He held her tightly.
For minutes, it seemed, she didn't move at all.
So strong, he thought.
Almost in answer to his thought, she finally began to weep quietly on his shoulder.
"You know you can tell me, but only if you want to. I didn't mean to push..." Han started.
"I know," Leia said.
Han watched her look up into his eyes in the glowing firelight.
"Time is always so short, Han," Leia said, laying her head gingerly down on his shoulder. "Now I understand why time is so precious. The most critical moments in my life have always been too short, and I've never even had time to say much more than 'hello' or 'goodbye'."
Every single time Han was confident that he had her figured out, he would once again find himself smashing face-first into a barricade. Completely lost and not comprehending a word she was saying, Han continued holding her, shaking his head. The woman he loved more than anyone else in the universe had once again become an unsolvable enigma. Never, since he had known her, had he seen her so vulnerable. She was definitely not herself at the moment.
"There's never enough time," she echoed again. Han felt her clinging to him as if never to let him go again.
Han pulled away gently from her embrace when he realized something.
"Luke's gone, isn't he?" Han asked, looking straight down into her eyes.
She nodded, the glowing embers of the Ewok village firelight reflected in her soaked eyes.
"I guess there's not much point in me asking why," Han said, putting an arm around her. Han stood next to her now, allowing her to lean her head onto his shoulder.
Leia grimaced and shook her head.
She looked lost, and as if she didn't know whether to stand or just fall down. Han tugged at her sleeve softly, inviting her to sit next to him on the catwalk. That helped her make up her mind.
Leia sat down next to him. "No, Han. There's more to this. Luke has been through more than any of us have ever known."
She looked at him, her eyes fixed hard on him and emblazoned with seriousness; but her lips trembling and quivering with weakness. This was the first time Han had ever seen her this way.
What else can I do? I don't have anything else to offer her beyond my heart, which she's already got. All Han could offer was to let her take him into her confidence.
"Look," he said, "I know I'm not always the most sensitive guy in the world. But I can listen if you want to talk. You know you can trust me. Anything we talk about stays here."
Han continued looking at her quizzically as Leia drew one knee up to her chest. "I'm glad, Han. Because what you don't know about Luke - and what I didn't know about Luke until a few minutes ago - is going to be hard to hear. It's going to upset you - badly."
"I gotta admit the kid has changed since I came out of hibernation. He's so serious all the time now. He reminds me of someone else I know." He grinned and lightly elbowed Leia in the shoulder.
Han sighed when his joke didn't cheer her up, which was all he was trying to do.
"He's also become a bit - creepy," Han stated.
Leia's face glazed over at that remark.
"Yes," she said emotionlessly. "That he has..."
"He's gotten us this far, though. This mission might have given us a second enemy if it wasn't for Luke," Han said, looking back toward the hole in the massive tree behind him, listening to C-3PO babble on with the Ewoks.
Obviously steering him back to the subject at hand, Leia continued, "He's left the moon."
Left the moon? That about figures, Han thought. Although it was obvious to him that Luke had certainly become more grown-up than the immature farm boy Han had originally met on Tatooine, Luke's recent actions completely contradicted that maturity, confusing Han even more.
This reminded Han of the first time he had met Luke. After the Falcon was captured by the Imperials, Han remembered something he had said to one of his passengers. This passenger had made what Han thought was an extraordinarily crazy suggestion.
"Damned fool, I knew you were gonna say that," Han had said to him.
Ben Kenobi had seemed wiser than Han would ever openly admit, but for the old man to choose to go out on his own to knock out that tractor beam on the Death Star - it sounded like pure insanity to Han at the time. He couldn't help but think of the similarity of Kenobi's actions to the present situation.
Come to think of it, I was wrong, Han thought. The kid was more like the old man - a damned fool. Luke's decision to leave like this seemed incredibly reckless, even to Han, who was no stranger to reckless actions himself.
"To go where?" Han finally interjected. "On some private mission? There's not much he can do up there on his own. I wouldn't imagine even a Jedi would fare very well against a Death Star and an Imperial fleet completely by himself."
Leia looked at him reprovingly.
"Okay, okay. Go on, I'm sorry." Han decided to shut up for now.
Her expression rekindled with deep sadness, as she shut her eyes and her beautiful features contorted in pain. She buried her head in her hands and sobbed.
Han could not take seeing her in so much pain. She must really love him. I think she always has. They've got some kind of connection that a guy like me just doesn't deserve. I guess that leaves me out of the picture.
However, for the first time in his life, Han Solo's jealousy drove him to actually want to be the bigger person.
"I'm here to listen. Just tell me whatever you want to tell me, Leia."
Leia seemed to still herself then. "He said that Vader is here. Right now, on this moon."
His eyes suddenly growing wide, Han almost jumped up from where he stood. Maybe the kid had been right. When they were on their way down to the moon, he'd said, 'Vader is on that ship.'
"So, he felt that he was endangering the mission being here," Han said, after an uncomfortable moment of silence. "I didn't think he would become so obsessed that it would make him leave."
Han searched her face for a response to what he said. For a few moments, Leia only stared silently down at the slats of the rickety catwalk on which they sat.
"There's more to it than that, Han," she finally replied.
Leia turned to face him then, and said, "Luke somehow found out that Vader is his father, and he's gone to face him again."
"What the hell?" Han spat in disbelief, raising his voice.
The kid's finally lost his mind, Han thought, convinced. Hokey religions and ancient weapons...not only has he lost it, but he has Leia believing every word of it, too. I swear, I'm gonna knock him a good one when he gets back he-
"Han, please keep your voice down," Leia pleaded. "Please, for me. To answer your question, my guess is Vader must have told him."
"Vader?" Han whispered angrily, complying with her request to keep quiet, but the tone of his voice losing none of its potency. "Leia, listen to me. Would you trust Vader with the truth about anything? Would you? Besides, no one in the galaxy even knows if that slime is even human. How in the hell could he father a child? Come on, Leia, any fool would see that Vader was just using Luke."
"He said he has to face Vader again," Leia said, very simply. "I asked him why he felt he had to confront Vader. He said... because he thinks there is still good in him, and that Vader could be turned from being evil."
Han could have uttered a string of profanity at what he had just heard - and at its utter ridiculousness - but he had made a silent promise to himself for her sake to remain the bigger person.
"The Emperor is here too, you know. On the Death Star," Han stated. "Vader is probably going to take Luke straight to him."
"You're probably right," Leia said, her voice hoarse and barely a whisper.
Han sighed, and opened his arms back up to embrace her again. He just held her, allowing her to release her grief.
After a few minutes, Han offered, "You feeling up to a walk?"
At last, Leia's face finally broke into a smile. "That's the first good idea I've heard since Luke left. Follow me. I want to show you something that the Ewoks showed me while they were taking care of me."
They got up and walked through the vast maze of catwalks in the Ewok village, until at last they reached a stopping point. Han was amazed. The view was breathtaking! Leia had led him to the edge and the highest point of the treetop village where they could see an amazingly clear view of the sky, and of the deflector shield beyond the horizon.
After many long hours of sitting on their perch in meaningful conversation, dawn began to show signs of breaking on the forest moon's horizon.
Han and Leia's conversation was suddenly interrupted by the distant noise of a ship taking off from one of the landing platforms of the shield generator base. Han took out his macrobinoculars to try to see what type of ship it was.
"Looks like a shuttle taking off. Hey, do you think Luke was o-"
Han was startled when he put the binoculars down and turned to see that Leia had fallen to her knees. She was looking up at the sky with an expression of great dolor on her face.
"Leia?" Han said, interrupting her trance-like state.
She stood up as the faint light of the shuttle engines' residual glow disappeared from the atmosphere.
Han slowly wrapped his arm around her. "Leia... I don't know if this helps, but if we make it through this, it will finally all be over."
At last, Leia seemed to find the strength to use her voice. "Luke was on that ship. I can feel it."
Now's a good time, Han thought.
"Leia, I-" he started.
Leia was still gazing up at the sky. It seemed to Han, however, that something else was still nagging on Leia's mind. But, he did not push.
No. Not yet, he reconsidered. As strange as it seemed to Han, he reasoned with himself again, and decided that Leia's entire mood - out of character as it was - would not make this the most favorable time to drop his feelings for her on her head.
"I need to go down and make sure Goldenrod did what I asked him to," he said instead, extending his hand to her. She still didn't move. "You wanna come with me?"
Leia remained still as stone.
Han decided to honor her request from last night, before all of this started, before she had simply said, "Hold me."
"I think you want to be alone for a little while," he said, after a long pause. "There's not much time left. They'll be wondering where you are. But since you led me up here, I suppose you know your way down."
Finally breaking her petrified stance, she turned to Han. Leia smiled at him softly, as if to say 'Thank you.'
Han could have sworn the smile was more one of a lost little girl than of the strong, vibrant, stubborn Princess that he met several years ago.
Han shrugged, and giving her his best smuggler's grin, turned and walked away. He headed back down to the Ewok chief's tree to check up on the others.
Leia sat back down, for a long time.
It's not fitting for a Princess to cry, her father Bail would say.
But does that matter, Father? My entire world just changed. I am no longer the person you had me believe I was.
To hell with what her father would say. He had lied to her. Maybe it was for her own protection, but for now she was going to have her time to sort this out.
Her mind was being tortured by her emotions, as well as her memories.
Memories that she feared she would never get to share with Luke.
She knew that Luke was telling the truth tonight just before he left her here. She had faced many truths in her life, some had been wondrous and happy while others had been equally painful. But this...this was the lowest point. Even being forced to watch the destruction of her home world could not top this. She could feel the truth now, flooding every sense in her being.
And I don't want to feel it! Part of her wished that she still never knew her real lineage.
When she had looked up at the departing speck in the sky, Leia remembered Luke's cry for help on Bespin. She almost expected to feel the same thing as she watched the Imperial Shuttle depart. Instead, what she felt was just a sensation, one that flooded her with warmth and hope.
Luke had tried to comfort her.
She was still sad. What if Luke never came back? What if she never saw him again? What if she never got the chance to tell him more about their mother? About the things Bail Organa had told Leia about her? Leia had only told Luke basic things because she didn't share those memories with anyone.
But I have so much more to share with him now that I know he's my br...
I can't stand this.
Sitting on the catwalk, Leia rocked herself back and forth, using her arms to pull her knees up to her chest. The rocking reminded her of being rocked to sleep.
I wonder if Luke was ever rocked to sleep.
"Do you remember your mother? Your real mother?" Luke had asked her.
Oh yes, Leia thought. Yes, I do, Luke. Our mother.
Most of the memories were painful. Most of them she would never share with anyone with the exception of the only man she could ever call 'Father.' Her father had told her never to even speak her biological mother's real name aloud, even while the woman was still alive.
"Padm?," she whispered tenderly into the morning air, defying Bail Organa's wishes. Suddenly, Leia felt an overwhelming combination of joy and comfort mixed with sorrow, as well as a warmth creeping up her back that she couldn't explain; it was as if ...if...invisible hands were on her shoulders, comforting her.
Then, Leia found herself wanting to recall everything she remembered about Padm?. Yes, most of the memories were still sad and haunting to think about, but Padm? was the standard for everything Leia had judged as beautiful later in her own life.
I've got to focus harder, her subconscious voice said to her.
Leia closed her eyes to fully capture the images of her memories in her mind, without any of her physical surroundings distorting it.
She was in her mother's room.
Located at the back of an inconspicuous corridor in a palace wall, the room led to a large, semi-cloaked balcony overlooking the city. The balcony was larger than the bedroom and the living quarters combined. Leia had always felt safe there. Across the edge of the balcony were many plants. These plants her mother had once told her were very special; special because they were saved from her mother's dead home world.
Leia looked up at her mother as she sat in her old chair, taken from a place Mommy called 'The Theed palace.'
"There, at that star in the sky," Mommy had said as she pointed up. Mommy had been a queen on the world floating around that star. Her planet and her people were beautiful.
"Will I ever have to be a queen, Mommy?" Leia never liked that idea. Even at age five, she didn't like politics, although Bail had already seen Leia's gift. Bail had made it known to Leia later in life that he knew - even back then - that Leia would be good at it.
After Leia asked the question, her mother did something that Leia never saw again.
Mommy smiled at her. "No, little one. But if you ever were given such a big responsibility, would you take it?"
Leia shifted her feet with her hands behind her back. She humbly replied, "No."
Her mother regarded her with a solemn, wise expression.
Mommy held out her hand. Leia climbed up into the chair and sat in her mother's lap. Her mother cradled her head in her hands as she softly rocked and cooed her.
"My darling little one," she said, her voice at the point of breaking (as it always was). "You are very strong. Your destiny is going to be a great one. But, remember, always remember, my sweet Leia...think of life as a lot of different roads...the roads of life...and the choices you make that take you down each different road are always your own. If you don't ever remember anything else that I say to you, please remember this. And please also remember, that I will always be with you, and that I will always love you."
Then a voice came from the bedroom beyond the balcony, interrupting the greatest comforting moment Leia had ever remembered from her childhood.
"Leia." It was a stern voice, full of concern.
Leia had looked in the direction of the voice, then back at Mommy, a look in Leia's eyes pleading for Mommy not to send her back to Bail.
Mommy did not look back toward the voice. She just continued to look at Leia.
"Go on, darling. You'll see me again." She winked at Leia. "Remember, I'm always with you."
Leia kissed her mother on the cheek, and got up from the chair.
As she walked into the bedroom, she felt Bail's hand on her shoulder, gently leading her out of the chamber, whispering to her, "You know you're not supposed to be in here without my permission, Leia. Now, go back to your quarters, please. It's getting late."
Leia tried to steal one last look at her mother, but Padm? was still sitting in her chair, watching the Alderaanian sunset.
Despite this, Leia squeaked bravely at her mother, "How do you know so much about me and my future? Father says you only know a little bit about me."
Mommy finally turned around in her chair, her smile becoming even more radiant.
Leia would never forget that day, simply because it was the only day she ever saw Mommy smile. Stars only knew why Mommy didn't smile more often; it was so beautiful.
"A little green person told me once," she said, still smiling from ear-to-ear. "I'll tell you that story someday, when you're older." Mommy playfully shook her finger and winked at Leia as she said this.
Bail let out a loud and angry sigh. He led Leia out.
Leia left the hidden quarters, but Bail stayed behind. As soon as the entranceway was shut and secured, Leia decided to defy her father once more. Bail had forgotten to lock down the comlink to the room, because he was still in it. Rounding the corner quickly to find it, Leia pressed a button on a security panel that Mommy had once shown her to use anytime she wanted in. Normally, she could talk to Mommy through this panel. This time, she listened.
She entered the code, opening a channel to the room.
Leia then heard something she would never forget.
Bail was saying to her, "This is for the best, Padm?. We had an agreement with Kenobi. We all agreed-including you-that you could watch Leia grow up from afar. You cannot simply have her coming in here anytime she wishes. Please do not allow her in the next time she asks, unless you have confirmed it with me first. I thought we both only want what's best for her, don't we?"
Through Mommy's broken sobs, Leia could still hear what she had said. "What do you mean 'Don't we?' You sound unsure of even yourself concerning what's best for her. You want to know what I really think? I think that you are twisting what Kenobi wanted, Bail."
"Padm?..." Bail started.
Mommy's voice became louder and angrier as she interrupted him. "Bail, is this what is supposed to pass as living? I'm not a politician anymore, Bail. I'm a mother...but you won't even let me be that!. I'm nothing now! When my daily 'work' is done, I sit in here all alone in this...this crypt, rotting away like a dead person. You think it best for me not to go out during late hours, and you think it best for her not to come in at all. It's always you, Bail! I'm dying inside every single day - even more so without her. Why can you not afford me the simple courtesy of seeing her once every so often? Damn you, she's all I have left! She came to me tonight because she was feeling lonely and trapped."
There was a very long pause. Little Leia did not hear Bail speak. But Mommy continued, defiantly.
"She has to know, Bail. I lived a lie once, and I'm living a lie right now! What about when the day comes when she finds out the truth?"
Bail did something Leia never, ever recalled him doing to anyone later in life. He verbally erupted, his voice becoming so loud it distorted the comlink speaker.
"Enough!" Bail shouted. "Padm?, sooner or later, they're going to start mass biometric scanning and figure out who you are. They will find you. The Empire is running over everything in the Core systems now. I don't have any ground to stand on anymore, and I can't stop it. Do you want the pain from her memory torn asunder because she bonded with you too much for her own good? Do you want her to live a life of regret? You were so agreeable to this when she was born. Remember what happened to Anakin after he lost his mother. Or have you spent so much time feeling sorry for yourself that you've forgotte-"
Bail's words were interrupted with the sound of a chair squeaking back, running footsteps, and a very loud slapping noise.
"In all our long years of friendship, I cannot believe you did th-," Bail started.
"In all our long years of friendship, I never believed you would dare say something like that to me. And you won't ever say that to me again." Mommy's voice was as cold as ice. "Leave. Now!"
Though his voice was clearly shaking now, Bail still did not back down. "The galaxy has changed, Padm?. Don't you forget that you and Leia would both be in Imperial hands if it wasn't for this place," Bail said, and that's when Leia heard him storm out of the room, leaving Mommy behind with her long, heartbroken sobs.
Leia shut off the comlink and scrambled away quickly.
Two months later, her mother had been found dead at the base of the palace, below the balcony from which she used to watch the Alderaanian sunset.
Bail ordered Padm?'s body cremated, and scattered the ashes of her remains at the edge of the Great Sea in a quiet ceremony.
Leia was in her bedroom, confined to her quarters on the day of the funeral. She had not been allowed to attend the ceremony. Her father had muttered something about "not wanting to draw anymore attention to the funeral than necessary".
After the services were over, an electronic chime sounded at Leia's door.
"Leia," a voice called from the outside. "May I come in?"
Leia remained seated on her bed, and motioned for Artoo to open the door.
Bail walked in, unsure of what to say. His wife followed in behind him.
"I don't want to talk to you," Leia said.
Bail took a look back at his wife. While she remained at the door, Bail walked toward her, kneeling down in front of Leia, so that his face was level with hers. Leia did not look up.
"Leia," Bail said. "Understand something, because this is very important. I cannot take away the memory of Padm?...Mommy... from you. Ever. I never wanted to. She was a very important person in her time. And yes, although I've tried my best to hide it from you, she is your real mother. But, remember that your new mother and I love you, very much." Bail had been referring to his own wife as Leia's 'new' mother.
Leia's tear-streaked face met Bail's sorrowful gaze.
"You mean was my real mother," Leia said resentfully. "Now she's gone. I'll never see her again."
Bail tried to hold her. She fought at first, but at last accepted his embrace, her tears washing over his tunic. Even though she was only five, she felt the pain of the void that her Mother left behind tearing and screaming through her soul.
"Why..." Leia started through her sobs, "Why didn't you let me say goodbye to her?"
"I will take you out to the sea tomorrow," he offered.
Leia nodded, but she knew it wasn't the same as what she really wanted.
"Father," she said wistfully, "who was 'Anakin'? Was he my real father?"
Bail physically stiffened at the question. He almost looked as though he was going to get up and leave Leia to her own sorrow, but he sighed instead and said, "I don't know where you heard that name, and I will not ask. Anakin is a name that - much like Padm?'s - is to be forgotten. You can always remember her as 'Mommy' or 'Mother'. It is for your own safety, my daughter. All I can tell you right now is this: Anakin was a good man, and Padm? loved him very much. I promise I will tell you more when you are older."
"Father," she said. "I knew Mommy was going to die before you even told me."
Leia found her mind being jerked forward in time, the surroundings in the memory fading to a distant blur. A new setting came into her thoughts, replacing the old one.
She was now fourteen standard years of age, walking through the Aldera Palace halls after her tutor had ended her Political Etiquette class. She was tired and frustrated.
Having been conditioned over the years in her training as the heiress to Alderaanian throne, Leia had far more popularity than she cared to deal with at her age. She scurried past people who were trying to get a word with her in the Palace hallways. Using her knowledge of the emergency exit routes out of the Palace, she finally had to frantically take a different route up a manual flight of stairs in order to avoid people without being rude. Eight flights later, she reached a door at the back of what she knew was a quiet corridor, completely out of breath. She slumped down inside the emergency stairway to regain her energy.
After the brief rest - but still frustrated - Leia began storming out of the stairwell to get to the turbolift at the end of the hallway that would take her to the welcoming bed in her quarters, but she suddenly stopped as she exited the staircase.
The wall to Leia's left looked familiar. She had buried the memory deep inside as her father had conditioned her to do, but she also knew deep inside that some things can never be completely buried. She walked toward the wall.
Before Leia stood a door to a room. The door looked as if it had not been opened for quite some time. She tapped the access panel to the door, to see what kind of room it was now.
The access panel simply replied "Maintenance".
Leia could no longer deny this peculiar feeling of awareness to herself. She did remember this place. Without the approval of her father, she had snuck in here several times after Mommy has passed away. She had ceased doing it when she had simply become too fearful of being caught by Bail. The memory of one particular thing she had found while scrounging around came back to her.
But, surely the room would simply have been cleared out by now. Wouldn't it?
No. I can feel it. I wonder...could it be? Would Father have really left it all behind?
She couldn't...no...she wouldn't do it. She and her Father had had a wonderful relationship since...since that other time in her life. She wouldn't do such a thing. Her Father would never forgive her. She couldn't!
But Leia was consumed with curiosity. In a state of mind she couldn't control, she began trying different access panel codes, then finally ripped the panel open in a fit of vexation. After she had crossed a few wires and entered a few override codes, the door slid open for the first time in eight years.
I don't believe it! It's all still here! Tears filled Leia's eyes as she cupped her hand to her mouth and walked into the room. Everything was spinning around her in slow motion, as she took in the view, the surroundings, the smells, the familiarity of a place she once and always called home. Leia then realized that nothing could have kept her from going in here as long as this place still existed.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The memories of pain were still fresh in this room, as were the memories of love. Not noticing nor caring that she had left the door open behind her, Leia slipped into the room.
Leia couldn't believe what her father had done. Everything was perfectly preserved, and as a result, the memories of her five-year-old self came back as plain as day. She began rummaging through things. She lost track of time, when she finally found what she had been looking for.
"No!" A voice said in disbelief from behind her. Leia whirled around to see her father standing in the doorway. No doubt Palace security had called him the moment they had detected the door breach.
Leia watched Bail's eyes widen with fury when he saw the picture that had been in the dresser, which was now in his Leia's hands; a picture of someone he obviously never wanted Leia to see.
It was the picture Leia had always made sure to look at when she snuck in the room eight years before.
It was a holovid still photo of a handsome young man of about twenty. He was wearing odd-looking robes, unlike anything she had ever seen before. His golden blond hair was spiked above his head, his blue eyes blazed with intensity, but despite the slightly arrogant tilt to his head, the small grin on his face spoke volumes. It was very full of love for the person who took the picture.
Mother took this, she thought.
"Leia? Explain yourself!" Bail demanded.
Realizing her father had caught her and she now had to do as she asked, Leia did something she rarely did with her Father...she became instantly angry. Who was he to withhold this from her? She had every right to know about all of this! She stood up, bravely facing him.
"Uncovering more of your lies, Father," she said confidently, narrowing her eyes as they met Bail's.
Not a man known for ever backing down from his position, Bail appeared to almost stumble back from the force and coldness of Leia's words.
"What did I tell you years ago, Leia? What have I been telling you over the years? I would tell you when you are old enough. Until that time comes, you must be protected from the truth!"
"Father, I grow tired of this," Leia said in challenge. "I think I'm old enough to know the difference between what is truth and what is a lie. In fact, I think I know deep in my heart what you've been hiding here since I was five."
Bail remained speechless as Leia turned back to look at the picture. Leia remembered her diplomatic teachings and did her best to calm herself. She did not wish to fuel her father's anger any further, but she also wanted to know the truth.
"Anakin..." Leia said the name again with conviction as she looked at the electronic caption of the picture. "He was my father. Wasn't he?"
Her adopted father sighed with defeat. "I knew you came into this room when you were six. Rather than make it known to you that I knew this, I simply hoped that you would outgrow the need to come here, which I thought you had. Obviously, you haven't. So, if I tell you the truth, you must promise me to never, ever, enter this room again."
Leia hadn't gone through half the things in her mother's room that she would have liked to have investigated, but she weighed the cost of knowing the truth against more lies.
"All right," Leia said. "I promise I will not come in here anymore, Father. You know when I make a promise to you, I keep it."
Shutting the door, Bail sat on Padm?'s bed, folding his hands and looking down. He wasted no time in getting straight to the point. "Anakin was your father. He was a good person, and a brave servant of the Old Republic. Because of your mother's royal and political status, he married your mother in secret, and they had you. That is all I am going to tell you about him until you are older."
"But why, Father?" Until this point, Leia and Bail had never had such a heated argument. She always respected her father, even if she didn't always agree with him. "Why have I been taught to be so secret and ashamed of who I really am?"
"Leia, a few years ago we went over the history of the Jedi purge privately. Do you remember me telling you of the Jedi whose name you must never speak?" Bail asked in response.
"So many names I cannot reveal," Leia said, playfully rolling her eyes. " You are driving me quite insane, father."
Bail laughed in spite of her remark. "It is part of being a politician, particularly the Viceroy of a planetary system that is trying to hide the fact that it sympathizes with the Rebel Alliance. There are still many names I cannot and will not reveal to you, Leia. For example, your father's full name is another, so do not ask."
Father and daughter suddenly both smirked at each other and Leia shook her head, trying not to laugh at this situation. Though she had always had a wonderful relationship with Bail, this occasion was so ridiculous that it seemed funny to her. Leia was always impressed that Bail could anticipate her next question.
At least the current situation had become less hostile. Leia finally felt herself beginning to relax.
"Well, do you remember Kenobi?" Bail asked again.
"Yes, I remember him. He was a Jedi Knight, wasn't he? General Kenobi. What about him? And what does he have to do with Anakin?"
"Kenobi had a Jedi apprentice that we all - unfortunately - know quite well."
Now fourteen-year-old Leia's mind was a whirling vortex of a storm as she processed all this information.
Suddenly, Leia shuddered. She knew exactly whom this 'pupil' was. Leia felt her face flush as the coldness of the thought swept through her.
"Vader," she said quietly.
"Yes, my dear," Bail said in acknowledgement. "Anakin fell during the Clone Wars, but I will have to leave that story to be told another day. Anakin was an important military leader. Vader and the Emperor saw to it personally that Anakin's name and existence were erased from all records after he fell, as they oversaw the elimination of so many names and so much knowledge after the Clone Wars."
Leia stared sadly at the picture of her real father again, knowing that Bail would have everything in this room destroyed after this conversation.
"Then it's true. Mother couldn't live without Anakin, so..." Leia started.
"...so she took her own life," Bail finished for her. "Your mother and father were such good and loyal friends to me, but unfortunately, bad things can happen to good people--even your parents. I don't know if you remember it or not, but your mother was also a great servant of the Old Republic. She was Queen of the Sovereign Planet of Naboo, and later a member of the Republic Senate. She had powerful political influence, and she opposed the Emperor at all turns when he began to turn the Republic into a militarized dictatorship. Your mother was also a friend of Kenobi's. Kenobi also opposed the Empire, as did most of the Jedi. The fact that she was opposed to the Emperor's will along with the fact that she was a personal friend of a Jedi automatically made her an enemy of the Empire. It was simple guilt by association. So, Palpatine swore to rid the galaxy of her if he ever found her. That is why she had to hide. That is why her name was changed, and her identity protected. I offered her a job as Alderaan's Minister of Education under a false identity. I wanted to give her purpose to her life, to try to keep her happy. But, she never stopped loving you, or your father. She could not live without either of you. Only you, myself, and your other 'mother' knew her real name, as well as your father's. All records on her original existence have been erased, only I was the one to do it this time, to protect you from the Emperor."
Leia said nothing. Bail went on, "I worked alongside Palpatine for many years during the Clone Wars. His evil and anger know no bounds, Leia. He is both powerful, and cunning. And he has Vader to help him enforce his will. It would only have been a matter of time before he found your mother."
Maybe that's also why mother took her own life, Leia thought. To protect me from the Empire. Leia's fists balled up in fury, though she kept her composure under control, so that Bail would not notice.
From that moment on, Leia truly did what she was taught over the years -- to hate the Empire, Palpatine, and his lap-Sith, Vader; although now she had a reason. She could never imagine a shred of good ever being in any of the Empire, Palpatine, or Vader, even years before her encounter with Vader on the Death Star when he tortured her.
But, no matter what boundaries separated two people through life and death, Leia would always love her mother, and the young man she never knew...Anakin.
Leia worked hard with her father in the years that followed to fight everything the Emperor and the Empire stood for, and that meant standing against his greatest enforcers, including people like Wilhuff Tarkin...
But, he's my father.
And she had always hated him.
The call of several avian creatures pierced the morning air as they soared gracefully over her head. They were white, with feathery wings. They flew off into the distance in graceful formation. Interrupted by the creatures, Leia's memory blurred and faded into nothingness, and Leia's mind came back to the present. Her curiosity was piqued. She had never had any memory (much less memories) come back with such clarity. Had she just used the Force?
"There are things in this universe we don't understand," Leia had said to Han earlier.
Boy, that's an understatement, she thought. But, she understood something now.
Vader and Anakin are one. Mother loved him once. But how did he become that monster?
Leia remembered why she always thought so fondly of that picture of Anakin that she had found in her mother's old room.
She gasped. She remembered when she first met Luke, and why she subconsciously thought so fondly of him as well...it wasn't some kind of physical attraction, or even love, like the love she felt for Han.
It was because Luke reminded her of the young man in that picture in her memory - of Anakin!
Maybe that was not completely it, either. It was just a piece of the entire picture. The idea caused Leia to ponder many possibilities. What if she and Luke had actually not been brought together out of some inane circumstance? What if they had actually been drawn to each other? What if some things actually did happen for a reason? Luke had always been a good person, with a brave heart, one that very few had ever matched. That picture of Anakin that she had seen... Anakin Skywalker...it - the brave heart, the same heart which Luke possessed - was there too. It was in Anakin's eyes, and in his smile.
There was once good in Anakin, then - when that picture was taken.
Maybe that meant there was the potential for good or evil in anyone. That is why her mother told her, "...the paths that we choose in life are our own."
Leia understood a great deal now. Maybe Luke could explain how these memories came back to her so clearly when he returned.
Too many unanswered questions were in her mind at this point, but at long last, Leia Organa finally accepted the truth. Someday, she might even felt pity for Vader - but only because her mother had loved him once. But, that was as far as her mind would allow her pity to go, for now. Until Luke returned and explained more to her, Vader would still remain an evil scourge that Leia had fought against all her life. He and Palpatine had tortured her and destroyed every last vestige of freedom she and Bail had tried to fight for.
But was he really evil? Would Vader have tortured her if he knew she was his...daughter?
The very thought repulsed her in ways she would not have been able to describe to anyone.
For the time being she would not be able to decide what she should feel about Vader until she got the rest of the story from her brother.
Wow. I have a brother. A real, blood-related brother. At least one good thing had come of all of this. Leia no longer felt so alone in a Galaxy that had seemingly tried - all the years following Padme's death - to swallow her alive.
Vader is my father, and Luke's. Luke probably knows some things about Vader that I obviously don't, as I know things about our mother that he doesn't. Force help us, I hope he returns. Together, we can put the pieces of the puzzle back into place.
For Luke's sake, Leia hoped that he was right about Vader. Astonished at all the revelations she sorted out in her mind in just a short amount of time, she leapt up from her perch and ran back down to join the others. She had a job to do, for a cause she believed in.
Hours later that day - Han was tending to Leia's wounds when a blinding flash in the sky appeared, followed by a visible explosion. The massive image in the sky at first startled everyone around Han, but was immediately followed by a thunderous amount of cheering and applause by members of the Rebel Alliance, as well as war cries of victory by the Ewoks.
Moments later, the fizzling and crackling sounds of the broken up components of the second Death Star could be heard as they burned up, entering the atmosphere.
Han watched as Leia's eyes remained fixed on the sky, even after the explosion was gone. The look on her face was similar to one she'd had earlier that morning.
"I'm sure Luke wasn't on that thing when it blew," Han said, attempting sincere reassurance. The chance of that kid getting off the station was slim to none, but Han wasn't about to forget her feelings in this matter.
After all, Han loved her. But, she obviously loved Luke. She had made this more than clear to him the night before.
Leia said nothing at first. She seemed to be looking at nothing, her face completely blank. She looked dazed. Though only a few seconds, it felt like an eternity before she finally responded to Han.
"He wasn't," she said. "I can feel it."
Those damned words again, exactly like she said them this morning, Han thought.
The decision to 'be a bigger person' was starting to wear thin on Han Solo. The battle during the day combined with the events of last night had his conscience so torn he could no longer stand being a 'bigger person.'
Okay, so maybe the kid is safe. Now's the time. I've got to be blunt with her. Maybe it's selfish of me to bring this up at a time like this, but I don't care anymore. Han could no longer let this wait. He had to confront her about this, to get it out into the open.
"You love him," Han said. "Don't you?"
Before she even spoke, Han saw Leia return his question with a condescending expression that almost seemed to say to him, Well, that was a stupid question.
"Well, yes," Leia stated, very matter-of-factly.
As stabbing and cold as her words were, he accepted her decision.
Okay, if that's how she wants it, fine!
"Okay, I understand...fine," Han said, barely able to control the emotion in his voice.
Han was sure of one thing. He would never let himself fall in love again. Having been from one side of this galaxy to the other, he had never encountered such a heart-wrenching emotion in his entire life. He looked at Leia, with finality in his eyes as he accepted her decision.
"When he comes back..." Han said, "...I won't get in the way."
"No, no," she said, almost laughing. "It's not like that at all!"
What? Then what 'was it like?' Did she just 'sort of' like Han and really love Luke? Han couldn't take this anymore. He wanted to just walk away, and cut his ties with her, as well as with the Rebel Alliance...and leave for good.
She leaned in close toward him. Giving him the most sincere, loving smile, she said, "He's my brother!"
Han Solo wondered if his open jaw had dropped so far that it was touching the ground.
Leia put her hand lovingly behind his head and continued grinning at him. She had been grinning this way since she told him the truth about Luke.
The revelation hit Han like several megatons of illegal spice cargo. His mouth was still agape. It took him a moment to process it all.
Leia apparently didn't want to give him too much time to process it, as Han found her planting a strong kiss squarely on his lips. He returned the kiss, albeit still caught up in his thoughts.
Brother? Brother! Hey, I can get used to this. The kid's a little weird, but what the hell. He's always been family to me, and to Chewie. At least all of this makes sense now.
Still, Han did have a streak of overprotectiveness in him. But, what Luke put Leia through when he told her! he thought, remembering how he had to stay up all night to comfort Leia. He hits her with all this junk at once, and then he runs off, leaving her there upset. I'm still gonna knock him a good one when he gets back he-
His words and thoughts were snuffed out by the sweet and sudden sensation of Leia kissing him yet again, even more passionately.
Wait a minute...that means that Vader is her old man? Refusing to ruin this moment, Han decided to deal with that part of it later. For the moment, Han was completely engulfed in Leia's love for him, and he was savoring every second of it.
Her brother...that means a Princess that I love all to myself...I can definitely get used to this, Han thought, as he held her.
Original cover by Lyra Luminara. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.