this is a disclaimer.
AN: Sequel to "wires, coming out", wherein Anakin finds Obi-Wan's body in the Chancellor's offices during Palpatine's duel with Mace Windu, and does not turn; takes place maybe six months before "wash it away down the kitchen sink". Title from John Donne.
air and angels
The plan was dazzling in its simplicity, but that didn't mean it was going to be easy. Luke was beginning to have some private doubts about their ability to pull it off, and amazingly, Leia could tell he was.
Mom could never tell when he was nervous if he tried hard enough to hide it.
"Dad says the simplest plans are always the hardest ones to execute, but they pay off the best," Leia said firmly.
"I'm not..." Luke said helplessly. "I mean... I'm sure Dad's right, but..."
"You're afraid," Leia said accusingly. "After everything that's happened! After we found each other, and, and got out of the school, and figured everything out, now you're afraid?"
"I'm not afraid," Luke snapped. "It's just that switching places would be a lot easier if we were both boys!"
Leia narrowed her eyes at him. "Or girls," she said.
"Or girls," Luke agreed, pulling a face. Not that he'd ever want to be a girl! They were dumb, and they couldn't hit right, and they didn't like speeders.
Well... Mom wasn't dumb. She was a Senator. You had to be real smart to be a Senator. And Leia had hit him the first time they met, and that one had hurt, because he'd bumped into her and made her spill her book bag, and that was how he'd seen the holo of Mom that she carried. And she liked speeders. She said Dad had taught her how to fly one.
But that wasn't the point!
"We'll get into a whole galaxy of trouble when it comes out," Luke tried again. "And it will come out. We don't look anything like twins. We've even got different eyes!"
His newfound sister sighed. "Dummy," she said fondly. "That's the point. What's the first thing Dad's going to do when he sees you? I'll tell you, because you don't know him. He's going to grab you and put you in a ship and bring you back to Mom and pick me up and..."
"It's not like in the book, you know," Luke said patiently. "We don't even know if they're divorced!"
Leia frowned at him. "If they still knew they loved each other they'd be together," she said. "And so would we."
Luke had no comeback to that one.
The twins were huddled together on a bench in a small park not far from the Theed spaceport. It had been four hours now since they'd escaped from their boarding school, crawling through a hole in the fence behind the greenhouses and racing each other through the streets of the city to get this far, laughing and flushed with success. But now that they'd stopped for snacks and hot chocolate, the triumph of getting away from Madam Dormé was beginning to wear off, and worries were taking its place.
At least they were in Luke's mind. He suspected his sister didn't know how to worry.
Of course, considering who their father was, that wasn't much of a surprise. A thrill went through him just thinking about it; his father, his wonderful brave handsome father, the laughing man in the holo he kept hidden away in his bag, was Anakin Skywalker.
The Hero With No Fear; the Last of the Jedi; the Leader of the Rebel Alliance. The only man who'd ever lived, they whispered, that the Emperor was afraid of. The greatest pilot, the most daring criminal in the Empire – in the whole universe!
Mom had told him Dad had been a pilot, an officer in the Clone Wars, and that he'd been shot down in the Battle of Coruscant, just a few months before Luke was born. Luke's holo showed a young man of maybe nineteen, not even ten years older than Luke himself was now, with short blond hair and a wide grin. It was a bit faded and blurred, so perhaps it was no wonder that Luke had never made the connection between that young man and the scarred, determined Rebel who defied the Emperor time and again.
Leia had, though. One glance at Luke's holo was all it had taken, and an instant later, they were brother and sister.
More than that – they were twins.
Luke drummed his cold fingers on the bench and looked at Leia. She was licking the grease off her fingers with every appearance of enjoyment, crumpling the paper that had held her sausages and rolls in her left fist. Luke had eaten his quickly and almost daintily, for which his sister had teased him mercilessly. But then, he had grown up in a Senator's house, not like where she had.
In secret Rebel bases, watched over by pilots and fighters and rescued Jedi, always a step behind Dad as he saved people from the Emperor. She got to see him every day, to know him, to laugh at his jokes and hear his voice.
He wasn't jealous really – after all, she hadn't had Mom, and Mom was the most wonderful person ever. She always had time for him, and she always had a funny story from the Senate and an interesting book for him to read, and she'd actually ordered Captain Typho to teach him mechanics and flying and how to shoot with a blaster.
But she wasn't Dad.
"You're, like, parsecs away," Leia said suddenly.
"I was thinking."
"Oooh. You do that a lot?"
"Don't be mean."
"I wasn't being mean! Dad and I are like that all the time." She paused a moment. "I bet he and Mom were too," she said wistfully.
Luke nodded. "There's only one way we'll ever find out," he said. "By bringing them back together."
"And demanding an explanation," Leia said fiercely.
She knocked her knee against his and smiled; it wasn't quite the same smile Mom had (too fierce, too bright), but it was close.
He smiled back. "I have another plan," he said.
Leia looked disappointed. "But I liked the one we've got!"
Luke rolled his eyes. "It won't work," he said. "You know that! They'll know I'm not Leia Skywalker the minute I come near the RV point, and then there'll be trouble. Way before Dad can even get there."
Leia looked grumpy, but she wasn't disagreeing.
"So let's make it easier on ourselves. Let's both go to Varykino."
"Together?" Leia said. "To Mom's house?"
"To our house," Luke corrected. "Think about it. Dad would still have to come and get you. And you'd still have lots of time with Mom. And" – the final, most decisive volley – "we'd have more time together, too."
Leia bit her lip. Thought about it.
Then she looked over at him, and nodded.
The trip to Varykino from Theed would take them maybe two hours. The twins chose a bench seat by the windows – they both had a fondness for looking out of windows while flying, they discovered – and pressed close to one another. Not many children travelled alone these days, even on Naboo.
But while Luke might be a Senator's son, Leia was the daughter of an outlaw and a Jedi, and even at eleven, she knew how to act invisible.
Luke dozed off fairly quickly. They'd snuck out of the school at dawn, long before the lights came on in the dorms, and he'd seen the landscape before, loads of times. Leia on the other hand was glued to the window, watching the meadows speed by, the hills grow closer, the mountains move around them and open on to more lakes, wide and blue as the sky above. It was beautiful here.
Dad had told her, when he'd brought her to the school, that Mom had come from Theed. She'd died when Leia was born, so the story had always gone, and she would have wanted Leia to love Naboo like she herself had.
Leia supposed it wasn't quite a lie, but if he were here now, she could have quite happily punched her Dad in the face for telling her those stories about Mom, making her so sad for so long that Mom had died. After she'd first asked about her Mom, she'd felt like Mom's death was her own fault for being born, and Dad had held her for a very long time and promised that it had had nothing to do with Leia, and told her that she wasn't ever to feel guilty for Mom's death again.
Well, now she knew why not.
She started to sigh, but it quickly became a yawn instead, and Leia shifted into a more comfortable position, leaning her head against the window. If she could have dozed off like Luke, she would have, but something was using her stomach for a trampoline and making a funny taste in her mouth.
Fear, she thought. I'm afraid. I don't think I've ever been afraid before. There's always been Dad...
But for all she knew, Dad was the problem here, not the answer. What if Mom didn't love him anymore? Leia couldn't imagine anyone suddenly not loving her Dad anymore, but maybe that was what happened.
Maybe she'd somehow stopped loving both Dad and Leia.
The thought made her shiver. It wasn't fair that they'd done this to her and Luke! Luke was her twin. He balanced her out, made her feel whole and safe. In a way it was like being with Dad, only without the whole "I'm your parent and you have to do what I tell you" thing, and lots more fun, and she had never yet had to tell Luke how she felt about something – he just knew.
And then there was Mom herself – maybe she could take away the sadness in Dad's eyes, make him laugh properly, not just with his mouth. Maybe she'd know about stuff like manners, and boys, and growing up, and periods: all the things that didn't matter on a Rebel base, but did in the rest of the galaxy. Leia knew languages but not literature, mechanics but not math, decryption but not deportment.
Mom would know those things, right? She'd be soft and warm and gentle, always smiling, never busy planning an attack or disappearing in the night to go on an urgent supply run.
Leia's heart leapt into her throat as she caught sight of the shuttleport they were to land at; she woke Luke up with an elbow to the ribs just before the landing announcement. He glared at her, rubbing his side, but she didn't take any notice of it. She wound her fingers together and drew in a breath, trying to get calm like Dad had taught her.
Luke took her hands in his, and she jumped.
"It'll be all right," he said, and smiled.
Leia wished she had his optimism. He was a bit of a spoiled kid, in a way; she bet he'd never seen anyone die.
She bet he'd never sat by Mom's bedside and held her hand while the Generals whispered and the monitors beeped and Mom's face looked so pale and sunken, she might already have been dead.
But Dad hadn't been dead. He'd woken up, and everything had been all right.
Just like Luke said.
To say that the house was beautiful was an understatement. Leia found herself rooted to the spot in the hall, bag hanging from her limp hand, mouth open. She'd been in lots of big, grand places, but ancient, abandoned fortresses had a different kind of grandeur to this house, with its marble floors and large open windows.
Luke had already disappeared into the maze of rooms ahead, dumping his bag in the hall like it didn't matter. Leia picked it up and gave it a shake to straighten it out and get the snow off, and then set it, neatly, against the wall, where her own soon joined it. She wondered if she should take her boots off, but Luke hadn't, so Leia settled for untying her scarf and pulling her coat off, laying it on top of her rucksack in as neat a pile as she could manage.
"Well, you're tidier than the other one," a voice said from somewhere behind her. Leia jumped so much she nearly fell over, and swung round.
The woman standing at the foot of the stairs laughed. "Oh, sweetheart, there's no need to look so terrified," she said cheerfully. "I'm Luke's Mom."
Leia tried to swallow and realised her throat was too dry. Mom was...
Mom was beautiful.
Not tall (now Leia knew where she got it from), very slender, in a long blue dress that fell to the floor, her dark hair pinned up in a loose knot – she had more curls than Leia, but their eyes were the same.
Leia worked desperately to get some moisture in her mouth. "I – I –"
"Mom!" Luke burst out of a room to Leia's right – she wasn't even sure it was the one he'd disappeared into – and skidded to a halt between Mom and Leia. "I didn't know you were here, I was trying to comm you –"
"Never mind me," Mom said sternly. "What are you doing here? Playing hookey like this? When Dormé called me and said that you'd disappeared I was frantic, I left the conference at Sollust immediately. I'm just glad I guessed right, and you came straight here!"
Luke looked abashed. "I hope it wasn't anything important..."
"I do!" Leia exclaimed, finally getting her voice back. All they'd done for weeks was talk about how unfair it was that Mom and Dad had kept them apart for so long, and now that Mom was here, he was backing down?
Mom blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"I do," Leia repeated, more loudly and firmly now, stepping up so she was level with Luke. If her voice shook, it was with anger. That was all. "I hope it was the most important thing you've ever done! It's not fair, all this time – you're such a liar, both of you, and you don't even know who I am!"
Luke was looking at her anxiously. He grabbed her hand and held on tight, but Leia was still looking at Mom, who'd gone very, very pale, eyes huge in her face. She sank to her knees until she was looking up at them, and whispered, "Leia?"
Leia nodded once. Luke freed his hand and gave her a shove, pushing her towards Mom, who stretched out both arms with a tiny little gasp, and Leia fell into them.
"Oh, sweetheart, I can't believe it," Mom said, laughing a little. Her eyes were still wet, but she hadn't let go of Leia yet, holding her tight on her lap on the couch. Luke was lighting the fire, and he kept twisting round to look at them.
Leia's own tears had left a sizeable wet patch on the shoulder of her mother's gown.
"And both of you at that school!" Mom said, running a hand through Leia's hair and smiling at Luke. "So it wasn't terrible or anything?"
"Oh, no," Luke said. "No, Mom, it was great mostly... I mean, none of the other kids know how to fly a speeder or anything..."
"I don't know any history," Leia said.
Mom kissed her forehead. "History is easily fixed," she said gaily, and held out a hand to Luke. He pressed against her side, blue eyes bright as he grinned at his sister.
"Just one thing," Mom said.
Mom drew a breath. "Anakin," she said. "He's all right? Not... not hurt?"
Leia's eyes widened; Mom's voice had definitely shaken when she'd asked. "No," she said, "no, Dad's fine, I mean he's crazy, but he's Dad, it's pretty much what he does. He's fine."
Mom nodded and pressed a hand to her mouth to keep in another one of those little gasps. "Good," she whispered. "Thank whatever Gods..."
Luke and Leia exchanged a quick look; it was, they both agreed, the perfect opening.
"You don't hate him?" Leia said bluntly. "You didn't... send him away? Or anything?"
"Oh, Leia, no!" Mom said, squeezing Luke's hand. "You hear me, you two? I don't hate him – I've never hated him. The only person in the galaxy I love nearly as much as I love the two of you is Anakin."
"Then why'd you split us up?" Luke demanded. It was the first harsh word he'd spoken since arriving. "Why'd you lie to us?"
Mom sighed. "To protect you," she said. "To hide you."
Leia sat up. "From him," she said with loathing. "From the Emperor."
Leia hissed. "He destroys everything! I hate the Empire!"
"Shh," Mom said, stroking a hand over her hair and kissing her cheek. "Enough for today, all right? Enough excitement. I want to know how you found each other – everything that's happened." She was smiling again, wide and bright.
Luke bit his lip. "What about Dad?" he asked in a small voice.
Mom grinned. "I'll call Ani tomorrow," she said. "Today, I want you two all to myself."
Leia started to giggle. "You call him Ani?" she said.
Mom sniffed. "Young lady, I am the only person in the galaxy who gets to call him that."
Leia laughed even harder; this time, Luke joined in.
The rest of the day passed in a kind of haze for Leia: a haze made up completely of Mom, of her smile and her laugh and her perfume when she pressed Leia close. Even Luke had taken a backseat to Mom, for a little while at least.
Leia bet everyone in the galaxy did.
Mom called Madam Dormé first and reassured her that the twins were both safe, and then she installed them on tall stools in the kitchen and made them lunch, a piping hot stew made of all sorts of different ingredients that got tossed in the pot and made a lumpy, delicious meal for two cold, tired and emotionally drained children.
"It's the only thing she knows how to cook," Luke confided to his sister.
"Silence in the cheap seats," Mom ordered. "What if she decides she doesn't want a Mom who can't cook?"
Leia laughed. "I'll manage," she said. "Dad can cook."
Mom grinned. "One of the reasons I married him."
Luke poked thoughtfully at his stew. "But then," he said, "you're not Padmé Amidala Naberrie at all. You're Padmé Amidala Naberrie Skywalker."
"And you're Luke Skywalker, genius," Leia said.
"Luke Anakin," Mom said. "And Leia is Leia Amidala. Theoretically."
"If it weren't for the Emperor," Leia said fiercely.
It was the only time they touched on any truly serious subjects for the rest of the day. Mom wanted to hear every detail of how Luke and Leia had met: Dad's split-second decision to send her to school after the base was attacked, and how he had checked her into the school as Leia Lars, a week after term started, so of course she'd been the weird new kid right from the start. How Luke had seen Leia's holo of Mom – how they hadn't even liked each other until they'd ended up in detention together for fighting. How he had snuck into her dorm room one night with the holo of Dad clenched in his fist...
"You should have heard me, I was furious," Leia said cheerfully. "Dad and I have never fought so bad as when he told me he was shipping me off to some strange planet!"
"Looks like it turned out for the best," Mom said, laughing. "Luke's been enrolled there for a year now... and Dormé wouldn't have recognised the name of Anakin's stepbrother."
"You'll be happy to see him, won't you?" Leia said softly. "When he comes to get me?"
Mom smiled. "Overjoyed," she said, equally soft. "Look here." She stood up and left the room briefly; they could hear her unlocking a drawer in her study before she came back out with a holo. She held it out to the twins.
It was of Leia, age maybe six or seven, perched on a packing crate in the hangar of an old base, reading intently, her short legs dangling over the ground.
"I've seen Ani once since you were born," she said. "D'you remember the raids in the Hoth system, years ago? I was sent to investigate with some other Senators, and Anakin found out somehow. Instead of taking off and getting the hell out of there like he should have, he stayed. To see me. We had about half an hour to talk, and he had this holo of you, Leia, and gave it to me."
"Does... did you give him one of me?" Luke asked.
Mom shook her head. "I had it in my luggage," she said. "It hadn't been brought up to my room yet. He would have been found if he'd waited for it – I had to make him leave. I wouldn't be surprised if he's never quite forgiven me for that!"
Luke smiled, rather weakly, and tried to hide his disappointment. So Dad didn't even know what he looked like...
Leia caught his hand and squeezed briefly before dropping it again. He knew what she meant: soon, Dad wouldn't just know what he looked like. He'd know Luke.
"You know, it's getting late," Mom said. "I think you two should jump in the fresher and head off to bed."
"It's not late at all," Leia objected. "Dad..."
Her voice trailed away when she caught the look on her mother's face. "Um. Not that he lets me stay up late or anything."
Mom laughed at her. "I suppose suggesting separate rooms would be an exercise in futility," she said.
"We've only just found each other," Luke said sternly.
"Of course," Mom agreed.
The twins had taken turns in the fresher while Mom made up the bed in Luke's room. It was easily large enough for two, and neither Luke nor Leia were very big for their age.
Mom had tucked them in and kissed them both good night as if they were six and not eleven, but no one had objected.
Once her footsteps had disappeared down the stairs, Luke reached out and twined his fingers through his sister's.
"Your plan was better than mine," Leia said sleepily.
He grinned at the darkened ceiling.
After a moment, Leia said, "And Dad's awesome. You'll see."
"I can't wait," Luke said quietly.
"You know," Leia said thoughtfully, "I suppose we're the Skywalker twins now. Instead of me being the Skywalker girl, like before."
The Skywalker twins.
"It sounds pretty good," Luke said.
Leia didn't answer. She'd already drifted off.
Alone in her study, Padmé sat at her desk, head propped in her hands, and tried, without much success, to calm down and get her thoughts in order. She'd left Threepio at Sollust with the rest of her staff when Dormé's call about Luke had come that morning, and was currently regretting it, for the silence in the darkened house seemed to seethe and teem with her worries and fears. The conference, the plans, the effort she'd had to put into keeping her conversation with Grand Moff Tarkin civil yesterday... then the sheer panic of thinking Luke had run off... and then finding Leia with him when she'd arrived!
Leia. Gods, her daughter was here... that tiny baby she'd last held at Polis Massa... Not even the holo Anakin had given her had been enough to dispel the image of the gurgling baby who'd wrapped a hand around Padmé's fingertip and stared up at her crying mother with huge eyes from her father's arms.
Anakin... did he know Leia was missing yet? She had to call him, at once, and let him know she was safe. Her hands shook as she typed the encryption key in preparation for the call.
No contact except in the direst of emergencies. It was what they'd promised themselves in a desperate attempt to protect the twins from Palpatine, and only once had they broken it: in the Hoth system, five years ago. It had been Padmé who'd found the holo of their daughter in Anakin's jacket pocket. He'd taken it from her and wordlessly slipped it into the pocket of her own overcoat before kissing her goodbye, her shaking hands fisted in his jacket, both of their faces wet with tears.
Finally, the comm unit beeped, pulling Padmé out of her memories.
Transmission accepted. Commcall open.
The holo blinked to life. Anakin was standing in front of a table somewhere, probably in some conference room. There were dark circles under his eyes and a tired tilt to his mouth, but oh, the way his face lit up when he saw her.
Only briefly, until he remembered their promise.
"Padmé," he said. "Angel, what's happened?"
Business before family, she told herself. "I have the plans," Padmé said. "For the facility in the Maw." She held up the disk so he could see it, and watched as he leaned forward eagerly, eyes bright.
"You did it."
"I did." She smiled at him. For a moment, he looked delighted, triumphant, proud and strong.
Then Anakin's eyes refocused on her, narrowing. "You couldn't have just sent them on this channel?"
Ah, it had been a long time since Padmé felt like teasing anyone but Luke.
"Actually," she said, and put in a melodramatic pause there, "I think it would be best, and safest of course, if I were to deliver the plans to a trusted member of the Alliance in person."
"Angel, what are you playing at?" Anakin said suspiciously.
All this time apart, and the endearment came as easily to his lips as it ever had.
"I'm saying you need to come home, Ani," Padmé said. She drew a breath and hoped she didn't start crying like an idiot again. Best to just say it. "Anakin, Leia's here."
Oh, so much for not crying. "She and Luke... we put them in the same school, Anakin!"
"What!" Anakin said again, looking stunned. "I didn't... Luke was at that school? Force, I was so close to him – I didn't even realise..."
"I know," Padmé said. "I know, love. But you need to get here, and see your children."
Anakin was having trouble wiping the astonished look off his face. "Yes, I do," he muttered, and then glanced up sharply, looking to one side of the transmitter. He gave a quick nod, presumably at someone who'd come looking for him, and then turned back to her, all business again.
He'd changed so much: fiercer, harder, more focussed. It thrilled her.
"Padmé, I have to go. Listen, I can be on Naboo in... let's say fourteen hours? That's lunchtime with you, yes? I love you, Angel."
The things that smile of his did to her remained exactly the same.
"I'll see you soon," Padmé said, and smiled back as he cut the connection.
The next morning, the sun came out, flooding the house with light and making it almost painful to look out of the windows at the snowy meadows, the light was so bright.
Padmé decided it was a sign.
She woke the twins up, sitting on the side of their shared bed and stroking Leia's messy hair until her eyes opened.
"Mom," Leia said delightedly, and crawled into her lap.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen."
"There's only two of us, Mom," Luke grumbled, sitting up. He was about as fond of early mornings as his father, which was to say, not at all.
Anakin. Anakin was on his way here, coming closer to her with every second. The thought made Padmé want to jump for joy; but it also terrified her.
They had kept Luke and Leia apart for so long in order to keep them hidden from Palpatine. What if the Emperor somehow became aware of their reunion? Padmé had worked long and hard to convince the man that she and Anakin had severed all ties when he had turned against the Empire, proving herself loyal – not devoted, but just loyal enough that Palpatine would never have cause to believe Anakin Skywalker's child might prove dangerous to him. It hadn't been easy, but the act had served both Padmé and the Alliance well.
She sensed it was an act that was coming to an end.
"Mom?" Luke asked. He could always tell when she was troubled.
Padmé drew a breath. "I have news for you," she said, and held Leia closer for an instant.
"What is it?"
"Anakin is on his way here as we speak."
Leia whooped. "Dad's coming!"
Luke's eyes widened. "Dad's coming," he repeated, more quietly, and turned to gaze out of the window as if Anakin's fighter would be landing in the gardens at any minute.
Padmé knew exactly how he felt.
Leia was practically bouncing up and down with excitement. "It'll be awesome," she said, wrapping her arms around herself and grinning up at her Mom. "Won't it, Mom? You tell him. Everything's gonna be OK now that Dad's coming."
Padmé laughed, stroking her messy hair. She found it almost impossible not to touch her long-lost daughter, to constantly reassure herself that Leia was here with her, solid and warm and alive. "So what you're saying is, I'm not enough for you?"
"The more the merrier," Leia said solemnly, but the effect was ruined when she broke out into giggles.
Luke narrowed his eyes at her in a way that reminded his mother of Anakin at his mischievous best before hitting his twin with a pillow. Leia shrieked and wasted no time in retaliating.
Padmé barely got out of the room alive.
It turned out that Mom wasn't so bad at cooking breakfast, either. Leia tried to help, but was turned down and gently shooed out of the way. She thought Mom was trying to distract herself from waiting for Dad, because Mom's head would give this little jerk every time she glanced at the windows, and her mouth would tighten like she was trying not to be excited.
The trouble was, Luke was sitting in front of the fireplace with his legs crossed under him, frowning out of the big windows like staring at the mountains was going to magically teleport Dad's starfighter here. Mom wanted to be distracted from waiting, and Luke plainly didn't.
Good times all round.
Leia sighed, kicked at the corner of the couch with one boot for a minute, and then went out onto the balcony, stamping her footprints into the snow. If Mom wouldn't let her help and Luke was being too dull to play with her, then exploring was obviously the only way to ignore the anticipation knotting her insides. Did they think she was being all complacent and stuff about Dad coming?
On the other hand, at least she'd seen Dad not so long ago. Luke had never seen him at all, and Mom had seen him only once since Leia and Luke had been born.
"What's the point of being married if you're apart for eleven whole years?" Leia asked the trellis archway on the balcony irritably.
It didn't answer.
She sighed again, putting a bit more melodrama into it, and wandered off to the stone railing overlooking the lake. It was a bit taller than she was, but she managed to brush the snow off, climb up and straddle it just the same, one foot swinging over the water, the other resting on the balustrade. The stone was freezing, and the cold wind nipped at her skin through her clothes, but it was lovely out here just the same, the sunshine dazzling, a mist lying over the far side of the lake. There was an island not far out; Leia bet she could swim to it.
In summer, preferably.
Where would Dad's starfighter land? Out there, in the gardens – the space between flowerbeds was just big enough. Leia wondered if he had used to land it there before she and Luke were born, back during the Clone Wars when Dad and Mom were still married properly.
Far away over the other side of the lake, something glittered in the sun, moving steadily towards their house. Leia frowned at it, and then shivered. It was still too far away for her to see what it was, but she knew instantly that it wasn't Dad.
Whatever type of ship it was, she didn't like it, and she didn't like the people who were on it, and she never wanted it to get here.
"Leia? Leia, sweetheart, you'll catch your death. Come on in."
Leia jumped; she'd been concentrating so hard on the ship that it was a shock when Mom put her hand on her shoulder.
"And your pants will get soaked," Mom added, smiling a little.
Distantly a part of Leia winced; she hadn't thought of that. But there were more important things than wet pants right now.
"Mom," she said. "Someone's coming to see us. And it's not Dad."
Padmé leaned over the balustrade, peering intently across the lake. She inhaled sharply, and then looked down at her daughter.
"Can you tell what they want?"
It didn't occur to Leia to ask how her mother knew that she could sense things like that.
"Nothing good," Leia whispered. Dad, Dad, please get here soon...
Padmé glanced back at the craft and nodded. "Leia, get inside. Get Luke, tell him to grab your things and hide in the attic, understand?"
"It's the Imps," Leia said fiercely. "Isn't it?"
"Go, Leia!" Mom ordered. The snap in her voice was the same one Dad got before an attack.
Leia jumped off the balustrade and ran inside. Luke looked surprised when she grabbed him and hauled at his elbow, but Leia just barked "Attic!" at him, and that forestalled any protest. She wondered briefly how and when Mom had impressed the importance of the attic hideaway on him as they ran, slip-sliding on the marble in socked feet and wet boots respectively.
Surprise had become worry and uncertainty by the time they got upstairs, and to be honest Leia was kind of afraid as well, but she pushed it down ruthlessly.
The trick is not to mind that you're scared, Dad whispered to her. Breathe. In, out. In, out. Along the corridor, through the bedroom door, grab your stuff together so they don't know you were here. In, out.
The trapdoor in the ceiling of Luke's – of their – bedroom was cleverly hidden. Luke opened it by keying a code into a remote he'd taken from behind the closet, and climbed up first with the bags.
"There's flashlights and ration bars and stuff up here," he said. "We won't need anything..."
Leia, balanced on the steps set into the trapdoor, looked out of the windows. The shuttlecraft was closer now: it was definitely the Imps. There were maybe fifteen soldiers crammed onto that thing, and an officer in his dark uniform. Even at this distance, the sight of him made her skin crawl.
"Leia, up the steps now!"
Mom had followed them upstairs. Leia scrambled up the steps and knelt next to Luke as Mom came to stand under them. She put one hand on the trapdoor and held out a datadisk to Luke, who took it with shaking hands.
"Mom, what's –"
"Give that to Anakin," Mom said. "Tell him I'll kill him myself if he leaves you two alone to try and come after me. Tell him I love him very much. Not as much as I love the two of you, though."
"Mom –" Leia said. Her voice shook, but if Mom wasn't crying, then neither would she.
"Keep that disk safe," Mom said firmly, eyes travelling from Leia to Luke and back again, as if memorising every line of their faces. Her look alone felt like goodbye. "Keep yourselves safe."
Downstairs, the front door crashed open.
"Watch your fingers," Mom said, and swung the trapdoor up. The twins scrambled backwards, watching the light disappear and Mom with it. Luke handed Leia the datadisk and put the locking code into the remote with trembling fingers, feeling his way over the keypad. Now that the trapdoor was closed, it was pitch dark up here. Leia heard Luke feeling along a shelf; then he snapped a flashlight on. There was the sound of footsteps on the stairs, coming along the corridor, loud and steady; they heard Mom leave their bedroom.
"Governor Tarkin. How thoughtful of you to invade my home yourself, rather than leaving it all up to your lackeys."
"Senator Amidala," Tarkin replied. His very voice made Leia wrap her arms around herself and edge closer to her twin. He sounded cold, cold and dead, with a terrible undercurrent of snakelike malice. "You are under arrest, milady, on the charges of stealing military secrets, plotting treason, and, as I understand it... harbouring... that fugitive and terrorist Anakin Skywalker." There was a pause, and then: "I'll say this for the man, he has impeccable taste."
There was the sound of an open-handed slap. Leia hoped it left a mark on Tarkin's face forever.
Tarkin chuckled. "I do hope you enjoyed yourself in his bed, milady. One last pleasant memory before you face the needle? Now tell me. Where are the plans?"
"Governor Tarkin, I promise you, the only plans I know anything about are my travel plans, back to Sollust this evening."
"Of course you do," Tarkin said flatly. "Search the house! Tear the place apart! And if you find any sign of her little brat, bring him straight to me."
He must have turned away then, gone back downstairs, because the next time someone spoke, it was Mom again, biting sarcasm in her voice: "Don't worry, Commander, I'll come quietly."
They must have been holding a blaster on her. Faintly the twins could hear footsteps going down the stairs, but the sound was drowned out by the noise the stormtroopers were making as they searched the house. Doors were flung open, the contents of drawers and cupboards were spilled across the floor. Every now and then glass shattered. Occasionally there was a murmur of voices, but other than that the stormtroopers mostly worked in silence. Leia was straining her ears to try and catch any sound of Mom, or that sithspawn Tarkin, whoever he was.
Luke was staring at the trapdoor in silence. He had a look on his face that Leia had seen before, although not on her mild-mannered, quietly enthusiastic brother.
In the dimness of their attic hideaway, Luke had never looked so much like Dad.
At least Tarkin hadn't cuffed her, Padmé thought distantly. Her 'escort' had come to a halt in front of her study. Tarkin was standing just inside the door, dividing up his glances between her and the troopers searching through her things.
If he thought she was going to give anything away by her reactions to what his men were doing, he was a fool. She'd even cleared the kitchen to hide the evidence that she had been preparing food for more than one person.
A surprisingly well-informed fool, though. Padmé wasn't sure if she was more worried that Tarkin had so quickly discovered she had been delivered the plans for the battle station, or that he seemed to think he knew a thing or two about her relationship with Anakin. True, there had long been rumours about Luke's paternity, especially after the Purges and Anakin's very public denouncement of Palpatine, but with every vote Padmé used to prove herself a loyal follower of the Emperor, those rumours had become quieter and quieter.
She still shouldn't have slapped him.
Had Tarkin just been raking up those old stories, or did he actually know something? The only person on her current staff who knew not only that Anakin was Luke's father but also that Padmé herself had been working for the Alliance practically before it started was Sabé, and the idea of her bodyguard and friend betraying her – willingly or not – sickened Padmé's stomach.
Suddenly she had to bite down the hysterical urge to giggle, thinking of Tarkin's remark – she should have thanked him politely for his interest and said that yes, Governor, she'd enjoyed every second she'd ever spent in her husband's bed (well, their first time had been a bit awkward all round, neither of them having been particularly experienced at that point, but even lying there and laughing with him about it was a precious, treasured memory). Padmé distracted herself imagining Tarkin's reaction to that for a few moments.
Upstairs, someone dropped something heavy, and the crash reverberated through the whole house. Padmé tried to hide her flinch, and tried even harder not to think of the twins.
They were all right. They would be all right. They were strong and steady and brave and well-taught. Anakin was on his way. They would be just fine.
Tarkin looked sour when he exited the study. Did he really believe she was that careless?
"Congratulations, Governor," Padmé said icily. "You certainly know how to waste the Empire's time on petty grudges."
Tarkin's backhanded blow to her face sent her staggering, almost falling against one of the troopers. Her jaw ached already and her eyes watered with the shock and pain.
"Take her back to the ship," he ordered. "When we are done here, I will interrogate her myself."
Padmé worked her jaw – rapidly swelling up as he spoke – from side to side and gave him her sweetest smile as one of the troopers grasped her right elbow in preparation of dragging her out.
"I'm honoured, Governor," she said. "But you'd save yourself no end of time and trouble if you went straight for the needle."
Tarkin drew himself up. "I still might, milady," he said. She wondered if he knew how frightening that calm rationality of his was, or whether he was like that because he didn't actually have any emotions in the first place. "However, I have been instructed to keep you alive for a little longer, if I can." He gave her a thin, mirthless smile. "Just long enough."
Just long enough for Anakin to try and rescue me, Padmé realised, feeling sick. This was what they had wanted all along, as soon as they'd realised she had stolen the plans. It didn't even matter that she no longer had them, for who would dare plan an attack on an Imperial shipyard once Anakin Skywalker himself had been caught, tried – if that! – and (very publicly and gruesomely) executed? Nothing would demonstrate the Empire's might more clearly than the death of their most dangerous enemy. Oh, Ani. Stay away, love. Take our children and run! Please. Stay away.
She knew he wouldn't. Everything in him – everything that made him who he was – would balk at the mere suggestion of leaving her to die, even if they weren't married. Even if he didn't love her.
The trouble was, the Emperor knew that as well as Padmé did.