this is a disclaimer.
five things that never happened to the Skywalker twins
"Seriously, we're meeting here?" Galen asked incredulously. "The Red Rancor cantina?"
"The owner owes us a couple of favours," Leia said easily.
"Everyone in the lower levels of Coruscant owes you a couple of favours, Leia," Galen said.
Luke laughed. "Including you, Marek. Now what can we do for the Alliance this week?"
Galen grinned a bit. "Touché. Here" – he held out a datadisk to Luke – "it's the specs for a facility in the Maw, built by Tarkin. He's building something out there that the rest of the galaxy is not meant to know about."
Leia drummed her fingers on the tabletop. "You're not here to ask us to fly the Maw. Or at least, you better not be."
Galen shook his head. "No. I just need confirmation of the intel. From a more reputable source."
Silently, the twins exchanged a look. Over the last few years they'd done several jobs for Galen, and he was fairly sure that they could hold whole conversations with a glance. This one was relatively short and simple: yes or no? I think we should take it. Be dangerous, though. That's half the fun.
He shifted on the sticky plastic bench seat, and waited.
Finally, Luke turned back to his employer. "You're calling us reputable?"
"I've even been known to tell Command you're trustworthy," Galen retorted.
Leia's turn to laugh. "Now that is an insult."
Galen took a sip of whiskey before replying, looking at them thoughtfully. "Is it?" he asked.
Neither of the twins knew how to answer that.
"Look. I know you guys prefer to work alone. But the offer to join the Alliance still stands. Always will. I know Kenobi for one wants to meet you."
"That crazy old man?" Leia said sharply. "Good for him, Marek. You're our employer, and you're a good one, don't get me wrong, but don't make the mistake of thinking that means we're friends."
"Leia," her brother said.
Galen stood up, nodding at them. "Think about it," was all he said, dropping a handful of credits on the table before disappearing in the smoky room.
Leia sighed. Luke tapped a finger against his own whiskey glass in a slow, thoughtful rhythm, blue eyes very far away.
"You think we should just join him and have done with it," Leia said.
She frowned. "Sometimes."
"Then why don't we?"
Leia looked at him. "Because we're too jaded and cynical to believe that they'll ever succeed, and we're not lookin' to die with them."
Luke nodded, suddenly grinning. "Besides, we still owe Solo for that run he made getting us off Tatooine after the job for Jabba."
Leia laughed as they stood up. "Good times," she agreed, tossing a wave to Mig at the bar as they left. The Coruscant night was warm and humid, air stinking of speeder fuel and rotting garbage. The twins set off, weaving their way through dirty puddles and overflowing trash cans. Not far off, someone was singing, drunkenly and extremely off-key, the old battle hymn of the Old Republic. Anywhere else, he would have been arrested for it, but not even the Emperor's stormtroopers came down here.
Luke drew in a deep breath of it: the stench of home. A slow tingle of excitement was moving through his body, anticipation at its finest.
"We'll still do it, though," Leia said, referring to Galen's offer. "Won't we?"
Her brother nodded. "Let's do this job first. Bump up the bank account."
"And then we'll officially go from being your average common criminals to being wanted terrorists and outlaws."
"You make it sound like such a hardship," Luke laughed. "C'mon. The night's still young. We're still young. There's places to go, and things to steal, and an Empire to overthrow..."
Leia started to laugh. "You hopeless optimist."
"I love you too, little sister."
Vader was waiting for them at the top of the ramp. He dismissed the stormstroopers with a gesture and strode out of the shuttle, black cloak sweeping the ground behind him. Luke and Leia faced each other for the first time since being taken prisoner on Bespin, but they barely had time for an exchange of rather wan smiles before following the man who claimed he was their father down the ramp.
Neither of them looked particularly healthy. Leia was pale with grief for Han, deep lines etched into her face. She looked as though she hadn't slept in months. Luke mostly just looked beaten up, bruised and tired. The healing cut across his temple was still red and angry. Leia could see the gears of his new prosthetic right hand in his wrist.
She slid her hand into his left one and squeezed gently.
They emerged from the shuttle into a bitter wind that swept the landing pad of a towering fortress. The skies were dark and stormy, and several attendants were waiting before the open blast doors into the fortress.
"This," Leia said blankly, "is not Coruscant."
"And you appear to have picked up Obi-Wan's boundless ability to state the obvious," Vader said bitingly. "Did you truly believe I would turn you over to the Emperor?"
"Bast Castle," Luke muttered. "Won't he know?"
Something about the tilt of Vader's head gave the impression of shrugging. "And if he does?" he said coolly.
"Battleships," Luke said with fake, cheery brightness. "Bombing. AT-ATs! You know about those."
Vader looked at them for a moment, mask travelling from Luke's face to Leia's. She gripped her new-found brother's hand more tightly and glared at him.
"Let him come," Vader said calmly, and strode off towards the doors.
After several slightly confused (but increasingly cold) moments, the Skywalker twins followed him inside.
"Oh, look, we have to do something," Leia said angrily. "She's a figurehead of the Rebellion – the droids belong to her – we can't sit here and let her be killed!"
"You must be outta your mind," Solo snapped. "I ain't riskin' my neck for no Princess, sister, and certainly not for one with a name as dumb as Winter – besides, the old man said to stay here."
Luke glanced over at his sister and grinned. "She's rich," he said to the smuggler.
Han's eyebrows rose. "Oh?"
"There's no way she wouldn't reward you for saving her life," Leia agreed, picking up on her brother's plan.
Han sat forward, glaring. "How much of a reward are we talking here?"
"I don't know – more wealth than you can imagine!" Luke exclaimed, exasperated.
"I don't know, kid, I can imagine quite a lot," Han snapped.
"Then it's settled," Leia said happily. "R2, get us directions to that cell block."
Night was falling over Coruscant. The sunset was magnificent, purple-grey clouds shot through with red and gold as far as the eye could see, but Luke wasn't looking at it. He was sitting on the very edge of the veranda with his knees drawn up to his chest, sulking.
For what felt like the thousandth time that evening, Leia was trying to reassure him.
"Look, I asked Mother, OK?" she said. "And she says we're not evil, and neither is Father. She says we're just tota- totally- totalit-"
"Totalitarian," Father said. Anyone else would have jumped, but the twins had sensed him coming.
"And what's that when it's at home?" Luke sniped without thinking, and then winced. Father didn't generally hold with talking back.
This time, however, he sighed – actually sighed! – and sat down beside them, propping one foot on the edge of the veranda like Luke's and letting his other leg hang off the end. Leia pressed closer to her brother, curious.
"It means that – people don't always know what's best for them," Father explained, gazing out over the city. "And so people don't always agree what's best for them; but if the galaxy is to function at all, then someone has to have the final word. To make the decisions that everyone else obeys. It so happens that that someone is me. Well," he paused, looking down at them, "mostly your Mother, actually. But nominally me."
Leia giggled. Luke managed a half-hearted smile.
"But what about the Rebellion?" he asked.
Father smiled faintly. "Oh, I'm sure they have a point," he said. "Nevertheless, our way is better."
"Palpatine was evil, though," Luke said.
"Yes," Father agreed instantly. "Completely. He would have very much liked to have your Mother killed before you were even born. When she told me she'd stay with me –"
He didn't finish the sentence, but something about the way his mechanical right hand flexed and fisted got the point across. Leia shivered.
"Imagine if he'd done it," she whispered. "Imagine if we never existed... or if Mother was dead."
Father reached over and put a hand on her head, heavy and comforting. "I would prefer not to, if that's all right with you, Princess," he said dryly. "Now, I understand you escaped your guard detail on your way home from school this afternoon."
Luke sucked in a breath. Leia grimaced.
"Yes, Father," Luke said softly. "I'm sorry; we won't run off again. Please don't be angry."
"On the contrary," Father said, standing up. "Apparently my so-called elite legions have a severe deficit in their training if two barely-trained Imperial Knights of scarcely nine years of age can evade them so easily."
He sounded testy, but both the twins could tell he was secretly rather pleased with them.
They came in the night, after everyone was asleep, and no one heard them until it was too late. A thing in white armour had a hand over Luke's mouth – another one was lifting Leia out of her bed across the room – he couldn't scream, could barely breathe, every kick and punch he threw at the thing just made his fists and feet hurt.
Out of the bedroom, down the stairs, past the open door of Aunt Sola and Uncle Darred's room – Uncle Darred had fallen down, he was lying on the floor – there was another of the things in white coming out of Ryoo and Pooja's room, but where were they? Luke struggled and twisted, but he couldn't even get a look back at Leia, what where they doing to her? They weren't allowed to hurt her, he had to look after her...
Downstairs. The light in the kitchen was on – was that Granma, lying on the kitchen table? You shouldn't lie on the table, or stand on it, it had to stay clean, people made food there...
There was a man standing in the middle of the living room. He was very tall, with long blonde hair and a scar across his right eye, dressed all in black. Luke stared at him, feeling all his fear slowly slip away.
The man stepped forwards and raised a hand. He was wearing a black glove that felt cold against Luke's cheek. The thing in white – it couldn't be a person, could it? – took its hand off his mouth.
"Luke," the man in black said quietly.
"What have you done with my sister?" Luke demanded, struggling again.
Somehow, he knew yelling wouldn't help. Not anymore.
The man's eyes widened and now Luke could see that they were yellow, like a fire, with burning red bits flickering, and that it was all wrong, that colour, the fire in his eyes. They were supposed to be blue.
How did he know that?
"Your sister?" he said harshly.
"My Lord," the thing carrying Leia said, stepping forward. She looked more mad than scared, Luke could tell. Leia got mad a lot more than he did.
"Twins," my Lord said softly, reaching out to Leia the way he had to Luke. "Twins. Well, now." And then he smiled, a slow sort of smile that stretched his mouth and showed his teeth, both really scary and strangely comforting at once. "Don't be afraid, sweethearts. I've come to take you home."
"It doesn't even do anything," Leia said in a disappointed whisper.
"Well, it is asleep," Luke said fairly.
Leia sniffed. "Still," she said. She was balancing on tiptoes to look over the railing of the crib and stare down at the baby within. The fat, roly-poly little creature was sleeping astonishingly deeply for a thing that never stopped crying when it was awake; only the occasional snuffle or wiggle of its little hands proved it was still alive.
"Remind me again why we came in here," Luke said.
"Because everyone's always shoving it at us when we're in comp'ny," Leia said. "Remember when Senator Organa came round? His wife almost cooed at it. And then I had to sit with it on my lap for hours."
"Winter's adopted," Luke pointed out. "They don't know about babies. And it was only a few minutes, cause then it woke up and -"
"Started crying," Leia joined in, grimacing.
"I think you're jealous," Luke said.
"Of that?" Leia demanded. "Hah!"
"Just cause it's a boy doesn't mean you're gonna stop being my twin," Luke said. Leia gave him a furious glare, but couldn't think of a suitably cutting answer.
Honestly, sometimes Luke just knew too much. Maybe Dad could ration his Force connection, like Mom rationed their holonet watching.
Finally, she just said softly, "Promise?"
Luke walked round the baby's crib to copy her posture exactly. "Promise," he said.
"Oh. Well then."
"Besides, what if they have another one and it's a girl?"
Leia giggled. "That would only be fair," she declared.
"What would?"came Mom's soft whisper from the doorway. "No, don't tell me. Out! You'll wake Nathan up and then we'll all be sorry. Go jump on your Dad, he's still in bed. Lazybones."
"Mom, can we have breakfast in bed?"
Mom laughed softly. "If you're quiet and don't wake the baby!"
It was a futile command. The pillow fight that ensued when Luke and Leia jumped on Dad as per instructions would have woken the dead; but in the twins' defence, Dad was the one who started it.