A/N: Sorry, my life has gotten insanely complicated lately, but I hope it will make my writing better…you know, life experience and whatnot…
Chapter 17: Like Brothers and Sisters
Leia followed a few paces behind Luke, close enough if he needed her. But he was not very badly injured.
However, his mind was in a turmoil. Leia could vaguely sense confusion, frustration, and most of all cold fear. She hated it when Luke was uncertain. Luke was her beacon of hope, the boon of the new republic. Luke was a Jedi Knight; he was not supposed to fear.
"I'm still human," Luke said, not agitated, simply stating a fact. "I fear."
"Of course," Leia said, bristling at his reading her. "Sometimes I just forget, we all do." She placed a comforting hand on his uninjured arm. "I'm sorry."
Luke slowed his pace to match hers. "I'm worried."
"I gathered as much," Leia frowned. "How's your arm?"
Luke looked at his arm as if he even forgot it was injured. "My arm's fine. I'm worried about that woman, that Mara Jade."
Leia watched the fear in Luke's eyes. "Could she have been mistaking you for Anakin?"
Luke tilted his head. "I have thought about that possibility. But, we don't look too much alike.
"And Mara showed a great aptitude for fighting skills, professional fighting skills. If she is an assassin she would know the obvious reasons I could not be Anakin. I don't have the padawan braid. I'm shorter. My lightsaber is green. An assassin with her fighting abilities would be better than that.
"No, Mara knew that I was Luke Skywalker. The question is where is she from? How did she get here? And most of all…what have I done to her?"
As the twins approached the place they were all staying, Luke frowned. "Something is different."
"What?" Leia asked, not sensitive enough to feel it.
"I think something has happened between them." Luke had a slight smile on his face, but his voice was anxious.
Luke shook his head. "He's one step closer to becoming Darth Vader."
"Should we…leave them alone?" Leia cocked an eyebrow.
Luke smiled awkwardly. "No, Anakin already sensed us."
"Do you know how you're going to explain your arm?" Leia asked, looking at the charred black circle in his sandy brown tunic.
Anakin opened the door then. His eyes were scared and his expression uncertain.
"Are you alright, Anakin?" Luke asked.
He looked at Luke. "I don't know…I—" He saw Luke's arm. "What happened?"
Luke blocked his mind tight. "A man tried to steal from this nice woman. I wasn't quick enough to block the shot."
Perhaps the lie was obvious. Luke would have sensed the shot coming from a mind as simple as a pickpocket. To add to that, Anakin was probably suspicious of why Luke shut off his mind. However, Anakin was too wrapped up in whatever transpired between he and Padme that he let the matter drop.
Anakin instead gave Luke a face of despair. He glanced to Leia, and back to Luke, deciding it didn't matter if Leia knew.
"I kissed her. I-I…kissed Padme."
Luke could feel Leia's curiosity. He didn't say anything to Anakin, although Anakin was obviously waiting for a reaction. Anakin looked to Leia for feedback.
"I think I'm going to go talk to Padme," Leia offered and scurried off.
Anakin looked after her with a sigh. Luke smiled. "Congratulations."
Anakin groaned. "Padme said, 'I shouldn't' have done that.'"
Luke gave Anakin a sad smile. Of course, Luke knew it would work out in the end.
Anakin leaned against the railing, staring into the horizon. "I think I love her. But there are so many problems and complications and…"
Luke leaned next to him, feeling the turmoil in Anakin while looking at the serenity of Naboo. The poor city would probably fall to imperial hands quickly.
"Did you know the Chancellor's from here?" Anakin asked, offhandedly, his mind still clearly on Padme.
As before, mention of the Chancellor sent Luke's blood boiling. Anakin raised his eyebrows. "What's wrong with the Chancellor, Luke?"
Luke's chest was filled with sadness and anger. He allowed himself to let the sad and angry feelings recede. He would have to deal with those emotions at a more apt time. "Just some…bad blood."
"What happened?" Anakin was acutely interested, despite his preoccupation with the senator.
"He did my family some wrongs in the past." Luke's features darkened.
Anakin raised his eyebrows in amusement. "It's weird hearing a Jedi talk about family. For most of them, the Jedi are their family. Well, actually, for all of them, save you and me."
"Yes, I know. Anakin, you and I are very similar." The thought disturbed Luke greatly. Anakin noted the haunted expression on his face, but chose to ignore it.
Anakin turned away from the railing and sat with his back against it. "What do I do about Padme?"
Luke sat next to him. "Are you going to continue making your, um, affection known?"
"I don't think I have a choice." Anakin looked pathetic, his eyes honest and youthful. "Every time I look at her, her perfection stops me in my tracks.
"I can't think of anything but her when she's in the room. When I'm not with her, I worry for her safety. Even now I can't help but feel for her emotions, just to be sure she's okay."
Luke smiled inwardly. He enjoyed knowing that his father was caring and loving. "Then you've made your choice."
"If I can convince her to…" Anakin shook his head. "It will be hard. It would be a secret between Padme, Leia, you, and I."
"Anakin," Luke sighed. "It already is."
Anakin sighed and let his head fall into the railing.
Leia could feel Padme's emotions before she entered the room. With Leia's limited Force sensitivity, that was saying something.
The woman looked distraught, her carefully structured façade of strength starting to crumble.
"This was a big mistake! Me and Ani together here, alone!" Padme said urgently.
"You aren't alone," Leia reminded.
"We might as well be, if you and Luke keep conveniently leaving us alone!" Padme's voice was accusatory.
The debater in Leia poised to the challenge. "You never stopped us from leaving you alone. You could have told me if you didn't want to be alone with Anakin. I think you liked it. I think you liked being alone with Anakin. And I think you like Anakin."
"Of course I like Anakin, he's my protector. I'm grateful for his service." Padme's face was serious.
"A very well calculated answer, Senator." Leia raised an eyebrow. "Is that why you kissed him?"
Padme's eyes widened. "I did not kiss him. He kissed me!"
"You didn't kiss him back?" Leia asked, innocently.
Padme visually flinched, but her defenses were weakening. Leia had her.
"How could you not?" Leia asked. "He adores you. He's brave and kind…"
At that moment, Leia realized she was describing Darth Vader. The man who killed everyone…Her speech to Padme died on her lips.
Padme's senatorial face was gone. Instead while still looking dignified, her eyes were pleading. "I admit…I have…feelings for him…I…" Some of the senator came back to her eyes. "It would never work. He a Jedi and me a politician…there would be lies and hiding."
Leia had to admit, if she were truly living in this time, just Padme's friend, she would advise Padme to forget him, focus on her career. It would be too hard to keep up a relationship with a Jedi Knight, especially in these politically turbulent times.
However, this couple was meant to happen. She knew that. The future depended on Luke's and even her own existence.
"Follow your heart. You can't be happy if you don't follow your heart. You can't be a political machine all the time. You need people to love and to love you."
Padme sank to her bed. "You sound like Bail Organa."
Leia's heart wrenched. But then she recalled a memory…
Leia was small, her hair in two braids down her back. She was holding Bail Organa's hand, walking down a Rebel starship's corridors. They were heading toward their quarters.
They were talking politics, as usual. The topic of conversation this time: Palpatine's rise to power.
"Why did the senators vote for Palpatine to be Chancellor?" Leia asked, politically aware at 9 years old.
"The Queen of Naboo," Bail started, his eyes nervous for a reason little Leia could not fathom, "she trusted the Palpatine. She gave Chancellor Valorum a vote of no confidence. Her statesman, Palpatine, took the chancellorship after that."
Leia's face soured. She had no liking for the man. "The Queen of Naboo must have never been taught politics if she put faith in such a man, right, father?"
Bail's face hardened in an emotion Leia could understand, even at nine. Pain. "Quite the opposite, Leia. The Queen of Naboo, Padme Amidala, was a masterful politician. She made mistakes that even the most adept politician would have made. Despite her mistakes, she did what she believed was best for the whole of the Republic. She loved her people. She loved politics. She was the best politician, and one of the best friends I have ever had."
"She died? In the clone wars? Was she assassinated?" Leia asked, the thought of death not even phasing her. She grew up in war time.
"No, she died in childbirth. She was so into her work all the time; I was shocked to find out that she had a husband. She'd kept it such a secret." At that point, Bail no longer looked like her was talking to his daughter. He was reliving the past.
Snapping back to reality, the old Senator squeezed Leia's hand. "But no matter my long gone friends, how about some frozen treats before bed?"
"Ooh!" All thoughts of the dead senator left her mind. "Can I have the red kind?"
The grown up Leia staggered under the weight of the past…or the future. Leia made sure the grim feeling in her mind didn't show on her face.
"I think you can keep the secret, Padme."