This is Leia's father.
Even as I think the words, my heart denies them. I am Leia's father. She is my daughter -Breha's daughter - in every way that matters. This dark creature has nothing to do with the innocent baby sleeping in the royal nursery, and I mean to keep it that way. She belongs to Breha, to me, to Alderaan.
The armored figure at my side is evil personified; Leia is innocence. I have seen the security holos of the slaughter at the Temple. I saw Obi-Wan's face as he tried to describe what Anakin Skywalker had become. What he had seen haunted him, and now it haunts me as well. I see those tiny, broken bodies in my sleep, and it wrenches me to gasping awareness. The urge to see Leia, to touch her, to reassure myself that she is still here, still ours, always overwhelms me and I give into it. I walk quietly to the nursery and brush my hand against her dark curls, sending up a prayer of gratitude that all is well.
For what would this monster do if he suspected that the baby I call my daughter is rightly his?
Leia, however, does not belong to him; she is not a Skywalker. She carries our name and our love, to guard her against the trials she will find in life. We are her armor, her foundation, and her wings. He gave up all rights to her when he butchered the Jedi younglings and turned his dark anger on the woman who loved him. Instead, she has been entrusted to us and we will protect her. Even at the cost of our own lives.
I often wonder what the future holds, whether we will be up to the responsibility given to us. So much depends on her and her brother. Twins. Even now, the miracle of it draws a smile from me. They are two tiny lights in the darkness that has enshrouded the galaxy. I have faith that one day their light will spread across the universe and illuminate every dark corner that exists.
These thoughts are the ones I hold deep inside me. On the surface there is only what the Emperor can see, what it is safe for him to see. Obi-Wan has taught me well. Our survival depends on my skill and I never forget this.
Lord Vader turns to me and his head tilts inquisitively. "Am I boring you, Organa?" he asks sardonically.
"My apologies, my lord," I say sincerely. "My thoughts are with my wife and daughter. Our baby seems to have a bit of a fever and my poor wife is exhausted from tending to her."
The dark figure seems to flinch back at that, and I hope that he is now so involved in his own painful maelstrom of memories that my small slip will remain unnoticed. The stakes are too high to falter and so I gather my thoughts and composure, standing silently at the monster's side.
You are not Leia's father.
I wonder whom I am speaking to, the monster or me?
That is Leia's father, I think reflexively as we approach the throne and I spy the armored bulk of Lord Vader standing so attentively at Palpatine's side.
I glance at Leia and have to smile with pride. She stands so straight and tall, paying careful attention to her flowing white skirts. You would be so proud, Breha! There is another name that slips into my thoughts, and I send up a quick prayer for her before I clear my thoughts. It would not be wise to let my thoughts dwell on her, even after all these years.
Leia keeps her eyes on a point above the throne before us, her shoulders thrown back proudly, her head held high. The only betrayal of her anxiety is the way her small teeth worry her bottom lip. Her expression is serene, however, befitting the princess she is.
She curtseys low in front of the Emperor and his creature, sparing only a cursory glance for the figure on the throne. Then her eyes are drawn to the shadow at his side. I cannot tell if Vader is studying her as intently, that damnable mask hides so much. His head, however, inclines in a greeting just before she bows her head and moves on, letting those behind us have their turn giving their obeisance to Palpatine.
We walk toward the back of the throne room, Leia's skirts still carefully clutched in her slim hands. Then she looks over her shoulder at Lord Vader, a frown marring her beautiful face. I swallow hard, for I know that expression so well.
Something about Vader troubles her, makes her uneasy, but he intrigues her as well. If only she knew! Thank the gods she does not. I pray she will never know.
I put my hand on her elbow and guide her resolutely away from him, from the questions I can see swirling in her mind even now. She is my daughter.
That is not Leia's father.
She is a senator in her own right now, and I know that Padm? is looking out for our daughter. For Leia is ours now, she was Padm?'s by right of blood, and mine by right of heart. I feel a surge of fierce pride well up within me as I consider the young woman she has become. No father could be prouder of his daughter than I am of Leia.
It is dangerous, what Leia does. However, she does not falter or flinch away from the terrifying reality. She merely puts her formidable intellect and generous heart to the task at hand and somehow achieves the impossible. Leia is much like her parents in that, both those that can be acknowledged and those that cannot.
Sometimes, when I am being honest with myself, I admit that I see some of Skywalker in our daughter, too. He is there in the fiery glint that burns in her eyes when she does not get her way, the proud carriage of her shoulders, her long and determined stride, and the way she will not accept defeat. Yes, those are gifts from the father who must not be named. Though I know Anakin's fate, I am glad to see his strength in our daughter, for she will need it to face what is left of him.
I often talk to Padm?, telling her of Leia's accomplishments. It started when I spoke of Leia's first words and steps, and then of her interest in politics and history, and now, I speak to Padm? of my fears for the daughter she bore and I have raised. In the wind, I imagine I hear Padm?'s reassuring voice, telling me that all will be well.
I do not know the how or why, but I trust in her judgment.
When he placed Leia in my arms, Obi-Wan told me of her mother's last words, and somehow I try to hold my faith in them. It is not easy when I see the dark and evil figure at Palpatine's side. Hope, however, is not born of knowledge, but of faith. And so, I hope.
I look at Leia and she gives me a reason to hope, to hold onto the faith that seems so tenuously tethered to my heart. I know that she is not alone. There is another. Surely two hearts such as this will blaze a path upon the galaxy from which no shadow can hide, no evil can conquer. In them, I place my faith.
Now Leia is off on another "diplomatic" mission and I know that I will be anxious and restless while she is gone. She flirts with danger as if fear has never touched her soul, never traced cold fingers down her spine. My daughter has known fear, of course, but she defies it and turns her back on it in contempt. Do your worst, she seems to say. That is her gift from Padm?, that refusal to give into terror. I often wonder how different the galaxy would be if her first father had had that gift.
It is something we will never know. I watch the Tantive IV, the ship that brought her home, rise up into the beautiful skies of Alderaan and lift my hand in farewell. As I walk back into the palace I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror as I pass, and I think with a smile, I am Leia's father.
Original cover by Gina. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.