Author: indie PM
There but for the grace of God go I. AU set after the post-ROTJ EU novel, Truce at Bakura. Takes place several weeks after ROTJ. Han, Luke and Leia are pulled into an alternate universe where Anakin Skywalker never fell.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Leia O. & Luke S. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 4,943 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 23 - Published: 03-18-08 - id: 4139147
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Leia's mind wrapped around it and then rejected it. Unconsciously, she shook her head and took a step backward. She would have bolted had Luke not reached out, grabbing her forearm. Leia didn't know if Han sensed danger himself or if he reacted to her, but he immediately stepped between Ani and Leia.
Behind Ani, the other Leia bounded up the stairs, followed more slowly by an older man with a hostile expression. An adolescent boy was the last. Both the boy and the other Leia clearly held lightsabers.
Han reached for his blaster, but Luke laid his free hand on his friend's arm, urging him to stop before he could point it at anyone. Luke stood there, one hand on Leia, the other on Han, fearing the situation would erupt violently.
Nana Shmi's gaze moved between Ani and Luke, confusion written on her features.
"Nana Shmi," the older man said, "we asked everyone to stay below."
Tears glittered again in Nana Shmi's eyes. "I know Owen," she said, her voice a mere whisper, "but I had to see them. I had to see him."
"It's not him," the other Leia spat, moving to ignite her lightsaber as she strode toward the trio. "It's a trick. A trap. Another of the Emperor's sick jokes."
"Deeja," Ani said, glancing over his shoulder at the quickly approaching Leia. He extended the palm of his hand toward her and she stopped, lowering her lightsaber.
Ani stared at the trio for several long moments and then sighed deeply. His broad shoulders slumped and he dragged a hand through his short hair. "Deeja, take your grandmother inside."
The other Leia paced back and forth behind Ani several times before deciding to do as requested. "Come on, Nana," she said quietly. She gently took her grandmother's elbow, supporting her as they walked back to the dome, but her suspicious gaze never left Luke, Leia and Han.
"What are we-"
"You too," Anakin said to the adolescent boy, stopping him short.
"Now." The word was not cruel, but it certainly left no room for argument.
Sullenly, the boy made his way to the dome and disappeared down the stairway.
Owen Lars shifted his weight back and forth, his attention firmly riveted on Han, Luke and Leia. "Anakin, maybe it would be best if Deeja came back up here," he said pointedly. It was clear from his tone it was more of an order than a suggestion. Anakin, however, made no move to reply, or even acknowledge that Owen had spoken. It was obvious the two men had come to an uneasy arrangement over the years.
"Leia needs to be with her mother," Anakin said seriously, not so much in reply to Owen, but to the trio before him. He sighed again and finally glanced over his shoulder at Owen. "We're fine," he said. "They pose no threat."
Owen snorted in disbelief and looked at the blaster Han still held.
With a wave of his hand, Anakin used the Force to summon Han's blaster. Leia's insides roiled, clearly remembering when Vader had done the same thing in Cloud City.
Anakin stared at her a moment, sensing Leia's emotions through the Force. He seemed puzzled, but unwilling to investigate. He held the blaster up for Owen to see. "Satisfied?" he asked.
Owen grunted in reply.
"Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon will be here soon," Anakin said.
The small courtyard was a flurry of voices and activity. Leia took the opportunity to lean closer to Luke. "I'm not up on my Huttese," she said. "What does deeja mean?"
Luke met her gaze and said, "Beloved daughter."
Leia had no response to that. She sat back and let her gaze travel the space. Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn arrived minutes after Anakin removed Han's blaster. Shortly after that, they were all herded down the stairs and to the homestead's sunken courtyard.
The courtyard was well illuminated and Leia got her first glimpse of Anakin Skywalker as he existed in this universe. When the other Leia – Deeja, as she was called by her family – met them, she knew things were different. But somehow Leia assumed in this universe, rather than being separated, both she and Luke were left in the care of Owen and Beru Lars.
In this universe, there was no Darth Vader, only Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was as much a father to his children as Bail Organa was to Leia. Leia pushed the thoughts away. Now was not the time for such feelings.
On Bakura, Leia saw a Force ghost of her biological father, but it was a far different experience seeing him in the flesh. Anakin was tall, though not as tall as Vader. No doubt Vader's proportions were exaggerated by his prostheses to make him all the more menacing. Anakin's hair was a dark blonde-brown, graying slightly at the temples. His irises were the same vibrant blue as Luke's, though his lashes were much darker. His lips were full and his chin was cleft like Luke's. Anakin's voice was surprisingly quiet. His tone undeniably commanded authority, but there was no hint of Vader's biting enunciation or mechanical bass. His movements were fluid and graceful. For the first time, Leia truly wondered at how significantly Vader's physical limitations shaped his very existence. She also could not believe how incredibly young Anakin was – in his mid forties, decades younger than Bail Organa. It was nearly impossible to fathom that Darth Vader and this universe's Anakin Skywalker were essentially the same person.
However, in this universe Anakin Skywalker was not the only one who was changed. Obi-Wan Kenobi stood close to his fellow Jedi, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as his gaze traveled over the trio. Though clearly older than Anakin, Obi-Wan looked far younger than the aged general Leia glimpsed aboard the first Death Star.
The other Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, however, was positively ancient for a human. Leia was not familiar with his name. The ignorance was not unexpected. Dead Jedi Masters were not openly discussed in the Empire or the Organa household.
Anakin, Obi-Wan and Owen were engaged in an intense conversation. The adolescent boy, Anakin's son – Leia's brother, though her mind violently shied from that thought – hung on every word. As the three men debated, Qui-Gon stepped away from the group and approached Han, Luke and Leia.
His wizened gaze traveled over each of them in turn. "I believe it is safe to assume you do not know another version of me," he said kindly.
Luke smiled. "No, sir."
"Sir," Qui-Gon said with a smile. "I don't remember every being addressed so respectfully by …" His voice trailed off and he smiled sadly. "It's nice to meet you."
"Do you know why we're here?" Leia asked bluntly.
Qui-Gon again smiled in amusement. "I was hoping you might be able to enlighten me, young one."
Leia bristled slightly at the endearment, but shook her head.
Qui-Gon sighed. "Shame," he said. "But you can't fault me for trying." He glanced over his shoulder. "My former Padawans are so sensible, they wouldn't think to simply ask you if you knew why you are here. I thought perhaps we could save ourselves some time."
Obviously having heard what Qui-Gon said, Obi-Wan gave his former master a slightly peevish look before once again turning his attention to the conversation with Anakin and Owen.
"Padawans," Luke said with wonder. "You trained both Be- … Obi-Wan and Anakin?"
Qui-Gon smiled sadly. "I did," he confirmed. "I take it from your reaction that it was not so in your world."
Luke shook his head. "My father was apprenticed to Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I'm not familiar with your name at all."
Qui-Gon studied Luke intently. "That is a useful bit of information," he said. "It allows us to narrow down where our timelines diverged. I knew Anakin for a very short time before he became my Padawan. If your Anakin in your world became a Jedi, then obviously I found him, yet apparently I died before he became my apprentice."
Luke was unable to prevent the sense of melancholy that speaking of Anakin Skywalker's time as a Jedi always wrought. The sense of wonder and history was so bright and visceral, but such memories and wonderings were always tainted by the harsh reality of Vader's legacy.
"Vader," Qui-Gon said softly, looking first at Luke and then over his shoulder at Anakin. He pursed his lips together, looking at Luke with pity. "My apologies," he said. "Anakin falling to the dark side was always one of the Council's greatest fears. I can only imagine how much heartbreak it must have brought you both."
Leia looked away with a grimace. She didn't feel like dissecting her feelings toward Vader for this ancient Jedi Master.
"Deeja," Qui-Gon began.
"Leia," Leia corrected firmly. "Leia Organa."
His brow furrowed. "Organa?" He looked at Han in confusion. "By marriage?"
"It's my given name," Leia explained. "Bail Organa was my father."
Everyone's attention snapped to the woman standing in the archway between the courtyard and the homestead's dining hall. Her hair was long and dark, the same color as Leia's. She was slightly built, with the wan appearance of someone suffering a long illness. But even older and unwell, the physical resemblance between the woman and Leia was unmistakable. They had the same air of authority, the same graceful composure. And they were both very beautiful.
Leia immediately rose to her feet, followed quickly by Luke. He grabbed her hand and Leia wasn't certain if it was her or Luke or both of them, but there was a single thought.
"Bail Organa," the woman said again, cocking her head to the side as she looked at Leia. "He raised you? As his own?"
Unable to speak, Leia merely nodded. At her side, Luke seemed rooted to the ground.
The woman ventured closer, followed closely by Deeja. Anakin immediately crossed the courtyard to stand at her side. "Padmé," he said quietly, "you should be inside."
She placed a gentle hand on his arm and looked up at him with unmistakable affection. "Anakin, I'm okay. I'll be fine."
Anakin looked from Padmé to the trio of newcomers and then back to Padmé. "Be careful," he stressed.
Slowly, Padmé crossed the courtyard to stand in front of the visitors, her gaze lingering first on Leia and then Luke. She looked at him intently. "And you?" she asked softly. "Did Bail raise you?"
He shook his head. "No, ma'am," he said, his voice scratchy. He coughed to clear his throat. "No. I was raised by Owen and Beru here on Tatooine. At this farmstead."
Padmé's expression crumpled and her eyes were shiny with unshed tears. Wordlessly, Deeja reached out for her mother's hand and Padmé grasped it gladly, smiling fondly at her daughter. "It seems our family is doomed to be torn asunder in every reality," she said sadly.
"This is crazy," Leia hissed. "How can they think I can possibly sleep? Especially in the same room as … her. I don't even know what to call her – "
"Her name is Deeja."
Leia glared at Han. "You know what I mean," she snapped. "She loathes me. All of us actually. I can't sleep in here with her."
Han stood near the doorway to the tiny room, one hand braced against the whitewashed wall, the other hand massaging the back of his neck. "It's not like we got a lot of options, sweetheart," he said wryly. "In case you didn't notice, this isn't exactly the Imperial Palace. It looks like they were at capacity before we showed up. At least you've got a bed. Luke and I have to bunk with the kid –" Han gestured with his hand, searching for the name.
"Kij," Leia supplied.
"Yeah," Han said, "Kij, the kid. His room is half this size and Luke and I are going to squeeze in with him. Luke said in our world, they used that room to cure bantha hide. From the smell, I think they may still use it for that here."
Leia couldn't help but smile as she looked up at Han.
He returned the gesture and leaned closer. Reaching out, his fingers toyed with the edge of her collar. "I know this is hard, Princess," he said softly.
Leia sighed, leaning into him. He wrapped his arms around her, cradling her close.
"I don't know what to feel," she said softly. "I think we died in the crash. And now we're in hell."
"Hey," he said, offended. "It's not that bad. You've still got me." His smile was blinding.
She punched him playfully in the chest.
In the hallway, someone cleared their throat. Han and Leia pulled away from each other, turning to look at Anakin. Han and Leia both had the distinct impression the patriarch of the Skywalker family was not impressed with what he saw. Leia immediately took another step back from Han, then caught herself and stepped closer again. Anakin could disapprove all he wanted. He wasn't her father. Now, she just had to convince herself of that fact.