AN: Thank you so much to all the reviewers, you make this hobby worth pursuing.
P.s. Padme spending time with the twins is in the next chapter, as is Luke and Ahsoka.
WARNING: Not betaed, I apologize but I've literally outwritten what anyone has been able to keep up with, please look beyond my shortcomings. Also, ungodly amounts of fluff. For all you Anakin fans who hung in there, here's proof that I can be nice when the mood strikes me ;)
Chapter 35 - Drinking Starlight
"You have to talk to him, Leia," Luke argued with her for the dozenth time as she paced her old room, the marble floor familiar and solid beneath her feet.
Yet that offered a little comfort, when she felt the echo of Palpatine's thoughts as he slithered through her memories.
She felt his pleasure at his vision of the Death Star was shown to payout. She felt Emperor Palpatine's pleasure in the destruction of her world.
The death of Senator Bail Organa brought him particular joy.
She felt like she was going to be sick. The karking Emperor was inside of her.
Palpatine laughed in her mind, laughing at her, enjoying immensely in being thought of as Emperor.
She wanted to burn the infection of him out of her. She wanted to tear her skin off. She wanted him gone.
"Anakin can help you," Luke continued. "He was on Mortis for eight years. He balanced the son and the daughter for years. That's a part of who we are now. He can help us."
Leia felt Palpatine's confusion at this statement, a confusion she couldn't alleviate because she never really understood the whole events on Mortis.
She didn't really understand the time travel or body hopping for that matter.
There was a knock on the door.
"Come in!" Luke called.
She glared at her brother as General Kenobi entered the room cautiously.
"Princess Organa," Kenobi said gently.
She spun on him, "Is there a way to get rid of him or is the only way to kill him is to end me, Master Jedi."
The bite in her voice was not wholly hers.
"Leia," Luke rebuked.
Master Kenobi shook his head, "If you would allow it, this is a matter Anakin would be best suited to consult. If not, you can stay behind on Alderaan. Bail has accepted the majority of the Order asylum."
"Asylum?" Luke asked. "Why what happened?"
General Kenobi sighed, "Coruscant has been deemed unsafe. It is unwise for us to keep our younglings that close to the Senate, especially, after discovering the chips."
Palpatine's smugness made her grit her teeth.
Leia glanced at Luke who seemed deflated, she realized because he thought she would stay behind rather than deal with Anakin.
Which meant Luke would stay behind, he wouldn't leave her alone with the Emperor. But that meant he would miss Kenobi's wedding.
Stars, disappointing Luke was like drop kicking a puppy. She knew that she would indeed go to Darth Vader for help.
The Emperor's triumph at that thought drove a shiver up her spine.
Leia wrapped her arms around herself and fought not to dig her nails into her arms.
Her fear, her loathing, her own self-hatred allowed Emperor Palpatine an avenue to speak with her lips, "~You need me, Kenobi."
General Kenobi raised a brow, clearly understanding who had spoken. His voice was drier than the dunes of Tatooine, "Is that so?"
This time Leia allowed him to speak, gathering herself to shove the demon back down, "~My Master, Darth Plagueis rules the Republic."
Leia let her force of will drown Palpatine who retreated with dragging nails against her mind. She ignored the pain and shoved harder.
General Kenobi shook his head, "Cody and Rex were right then, about the Mother."
"A true vision?" Luke asked.
Kenobi sighed, "A true dream within the Force, as you have experienced."
"One Sith won't help us get rid of another."
You need my power, Palpatine offered seductively in her thoughts as he couldn't use her to speak out loud momentarily.
"We have to kill him, no matter the cost," Leia said out loud in answer.
"Leia," Luke said flatly.
She didn't look at him, she couldn't meet his gaze.
They knew that she would kill herself rather than let Emperor Palpatine loose on the galaxy.
"Leia," Luke said again, laying a hand on her arm. "No. You're stronger than him. You know that you are. We can defeat him, expel him into the Force."
"I'll try," she promised, she would, but Palpatine was a looming presence in her mind, and she knew that they were a part of each other.
Her darkness was a nest for him, and she knew that she could tell the darkness no, but she doubted she could expel it.
The mark on her wrist felt like a brand.
She was the Darkness. She could not destroy it without destroying herself.
Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete.
There was no way to win. If she ended him, he wouldn't just be possessing her body, her mind.
She would become him.
"Anakin can help you," Luke said, with hope, with certainty.
But her only certainty was that she was a hopeless cause.
Palpatine's thoughts overlapped hers, she felt his pleasure, his anticipation. He had moulded Anakin Skywalker to his will since the boy was a child.
Since he had joined the Jedi Order. Poisoning Anakin against the Order's teachings.
Anakin was a broken doll and Leia knew that he could not help her, no more than he could overcome the monster that had enslaved him.
Anakin fought to subdue his joy that Padme had chosen to accompany them to Mandalore without Sabe. He tried to slay the hope when she asked him to her room.
That sat awkwardly at the end of her bed.
He wasn't at all sure what to say. He thought about talking about the twins, but Padme had yet to connect with them truly and he had zero desire to discuss Palpatine with her.
"Sabe broke up with me. I didn't want to go straight back to you like you were my second choice, because, Anakin, you have been and will always be my first choice."
He smiled, "Probably not when I was kid. Obi-Wan has pointed out to me that in our first reunion, your comments indicated that you did not receive my attention favourably."
Padme smiled, surely remembering his awkward words about growing more beautiful.
She said, "You were painfully obvious. So no, I guess I can't say always. I did not love you at first sight. I can say that I always doubted you. That I saw the good in you and always underestimated you, and you always proved me wrong. From pod racing to our return to Naboo. I saw that your good heart, but I doubted that you were the one meant for me."
"And yet you married me," he said softly.
She hesitated, "May I be cruel?"
He met her gaze, "If you are cruel, Padme, it is because I deserve it."
She shook her head, reaching out a hand to place on his hand, "No, Ani. You don't deserve it, you never have. You are younger than I, or you were, and in your youth, I saw everything I had given up being a politician. I gave up so much and I don't regret it, but you were… you were no more innocent than I, perhaps less so, but you were -young. You brought out the person I was not the person I cultivated to be."
She couldn't suppress the smile of how downright lude their conversations had become.
"And in you, I saw someone who I both admired and loved me for me, with all my faults and baggage -you saw me."
She nodded, "We married too soon though, Ani."
He sighed, "Perhaps I agree with you, but I wouldn't change a thing, not even if I could."
"I married you knowing that one or both of us would die in the war. I had no intention of staying on the sidelines any more than you did."
"I know, but I would have married you war or no."
"I wanted to grow up with you, Ani, I wanted to be there to see the man you would become. I wanted to be with someone that I knew an absolute certainty would love me if I were no one and had nothing to my name."
He squeezed her hand, "You would never be no one."
She held onto him tight, "I didn't realize how much of who I was depended onto you until Luke turned me away. I was prepared for one or both of us to die."
"I wasn't," he said, "I don't think I could have survived it."
According to what Leia had said, they knew in reality that Anakin truly couldn't have.
Anakin touched her cheek, "I could let you go. Beyond the Order taught me, I know now that in the Force we will go on. If we can't be in this life, then in the next, we will surely find each other in the next. There is permanence in the impermanence. I know now that change is the only consistency in the galaxy."
She smiled which made his heart flutter, only for it to sink a moment later at her next words. "I didn't survive your rejection, Ani. Even knowing now that it was Luke. When I kissed him, and I saw the disgust in your eyes-" her voice caught. "It shattered my sense of self. I didn't know that was possible, I didn't know that you had that power over me until I was broken. I should have waited for you to get better, I should have waited to see if the brain damage could be healed, but I didn't think I would ever be able to forgive you. I didn't want to give you the chance to hurt me like that again."
He cupped her face in his hands, "I am so sorry, Padme."
Padme blinked back tears, resting her hands over his, "You've grown up without me, Ani. After all the secrets, after all the lies to my parents and sister, to Obi-Wan… I didn't want to forgive you for leaving me behind. Leaving me with nothing but memories. I mourned you in secret as I had loved you in secret. I have never felt so alone, nor so stupid."
He leaned down to rest his forehead against hers, "I can feel your pain, Padme, I always been able to feel your life Force. Purity in even the darkest emotion, your righteousness, your anger a burning flame, the depth of your sorrow and compassion for others, always, I could sense you fighting back against the nothingness. I don't want you to hurt because of me. It is alright to let me go."
Her eyes sparkled like finely cut gemstones, her fingers curling around his as she said, "I couldn't live with myself if I let go of you now. Our love has never been easy. You have always loved me with such devotion that I never had to question you. However difficult our path, loving you was never a risk. In all the doubts of survival or success, I never doubted you loved me."
He exhaled, closing his eyes, "It is enough for me that you know that."
"Liar," she teased.
He opened his eyes and offered her a half smile. "You owe me nothing."
"You're wrong," she said. "You are the bravest man I have ever known, and I owe it to you, to us, to be brave too. Loving you is worth any risk of being hurt. I will not continue to punish us for something that was completely out of your control. I want to be with you, I want the galaxy to know how much I love you. I need you to know how much I love you and always will love you. Without you, I am incomplete, without you, my life is a dull shadow of what it could be, without contrast, without colour. You called me your star once, but you are mine, and I am unable and unwilling to fight your gravity any longer."
Anakin kissed her. He felt something tension in her ease as she let herself be with him again. It was as if she were being pulled back together as he pulled her onto his lap and buried his face against her neck and said in a litany, over and over again.
"I love you."
Padme threaded her fingers through his hair as if she had no intention of ever letting go as their tears mingled and their souls reknit together.
"What is it," Satine asked as he dropped heavily into a chair in their room on the Negotiator.
He had just disconnected with Mace and he felt exhaustion dragging on him. They had only today entered Mandalorian space and in those short days from the twins' coronation, the galaxy had prepared itself to be ripped in two -again.
He pulled her into an embrace, "The Jedi have successfully evacuated to Alderaan. The Padawans with young Knights as Masters and many of our elders have gone into hiding in the Outer Rim."
Satine cupped his face, waiting for him patiently to expand.
He touched her sides and laid his ear over her stomach where he felt the bright start that was their baby. Satine began carding her fingers through his hair.
"The Empress of the Republic is a Sith Lord, again, and Palpatine isn't dead."
She hugged him, her arms wrapping around his shoulders. "It will be alright."
He held onto her wishing she was right but knowing in his bones that the storm was only just descending upon them.
He went on, knowing that she knew this already but needing to say it aloud to keep his own thoughts from spiralling, "Alderaan has declared itself neutral in order to accept the clones and the Jedi Knights permanent residence. It's too close to the Core for comfort but there is nowhere safer for the younglings."
Not even Mandalore, not yet, they haven't adapted to all the abrupt changes. Mandalore wasn't stable yet, the Republic was chasing its own destruction with a Sith at the helm, and the Order was vulnerable, their numbers had never been so low and they had precious few allies.
Satine kissed the crown of his hand, "Have faith, Obi-Wan. We have the opportunity to rise above the darkness, if we stay strong, the light will rise."
He smiled, looking up at her, "I love you, Satine."
She kissed his forehead, "And I you."
The moment Luke left the training room, Leia let the hostility show on her face, and said, "You tortured me. You committed genocide. I can never and will never trust you."
Her words were a warning, a deterrent. She didn't want to give Emperor Palpatine direct access to this man.
Anakin looked at her evenly and asked, "Do you hate me for what I am capable of, or do you hate me because you see the same capability within yourself?"
Leia reeled as if she had been slapped. She was so blindly and abruptly angry, she couldn't speak. She wanted to scream, she wanted to roar, she wanted to rip that stupid serene expression off his face.
After a minute or seven, in which she managed with a razor thin edge of control to stop herself from lashing out with the Force, he spoke again.
"The Dark Side is not all evil, Leia."
"Like hell, it isn't."
"If we have no darkness within us, then we would have no way of seeing it in others. We would have no warning against evil and no opportunity to save people from drowning in their own perceived hopelessness."
She scoffed, "Luke doesn't need the Darkness to have empathy with others."
"I've spoken with him, Leia, he has struggled with it," Anakin said undeterred. "But you already knew that."
"Not like this," she protested, "He never fell, not like this. He's so much stronger than that. He never gave up, he has always been true to himself."
"Luke is good at caring for others, he's an excellent General and leader, but he isn't you. He doesn't see the world as you see it, he doesn't comprehend the galaxy as widely as you do. He knows the Force, but he doesn't understand all the trillions of lives across this galaxy."
She bared her teeth, "I would never be so arrogant as to suppose I did. That's your own shortcoming, not mine."
"That's not what I meant," he said, undaunted. "You and I understand what drives people, we understand desperation. What it means to blur the lines, to stray from the past to do what is great for the many, not just ourselves. When I was still Obi-Wan's Padawan, that's what I struggled with. Seeing outside myself, but you do, don't you. It's why you've been able to position our slim army in such a way to be unattackable. You manoeuvred the politics to stabilize our fates. You did so without much aplomb."
"What's your point?"
"Some darkness can be overcome, like that which Luke struggled with. But sometimes it can't be, the darkness is a part of who we are. You must stop viewing it, yourself, as the enemy. The deeper the darkness runs, the more capable you are in seeing the worst and the best in others. The more capable you are of keeping others safe from enemies and their own follies."
"That sounds like some Sith banthashit."
He shook his head, "The Sith are wrong, abusing themselves as much as the Force. The Darkness is hardest to control because it appeals to the worst in us. To overcome that, you must know yourself deeper. Understand your limitations and you can surpass them."
She huffed, "I guess you really are a Jedi Master."
He smirked, "I will only be a Master if I can train you to be a Jedi Knight."
"You're in for a long wait."
"Obi-Wan always said I needed to learn patience."
"I'm not going to like you, no matter what, I will never like you," she warned him. "You will never be my father."
"Then I will hope one day for your friendship and respect."
He grinned, "We will see in the end, who the more stubborn one is between us."
Leia almost smiled, "I assure you, that will be me."
His grin sobered a bit, "If you're anything like Padme, which I already know that you are, I don't doubt it."
"She was my hero, aside from Papa and Mama, she was always the woman, the queen I wanted to be. I always looked up to her."
Anakin's eyes filled with more emotion than she could comprehend, and whatever his faults, whatever had led him to kill Padme Amidala, Leia knew then that Anakin Skywalker had loved her.
His voice was a bit broken as he said, "As do I."
The present tense caught her, and despite herself, Leia knew that she understood her birth father more profoundly than she would ever admit to aloud.
They had arrived on Mandalore for a wedding, naturally, they found themselves stuck on the ship in a meeting.
Cody was not pleased to see Count Dooku and his current apprentice, Asajj Ventress and his old apprentice, a Jedi Master, Rael Aveross in halo image.
Along with Quinlan Vos, the only one out of the lot of them Cody could even semi-trust.
"Palpatine is inside of the Princess of Alderaan?" Dooku asked, sounding highly interested.
Rael Aveross whistled. "That's somehow creepier than him grooming Anakin."
Anakin flipped Rael off without a change of expression.
"What has he done?" Obi-Wan asked, ignoring both of the children.
Quinlan's smile was bitter, "Well, you know how we are tentative allies with Count Dooku now and the other Separatists against the Hutt and slave empires in the Outer Rim?"
"Yes," Obi-Wan said slowly in the intonation that Cody himself felt.
"Well, Empress Komari Vosa, otherwise known as Darth Plagueis who was previously Hego Damask has also declared war on the Hutts and has mobilized the Corellian reserve and the military academies have all been drawing from a draft."
"No," Leia breathed softly.
"I'm sorry, how is this a bad thing?" Luke asked.
Anakin, Ahsoka, and Satine seemed equally confused.
But Padme, Leia, and his general, Obi-Wan were far savvier. It was Leia who explained, "Because it puts us all on the same side and therefore impossible to tell who is on whose side. There will be nothing to stop the Republic from going after Mandalore or those who are members of the Jedi Order."
The Jedi who are now viewed, along with the clones as traitors.
Cody sighed, Things never got easier, did they?
Leia caught his hand, and when he looked down, he saw that she was still focused on the Count and General Kenobi, he realized what a small gesture it was.
She was offering him strength, not asking for it.
The thought almost made him smile, despite being at the precipice of another civil war.
"They will be able to pick us off. We are allies only in shared enemies, yet a traitorous ally can do so much more damage than an obvious foe," Leia said, and Cody wondered sadly if that was her speaking or Darth Sidious.
"We have one advantage," Cody remarked with a touch of bitterness.
Rex met his gaze with an expression of resignation to the never ending kriffing dumpster fire that was their lives.
"What would that be?" Obi-Wan asked, sounding very much like a man waiting for the other boot to drop.
Considering how bad the bad news was, Cody could only admire his General's capacity to anticipate danger.
"Darth Plagueis can't kill the vode, or at least, he won't, not actively," Cody said.
Ahsoka frowned, "Why? The Sith never cared about any of us."
Rex smiled softly at Ahsoka assuming, correctly so, that she belonged among them, though Cody doubted Plagueis would extend their favour to her.
"Because," Rex said, "Plagueis became Abeloth, her obsession in seeing herself as the Mother of the vode corrupted him."
"How can we possibly know that?" Asajj Ventress asked.
"Because he drank the stars," Cody said, knowing in his bones his words would be true. "All power comes at a cost. Just like Palpatine survives through Leia yet Princess Leia remains. So too does Abeloth remain within Plagueis. The proof of that is in Mandalore's continued neutrality. The most advantageous thing for an empire to do at this point wouldn't be to waste resources on a crusade against the Hutts -a distant foe with no rewards for the Core- it would be to declare war on Mandalore and seize control of its position in the galaxy."
"He is correct," Count Dooku said. "Darth Plagueis was known as Plagueis the Wise, attacking Mandalore as traitors to the Republic is the wiser option. It would make sense that he has been polluted by Abeloth, the legends that speak of her as a deity."
"She isn't a deity," Luke said with a darker expression than Cody had glimpsed on the General's face in a while. "She dies, Plagueis can die, they aren't immortal. If a thing can change it can die, we can't let ourselves give him more advantage than he already has."
Leia looked away and Cody realized in a moment of painful clarity that Luke wasn't talking about Plagueis, he was talking about his sister and her parasite.
Cody put a hand on her shoulder in silent support that she was not alone in this madness.
She looked up at him with dark eyes filled with devastation.
He couldn't stop himself from pulling her into an embrace despite their audience. It was worth it when the petite General wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned into him, letting him hold her weight.
This is what the galaxy didn't understand about the Jedi or even the Sith for that matter, underneath all that power and mysticism, they were still people.
Cody couldn't say he was in love with Princess Leia, this was too new for him. But he knew that he could love her and he already loved the way she made him feel.
She made him feel human, she made him feel individual, and he realized he had never dreamed to hope for that much.
Announcement: For those of you like me who aren't getting email updates Luminous We Are is another time travel story by me that is up to 40k. Obi-Wan goes back in time solo :D
AN: Thoughts, ideas, kestrels, questions, or feedback, pretty please?