dm1 - Yup, Bail should have taken more care to get her on time. LOL REV042175 - Well, I hope you enjoy the interaction then. Just Jill - Thanks! Kittenmommy - Sure thing. Last post. Hope you enjoy.

All the sound in the formerly busy corridor seemed to vanish under the constant rasp of Darth Vader's breathing. He stood impossibly tall, looming over the girl as she took another step backward. Heavy, leather covered thumbs hooked in his belt as he leaned forward slightly to study at the small, crushed velvet wrapped figure.

He did not have to say a word, nor did he have to see her hooded face to sense the fear that rolled off her. His presence was enough to subdue even the most spirited.

Unlike so many other beings, the daughter of Bail Organa surprised him, a truly rare gift. Initially, Leia had been startled, but the moment it wore off, she stood her ground. The fear Vader sensed in the Force, grew thin, but did not completely disappear.

A child.

Smug Imperial officers cowered more than this young girl did. She reminded him of—

Leia stepped to the side, and tried to go around him as Bail's voice rose in irritation beyond the wall of black

The dark lord reached out, catching the girl by a thin arm and drug her back in front of him.

"Let me go!" she bellowed, as if expecting to be obeyed, but was not released.

"The conversation does not concern you," Vader said.

"It involves my father, it involves me," Leia sharply replied as she shook her hood back revealing tightly pulled back brown locks and looping braids.

Pointing at her, he said, "Do not interfere."

Leia narrowed her gaze and planted her hands on her hips. Under the fearless surface, the dark lord sensed its muted presence. Still, her defiance outweighed any fear she may have had of him.


He studied her cherubic face as deep brown eyes glared back. She reminded him of…no, she reminded him of no one.

"I am going to be late," Leia announced folding her arms across her chest as she huffed loudly. When no acknowledgement of her actions came, she twisted about and walked in a small circle like a caged tygra.

"Late?" Vader asked, giving into her bait. "The Souhayn has been going on for days and will continue well into tomorrow.

She did not look in his direction; her focus was toward the end of the corridor and the waiting ballroom. "The costume ball, Lord Vader. You should know, you are already dressed for it."

Her words bit.

Had they been spoken by anyone less than his master, they would be dead before they could mutter the last word. Yet, this spiteful girl held his attention.

Leia huffed and looked over her shoulder, trying to see beyond Vader to the tense conversation between Jafries and her father. She brushed her hands down the front of her cloak. "We celebrate the dead and honor our heroes by dressing as them," she said matter-of-factly. She turned to look at him once more, her gaze that no longer held the innocence of a child, raked over the black armor that sheltered the Dark Lord. "Who is your hero?" She then shrugged and looked back toward the gateway to the ballroom.

There was a moment of silence before Vader responded, "My heroes dead, or they should be."

"So is mine," Leia responded. "Dead, that is. She is dead." She frowned and pulled off her long cloak revealing a long, deep maroon jacket over matching shirt and leggings. The sight of which would have made Vader's breath hitch if he still control over it.

A handmaiden.

He had seen that Naboo outfit in his memories and nightmares since he was nine. Adorning a girl queen as she planned to retake her world from the Trade Federation.

Twisting about, Leia eyed him curiously as if she sensed—

She was just a child, Vader silently mused as he turned to face down the long corridor, unable to look upon the image of the familiar. It disturbed him. Though it was not the first time he had looked upon handmaidens in the years since…in many years.

A girl in a costume, he reminded himself.

Sighing loudly, Leia started to pace again. She folded and unfolded the cloak over her arm as she paused to stare at her father, still in conversation with Major Jafries before starting again.

Vader pushed back thoughts of the girl queen and looked upon Leia once more. A poor imitation, he thought.

Bail Organa's voice rose again, drawing the girl's attention but before she could make a move to join her father, Vader stepped in her way. His long cape swept out like the wings of a great bird of prey driving the girl back a step.

Leia shot him a sharp look before returning to her impatient circling.

The girl was fiery, much like the queen she paraded around as.

What cruel game was the Force playing on him? Of all times to deal with Organa, when his tempestuous daughter was dressed as—

She was dressed as no one.

It struck him that the girl was watching him.

"What do you think about when you stand there being all scary, Lord Vader?"

There was vehemence in her voice and had Organa been there, he would have silenced her daring question. A question that even smug Imperials like Jafries would think twice before putting to voice.

And the answer came so easy. "I think that Queen Amidala would not show such impatience."

Leia straightened.

Little in life shocked Vader, but his words now shook him. He had dared not think that name, let alone utter it in a long time.

"What would you know of her?" Leia demanded.

Reaching out, the dark lord tipped the girl's chin up. He could sense her fear radiating, yet she did not pull away. The soft click of a dry swallow was the only sound that escaped her, but her gaze, frightened as it was, never wavered. His words were low, vibrating with warning, "More than you would know, child."

The silence lingered between them.

"This is a flagrant abuse of power," Bali Organa's voice cut into the lingering silence.

At the sound of her father's voice, Leia was spurred into action, but was quickly caught by Vader. "Let go," she snarled but he did not loosen his grip.

Bail said sternly as the troopers turned him about, ready to handcuff him. "The Imperial Senate—"

"Can do little in this matter, Senator," Jafries said.

Vader held onto the girl, dressed as a warrior queen, as she fought to break his powerful grip. And then without warning or reason, he just let her go.

Leia surged forward, throwing her cloak to the side as she raced across the wide corridor, paying little mind to the armed men surrounding the Senator. Wordlessly, she wrapped her arms around his waist, oblivious to the clatter of blaster rifles taking aim of her. Bail twisted as he tried to shelter her.

"Miserable whelp!" Jafries snapped, grabbing the girl by the arm. Leia yelped in pain as she was ripped from her father's grip and violently thrown against the wall. A dull thud echoed throughout the corridor upon impact.

Major Jafries made a disjointed, choking noise.

Vader stood motionless, his black-sheathed fist held out before him as he brought the ancient energies of the Force down on the man. He was driven to action by the look of terror in Leia's


Face the instant she slammed against the wall.

Jafries sank to his knees, grabbing desperately at the collar of his gray uniform. "Lord Vader—"

The stormtroopers lowered their weapons, backing away.

Taking advantage of the moment, Bail raced to his daughter's side as she sank to the floor winded. "Leia."

"I'm okay," she whispered but her attention was focused on the suffocating officer.


That same look that Vader had once seen in her eyes and was spurred to release his invisible grip on Jafries. The man sucked desperately for air that had been briefly denied him as he fell forward.

Vader turned toward Bail and Leia. "Take your daughter and go."

Offering the Dark Lord a quick nod, Bail scooped Leia up and rushed her down the corridor toward the safety of the ballroom.

When they were away, Vader's gaze moved from the heaving, crumpled form of Jafries to the motionless troopers awaiting instructions. "Private Jafries will not be enjoying this evening's celebrations," he said coolly, motioning toward the man as several officers rushed into the corridor from the ballroom. "Remove him from my sight."

With a sweep of his cape, he turned and stormed away.

The dead do not walk among the living, he silently reminded himself.

The End