What happens if the one you love is a monster?
I hate my love who loves not me –
I love my love regardlessly.
Black lies the shadow of the day we part,
Though black is the colour of my true love's heart.
Leia likes the lilting sound of the old, old songs from the Rim. She's barely four, but she dances around the room to them, golden hair flying out behind her. Sometimes she'll grab for her father's knees and demand to be picked up, swung around, danced with; usually he'll oblige, no matter what affairs of state are waiting for him elsewhere. The galaxy is ruled at my husband's whim, and he by his daughter's.
He'll pick her up and swing her round, singing the words she doesn't know about things she doesn't understand: old songs about knights and maidens, lovers and mourners, ships sailing off into the distance and letters written in the sand. She loves the sound of his voice. There's one ballad she wants again and again, one I knew when I was a girl, though to my shame I had little time for music then; a song that tears a wound a little deeper in me every time I hear it.
Luke swings her round and puts her down; she laughs, he sings, quietly and more like chanting, the words that lament the curse of loving one who will never, can never, has not the capacity to, love you back.
To him it's just another song. All the love he has in the world is for her, his princess, whom he will one day teach everything he knows, and she loves him back in the way that children can, unreservedly and with a whole heart. Sometimes it's clear as crystal, that love; and in those moments I can bring myself to love him the way I used to, for a little while.
Then, inevitably, as soon as I begin to think of him as the old Luke, the old echo starts in my mind, tireless and tiring as the sea beating against a shore.
[You will kill Luke Skywalker.]
For years I've fooled the compulsion by refusing to equate my husband with Luke Skywalker. Skywalker is long gone; what remains bears the same name and face but is not the same man. Luke Skywalker had a heart and loved. If he has a heart now, it has no place for me.
It's a hideous thing, that I must hate him to stop myself from killing him, but still – still – I love him too much to do anything else.
It's easier to loathe him in his aspect as Emperor. Faced with the haunted, accusing holos of Rebels executed or killed in battle, I can hate him. For years it was easy. Then Leia was born, and without warning his light shone out again.
(They say the brightest lights cast the darkest shadow, and I can believe that. My old Master, may he burn, never fell so far into the abyss as Luke did; never had so far to fall.)
There's always been a Luke and a Leia; there will always be a Luke and a Leia. Never mind that the other was my sister-in-law, whom he killed; there will always be a Luke and a Leia.
I was there when he explained to our daughter, laughing and stroking her hair, that his sister had to go because his little princess had just been born, and there could only ever be one Leia. She giggled in the way little girls do, and snuggled deeper into his lap. She went to sleep a little while after, as unperturbed as if he had told her that he'd swatted a fly rather than murdered his own sister in cold blood.
She has all the unthinking cruelty of a child, coupled with all her father's power. Not only does she have all his gift, intact, waiting somewhere in her mind to grow to maturity as she does, but she wields his power as well as her own, he loves her so. Leia has only to take a dislike to one of her high-born playmates, and their family are liable to find themselves fallen from the Imperial favour, stripped of their rank and privileges, and if Luke feels the need to particularly gratify his darling, exiled to the Outer Rim.
So I too spoil Leia, because though every part of me is revolted by what she is becoming, I know that my life rests in the palm of her little hand. All children declare at some point that they hate their mother and want her to go away forever, but only my Leia's demand will be granted. If she has a fit of hatred for me in Luke's presence, I will never see her again.
It is a terrible thing to be afraid of my own child.
But what else can I be? I can see myself in her too: she adores her father with the same absorbing selflessness with which I once gave my soul and body to the service of the Emperor.
I've wondered, sometimes, often, over the years, if it wasn't some great cosmic joke that in pulling me away from the darkness Luke ended up slipping into it himself. I haven't had a thought of the old Emperor in ten years that wasn't a curse: Luke took the broken fragments of the Empire, the Empire he brought down, and welded them back together stronger than before. One by one, the last lights of Rebellion go out. Millions are dead, and Luke comes home from his place at the bridge of the Imperial flagship to bounce Leia on his knee and sing her rhymes.
I hate him then. I hate him with everything I have. He has no right to be able to love, not when every day he gives the orders that see families like ours shattered and children like our daughter orphaned. He has no right to be able to love one child and yet without a thought wave away the lives of thousands.
Yes. Dwell on that. Hate him for it. Luke Skywalker would never harm a child; Luke Skywalker is dead and the old order still rattling in my skull is void and will not bother me . . .
I've thought about giving in to it. Most likely it would be for the best. There is no clear heir to the Empire, bar Leia, and no self-respecting officer of the Imperial forces would allow a child to rule when there are so many capable successors who could be chosen.
I could be close enough to kill him. We still share a bed sometimes, even though he barely sleeps now, watching over his kingdom night and day.
I could kill him now. But in hating him I am myself as I now am, with the old cold instinct of a killer long since gone. Only when I give in to loving what he once was does the conditioning come back, and then I have no will to use it. I love Luke Skywalker. I grew to love him and I love him still, though now I only see him distantly in another's eyes.
I could kill him out of love.
Luke would understand, my Luke, comprehend that sometimes only self-sacrifice can stem the flow of evil against which we are pitted. Once he was willing to die rather than take his place at the Emperor's side. I loved him then.
I hate him now, for what he has become. However much I try to deceive myself, I see his face, hear his voice and the lie collapses. He is Luke Skywalker still, the same man, who ended one Empire in flames and raised another.
[You will kill Luke Skywalker.]
I hate my love for him, I hate myself for loving him still. I love Leia, and I love Luke for loving her. I can't kill him. I will never be able to, compulsion or no compulsion: Leia loves him so completely. I hate myself now, but I would rather die myself than take my daughter's father from her. I cannot condemn him for tearing families apart and then plan to shatter my own.
I've had this conversation with myself so many times. So very many times. It's become an endless loop, a spiralling track that I know has no end but still work round and round again in the hope that a way out of the circle will appear. I love him and I hate him in himself, love him and hate him for his devotion to our daughter. One day she will be Empress, and that will set the seal on my failure once and for all.
Now she appears just as she is, a four-year-old girl with untidy blonde hair who wriggles out of her father's arms and slides messily to the floor. She dances in a circle around her father's knees, demanding that he sing to her.
Of course he's willing to sing for her; he always is, even if there are messengers from the frontline commanders standing in the lobby biting their lips. But today I want her to myself, to be my centre, my only certainty. Her I love.
. . . Leia, my darling, come here, and let mama sing to you.
She comes over and I lift her into my lap. She pulls my hair, grey strands peppering the red. I gently disentangle her hand and sing the old words softly to her. The tears well up.
I hate my love who loves not me -
(One of my oldest memories, before the Emperor took me, is a bare schoolyard, barely more than a square of duracrete between four looming walls, and a tiny girl crouched beside the one flower that succeeded in winding its way up through metres of stone to see daylight; she pulls the petals off it with careless abandon, and sings a line of the song for every petal gone. We all believed it could tell the future, once upon a time.)
- I love my love regardlessly.
Leia snuggles into the crook of my shoulder, her head heavy against my chest. I sing on, aware out of the corner of my eye of Luke standing with one hand on the doorpost, looking back, shining in the Force like a newly made sun.
Black lies the shadow of the day we part, though black is the colour of my true love's heart.