlefield that the Jedi had become used to his presence, much like he was Anakin’s. And just like Anakin, he had always been able to sense him, whether he was near or far.

“I could tell,” Cody said, worry etched onto his face. “I was worried she would try something.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help the small smile that spread across his face. “And that was your excuse for following me?”

“I’m worried,” was his honest response. “So are the rest of the men, but they won’t admit it,” he said before adding; “that and, well… Seeing as she did try to kill General Skywalker…”

Obi-Wan held up a hand. “You don’t need to explain yourself. I understand.”

He watched as the Clone shifted, his weight going from one foot to the next. Obi-Wan could tell that wasn’t the reaction that Cody had been expecting, but the Clone brushed it off as he readied himself to ask another question.

“Did she say something to you?”

Obi-Wan frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Did she tell you why…?” he swallowed. “Did she tell you why she’s here?” followed by the unspoken, ‘did she tell you why she tried to kill Skywalker?’

“No,” he shook his head. “She did talk… But not about that.”

“I see,” that was a lie, but Obi-Wan didn’t press the matter. “Is she sane?”

“Sane?” asked Obi-Wan with raised eyebrows. It wasn’t exactly a question he had been expecting from the other man.

“I can’t imagine that she’s all there… In the head, I mean,” explained Cody before adding; “she tried to erase herself from the timeline. Doesn’t strike me as something a sane person would want much less try to do.”

“She’s a Sith,” said Obi-Wan weakly. “They do strange things.”

“So is Dooku,” began Cody. “And yet I doubt he would try something like this.”

Cody was right… Dooku was a Sith, but he wasn’t crazy. Everything he did was methodically planned out. It was clear that the Count paid attention to detail. He wasn’t rash or impulsive… He was almost…

He shook his head. There wasn’t any point in pondering about the Count’s motives. Not when he had a bigger problem staring him down in the face.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but desperation can drive a person to do insane things,” he said. “I can imagine it being a driving force behind Leia’s actions.”

“She must be very desperate then,” commented Cody.

“Yes,” agreed Obi-Wan, a pit forming in his stomach at the thought. What about the future had driven her to such extremes? Did he even want to know? “Very desperate indeed.”

Chapter Text

She’d fallen asleep.

“Leia,” Luke whispered, crouched beside her on the cot. She was still in the cell— that much hadn’t changed, but she was also far, far away at the same time. She could no longer feel the hum of the hyperdrive or the sound of footsteps in the hall outside. Everything was still, like the crystal-clear lakes on Alderaan. “Listen to me, Leia.”

She squeezed her eyes shut.

The cot beneath her dipped as she felt Luke place his hand on her shoulder.

“Please,” she croaked. “Leave me alone.”

She opened her eyes just in time to see the pained look in his eyes, her heart twisting and clenching inside of her, reminding her that this was all too real. Luke still had his hand on her shoulder, his touch real and tangible.

“I’m trying to help you.”

“You’re dead,” her voice felt strange like it wasn’t even her own. Staring at him was like looking through water; hazy and distorted. “You can’t help me. Not anymore."

This was a dream. Luke wasn’t actually there, no matter how much she wished he was. This was all in her head, and so was he.

“You’re making a mess of things.”

“I’m trying to fix things,” she insisted, voice dry and hands tightening. Can’t you see that?”

“You’re not supposed to be here,” he shook his head, eyes drifting past her to stare at something beyond her vision. “You don’t belong here, Leia. Neither of us do.”

“I didn’t ask you to come,” she snapped.

She regretted the words as soon as they were out, but Luke didn’t seem hurt as he pursed his lips. There was something in his eyes— something that Leia didn’t like. It wasn’t hurt or anger. It was sad, pitying even.

“You’re my sister,” he explained. “I’ll follow you anywhere.”

Leia knew that he meant every word. He would follow her anywhere, through time and space. Even down this path of self-destruction. 

She shook her head. “You can’t stop me. I’ve already made my decision,” she said before adding; “this is what needs to be done. To save the galaxy.”

“You’ve already failed,” he said, his words were like salt in an already festering wound. Burning, hot, and deep. The Force rolled and churned in agreement. “Anakin Skywalker is still alive, and our mother is already pregnant. You haven’t stopped anything, Leia. You’ve just managed to tear time itself apart.”

His words cut through her like a saber, maiming and slicing Leia as she felt something course through her— her chest clenching in pain. Luke was right. She had failed.

“There can’t be two of you in the same timeline,” he continued. “You being here is an affront to the Force.”

“I didn’t know that she was pregnant,” exclaimed Leia. “The ritual—”

“—came with a price,” he said, cutting her off before she had a chance to even explain herself. “As all Dark Side spells do. You were tricked. And now it’s only a matter of time before the Force tries to correct the paradox that you created.”

“I wasn’t planning on making it out of this alive,” she said, weakly. “If I die, then so be it. But I will not let Palpatine rise to power,” she shook her head. “And I will not allow Vader to come into existence.”

“Killing our father won’t stop Palpatine,” he had said that before, and Leia had never listened to him. “You need him.”

She shook her head vehemently at that. No, no. I am not doing that.”

He shook his head, sadly. “You might not have another choice.”

“I don’t need him,” she hissed. “I never needed him.”

He sighed, gaze falling on something behind her. “You can’t hate him forever, Leia. Even if it warms you now— your enmity for him will leave you cold in your grave.”

If it had been anyone but Luke telling her these words, she might’ve taken it as a threat. But she knew it wasn’t. He was only telling her the truth, whether she wanted to hear it or not— which she most definitely did not want as she closed her eyes, feeling the Force swirling around her, flowing through her-- proof that this was all happening inside of her head. In reality, she was still in a cellblock with her Force inhibiting cuffs on...

But here (wherever Luke existed), her connection to the Force remained.

“Please,” she wasn’t begging— she was far past that. “Leave. Me. Alone.”

“It isn’t too late for you, Leia,” he pressed. “I failed; our father failed. But you still have a chance to fix things. You and father—"

“Get out.”

“—if you would only let go of your hate—”

“I said get out!” she bellowed, her hands coming in front of her as Luke recoiled, the Force around them twisting and churning painfully as she commanded it, drawing it on herself as he gave her a soulful look. You’re not my brother, she thought, already feeling the dreamscape around her beginning to crumble and fade. You’re just an echo. A shell of the man you once were.

“You don’t believe that.”

“Luke is dead,” she breathed, hating the way her voice sounded so cold, so heartless. But there was no going back. “So stop haunting me.”

With one final push, he was gone; disappearing into the nexus that was the Force, the place where his presence was felt like a void, a black hole. She could feel herself starting to wake up, everything fading and falling away.

When she did wake, Leia could feel tears in her eyes; hot and dripping freely down her cheeks. She wiped them away, her gaze lingering on the visible divot on the cot as she let out a choked sob.

As much as she loved her brother, it was easier living without his ghost.


 

In his absence, Padmè had found her way from the medbay to the conference room. When he found her, she was seated at the table, hair still drying in a simple braid down her back. Her face was illuminated by the glow of a holo-pad, her tired eyes rising to meet his as he entered the room.

“Obi-Wan,” she greeted, setting the pad aside.

“Padmè,” he nodded, his voice stiff as he placed his hands behind his back. He wasn’t sure if he should sit down or not.

“Is Leia—”

“She’s fine.”

He watched as she bit her lip, looking out the window at the moon below. They were still in orbit around Endor, where they would remain until Obi-Wan could figure out what his next move was going to be.

“Anakin is out of surgery,” she said, still not meeting his gaze. “It went well. The Doctor says he should be awake soon.”

“That’s… Good.”

“Hmm,” she hummed in agreement, fingers tapping against the table. “He won’t be happy when he sees the model they gave him. The upgrades that he was working on—”

“Anakin’s always been picky when it comes to that arm,” he said before adding; “But he’ll live.”

He knew was inevitable that Anakin would be grumpy when he saw that nearly three years of mechanical upgrades had been destroyed. But at least that meant that he would have something to busy himself with, even if it meant that Obi-Wan would have to listen to him grumble and complain.

“Still,” she shook her head. “He’s not going to be happy.”

And somehow Obi-Wan knew she wasn’t talking about the arm.

“I think the arm will be the least of his worries,” said Obi-Wan, lowering himself down onto the chair opposite of her. “Padmè—”

“I know,” she breathed. “You don’t have to tell me. I already know what you’re going to say.”

“What were you two thinking?” he breathed, incredulous, saying it regardless of the tired look in her eyes. He needed to know; needed an explanation.

“We weren’t thinking anything,” she said before adding; “we just… fell in love.”

She said it as if that were the most simple and cursory explanation there was, and as much as Obi-Wan could understand; could empathize with her, it didn’t stop him from pinching the bridge of his nose and letting out an exasperated sigh.

“Love,” he began. “Is one thing. But marriage?”

He shook his head, not feeling the need to clarify his thoughts. He knew she was smart enough to read between the lines.

“Was this Anakin’s idea?”

“No,” she shook her head, raising her head. “It was mine, actually,” she said before adding; “I didn’t want to be with Anakin unless I could actually be with him. So we made a vow before the eyes of Shiraya with her priest as witness.”

He had always taken Padmè for a romantic; an idealist at heart.

This shouldn’t have surprised him. Marriage wasn’t something that he could see Anakin proposing. He would’ve been happy just being with her, without the vow or the ceremony. But Padmè was an aristocratic woman from a planet where marriage was culturally encouraged.

But that didn’t change anything. No matter how much he found himself able to empathize with them or understand their motives, Obi-Wan still found himself mulling over the ethics of it all. A Senator and a Jedi Knight having an affair was irresponsible enough, but a Senator and a General of the Grand Army of the Republic?

“Do you have any idea,” he breathed, “how much of a scandal the two of you have created?”

“We know the Council will—”

“I’m not talking about the Order,” he cut in, not letting her finish her statement. “I’m talking about the political ramifications. Anakin would be expelled, yes. But the Senate… They would be outraged. You would lose your position. Your credibility and reputation would be destroyed.”

“I know.”

“How do you think the other Senators would feel?” he asked. “If they found out that you might have had sensitive information about the War from the Jedi before them? Or to find out that a member of the Order potentially had access to confidential Senate matters through you?”

“They would be angry,” she agreed, shaking her head. “They would ask Queen Jamillia for my immediate dismissal. And they would be right to do so.”

It was common knowledge that she had signed a contract with the Queen. One of the clauses in that contract stated that she would not do anything to jeopardize the integrity of the Nabooian consulate, which included having inappropriate and unethical relationships. Her marriage to Anakin checked all of those boxes and more.

Her and Queen Jamillia had always had a good working relationship. But not even Jamillia would be able to protect Padmè from the fallout of such a revelation.  

“And that’s not even considering what will happen to the both of you once the holo-news gets their hands on the story,” he said before adding; “I know you both are popular in the media, but they will spin this every way they can and none of them will be good.”

“I know.”

“Anakin will be expelled from the Order,” he continued. “Which is, quite frankly, something I don’t even want to think about at the moment. But that being said, Anakin’s expulsion might be the least of our worries once the Separatists get a hold of this information.”

And once they did, Obi-Wan knew they would have a field-day smearing the Senate as well as his friends. Dooku would be merciless in using their marriage as evidence of corruption within the Galactic Senate, propaganda against the Republic and the Order.

It was a nightmare to think about. Obi-Wan could already feel a headache coming on just from considering all the different outcomes.

“I know,” she breathed, voice cracking. “We aren’t naïve. We knew the consequences.”

Her gaze turned weary; hard-pressed and lined suddenly with age that hadn’t been there before, and he was glad to see it. It was proof that she acknowledged the consequences in a rational way that he wasn’t sure he could get if he were talking to Anakin.

“I know you’re disappointed,” she continued. “And you have every right to be. We lied to you, deceived you. I would be angry too.”

“I’m not angry,” he sighed, stroking his beard tiredly. “I just don’t know why Anakin didn't feel he could trust me."

She flinched.

He didn’t mean to be rude, but he felt he owed her a certain amount of truth. His trust in the both of them had been shaken, a small part of him wondering why his own Padawan felt as though he couldn’t confide in him. But at the same time, he wondered if they were wrong not to have. As much as he loved Anakin, he was still loyal to the Order; the Council. Anakin knew this.

Is that why his Padawan had kept this secret from him? Because he felt as though he couldn’t trust him?

He had always felt as though he and Anakin had a good relationship. They had always so much more than just Master and Padawan, and Obi-Wan had always taken pride in being Anakin’s friend too. In fact, if anyone were to ask him how he would describe their relationship, Obi-Wan would’ve said that they were brothers.

But brothers trusted each other, right?

He was getting lost in his own thoughts, and Padmè could tell this as she reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, gentle and comforting despite the tense atmosphere that existed between the two of them.

“Anakin loves you,” she said. “And he does trust you. He just—”

“He didn’t want to put me in an awkward position,” he breathed, centering himself.

“Neither of us did,” she said. “And with everything going on, the War… It just didn’t seem like the right time.”

“He was planning on leaving the Order, wasn’t he?” He already knew the answer, but that didn’t stop him from asking the question aloud as she pursed her lips.

“It was his plan, eventually,” she conceded. “But he had no intention of leaving until after the War. There was too much to be done, and he knew he had a duty. We both did.”

It was the only way that Anakin and Padmè could ever truly be together. So long as the shadow of the Order loomed over them, Obi-Wan knew that Anakin would always be bound to it in some way, just as he had been with Satine. That was why Obi-Wan had never been able to pursue a relationship with her so long as he was a Jedi— he didn’t think it would’ve been possible to serve both love and duty at the same time.

He wondered if there wasn’t a war going on, would Anakin have already left?

“I suppose waiting until after the War would’ve minimized the damage to some degree,” he continued after a pause. “But with the appearance of your daughter, I don’t know if that is a possibility anymore…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “I’m supposed to meet with the Council in a few hours and I am still deciding on what I am going to tell them.”

“If you tell them, they will inform the Senate,” she asked, lips thin. He couldn’t tell if she was stating a fact or if she was trying to sway his mind.

He watched her closely as she shook her head.

“I hope the Order is prepared to lose one of their top Generals.”

“Padmè—”

“Consider what this will do to the War effort,” she started. “You know Anakin is so much more than just a General. He is the poster boy for the Republic; a symbol. All of the Clones respect him, and the public loves him. Not only that, but his prowess on the battlefield has been instrumental in changing the tide of the War. Losing him would be a devastating loss.”

“You don't have to tell me,” he shot back. “You don’t think I understand what telling the Council would mean for him? For you?”

He was getting defensive, but he didn’t appreciate being threatened. Especially by someone who had never had to get their hands dirty in the trenches while having to listen to the sound of men dying around them.

“My apologies,” she breathed, reading his defensive attitude loud and clear. “I didn’t mean to imply that you were ignorant or threaten you.”

He knew she hadn't meant to offend him, but tensions were just too high between them at the moment to continue this line of discussion.

"Obi-Wan--"

“Anakin will be awake soon,” he deflected, changing the course of the conversation elsewhere. “You should be there with him."

They could talk more then. When everyone had rested and Anakin was there, and after Leia was given a chance to explain herself. But for now, it would be best if they gave each other space; time to process and think.

“And you?” she asked, watching him as he pushed his chair back and rose from his seat. “What will you do in the meantime?”

“Meditate,” he supplied. “Consider my options.”

Decide what I'm going to tell the Council-- whether I will them anything, he thought without voicing. He knew that the decision was entirely up to him what happened from here on out; a weight having been placed on his shoulders. 

She nodded, understanding what he meant by that very clearly.

“I will leave you to it then,” she said, rising to her feet as well. “But in the meantime— if you need me— I will be with my husband.”

As soon as she went to leave, Obi-Wan called after her. “Whatever happens from here on out, whatever I choose to tell the Council. You should know that it’s not personal.”

She didn’t turn back around to meet his gaze as she nodded, stiffly. Shoulder’s tensing and rising with each breath.

“I understand.”

As Obi-Wan watched her exit the room, he wondered if she really did. Or if she was just trying to placate him. Somehow, deep down, he knew that no matter what decision he made regarding them, their friendship would never be the same again.

 

Chapter Text

His eyes opened to sterile white sheets and a familiar hand on his shoulder, soft and gentle. He stiffened for a moment, blinking through the anesthesia as he reached out through the Force—

“Ani,” came his wife’s voice, her face coming into focus above him. She still looked hazy as he tried blinking some more, still under the effects of the drugs that were coursing through his veins.

“Wha—?” pain shot up his arm as he groaned.

“Easy,” she breathed, placing a hand on his shoulder, just above the gauze. “The Doctor says that everything went fine, but that your arm is going to hurt for a while as your nervous system adjusts to the new electrodes.”

“Obi-Wan—?” he asked, looking around the room for his former Master. “Is he?”

“He’s in a meeting with the Council,” she said, her voice barely above that of a whisper as she withdrew her hand from his shoulder. She swallowed. Once and then twice for good measure before adding; “He wanted to be here when you woke, but…”

“But he needed to update the Council on our situation,” said Anakin, the muscle in his jaw tensing as he stared up at the ceiling. His arm tingled, but it didn’t hurt. Not yet. He shook his head, still refusing to meet her gaze. “He’s going to tell them, isn’t he?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know…”

Anakin nodded, his features tight and his body rigid. The sheets crumpled between his flesh fingers. “He will.”

“You don’t know that.”

He shuddered as the tingling in his hand began to spread up his arm. It was as if his entire arm had fallen asleep and the blood was finally being given a chance to spread, his nerves reacting as it began to feel like needles were poking him.

“I know Obi-Wan,” he said, his eyes hard as he glanced over at her. “He’s loyal to the Council.”

“He’s loyal to you too,” she began. “He loves you, Anakin. He always has.”

Anakin closed his eyes in pain, both from the needles in his skin and from the emotional toll that this entire situation was taking on him. It hurt. It hurt so much.

“Love has nothing to do with this,” he said, resolute in what his former Master was going to do. “He will do his duty.”

Padmè didn’t say anything else, just stared at him as the needles began to turn into fire pokers that licked at his skin and nerves.


 

Commander Cody was confident, but Leia could tell that it was an act. She didn't need the Force to feel his fear and uncertainty, hidden away and shrouded behind a sturdy exterior of hardness. 

He came by a few hours after she had woken, a tray of sloppy food (if it could even be called that) in his hands. Two Clones had flanked him, their hands resting on their blasters. Although she couldn’t see their faces behind the helmets, she could feel their eyes on her, watching her, waiting for her misstep.

“Here,” he had said as he set the tray on the ground, using his foot to push it closer to her. “Breakfast.”

“What is it?” she asked, peering down at whatever it was that was on the plate. It could barely pass as food in her opinion, but then again she had eaten worst. Han's cooking, in particular, came to mind.

“Food,” was Cody’s purposefully vague response as Leia clenched her teeth, holding back a sarcastic reply that surely would not have been appreciated. Cody looked confident as he stared at her, his back ramrod straight and his tone steady. It almost hurt looking at him, Leia’s mind flashing back to another time; to soldiers that wore armor that looked much the same.

But Cody wasn’t a Stormtrooper. None of the Clones were… Yet.

But that didn’t stop the shiver that always ran up her spine when she saw them.

It was only a matter of time, she thought as she stared at the tray of food. They were all walking bombs; their timers were already counting down.

And none of them knew it.

She almost felt sorry for them.

“Are you going to eat or just stare at it?” he asked, snapping her out of her reverie. He sounded annoyed; rightly so she supposed. “I can always take it back,” he said as Leia felt her stomach twist with hunger. How long had it been since she had last eaten?

“No,” she said, voice much softer than she expected. “I’ll eat it,” she inhaled deeply before adding; “thank you.”

He watched as she bent down to awkwardly retrieve the tray, her inhibitor cuffs making it difficult as she carried it back to the cot and set it down. She took a hesitant bite, then another and another, the hunger in her stomach guiding her actions. The food itself was bland and tasteless; much like the rations at the Alliance had been.

Once he was confident that she would finish it, he and the Clones had left with the promise that they would be back to retrieve her soon. That had been three hours ago.

When the doors swished open, she expected to see Cody. But instead of the Clone, it was Obi-Wan who strolled into the room. He was alone this time. 

“Leia,” greeted Obi-Wan, his hands behind his back as he gave her a polite smile— one she had the feeling was nothing more than a formality (she could see how he garnered his reputation as a Negotiator).

It was difficult for Leia not to be overwhelmed whenever she saw him. She had never known Obi-Wan personally, but she had heard more than her fair share of stories about the man from her father. And of course, she couldn’t help but be reminded of the Obi-Wan that she did remember— the one that had brought her brother to her and helped save her life.

A heaviness fell on her at that realization. It was like watching an old dream come to life as she relived his death over and over in her head, Luke’s scream ringing dissonantly in her ear as an empty robe fell to the ground.

She closed her eyes as she willed the memory away.

“General Kenobi,” she intoned, nodding her head once she had found her composure. She rose to her feet, the floor cold beneath her as he watched her every move, like a hawk. She knew that she put him on edge, even though he didn’t show it externally. But Leia knew it was there, nonetheless. She had always been good at reading people. “Or do you prefer Master Kenobi?”

He cleared his throat. “Obi-Wan is fine.”

She eyed him for a few moments before shrugging nonchalantly. “Very well then. Obi-Wan it is.”

He didn’t say anything. Not for a few long moments that felt like an eternity as he stared at her, brow wrinkling in obvious thought.

“What?” she asked, scanning his face and features with a careful eye.

“Correct me if I am wrong, but I get the sense that you and I don’t know each other very well,” he commented. There was something there. Something that hadn’t been there before. It felt like an equal measure of curiosity and confusion and… Fear. Leia didn’t know how she was able to sense that through the Force inhibiting cuffs, but she could.

Obi-Wan was afraid.

Because there were a multitude of reasons why they wouldn’t know each other, and none of them sat well with him.

She shook her head. “Truth be told, you and I were never formally introduced.”

He nodded, accepting her words at face value. “I see.”

It wasn’t the reaction that she had been expecting, and so against her better judgment, she added; “although I did hear stories about you growing up. My father always spoke fondly of you.”

“Did he?” he asked, hesitantly.

She nodded. “He always considered you a close friend and ally,” she said before adding; “he would tell me of your heroism during the War. How dedicated to serving the Republic you were.”

“Did he tell you anything else?” he asked, gauging her for more information. He retained some measure of hesitancy as well as confusion and skepticism. Maybe he knew, deep down, that Leia wasn’t talking about Anakin.

She shook her head. “Not really. He always spoke so highly of you. But my brother—”

“Your brother?” asked Obi-Wan, eyebrows raising in surprise.

“My twin brother,” she said before quietly adding; “Luke.”

It twinged, saying his name out loud. Like a knife to the chest— an ache that never quite went away. It didn’t help that Luke’s image still clearly burned into her memory, his sad eyes pervading every inch of her mind as she fought off a tidal wave of self-loathing.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you have a brother,” he said softly, sensing from the pained look on her face that there was a story there. A story filled with pain and sadness.

“Had,” she said, voice barely above that of a whisper. “I had a brother.”

“I take it he’s—”

“Dead.”

It was with a strange detachment that she noticed Obi-Wan flinch out of the corner of her eye. The cold from the air vent rushed down on her as she felt a shiver run up her spine, the hair on her skin prickling and rising.

Force how she hated saying the word aloud. Luke was dead, but he wasn’t at the same time. He was trapped, stuck between the realm of the living and the dead.

He haunted her.

Death isn’t the end, she tried to remind herself when the familiar guilt blossomed in her chest. She shook her head, still refusing to meet Obi-Wan’s observant gaze. But no matter how hard she tried to convince herself, she was painfully reminded of the moment she felt him die. It had hurt— sucked her breath away before she had even realized it was gone.

But Luke wasn’t the only person she had lost that day.

She remembered the feeling of Han in her arms, bloodied and crumpled. He had held on as long as he could through pained breaths and slight wheezes before he had finally succumbed to his wounds. She remembered him going still in her arms, watching as his chest stopped moving.

If Luke’s death had been the gasoline, Han’s had been the match that had ignited the entire galaxy.

“Is he the reason you came?” asked Obi-Wan before adding; “it’s clear that you came back here for a reason. What that reason is, I don’t know but…”

“But what?” she asked, eyebrows raising as she crossed her arms in front of her defensively.

“But I know pain when I see it,” he said, not moving. He watched her keenly, gauging her reaction as he continued. “Your brother… He was murdered wasn’t he?”

She said nothing as she tried to school her face into something less telling, but it didn’t fool him.

Don’t go there. Please don’t go there. Please—

“And you feel as though you didn’t do enough to stop it,” he said as she felt her hand clench at her side. “You feel guilty, and you carry that with you, don’t you?”

“You don’t know anything about me,” she cautioned, stomach twisting and hands clenching. “Or my brother.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, in what felt more like a reflex than anything. Regretfully he added; “I meant no disrespect. What I meant to say was that I understand your pain. I lost someone very close to me as well.”

She waited a moment longer. Wondered who this person was and how deeply their death had affected him, and whether it could even compare to the pain of losing her brother and Han. But almost as soon as the thought appeared, she pushed it as far out of her mind as possible. Loss was loss, and pain was pain. No matter who it was felt by.

“Then you understand,” she said finally, giving in to temptation as she wrapped her arms around herself. She hated giving off the appearance of weakness or anything similar, but she needed the warmth that only flesh could provide (even if it was just her own). “What it’s like to lose,” she clarified before adding; “And what it’s like to hate.”

Kenobi’s face was like stone. Unmoving and unchanging. Even beneath her gaze, she couldn’t find any indication as to what was going through his mind.

“You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?”

“More than I’m proud to admit,” he frowned. “But hate— it isn’t the Jedi way. It only leads to more suffering, in my experience— it’s not worth it in the end,” he said before mournfully adding; “the price for hatred is too high.”

She scoffed at that. “Easy for you to say. You haven’t lost everything. You still have your friends, your temple, your precious religion. I on the other hand have nothing— no one to call my own, and nowhere to call my home. Hate,” she inhaled, closing her eyes so that she could revel in the cold that her sorrow brought her, “is all that I have left.”

“So much so that you’re willing to wipe yourself out of existence to spite the galaxy?” he asked, meeting her gaze frankly as she felt the breath leave her body.

No, no, no—

“You can’t play the role of a god, Leia,” it sounded like he was chastising her as if she nothing more than a student who needed to learn a lesson the hard way. “You cannot create or destroy life— even your own.”

“I wasn’t trying to spite the galaxy,” she said, although the way it came out, it sounded like she was trying to convince herself instead of him. “I wasn’t. I was trying to save it.”

“Denying it won’t change anything,” he said disapprovingly, not buying into her excuses as she bit her tongue, her teeth digging into the soft flesh until she swore she could taste blood. “When my Master died, for the briefest of moments, I wanted to watch the galaxy burn. I’ll never forget those few seconds, but I found a way to move on. I found a reason to persist… You haven’t.”

She knew he was trying to help through blatant honesty, but it hurt.

He doesn’t understand, she tried to convince herself. Not really.

There was no way for him to understand. No way for him to know or even understand her reasons. He had no context, no history, no knowledge. Yes, he knew pain, but not to the degree that she had. And yes, he had lost— would lose as much as she had, but not yet. Here and now, he didn’t understand.

“What happened to you?” he asked, although Leia could tell that he really didn’t want to know the answer to that question. But it needed to be asked, she guessed. And Obi-Wan had never shied away from duty.

“You won’t like the answer.”

“I figured as much,” he acknowledged, brows creasing and eyes drifting. “But you’ve told me more than you probably meant to, and I am very good at puzzles.”

“Is that what I am to you?” she asked, bitterness rising inside of her. “A puzzle?”

“Yes,” he found no reason to lie as he ran his fingers through his beard. “But you are more than that, I’m afraid.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I think you already know,” he said as he smiled at her— not a real one, she noted. It wasn’t a friendly smile that one might give to someone they cared about, but rather an icy one that she knew was nothing more than a mask. She had given that same smile to Tarkin on more than one occasion during her younger days in the Imperial Senate. Before the Death Star, before Alderaan…

She watched as he straightened himself out as if readying to leave as he glanced around the room. “You are quite the enigma, Ms. Leia. But you are also the daughter of two people whom I take pride in calling my friends.”

“They aren’t really my parents,” she said, truthfully. There was no malice or hatred in her voice, just the truth— however deep it cut. “They didn’t raise me. They didn’t protect me, or nurture me, or love me… At least, not in any way that can be remembered.”

“Oh I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” he said before pointing towards the bruise that had blossomed on his face. “Your mother did this to me just so she could get to you. She is very protective of you— not that I can blame her. It’s only a parent’s nature to protect their child.”

Not Vader’s, she wanted to say, bitterness and anger bubbling up inside of her as she thought of Luke’s death as well as Vader’s unwillingness to save his own son.

But Obi-Wan didn’t know that. He couldn’t understand the irony of what he had just said— how deep his words had cut into an already existing wound. That was the only thing that was keeping her from opening her mouth and giving him a piece of her mind. Coldness seeped into the room and her body, or maybe it was the other way around. She couldn’t be sure anymore as she felt her vision blur.

“And what do you know,” she ground out, nostrils flaring and knuckles whitening, “of parenting?”

What would a Jedi— who had been taken from his mother's breast before he could even remember— know of what was in a parent’s nature or not? A Jedi who had never had children of his own and who certainly would never find himself in that role.

What could he possibly know?

“I am a teacher and a mentor,” he said before adding; “and although I know it is not the same, I’ve seen enough to know that killing Anakin would not erase what has already been done to you— no matter how much you think it will.”

“Good for you I’m not trying to,” she snapped before murmuring under her breath; “at least not anymore.”

“I’m sure Anakin will be delighted to hear that you have no further plans to end his life,” he countered before adding; “speaking of Anakin, he’s awake now. Although he’s not too happy about his arm. He’s spent a lot of time working on that thing, you know.”

She wasn’t sure what he was trying to get at, nor did she care as she felt her eyes darken.

“He should be grateful that his arm was all that he lost,” she said, eyes beginning to flicker against her will as he watched her, a grim look crossing his features as her irises danced between the two colors.

“Yes,” he agreed, mild again, eyes shadowed and unreadable. “I’m sure he is.”

He turned to leave, but he stopped in front of the door, his hand coming to rest gently on the wall as he glanced back at her. “I have no doubt that you came here with good intentions, but Anakin will want to know why you tried to kill him. And if I know my former Padawan, he will not rest until he has the answer.”

Persistent. Vader had always been persistent. What he wanted, he got. And no one dared question him.

But could she say the same for Anakin?

Before Obi-Wan could take his leave, he gave her one last warning: “I won’t pretend to understand your reasons for being here, but nothing you say will excuse the crimes that you have committed. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she choked out, her voice barely above that of a whisper. “I do.”


 

Padmè did not move as she watched Anakin, his head buried deeply in his hands as they waited for Obi-Wan to return. She could tell that he was overwhelmed, his entire posture rigid as his breaths came out shaky. She could tell that he was in pain from his arm, but he made no mention of it. In fact, ever since he had woken up in the infirmary, he hadn’t said a word to her.

She didn’t blame him.

Beside her, someone cleared their throat as she looked over to see Rex. Somewhere in the silence, he had managed to slip into the room undetected. She had no idea how long he had been standing there, but she guessed it didn’t matter.

“We took the liberty of searching her ship,” began Rex as he looked between the two of them uneasily. “We uh— we didn’t find much. Just a change of clothes and this,” he said as he carefully set a pair of dice down on the table, a chain connecting the both of them. “I had a feeling she might want this back.”

His voice was strained and quiet, and so very cautious as his gaze settled on Anakin, who hadn’t even bothered to look up, his head still buried in his hands.

“Thank you, Rex,” said Padmè as she gave him a small smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes as he nodded.

“We contacted the shipyard on Corellia,” he said before adding; “they would like their ship back. Should we—?”

“Send it back.”

Rex and Padmè glanced over at Anakin, who was staring at Rex, his mouth pressed firmly together, and his eyes shrouded in— in something. Padmè wasn’t quite sure what.

“Maybe we should—” she began before he swiftly cut her off, his gloved hand raising to stop her before she could finish.

“It’s not her ship. She stole it. Now it must be returned to its rightful owners,” he said before turning to address Rex once more. “Tell them they’ll have it back by tomorrow.”

“Yes sir,” said Rex, eyes drifting over to Padmè as if he were waiting for her approval, which was silly. He didn’t need her approval, but she offered it nonetheless as she nodded.

“Anakin is right,” the words felt slick in her throat. “It should be returned.”

She didn’t know why she felt so defensive over a ship, but it was pointless. Her husband was right. It wasn’t Leia’s ship. She had stolen it, she reminded herself gently. If someone had taken her ship, she would want it back. This was no exception.

“I’ll send two of my men,” said Rex before quietly adding; “I’ll be on the bridge if either of you need me.”

He turned to take his leave, but he paused at the door, uncertainty lacing his features as he glanced back at the two of them, something in his eyes that a lot like guilt to Padmè.

“I’m sorry,” he said before adding; “for shooting her. I was just doing what I thought I had to do, I had no idea that she was—” He shook his head, swallowing. “I had no idea she was your daughter.”

Anakin shuddered beside her, the muscles in his jaw tensing and twitching as his gloved hand twisted and clenched. Padmè had no idea what thoughts were running through his head, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know either.

“You couldn’t have known,” said Padmè, surprised by the strength in her voice considering how weak and tired she felt. “You did what you thought you had to, and you saved Anakin’s life. You did the right thing. Don’t apologize for that.”

Never apologize for that, she wanted to add before she bit her tongue, her teeth digging into the soft flesh.

It had been Rex who had saved Anakin from Leia’s blade. And for that, she was beyond grateful.

There were so many other ways that their fight could have ended, and none of them good. She didn’t know why Rex felt the need to apologize for anything. None of this had been his fault.

“I know I did,” he said, his words surprising her as he shook his head. “If I had to, I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he shook his head before adding; “I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry that I had to do it in the first place.”

Padmè nodded in understanding as she watched Rex straighten himself out, his eyes lingering on Anakin for a few seconds before he finally took his leave, the doors swishing closed behind him as he left the two of them alone once more.

Without much thought, she found herself reaching out to grasp the pair of dice, her hand wrapping around it as she twirled it mindlessly around her fingers. She didn’t know how long she stared down at them before the doors swished open again.

“I thought I would find you two here,” said Obi-Wan, his voice much too cheerful for either her or Anakin’s taste as they both stared at him. A bad taste filled her mouth at the sight of him, but she swallowed it down as she set the dice down.

“How was your meeting with the Council?” she asked.

“It went well,” he said, taking a moment to take his seat across from them, his eyes falling on Anakin.

“Well?” asked Anakin, leaning back in his seat as he stared numbly over at the man whom he had known since he was a child. The same man that he trusted with his life and who had become more like a brother to him than anything. “Should I turn in my lightsaber or wait until we get back to Coruscant to do that?”

“Anakin—”

“Do I even get to say goodbye to my men?” he continued, fist-clenching, voice shaking. “I’ve fought beside them for almost three years now. I should at least be given that much.”

“Anakin—” Obi-Wan tried, but Anakin wasn’t about to let him get a word in as he shook his head, hurt and pain lacing his features as he continued; “I can’t leave, Obi-Wan. Not with the War still going. I have to see this through. I can’t leave my men now.”

“And you won’t,” said Obi-Wan as Anakin paused.

His eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?”

“I didn’t tell them.”

At that, Anakin’s entire body jolted back in surprise and shock as Padmè lifted her head, not quite sure if she had heard that right.

Anakin shook his head. “Wait, you didn’t tell them?

“After speaking with Leia, I realized that it might be pertinent to wait until we had all of the facts,” he said as Anakin froze momentarily, then slowly straightened up to look at Padmè. He was looking at her with thinly veiled concern. “I can tell that she came back with a purpose. It would’ve been a disservice to reveal her identity to the Council before being given a chance to explain herself,” he said before adding; “not to mention I don’t believe it would’ve been fair to either of you.”

“Us?” she asked, her thoughts spinning and whirling at Obi-Wan’s words.

She watched as his eyes softened visibly. “I didn’t believe it was my place to tell them.”

“So what did you tell them?” asked Anakin, his eyes still narrowed in suspicion, and his words measured as he stared at the other Jedi. It hurt to see him so distrustful of his former Master, but she supposed that all of their trust in each other had been shaken.

Obi-Wan’s most of all.

“Nothing incriminating,” he said before adding; “I told them that you two fought—”

Anakin winced.

“And that you were injured,” he said as he gestured toward Anakin’s arm. “And that you were receiving medical attention. As for Leia… As far as they are concerned, she escaped.”

Padmè released a breath that she didn’t realize she had been holding as Anakin blinked. Once then twice.

“You lied to them?” he breathed, disbelief coursing through him. It wasn’t often that Obi-Wan lied to anyone, but there were a few occasions in which he had been known to twist the truth. But this… It was an outright lie. Leia hadn’t escaped. She was in the brig.

“I’m not proud of it,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I take no pleasure in lying, as I’m sure you both know,” he said, taking a moment to stare at each of them pointedly before he continued; “but I think considering the circumstances, it might be justified this time.”

“And they believed you?” asked Anakin, leaning forward as he stared at Obi-Wan intently. He seemed almost skeptical, but he hid it well behind a wall of curiosity.

Obi-Wan shrugged. “More or less. They had no reason not to.”

“So they think Leia escaped,” breathed Padmè, leaning back as she wrung her hands thoughtfully as Obi-Wan nodded.

“It should buy us some time,” he said before adding; “I’m not sure how much. The Council is adamant that she be caught sooner rather than later. But that’s not all that we discussed.”

“What?” she asked.

“The Separatists have issued a bounty for Leia,” he said slowly as Anakin blinked.

At his words, Padmè felt a shiver run up and down the length of her spine. Neither Anakin nor Obi-Wan seemed to notice the way her entire body slowed and then stilled, a cold dread settling in the pit of her stomach.

“Why would they do something like that?” asked Anakin before thoughtfully adding; “I mean, I know she isn’t a Separatist, but it isn’t like they’re Padmè’s biggest fan either. Why would they care unless—” he paused. “Unless Dooku sees her as a threat to his apprenticeship.”

“Or he sees her as a possible ally,” commented Obi-Wan before adding; “the Bounty expressly states they want her alive.”

“It’s Sidious,” said Padmè before she could stop herself. By the time the words were out of her mouth, she knew it was too late to take them back as she watched the two Jedi’s head swivel over to face her, both of them looking at her with a questioning look.

She swallowed. Once then twice for good measure. “It’s Sidious. He wants her gone.”

Obi-Wan and Anakin glanced at each other uneasily before Anakin addressed her. “Did she tell you that?”

He still wasn’t using her name. She had noticed his hesitancy to even mention her name, much less her person. But that was a problem for another time, she supposed.

“Padmè,” began Obi-Wan when she didn’t answer. “You mentioned that Leia had told you stuff… Did she tell you about Sidious?”

Did she tell you his identity, were the words that she knew he wanted to ask, but he refrained, keeping his words as curt as possible.

But Padmè knew what he really wanted to ask.

She inhaled. “If you want to know if she told me his identity, yes. She did.”

Anakin blanched at that, his entire body jerking in surprise as he stared at her with wide blue eyes, his mouth hanging slightly open as he leaned forward, excitedly. She knew what this would mean for them, for the Jedi. It would mean a certain end to the War. They had been chasing this Sith for years at this point, and they were no closer to discovering his identity than before.

This could change the tide of the War. It could end so much.

“Who?” demanded Anakin, his body practically buzzing as he gripped the edge of the table. “Padmè—”

“I can’t,” she said, trying to retake control of the conversation as she inhaled sharply, hating the betrayed look in Anakin’s eyes as she remained strong in her earlier conviction. “It isn’t my place. Only Leia can tell you.”

Only Leia could share that information.

“Do you believe that she is ready to share that information with us?” asked Obi-Wan, threading his fingers through his beard as Padmè stared at him (anywhere but Anakin— she couldn’t stand that look in his eyes. She just couldn’t).

“I don’t think she has any other choice,” said Padmè, remembering the look in her daughter’s eyes when she realized that she had failed. “There’s too much at stake for her not to.”

“Okay,” Obi-Wan nodded, using his hands to push himself away from the table as he rose to his feet with newfound purpose. “Let’s go talk to her then.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Leia was somewhere between wakefulness and sleep when she heard footsteps. It wasn’t unusual to hear the soft pitter-patter of feet outside of her cell, but these ones, she could tell for some reason, were different. More than one and moving fast. Voices drifted through the air. Muffled at first, but slowly becoming more and more audible.

“Wait, what are you—”

The footsteps stopped, but the voices didn’t as she cracked open an eye, shoving the tiredness as well as the bleariness away as she oriented herself. There were people congregated outside of her cell door, and they were not interested in allowing her to have her beauty sleep.

“We can’t—” Leia couldn’t make out the rest of what was said, but she recognized that voice. “—she’s a Sith. They’re not exactly known for being—”

She pushed herself up on her elbows, the thin white covers that did almost nothing to keep her warm falling off of her as she stared at the door— willing them to leave. She knew why they were there and while she had known that this moment would come, she wanted nothing more than for them to walk away and leave her be.

“You can’t shut everyone out,” came Luke’s voice from the recesses of her mind. “Talk to them. Tell them what’s going on.”

“Easier said than done,” she replied as she listened to Padmè’s voice. She couldn’t make out what the other woman was saying through the door, but it was enough to bring her some semblance of comfort. No matter how small it was.

“I don’t think you really have much of a choice at this point,” Luke reminded her. “You knew they would want answers. Father especially.”

“He’s not my father,” she ground out, the muscles in her jaw twitching.

Luke said nothing in return, knowing full well that nothing he said could convince her otherwise as the door finally opened, revealing the three individuals on the other side as Leia adjusted her eyes to the sudden light.

“You know I was trying to sleep, right?” she asked as Obi-Wan strolled into the room, Padmè close on his heels as Anakin stayed back, choosing instead to keep his distance as he peered cautiously at her from behind the entrance. “I just got shot,” she said pointedly before adding; “I’m supposed to be resting.”

“I apologize for waking you,” said Obi-Wan. “But you see we have a few questions—”

“A few?” scoffed Anakin, jaw twitching as his eyes narrowed. He stepped forward, the light overhead illuminating his features while also casting a shadow over the room. (Vader. It was Vader’s shadow). “I don’t know about you, Obi-Wan. But I have then a few questions.”

He said that as his gaze fixated on her, arms falling from their crossed position over his chest to rest at his side, twitching— restless.

“Anakin—” warned Padmè, but her words fell on deaf ears as Leia fisted the sheets.

Here, in the midst of the man that she hated most, the mother she had never known and another man who had given his life for her and her and her family, it all felt too far away. But that shadow, the sleek interior of the brig that reminded her all too much of the inside of an Imperial cell—

“You tried to kill me for a reason,” he continued, his tone pressing as Leia bit the inside of her cheek until she swore she could taste blood. “Why?”

“I had to,” she said because it was the simplest answer.

Anakin— No, Vader— scowled at her response as he stepped forward, his shadow looming even more over her as she felt herself involuntarily stiffen. “I’m done playing games,” his nostrils flared. “If you really are my daughter then I want answers. Why did you try to kill me?”

She looked at Padmè and swallowed. “I had my reasons,” she said, carefully before meeting his gaze once more. “I still do, if we’re being honest.”

Vader frowned critically at her; his face still shadowed, and his nostrils still flared. “Did you have your reasons for kidnapping my wife as well?” he said, an edge to his voice as Leia felt a twist in her gut.

When she didn’t answer, he pressed on. “Well?” he asked, impatiently.

“Yes,” she admitted, not without reluctance either that almost caught on her tongue. “I came back with a purpose— I didn’t come here just because I felt like it,” she said as she pressed her lips together. How much could she tell them? How much should she tell them? “Padmè knows. She knows why I’m here. There’s something I have to stop… Someone I have to stop.”

Several someone’s actually, but Leia would figure that out later.

“Sidious?” asked Obi-Wan as Leia nodded.

“Typical,” scoffed Anakin before looking at his former Master. “You were right, Obi-Wan. This is a Sith power play,” he said before turning his gaze back on Leia, cold and accusing. “Only with time travel added to the mix.

“It isn’t like that at all,” Leia ground out, anger bubbling inside of her. “You have no idea why I’m here, Skywalker,” she snarled. “So don’t pretend like you do. You know nothing.”

“Then enlighten me,” he said. “Why are you trying to stop Sidious? What could you possibly gain by trying to kill him except power?”

“Because power is everything, right?” she challenged.

“To a Sith? Yes.”

“I don’t want power,” said Leia, her voice losing some of the heat as she felt the fire inside of her that had burned bright and hot only a few moments prior begin to cool. “Power corrupts. I’ve seen power turn good men into ruthless monsters,” she said before squarely meeting his gaze. She continued, “I’ve seen power ruin countless people’s lives. I’ve seen it destroy governments and even entire planets.”

“So then what is it you seek?” asked Anakin.

“Justice,” she finished quietly.

Anakin looked at her strangely. Except for Padmè, who merely gave her a pitying but understanding look— one that she could not find solace in no matter how hard she tried. She looked away, biting her tongue as she felt her chest tighten.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

“Sidious took everything from me,” she explained. “Everything I ever worked and fought for. Everyone I ever loved. I have to stop him at all costs. Not because I want power,” she said as she met Anakin’s gaze once more, “but because my brother's blood demands retribution.”

As if she had slapped him, he stumbled back. His eyes were wide, and his mouth opening and closing. Then he froze— the muscles under his skin seizing, stiff, tight with tension. He touched the wall, steadied himself before directing his gaze to Padmè— uncertain, scared.

“Brother?” he asked, testing the word out for himself. “Wait a minute,” he said, slowly, brows creasing. “You mentioned a brother during our fight. You said that he—” he froze, his eyes widening. “Died.

He swallowed, his other hand reaching for the wall, shoulders slumping and breath sinking. Even in the dimming light, Leia could see how pale he had become— his entire face a shade or two lighter than normal.

“Did you know about this?” he asked, turning to Padmè.

She nodded solemnly. “She told me, yes.”

Anakin blinked. Once and then twice.

He looked lost as Padmè reached for him, alarmed by his shakiness as a scowl formed on Obi-Wans lips, not quite sure how to help as something twanged in Leia’s chest.

He doesn’t even know Luke, thought Leia. How dare he mourn him. How dare—

“What happened to him?” demanded Anakin, stepping towards her for the first time.  He looked like he wanted to reach out and grab her, but Padmè’s grip on his shoulder held him back. “How did he die?”

Leia stilled, every single muscle in her already strained body tightening like a chord. She could feel the world spinning around her, even though she knew her feet were on solid ground. Her vision blurred, the edges of her site turning red as Anakin took one step forward, determination gleaming in his blue eyes.

Damn him. Damn him for asking her that.

Wait,” said Obi-Wan as he darted between the two of them, his back turned to Leia as he faced Anakin down, his hands reaching to stop his former Padawan. He could feel the tension as well as Leia’s need for physical distance. “Anakin, I don’t think—"

How did he die?” he sounded incredulous, as if the thought of a person he had never met dying was an impossibility— an abstract concept, but too real to Anakin to be true at the same time. He ignored Obi-Wan as he placed the entirety of his attention on Leia. There was, perhaps, some measure of pain in his eyes mixed in with the disbelief. Real, intrusive, and burning pain that Leia had, once upon a time, thought Vader incapable of.

After all, monsters didn’t feel pain. They made others feel it for them.

When she didn’t answer, he raised his hands. Not fighting back against Obi-Wan’s grip on him, but he looked as though he was preparing to as he clenched his jaw, his eyes still glued to her.

“No,” she choked, shaking her head in denial. What came after was a mumbled stream of “no, no, no,” that was probably too soft for anyone else to pick up on as Leia anxiously began to roll on the balls of her feet, her head tilting upwards as she closed her eyes.

“How?” he rasped as Leia continued to shake her head.

Damn him. Damn him to hell and back. Why out of all the possible questions he could’ve asked her, why did he have to pick that one? “How?” he yelled.

“He died because of you!” screamed Leia, anguish seeping in and through her like a sponge as she allowed herself to sink into its embrace. Obi-Wan’s head snapped toward her, his entire face contorting in shock as his grip on Anakin loosened. “I told him it was too dangerous. I told him to run as far away from you as possible! But he believed that there was still good in you, no matter what I told him! He put his trust in you!” There was rage. So much rage, but also just… Sadness. Incredible sadness that only worsened as the rage began to dissipate. “He trusted you,” she managed to choke out through the tears and the snot. “He trusted you and you let him die.”

In all of her life, Leia had never known such pain as this. Not even when she had watched Alderaan explode into a trillion little pieces and then eventually fade into the backdrop of space— although that had been painful enough on its own. But everything seemed to pale in comparison to the loss of Han and her brother.

It was infinite. The pain never ended.

Leia expected Luke to defend their father’s actions, his voice filling her ears with talk of how everything that happened was in accordance with the will of the Force, but it never came. He remained as silent as a dead person should be.

There was a sharp intake of air— gasping. “What?”

It was Padmè, her delicate hand pressed over her mouth as she stared at Leia with wide eyes. She was pale, but not nearly as pale as Anakin was. Leia wasn’t sure if it was the weight of her words or if it was just the pure emotion behind them that made Anakin look as if he was ready to keel over and pass out at any moment (probably both).

“I— no, wait—” Anakin stumbled and stuttered over his words, his breath hitching and catching on every syllable it seemed like. “I don’t… I don’t understand. What—”

“You let him die,” Leia hissed, but in the state that she was in at that particular moment, it sounded more like a sob than anything. “You stood back and let Sidious murder him,” she said as she leveled her accusation at him, her eyes never once leaving his as she added; “and I came here with every intention of killing everyone involved.”

“Me?” breathed Anakin. “But, why would I—” he shook his head, anguished. “Why would I do that?” He paused before adding; “why would I let my own son die?”

Leia wished she knew why, but it was an answer that not even Vader had been able to give.

Chapter Text

Leia expected a chorus of demands, but it never came. There was only Anakin, steeped in silent horror so thick that Leia could not bear to watch. Padmè looked sick, her hands splayed over her belly and her face twisted in pain.

In the back of her mind, she could feel Luke. Clawing and struggling to reach her, to tell her words that she didn’t want to hear. But Leia merely squashed it away, just as she did her own emotions. As much as her brother's death brought her grief, she was ashamed to admit that there was a small part of Leia that enjoyed the pain in Anakin’s eyes.

“No,” whispered Anakin, shaking his head as he took an unsteady step back, his movements slow and stilted, as if he was struggling to keep himself there, in that room. His breaths were labored, and Leia could tell that he was trying not to cry— and that effort to not breakdown, to not start sobbing at what he undoubtedly knew was the truth, was taking its toll on him. “No, I would never – you can’t be serious. I would never let that happen. Padmè.

He looked away from Leia and towards his wife, as if she was the one he needed to console. As if she was the one who had experienced the loss first-hand and not Leia. As if she were the only one in the room hurting.

But Padmè didn’t look at him. Her eyes, rimmed-red and glistening in the light, were trained solely on Leia. But Leia found that hers was the face most difficult to look at. Even more so than Anakin’s because while Anakin knew too little, Padmè knew too much. It was everything. Her voice was a rasp that made Leia’s own throat sting. “You never told me that,” she said, bleakly. “Why?”

Leia had wondered the same thing. To spare the woman whose life she was about to destroy? To protect her from the knowledge of just how much the galaxy would take from her? Leia didn’t know— nor did she want to.

“I don’t owe you anything,” the words hurt, but they were immensely freeing at the same time. “I don’t owe anyone anything. I told you what I thought you could handle, nothing more.”

(She wasn’t there to hurt Padmè like she was Anakin)

“No,” said Padmè, anger glistening in her eyes for the first time. “You don’t get to decide what I can and cannot handle when it comes to my family,” her gaze burned with a fire that Leia didn’t think possible, but it was enough. Enough to make Leia realize that her birth mother truly was a force to be reckoned with. “And you certainly don’t get to hold my son’s death over my husband’s head if you’re not willing to tell us how to stop it.”

“But I don’t know if it can be stopped anymore!” cried Leia. “I don’t even know what the future holds at this point and so long as Palpatine and Vader live, there’s no way to be certain—”

“Palpatine?” said Obi-Wan, his head snapping up in her direction. He had been silent up until that point, stroking his beard and thinking. But Leia’s slip had been enough to catch his attention, and consequently everyone else’s. “The Chancellor?” he asked, giving her a bewildered look. “How does he play into this?”

Leia frowned. She was about to ask him what he meant by that when realization hit her like a Corellian freight train. She had called him by his real name, not his Sith name. Padmè knew, but Anakin and Obi-Wan didn’t.

Obi-Wan continued; “And this Vader character. Who is he?”

Her heart jumped. “No one you need to concern yourself with,” yet.

“But he was involved,” said Anakin, rising to his full height. In her eagerness to ignore him, she had forgotten that he was there. “Vader,” he tested the name out for himself, his mouth twisting around the word in disdain.

Too close. Too close. Too close.

“Was he the one who killed your brother?” he asked. His voice was soft— surprisingly soft. (Too soft for Leia’s comfort). He continued, cocking his head and searching her face for any sort of indication that he was on the right track. “Is that why you want him dead?”

She could all of their eyes on her, watching, waiting.

“He wasn’t the one who did the act, but he is just as guilty.”

Anakin blinked at that piece of information as Leia mentally cursed herself. She had given too much away, her cards splayed out for everyone to see.

“Are you saying that Palpatine was the one who murdered your brother?” asked Anakin, incredulous. He looked back at Padmè, but when his wife did not share in his disbelief, he froze. “The Chancellor—?” he turned back to Leia. “You’re joking, right? This is a joke. It has to be.”

Leia let out a bitter, cold laugh. “Trust me, Skywalker. I wish it was.”

Anakin balked. “But the Chancellor is a good man,” he insisted. “A very good man who happens to be very old and frail. Are you telling me that in twenty years—”

“— Twenty-two.”

“— he’s going to—” His eyes widened in disbelief. “No. No,” he said, shaking his head. He gesticulated towards Obi-Wan. “Obi-Wan. Tell her she’s crazy,” he said. “We know the Chancellor. He would never,” he turned to look at his former Master, pleading; “Tell her, Obi-Wan. Tell her it isn’t so.”

But from the look on Obi-Wan’s face, Leia knew that Anakin stood alone in his conviction.

Obi-Wan looked like he had just seen a ghost— his face pale and his eyes wide in horror.

“The Chancellor is not the person you think he is,” said Leia as she slinked towards Anakin. She looked like a Lothcat on the prowl. In earnest, she pitied Anakin for believing that he was. It was almost childlike— his defense of the older man, and she supposed he had a good reason for it. Palpatine was a Master of manipulation, and Anakin had been his unwitting prey. “He’s a snake,” she said, coming to a stop in front of him, her eyes soaking in his pained features. “Evil beyond measure. And cruel,” she spat. “He was the one who murdered my brother. He was the one who took his life in this orbit, around this very moon.”

“Why?” he croaked.

“To end the Jedi,” she said. “Forever. And he succeeded. My brother was the last. With his death, the entire legacy of the Order died. All the knowledge, beliefs, traditions— what was left, perished. It wasn’t just Luke that died that day,” she shook her head, not talking of Han and the thousands of lives that had perished on the surface of Endor. “It was the Jedi too.”

“The last?” breathed Anakin. “But— how?”

His emotions were strong. Even with her Force-inhibiting cuffs, Leia could feel the echo through the Force.

“The Order is made up of tens of thousands of Jedi,” stressed Obi-Wan. “If what you are saying is even true, how do you explain a single Sith Lord being capable of such power?”

“He is the Senate,” hissed Leia. “Even now, he has so much political power, he might as well be the Senate. Haven’t you wondered how he’s been able to stay in power for so long? He’s well past his term limit, and even you can tell that he has no intention of stepping down anytime soon.”

Obi-Wan swallowed at that. He looked nervous.

Leia narrowed her eyes. “But that doesn’t surprise you, does it?” she tilted her head, curiously. “Did you know that Palpatine was a Sith?”

“Of course not,” Obi-Wan was quick to defend himself. He looked between Anakin and her, anxiously before he shook his head. “But I do admit, I did have my suspicions.”

“You did?” asked Anakin, incredulous. But his shock quickly turned into anger. “And you didn't tell me?”

“Because it didn’t concern you,” was Obi-Wan’s truthful response. “At least, not yet it didn’t. The Council has their suspicions. We all do. We know he’s up to something, we just had no idea that it was… This.”

“But you knew,” Leia said. “Even before the Council grew suspicious.”

Obi-Wan’s eyes darkened visibly. “When I was on Geonosis, Count Dooku said something to me that I could never forget. He asked me what I would do with the knowledge of a Sith Lord being in control of the Republic. I told him it was impossible, but—” he exhaled deeply. “I thought he was speaking figuratively, not literally.”

Anakin blinked. “How could you keep this to yourself?! How could you—”

“Because he was trying to rile me up,” Obi-Wan said. “He wanted me to join him, and he thought that if he shook my faith in the Republic he could get me to go to the Dark Side.”

“Why would he want you?” snapped Anakin. “He knows you’ll never join him. He’d have a much better chance at convincing Yoda to allow marriage in the Order than he would in getting you to join him.”

“Because even Dooku knows that Palpatine is ruthless,” said Leia, interrupting the two of them to put her two cents in. “I mean, Dooku is evil, but even he has morals. Palpatine doesn’t, and Dooku knows this.”

“He wants to rebel against his Master?” asked Anakin as Leia shook her head.

“There comes a point in the apprentice's life where they must either kill their Master, or be killed by their Master,” she said before adding; “it is the way of the Sith— the way that Darth Bane intended.”

“The Rule of Two,” breathed Obi-Wan.

“Correct.”

“Have you killed yours yet?” asked Obi-Wan, curiosity getting the better of him. “Or are you just an apprentice?”

“I am the last of my kind,” was Leia’s empty response. “Where I come from, there is no one else.”

Anymore.

“Wait, hold on,” said Anakin, holding his hands up in front of him. “Slow down a minute. Are you serious?”

Leia blinked at him. “Am I not speaking clearly enough?”

“You are,” said Obi-Wan. “Anakin just never cleans out his ears.”

If looks could kill, Obi-Wan would be dead. “Pardon me for not being able to take any of this seriously,” he snapped. “But this is ridiculous. Preposterous,” he looked back at Leia. “Palpatine? A Sith Lord?” he scoffed. “He isn’t even Force-sensitive!”

“Palpatine is Sidious. He is the Sith Lord you’ve been looking for since the invasion of Naboo, the one who orchestrated this entire war,” she breathed, allowing the words to permeate everything and everyone. The truth was more potent than any stench Palpatine could muster, so much so that the very air around them felt lighter, cleansed.

“I used to wonder,” Leia began, traveling down a path she knew did not need to be explored, “how a Sith Lord could hide and operate in such plain sight, right beneath the noses of the Jedi and the Republic alike without getting caught. But now I can see how,” she said before adding; “truth is a much harder burden to bear, and even harder to see if one does not wish to see it.”

Perhaps Sidious was right to purge the Jedi, ached at the back of her mind, clawing at her as she did her best to will the intrusive thought away. She would not give in to such thinking, and she certainly would not entertain the idea that Palpatine had been right about anything.

But still, the thought lingered at the back of her mind, whispering.

Anakin paled. Before, he had been the shade of Alderaani ivory, but now he looked like a ghost. Leia thought he might keel over and vomit at any moment. “What?” he let out a sharp gasp, his posture beginning to sway.

Had she said that out loud?

Obi-Wan swayed, shock written all over his usually calm and collected features. She had.

‘You don’t mean that,’ said Luke in her head, having finally been able to reach her. ‘Leia—’

“He didn’t act alone either,” she spat, squashing Luke’s hold over her mind as she directed the conversation to a place she knew she could control. “He had help.”

“Another apprentice?” questioned Obi-Wan.

“Yes.”

“Who?” asked Anakin, his eyes narrowing. “If not Dooku, then— was it Vader?”

Anakin was unknowingly treading on very thin ice at that point. Very, very thin ice.

“He does have another apprentice lined up,” confirmed Leia, looking Anakin square in the eyes. “He’s had his eye on this Jedi for years. He’s been manipulating him, grooming him to take Dooku’s place ever since he was a young child.”

Obi-Wan paled.

Anakin shook his head. “Doesn’t sound like anyone I know. I’m the only Jedi from the Order that he’s friends with,” he said as he pointed towards himself innocently. “And he tells me everything. I would know if another Jedi was close with him.”

Leia blinked. Obi-Wan had an interesting mixture of horror and disappointment on his face while Padmè looked like a woman who was re-evaluating her life choices.

Obi-Wan shook his head. “There isn’t another Jedi, Anakin,” he whispered. “It’s just you.”

Anakin’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Wait, but wouldn’t that mean—”

“That you’re the next apprentice he has lined up,” was Leia’s merciless response. “The one who helped him destroy the Order. The one who watched by idly as his Master murdered his son. The one who could’ve saved Luke but didn’t. You,” she breathed, nostrils flaring, “are Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith," she said before adding; "and my former Master.”

Chapter Text

“…You are Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith and my former Master.”

 

“What?”

The sound of groaning, twisting metal filled the air around them. Pressurized, the Force swelled around them to the point where Leia was almost grateful her connection to the Force had been dampened, but that didn’t stop her from taking an involuntary step back, her chest seizing in what she could only recognize as fear as she stared at Anakin. The wiring over their heads sparked and the lights flickered as the temperature around them chilled.

She hadn’t felt fear like this in a long time. Not since—

Me?” rasped Anakin. “I— I’m Vader? But— how?”

She could tell by the way that he frowned that the word Vader had left a bad taste in his mouth.

“How can I be Vader?”

Leia knew that he wanted an answer, but when she opened her mouth, the words seemed to fade and die on her tongue.

His fists clenched at his side at her silence. “How?”

“You fell,” began Leia, her throat dry. “You betrayed the Order—”

He had been distracted, his eyes falling on something past her, but as soon as she said it, his eyes darted back to her. “Betrayed?” he questioned, his words wrapping around the word and drawing out every syllable. His voice was soft, and yet Leia could feel shivers running up her spine at his tone.

But she hid it behind a face of stone.

“Perhaps Kenobi was right,” she said. “Maybe you do need to clean your ears out more often.”

Normally, Leia would’ve rejoiced at the pitiful look in the young Jedi’s eyes— the pathetic groveling of the man who had turned her life into a living hell, but now all that Leia can feel is the hollowness at the bottom of her stomach, gnawing at her.

Leia,” said Padmè as she stepped forward. Her voice was soft, yet somehow piercing in the small room. “Please, don’t do this,” she begged, desperation in her eyes. “You’ve made your point. Please don’t make this any harder than it needs to be.”

She shook her head. “No, Padmè. I’ve only just begun to make my point,” she sneered (she didn’t mean to, but she couldn’t control it anymore— and she was done trying). “My resolve has never been stronger,” she said as she ignored Luke’s whisper, the word liar echoing in the recesses of her mind. “You wanted the truth, and now I’m giving it to you.”

The Senator swallowed, but she held her ground.

“Betray?” whispered Anakin, his voice hoarse. Gravelly with disuse and strained. “Me? Betray the Jedi?”

“You were tricked,” said Leia, straightening her posture as she turned to face him. “Palpatine— Sidious, he used your fears against you. Fear leads to anger—”

“— anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering,” Obi-Wan finished, his voice barely above that of a whisper as he stared down at the floor in deep thought. Leia was certain he hadn’t meant to voice is thoughts, and he seemed unaware that he had even said the words aloud.

She nodded, eyes closing. Han and Luke’s face danced across her memory as well as in the dark of her eyelids. Staring at them, Leia felt as though she would never be able to open them again. “Yes,” she agreed. “Near the end of the war, people had started to become suspicious of Palpatine. He had amassed so much power that even members of the Senate began to question him. The Jedi too.”

She opened her eyes, meeting their eyes. She continued, afraid that if she stopped now she would never be able to start again. “Padmè was pregnant with my brother and I when the dreams started again,” she said, looking at Anakin. “Just like the ones you had of your mother dying on Tatooine.”

Anakin grasped Padmè’s hand as if he were a man about to be swept away in a current.

“You feared for her life,” continued Leia. “Enough to allow Palpatine to manipulate you. He promised you a way to stop her death from happening, and you couldn’t help but say yes. He got you to join him as his apprentice and then he ordered you to march on the Temple with the Clones.”

“I beg your pardon?” asked Obi-Wan as if he was the one in need of an ear cleaning and not Anakin. “What did you just say?”

“You heard me,” countered Leia. “As spirited as the Sith are, two of us alone are hardly a match for an entire Order,” she said before adding; “physically, that is. Mentally and intellectually I do believe the Sith reign superior. Sidious and Vader did not act alone. They had help from the Clones.”

“The Clones would never willingly betray the Jedi,” said Anakin. “I know those men. They would never—”

“Turn on the Jedi like you did?” asked Leia with raised eyebrows as Anakin’s mouth snapped closed. His expression was clouded.

“They called it Order 66,” she supplied. “It was the product of obedience chips placed into the Clones at a genetic level at birth. There were a number of Orders that if issued, the Clones had no choice but to obey. Order 66 pertained to the Jedi and ensured that if the Jedi ever went rogue, the Clones would—”

“—kill them,” interrupted Anakin. There’s something in the tone of his voice that reminds Leia of Vader, even though she’s never heard Vader be quite that vehement before. “This is what Fives was talking about,” he seethed. “A plot against the Jedi, put there by the Chancellor.”

“You’re right,” said Obi-Wan, hurriedly before turning to Leia. “If what you have said is true—”

“It is.”

“—then we must warn the Council,” he finished, not missing a single beat. “Before it is too late.”

Leia opened her mouth to reply, but Padmè was the one who stole the word out of her mouth. “No.”

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. “Senator? What—”

“We can’t tell the Council,” she shook her head as she met Leia’s gaze; “at least, not yet.”

“And why is that?” Obi-Wan asks. He wasn’t taking her seriously, but he wasn’t dismissing her entirely.

“What do you think will happen if we tell the Council?” she asked. “If we tell the Council that Palpatine— who is beloved by the entire Republic and who has control over much of the Senate— is a Sith?”

Leia cocked her head curiously while Obi-Wan merely frowned in confusion. Padmè, it seemed, remembered their conversation from earlier, and she understood what was at stake.

“Think Obi-Wan,” added Leia. “You know what the Council will do. What their next move will be.”

“They will try to remove him from office,” said Obi-Wan swallowing.

“He holds too much political power,” continued Leia. She could see the slight tremble in his hands, but he worked to still them. “And he’s popular. More popular than the Jedi.”

“So?” scoffed Anakin, clueless as ever. “What does popularity have anything to do with this?”

“Because Palpatine is loved,” said Leia, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “And the Jedi are not. If the Council moves against Palpatine—”

“—it will not end well,” finished Obi-Wan as he stroked his beard worriedly.

“And even if you did tell the Council, you wouldn’t get very far. Coruscant is crawling with his spies,” she said before adding; “don’t think for a second that he isn’t aware of what is discussed behind the Council doors. He will find out and he will issue Order 66, just like he did in my timeline.”

Obi-Wan drew in a shuddering breath as Anakin blinked, processing the words as best as he can. His confusion, however, didn’t last long. “Then what are we supposed to do?” he demanded. “We can’t just let him get away with this!”

His words lit a fire inside of Leia, who straightened up and snarled. “I have no intention of letting him get away with anything. Why do you think I came back here?”

“So then what was your plan?” growled Anakin. “Kill me and then go to Coruscant to assassinate Palpatine?”

“And then to the Separatist front to kill Dooku and then myself,” she spat. “No more Sith.”

Anakin’s eyes widened. “You— you were—”

“There was never a scenario in my plan where I came out of this alive,” she said before adding; “I would think the trying to ‘wipe-myself-out-existence’ ploy would’ve clued you into that already, Skywalker.”

Leia could see the pain in his eyes as he jerked his head to the side and out of her view, his eyes going everywhere in the room except on her. He looked flighty in the too-small room, like a bird that wanted to take off only to find itself trapped. “So what can we do?”

“Kill him,” was Leia’s quick response. “Cut out the tumor before it spreads too far and wide. It may not solve much, and it may prove to be futile in the end, but it is the only option that we have.”

Palpatine was not the only evil that would need to be rooted out before they could deem democracy safe. After all, in the grand scheme of everything, it had been the corruption and lawlessness of the Republic that had given rise to Palpatine.

He had been a symptom of a galaxy-wide, systemic problem. The Republic had been in decline well before Sheev Palpatine had even been born.

“It’s not the Jedi way,” Obi-Wan protested weakly, “to murder a man in such an uncivil fashion, without a trial and without concrete evidence to prove him guilty.”

What he meant to say was undemocratic.

“Who cares,” snarled Anakin. “He murdered my son. I’ll kill him myself if I have to.”

“Spoken just like Vader,” said Leia idly as the young Jedi’s nostrils flared. “But I must warn you, you’ll have to get to him first. There’s no way I’m letting you have the honor of gutting the old man twice.

Twice?” asked Padmè, horrified.

“You’ve seen how explosive your husband's tantrums can be,” said Leia, staring at Anakin coyly. “Or have you forgotten what he did to the Tusken Raiders who murdered his mother?”

The same thing had happened after Luke’s death. By the time Vader had finished with Palpatine, there had been nothing left but what remained on Vader’s boots. And then he had gone down to the surface of Endor and that was how Leia had encountered him. With blood-soaked armor and chunks of skin gnawed into the grills of his mask.

(Leia wondered what he had looked like beneath that mask. When he had ripped Palpatine into shreds)

With the freshly blood-stained hands that had just murdered his Master, Vader had turned Endor into a bloodbath. And no one, not even the Imperials, had been safe from his wrath.

“Tuskens?” breathed Anakin as Leia was forced to focus on the present. “How do you— how do you know about that?”

“You told me,” was her snide response. “How else would I have learned of it?”

“Why—” he choked, “would I tell you that?”

Vader hadn’t actually told her as much as he inadvertently showed her. He had been miserable in the wake of Luke’s death, and Leia being in close proximity (not by choice) had given her front-row seats to Vader’s anguished dreams.

Leia could tell that Anakin was ashamed, as if he had been laid out naked for everyone to gawk at. It had been his deepest, darkest secret and Leia was sure that if she hadn’t shared his dreams with him that Vader would’ve never told her.

“What are you talking about?” asked Obi-Wan before looking at his former Padawan. “I thought you said the Tusken’s who murdered your mother had been slaughtered by another Tribe. That you had found your mother in the carnage.”

“Oh they were slaughtered, all right,” said Leia as she gave Anakin an indifferent look. “Just not by other Tuskens.”

Obi-Wan blinked. “Then who—” he turned to look at Anakin but stopped as soon as he saw the stricken look in his former Padawan’s eyes.

For one horrible, bitter second, Obi-Wan was in disbelief. “It was you?”

Anakin’s face was as white as bone and even from where she stood, Leia could hear his shallow breaths.

Anakin,” Obi-Wan’s face was faint, denial warring with the inconvertible fact that he did not know his Padawan as well as he once thought. “What— what happened?”

“You already know what happened,” was Anakin’s thin response. “They murdered her, slaughtered her like an animal,” he said, his lips pulling back into a snarl before he finally turned to look at Obi-Wan. “So I showed them the same mercy that they had shown her.”

Obi-Wan swallowed. “So you murdered them.”

The sound of groaning, twisting metal filled the air. It was so thick and heavy that neither Leia nor Padmè could help but take a step back, the air pressing them back as the light overhead began to flicker.

“It wasn’t murder,” Anakin said, his face tight and his lips still pulled back as his metal fist tightened at his side. “You can’t murder a rabid animal, Obi-Wan. You can only put it out of its miserable existence.”

“Anakin,” interjected Obi-Wan, looking lost in the flickering light. “Do you even hear yourself? Comparing any life form to that of a rabid animal is not the way of the Jed—”

“She was my mother!” he cried, his hands shaking. The groaning intensified. “What was I supposed to do? Leave them be?”

“Justice is not the same as revenge!” Obi-Wan was angry, and he didn’t bother to show it. “Force, Anakin. You know I taught you better than—”

The light burst, glass showering down on the three of them like rain. Padmè yelped as she quickly stepped out of the path of the falling shards while Leia merely watched, her feet firmly planted on the ground as she felt the shards collecting in her hair. There was a stinging sensation in her cheek, but it paled in comparison to the sting in Anakin’s eyes.

“Don’t you dare,” breathed Anakin, his words shallow as he glared at his former Master. Maybe it was a trick in the dimmed light, but Leia could’ve sworn she saw yellow in his gleaming eyes. “You knew I was having dreams of her death and when I came to you for help, you did nothing.”

“Because I thought they were just dreams,” protested Obi-Wan. “Anakin, I swear if I had known that they were visions I would’ve—”

“Would’ve what?” asked Anakin. “What would you have done, Obi-Wan? Helped me save her?” he scoffed as he shook his head. “You know as well as I do that you wouldn’t have done anything.”

The explosion of denial that Anakin had undoubtedly been expecting never came, replaced only by a silent pause that seemed to last an eternity. Blood dripped down Anakin’s cheek, emanating from a cut near his eye. They looked like tears.

Obi-Wan looked at his former Padawan in horror as the transparisteel window that had served as Leia’s only view of the moon below began to slowly crack.

As much as Leia enjoyed Anakin’s pain, she knew she needed to do something.

“Get out,” she ordered, glass crunching beneath her shoes as she pointed at the door. “All of you. Out.”

Anakin didn’t need to be told twice as he turned heel and swiftly exited the room, the cracks coming to a gradual stop the further away he drew. Padmè went to follow, but Obi-Wan grabbed her arm before she could.

“It would be best if you stayed here,” he said before adding; “his temper is much too volatile at the moment for you to safely be near him.”

“He’s my husband,” protested Padmè. “He would never intentionally hurt me.”

“He isn’t in his right mind,” said Obi-Wan. “Please, Padmè. Just let me handle this.”

She considered his words for a few moments before she reluctantly backed off, her eyes falling on the door in obvious dismay. “Go.”

Obi-Wan disappeared down the corridor, Padmè’s eyes following him until she could no longer see him.

“He’s right, you know,” said Leia, her voice piercing the silence. “He will hurt you. Maybe not now, but eventually his temper will get the better of him.”

“So you’ve told me,” said the other woman as she turned to look at the Sith, her lips pressed thinly together.

“You should leave him,” said Leia. “Get on a ship and get as far away from him while you still can.”

“And where would I go?” asked Padmè. Leia could tell that she was not taking her suggestion seriously, but she wasn’t dismissing her out of hand either.

“You could go home to Naboo,” was Leia’s measured response as she watched the other woman carefully. “To your family. They could help you raise your children. You wouldn’t be alone.”

More than that, she and Luke could grow up together. It was a future that Leia had only ever dreamed about in the quiet, but one she had never dared believe could happen. It had never been a possibility.

Until now.

“I am not leaving my husband,” was Padmè’s firm response as Leia pressed her lips tightly together.

“I know,” said Leia, chest clenching. She had already known what her mother’s response would be, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she added. “He will ruin you. Have no doubt.”

Padmè said nothing for a moment before she finally said, much to Leia’s surprise, “you’re bleeding.”

Leia brushed her cheek with her finger, ignoring the sting as she stared down at the crimson liquid. Padmè was right. She was bleeding.

She glanced at the glass beneath her feet numbly as the blood on her finger dripped down onto the floor. All of this had been the result of Anakin’s inability to control his temper, and yet Padmè acted as if she could care less.

Did she not realize the danger she was putting herself into?

“Stay here,” said Padmè, and Leia couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. “I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going?”

“To see what I can find in the way of bandages,” said Padmè before turning a critical eye on Leia, “and a change of clothes.”

Leia looked down at her torn and muddied robes and opened her mouth to protest, but Padmè was already gone.

Chapter Text

Padmè returned shortly thereafter with a first aid kit as well as a bundle of clothes that Leia couldn’t help but eye. “It turns out finding decent clothes on a ship full of men isn’t always the easiest,” she griped, “they might be a little small, but they should fit you.”

With that, she carefully deposited the bundle down next to Leia, who couldn’t help but notice the pair of dice staring back at her from between the folds. She hadn’t realized that she had lost them, but she figured that the Clones must’ve confiscated them when they took the Falcon— or, she supposed, the ship that would be become the Falcon.

It didn’t feel right calling it the Falcon if Han wasn’t the one in the pilot's chair.

“I figured you would want those back,” said Padmè as Leia gingerly picked up the dice. “I don’t know if they mean anything to you or—”

“They do,” she acknowledged, begrudgingly. The dice felt cold in her hands.

Padmè nodded and (thankfully) chose not to pry any further as Leia swallowed before setting the dice back down, her eyes falling on the bundle of clothes that Padmè had carefully unpacked.

“Where—?” Leia questioned, her fingers trailing over the red fabric as she eyed the outfit. It was far too feminine to belong to any of the Clones and judging from Padmè’s own attire (an oversized men’s tunic and pants that barely fit her), they didn’t belong to her either.

Leia may not have known much about her birth mother, but from what she had garnered these past couple of days, Padmè Amidala was far too conscientious of her wardrobe to ever willingly wear what she was wearing at that moment.

Padmè seemed to pick up on her train of thought as she eyed the Sith. “They belonged to Anakin’s former Padawan,” she said as Leia felt a jab of pain work its way through her ribcage.

“Ahsoka,” said Leia weakly as Padmè nodded, a smile gracing her lips, but never quite reaching her eyes.

“Yes,” she confirmed. “I figured these would fit you better than what I’m wearing now. Ahsoka outgrew these a while ago, and not even I can fit into them. But since you’re smaller than me, I figured—”

“Of course,” Leia was quick to cut the other woman off before she could continue, her voice dry and her throat tight. “They’re lovely. Thank you.”

Leia was grateful for the woman’s kind gesture, but it felt wrong.

Ahsoka may not have been there at this point in time, already having left the Order and the Clones behind, but Leia knew enough to know that these clothes had not been left by accident and she couldn’t help but wonder how she would be perceived walking the halls of this ship in her clothes.

Padmè seemed to pick up on her train of thought, so her face must’ve said what her words hadn’t. “It’ll only be for a few hours. At least until your robes are properly cleaned,” she said before adding; “I figured you’d be more comfortable in your own clothes anyway. It’s just being on a ship full of men—”

“—doesn’t leave a whole lot of clothing options for us,” finished Leia with a sigh. It didn’t help that all of those men were well above Padmè and Leia in terms of height and weight, but these would have to do for now.

It wasn’t quite her taste, the outfit. It was a little too form-fitted for Leia’s comfort, and definitely not something she would have ever picked out for herself, but it was utilitarian— something Leia could appreciate. The color was a deep burgundy, not quite red and the fabric was soft to the touch. The leggings were grey with diamond-shaped holes that ran up the length of them, exposing the skin underneath. Leia wasn’t sure if the boots would fit her, and she had her own utility belt to complete the outfit.

It was, without a doubt, something Leia could see a teenager like Ahsoka wearing.

“No one will give you grief for wearing them,” offered Padmè, out of the blue. “If that’s what you’re worried about.”

Leia shook her head. “It’s not that I’m worried about,” she said as she lifted the cuffs for the other woman to see. “I’m not sure how I’m supposed to maneuver out of these—” she gesticulated down at her own muddied robes, “with these on.”

Padmè blinked before giving her an amused look. “I can see how that might be a problem. Good thing I have these—” she reached into her pocket and procured the keys, holding them up for Leia to see as the Sith raised a wary eyebrow.

“And where pray tell did you get those?” Leia dared to ask.

“I may or may not have fished them off a Clone.”

Leia said nothing to that as she held her hands out, accepting the other woman’s offer without hesitation or question as she watched Padmè carefully disarm the inhibiting cuffs, wincing as her connection to the Force gradually began to return.

Leia could already feel a headache settling in as she rubbed her temple with her newly freed hands.

“You okay?” asked Padmè, concerned.

“Hmm,” Leia nodded, closing her eyes. The room was spinning, and her feet felt like pudding beneath her. “I just need a moment.”

Deep breaths, came Luke’s voice. You’ve been disconnected from the Force for a while now.

“They shouldn’t have left you in those for so long,” commented Padmè as Leia grit her teeth. “I told Obi-Wan—”

“I’ll be fine,” Leia interjected, speaking to both Padmè and Luke at the same time. She didn’t need either one of them fretting over her, and she had a feeling they would if she let them. They were both like that, it seemed. “Eventually,” she said, fighting back nausea that crept slowly up the back of her throat as she groaned.

“From what I’ve been told it can be very disorienting,” said Padmè, her mouth twisting in sympathy. She watched as Leia rubbed her temples, her weight shifting from one foot to the other. There was nothing Leia wanted to do more than to escape the other woman’s watchful gaze, but she didn’t want to push her away either.

“That’s one way of putting it,” said Leia as the dizziness slowly began to dissipate. The Force had been eager to reclaim her after the cuffs had been deactivated, sweeping her up in a tidal wave that seemed far too violent to tame. But now, she felt as though she had regained her footing.

(At least most of it).

“Are you sure—?”

Yes.

For a moment, Padmè looked as though she wanted to contest the other woman’s statement, but she relented with a sigh.

“Has anybody ever told you how stubborn you are?”

The corners of Leia’s mouth twitched. “I’ve been told, yes.” She was certain if she could Luke right now, he would be smirking in agreement, but Luke remained eerily silent inside of her head as Padmè shook her head.

“At least let me help you out of those,” she said, pointing towards Leia’s dirtied and torn robes before adding; “stubborn or not, I will not have you walking around the ship like that.”

Leia looked down at her torn, mud-caked clothes, inspecting the fabric to see what she could salvage of it before she began to peel the outer layer of the robes off her sticky skin, but before she could finish, she felt Padmè hand on her shoulder, stopping her before she could take it off.

“Come on. Let’s get you properly cleaned up. You’re covered in mud,” she said, distaste on her tongue as she began to nudge Leia in the direction of the exit – the unspoken promise of a shower nestling between the two of them as Leia closed her eyes, imagining the wonderful feeling of hot water against her aching muscles.

Leia almost hesitated, but she didn’t bother fighting back as she let Padmè lead her out of the cell and into the corridor.

“Do either Obi-Wan or Anakin have any idea what you’re doing?” Leia asked, out of curiosity. She couldn’t imagine either he or Anakin being very happy with what Padmè was doing. Anakin, especially.

But Padmè only huffed in return as she pulled Leia into an adjacent hallway just as two Clones started to make their way down the one they had been in just in time – confirming what Leia had already suspected. “Last time I checked; the Jedi were on the Senate’s payroll – not the other way around.”

And Leia knew there was no arguing with that.


 

Padmè led Leia into one of the rooms – ship quarters, Leia noted as she looked around the (messy) space, her eyes falling on the dark Jedi robes littering the floor as a pit formed in her stomach.

“He’s not here,” said Padmè, as if sensing her dread before she closed and locked the door behind her before making her way over to the closet to grab some clean towels. “You can use the fresher in here to clean up. There’s plenty of soap and hair wash if you need it.”

She handed Leia a clean towel before depositing the bundle of clothes on the counter.

“You can leave your clothes outside the door,” she said as Leia nodded, accepting the towel as she made her way into the fresher, the door closing behind her as she came face to face with her own reflection for the first time in over a day. It was no wonder that Padmè had jumped at the chance to help her get cleaned. She looked like an absolute mess.

“You’ve seen better days,” Luke murmured in her head as she stared at the big, dark circles underneath her eyes as well as her tangled, knotted hair. Her eyes were raw, and her lips were painfully chapped to the point where she could see blood between the cracked skin.

“I’ve had better days,” was Leia’s annoyed response as she began to undo her hair, reluctantly allowing herself to listen to what Luke had to say.

“Well, yeah,” he agreed, “but I’ve never seen you so…”

“So what?”

Leia could feel his grimace. “Sickly.”

“I’m not sick,” replied Leia, as if it were the most obvious thing as her fingers combed through her hair as she worked to untangle all of the knots that had begun to form, but then when she pulled her hand away, the hair didn’t stop.

“I told you coming back here would create a paradox,” was Luke’s solemn response as Leia stared down at her hand, a lump forming in her throat. “It started the moment you arrived here. The midichlorians in your cells and the midichlorians that are forming in our mother's womb cannot exist at the same point in time,” he said before adding; “there can only ever be one, remember?”

“How—” Leia swallowed, the clump sitting heavily in the palm of her hand. “How long do I have?”

“Weeks. Maybe months.”

Leia looked up, tired brown eyes staring back at her as she stared into her reflection, the clump of hair in her hand a distant feeling as she realized how little time she had left. As the version of herself that belonged in this time grew and developed in Padmè’s womb, the weaker she would grow.

And being weak was not something she could afford. Especially now.

“I don’t have much time then.”

It shouldn’t have cut like it did. It was what she had wanted, after all. But instead, it was cold, like the feeling of Han’s lifeless body in her arms had felt like before Vader had dragged her away from him. Like the emptiness that Leia had felt the moment Luke’s light had been snuffed out and just like the dread that had filled her when she realized Han wasn’t moving. It was like that, but colder still – realization dawning that she had gotten everything she had wanted in a twisted way.

"Leia..."

She could feel Luke’s presence in her mind, enveloping her and spreading his warmth to her, but not even that was enough to stop the shaking in her hands. She shouldn’t feel regret. This was what she had wanted. This is what she had asked for. What was done was done. She couldn’t go back even if she wanted to.

“No, it’s not,” Luke countered as Leia threw the clump into the trash. “This isn’t what you wanted, but it’s what you felt you had to do.”

Because she couldn’t live in a universe where her family was gone. But now… Now she would have to die in a universe where her family didn’t even exist. And for some reason, that was what seemed to push her over the edge. Grief – she knew – was a strange emotion. It was intrusive and morbid, and it only kept piling up until Leia had no other choice but to address it. “I just wanted to be with you and Han,” she said before adding; “I still do.”

“I know,” was Luke’s somber response.

When her hands were finally under her control again, Leia finished unknotting her hair before stepping into the fresher shower, the water cascading down her skin and mixing in with her tears. She didn’t know how long she stood there, just letting the water fall off of her like a waterfall before she finally got around to rinsing her hair with the military-grade hair wash that Anakin had. There was only a little left in the bottle – not nearly enough for the amount of hair that she had, but Leia made do with what she had as she lathered and massaged it into her hair. It was nice to be able to clean away the grit from her body as well as the mud. It wasn’t until the water turned clear again and Leia’s skin was scrubbed red that she finally turned it off and stepped out, wrapping the towel around her body as she stared at the fogged-up mirror.

Ever since she had arrived here only a few days prior, Leia hadn’t given much thought to her appearance – and if she was being honest, it had been a long time since Leia had ever thought of something so frivolous and juvenile. It seemed strange to worry about such things when you were in the process of ripping time apart. But there was a part of Leia that wanted nothing more than to feel like her old self; her hair clean and braided, her face fresh and clean…

She let her hand trail over the deep, red-colored fabric that had once belonged to Ahsoka Tano. It was a nice outfit, one that she could almost see herself wearing in her younger days, before the Rebellion. Before the Death Star.

There was a knock at the door.

“Is everything okay in there?” asked Padmè. Leia didn’t know how long she had been in there, but judging from the steam-free mirror it must’ve been a while.

“Yes,” she called back. “I’ll be right out.”

Dressing with the bandages turned out to be harder than she thought, but Leia managed to get both the top and the leggings on before she turned to inspect herself in the mirror. The outfit ended up fitting her perfectly, and it felt good to wear something other than robes for once.

Padmè was waiting for her when she opened the door, a hair comb in one hand and some hair ties in the other as she smiled at Leia. “I know you said you didn’t need my help with anything, but I couldn’t help but notice that you always seem to wear your hair up.”

“I always wear it back,” said Leia, exhausted. “It’s easier to deal with that way,” she pressed her lips together before adding; “easier to fight with.”

“I see,” nodded Padmè. “If you’d like, I can help you pin it back. I can’t say I’m very familiar with Alderaanian hairstyles, but I am very good with a hairbrush.”

Leia felt her breath hitch at the otherworldly offer, her chest leaping at the thought. But as she was about to nod her head yes, she remembered the clump of hair that was now sitting in the trash, the feeling of her hair falling out of her scalp sobering enough.

She swallowed. “No, thank you. I can do my own hair.”

Padmè frowned. That wasn’t the response she had been expecting. “Are you sure?”

Leia nodded. “Yes, positive.”

“Okay,” said Padmè as she handed the comb over to the other woman, her lips pressing together as she watched Leia in concern, as if she could sense that something was wrong. “Let me know if you need help.”

Leia nodded as she disappeared back into the fresher to comb her hair, not wanting to be under the Senator’s gaze any longer as she brushed her hair. She was glad when no more clumps fell out, but she was still careful as she ran the comb through the ends before pulling her hair back into a simple braid. She might’ve done more with it if she could, but she was worried anything else might make more of her hair fall out.

Once her hair was secure and out of her face, Leia was able to finally take a deep breath. The woman that stared back at her was almost recognizable, if it hadn’t been for the jagged scar that ran down the side of her face. That, she supposed, would always serve as a constant reminder of who she truly was.

When she exited the fresher once more, Padmè nodded in approval. “You look much better,” she said, as if the large bags underneath Leia’s eyes and her sunken in cheeks didn’t exist. “How do you feel?”

Like an imposter, thought Leia as she bit her tongue. “Better,” was what she eventually settled on, begrudgingly. “It’s nice to not be caked in mud.”

“I’m sure,” was Padmè’s sympathetic response. There was a moment of silence, and then; “who were you talking to in there?” she ventured, cautious.

Leia froze. She felt bile creeping up her throat.

“Who was I talking to?” she asked after a moment of silence, her throat dryer than the sands on Tatooine.

Had Padmè listened in on her conversation with Luke?

“I didn’t hear what you said,” Amidala was quick to reassure her. “It just sounded like you were talking to someone. Do you have a comm on you?” she asked, her eyes only slightly narrowing.

Leia shook her head. “No, I was just…” she struggled for an explanation before settling on; “it’s strange, I know. But sometimes I talk to my brother out loud.” It was almost a confession. Half true— but not at the same time. She swallowed before adding; “it helps me when I feel overwhelmed.”

Telling Padmè that had not been easy. But saying the words aloud – even if not fully true – made Leia feel lighter. Smaller, even. Vulnerable.

“Maybe that’s a good thing,” Luke offered.

“What is?” she found herself asking.

“Being vulnerable.”

“How is that a good thing?” she asked, but Luke gave her no answer— nor did he need to. It was already obvious what he had meant by that. She had been pulling from her hatred and anger to give her strength for years, always doing things she never thought herself capable of until it was already too late and her mind was made up. Vulnerable was not something Leia had been in a long time, nor had she ever imagined until now that she could even be that.

But here in this moment, she felt as though she could be.

Before she could ponder on that realization even more, there was a ping at the door that brought whatever it was that Padmè had been about to say to Leia to a grinding halt.

Leia thought for a moment that Padmè was content to let the door go unanswered, but then there was another one followed by a rapid succession of pings that demanded their attention as the other woman let out an annoyed huff.

“Hold that thought,” she said as they both listened to the aggressive pings turn into pounding, the sound of metal clanging against the door all that they could hear as well as Anakin’s voice, frantic as he called out for his wife.

Padmè sighed as she marched over to the door and hit the unlock button. The door slid open as Anakin stumbled through it, his metal hand raised to pound on empty air.

Ani?” asked Padmè, concern lacing her tone as she took in his disheveled appearance. Even Leia was surprised at how awful the Jedi looked in comparison to her— eyes lined with red and wide with worry, darting every which way and unable to focus on anything.

“Where is she?” was the first thing he said as Padmè greeted him, his eyes raking over her worriedly as Leia felt her chest tighten in realization that he still thought her capable of hurting the other woman.

She had made it abundantly clear at that point that she meant Padmè no harm, but it seemed Anakin still had his doubts.

(She didn’t know why that hurt).

And then his eyes slid past Padmè, looking past her at Leia as he realized that she was right there.

How did you – ” he sputtered, eyes taking in her appearance. Leia knew she must’ve been an odd sight. Dressed in Ahsoka’s clothing, face scrubbed clean, and hair neatly braided as she stood beside the woman responsible for her looks. So out of place, and yet not at the same time.

And judging from Anakin’s bloodless face, he felt the same way.

“You let her out,” Anakin observed softly, not warm, but not demanding either. Not even angry, just – stating fact. Leia could tell that he was conflicted, but he was hiding it surprisingly well.

“I couldn’t leave her in there,” Padmè confessed, looking at Anakin as if Leia wasn’t even there. “I won’t have her locked away. I won’t—”

“I know,” Anakin interrupted, lips twitching, eyes longing. He tore his gaze from Leia, unable to look at her any longer as he looked down at Padmè. He swallowed, and Leia could see the conflict in his eyes – as well as the pain that it was causing him. “I didn’t think you would.”

His words were soft – little more than a whisper before he turned to Leia once more. There was a long, painful silence where Anakin said nothing, lips tightening, eyes tired and weary.

“I still don’t entirely understand you,” he said at last. “Or your reasons for coming here. But I do know that you are my daughter. I can feel it in the Force, our connection. You feel it too.”

“I may be your daughter,” said Leia before adding; “but you will never be my father.”

“I don’t expect you to see me that way. But you are mine.” He shook his head, eyes blazing with something that reminded Leia all too much of Vader. “And I will not let you wipe yourself out of existence just because you feel there is no other choice.”

As if you could ever stop me, she thought furiously, incoherently.

It took her a moment to reign in her emotions. To pull them in close, and hold onto them so that they wouldn’t bleed out into the Force.

“So what,” she spat, “do you propose we do then?”

“You want revenge and I want to protect my family. Surely we can find a way to do both,” he said, determination in his eyes

“Even if it means killing Palpatine?” she challenged, taunting and pushing him on purpose. She didn’t care if it hurt him, she just needed him to be honest.”

“Even if it means killing Palpatine,” he repeated. His face twisted in what looked like resignation as his shoulders slumped, his mouth turning into a grim line. “Whatever it takes to save the Republic and the Jedi,” his eyes closed; pained, “whatever it takes to save our family. I’ll help you do it.”