this is a disclaimer.
AN: AU for the EU; ties in with "swallows and amazons".
gunpowder and shades of grey
He finds her sitting on the floor in the corridor of the Falcon where she and Han kissed for the first time, back pressed to the wall, knees drawn up to her chest.
"We should probably talk," he says.
"I despise you," she snaps.
"Yeah, I was never too fond of you either, Princess," he snaps right back, and Leia jumps, startled. She'd expected...
Ah, she doesn't know what she'd been expecting. Someone more like Luke, perhaps. It's the eyes, she thinks; she's not used to those eyes snapping with fire and passion and authority. On the rare occasion that Luke lets that side of himself out, it's never aimed at her.
He's like me, she thinks. I'm like him.
"You," her father says quietly, "called to me."
"I remember," Leia snarks.
"You're lucky I'm not easily offended, you know that?"
"Why don't you ever talk to Luke? He must have called on you more than once."
"Well, yeah. But mostly just to talk. You know? He doesn't need me."
"Neither do I!"
Anakin fixes her with a steady glare. "If that were true, I wouldn't be here." He pauses a minute, looks around. "Where the hell is here, anyway?"
She blinks. "Don't you know?"
"It's your dream, Leia. I'm just the passenger. Scruffy-looking place for a family reunion, I might add."
"We're on the Falcon."
He sits down beside her and stretches long legs out in front of him, brown pants, heavy boots. He's far taller than Luke. "Ah, of course. You married your smuggler." From anyone else, it would be teasing.
"How kind of you to remember."
"Are you happy with him?"
Leia rolls her eyes. "Please. Don't come over all protective with me."
"I'll just leave then, shall I?"
She groans. "You're impossible."
Anakin laughs for the first time, loud and happy. "Sorry. But you do bring it out in me, you know."
"No," Leia says quietly. "I didn't."
"You made me feel. When you stole the plans, and then on the Tantive IV, you made me feel. I'd forgotten what it was like – quite deliberately, I might add. The idea of some Rebel traitor being able to do what I'd told myself no one would ever make me do again... that grated."
Leia sets her jaw. "You know what else grated?"
Warily, Anakin shakes his head.
"Growing up on Alderaan. Being separated from my brother. Spending my life surrounded by people who I knew loved me, but who never seemed to understand, or to really – d'you know what it's like to grow up disconnected from everything you know? Nothing fits, nothing feels right, no matter how good you are at it, and you tell yourself you're a part of a family and everything's all right and you do fit, it's all in your head, they love you and you love them, but that's just... not enough. It's like everyone else is looking at the galaxy with rose-tinted glasses, and you're the only one who can see all the colours."
"You're supposed to be living in this box," Anakin says. He has a really nice voice, she realises, warm and husky. "It's a nice box, really, and everyone else around you has them, and they're completely happy. You want to live in the box. And most of the time you fit perfectly, but then something happens and you realise you're spilling out over the edges and making a mess, drawing attention to yourself and being different, and no one else can understand what's wrong with you that you can't fit into the box. And so you wedge yourself in even tighter and you tell yourself they won't notice ever again and you never let anyone see how uncomfortable and cramped and twisted up you are while you're in the box because then you might start spilling over the edges again and they'd all know."
Leia falls silent. "Oh," she says at last.
He shrugs, awkward suddenly. For the first time, she realises how young he looks: barely twenty-five.
"How old were you?" she blurts out.
"I don't know exactly. Twenty-three or so. Mom didn't exactly have the use of a standard Republic calendar when I was born."
"I know what happened to her," Leia says softly.
Anakin grimaces. "It's one of the few things I'm still not sure I regret. The others, yes, I... I should never have..." he trails off in a sigh. "But the ones who killed her? I don't know. It's like... asking me to regret killing Palpatine, in a way."
"No, it's not," Leia says. "Luke was still alive. Palpatine's death kept him that way. Grandmother wasn't."
"I know," heavily. "Hey, you didn't think dying would make me perfect, did you?"
Leia wants to laugh, but she shoves it down. She's not ready for that yet.
"I guess not."
"Everything," Leia says passionately.
Anakin's hands, lying in his lap, twist together. He has nice hands too: deft and strong, callused. There's a scar on his right hand, between thumb and forefinger like a knife wound. It stands out sharply against his tan.
"I'd apologise, but that rarely does anyone any real good," he says at last.
Oh, stop it, Leia thinks, helpless, furious. Stop making me like you. Stop thinking like me.
"You tortured me."
"Yes? Yes? Is that all? Damn you, I stood in front of you every day for years, I spoke to you and I knew you and you supported half the motions I brought before the Senate against the bureaucracy, don't you dare pretend you didn't, and then you stood there and you watched them inject me on your orders and you never noticed!"
Her voice rises in a shout and echoes off the walls around them. Anakin doesn't flinch, and he doesn't look away, and Leia doesn't stop.
"And then, after all that, after you made them take me apart and put me back together again in ragged pieces and you still couldn't tell and you dragged me away from Tarkin when he blew up my home and you strangled that Lieutenant on the spot when he tried to rape me, you – you –" here she starts to laugh, almost hysterically – "you completely forgot about me in favour of a nobody off a farm on some dust ball in the Outer Rim because he's your precious son, and I'm –"
She stops, gasping, eyes wide, hands pressed to her mouth. Her whole body is shaking, torso rocking back and forth; it's a struggle not to cry, but she didn't cry on the Death Star and she won't start now she won't she won't.
"I could never stand that," Anakin says steadily. "Killing, violence, that was one thing, but... I always thought Mom was probably raped. That that was why she wouldn't talk about my father. And if we hadn't been sold to Watto... Gardulla catered to. A very specific clientele, where children were concerned."
Has he ever told anyone this before?
He catches her gaze and holds it, blue eyes like the Tatooine sky: like her brother's eyes, and like her youngest child's.
"You are my daughter, Leia Amidala Skywalker," he says, low and fierce and proud. "My daughter."
Leia does start to cry then, incensed beyond words: how dare he make that claim? She struggles and snarls and hits at him furiously when Anakin puts his arms around her, but he catches her close and lets her flail at him uselessly and rests his cheek on her hair while she curses him in every language she knows, exhausting her vocabulary and Luke's and Han's and even Mara's, and eventually, when her anger's drained away and her fists hurt from hitting him and her throat is sore with shouting, she sinks into her father's arms and hides her face in his chest and sobs.
"Do you know," Father asks a long time later, "what your name means?"
Leia shakes her head as best she can, tucked safely in his arms.
"It's a Magh'ran word. It means accomplishment."
"S'right. Of course, if you put the accent on the last syllable and say Le-aah, then it means weary. But your name, Ley-ah, that means accomplishment; the good kind of weary, you know? Success. A mission completed."
"Luke and I were missions," she says mockingly. Father chuckles.
"No, you were accidents, actually. But the word leia also happens to be an important component of another Magh'ran word."
"Basileia. Mistress. Queen."
"Queen?" Leia is fascinated.
"Oh, yes. I suppose the most literal translation would be something along the lines of 'leader who accomplishes things'. It's basaleia if it's a man."
"Leader who accomplishes things," she repeats, very softly, and then laughs quietly. "Wait till I tell Luke. What does his name mean?"
"Ah. Padmé chose Luke's name. It means bringer of light, apparently."
For a moment, Leia doesn't stir. Then she starts to laugh again, out loud and delightedly. "Bringer of light! Oh, perfect."
Father smiles. "Don't let it go to his head, will you?"
"No." Hiccupping little giggle. "No, I won't."
He strokes a hand through her hair gently, kisses the top of her head. Leia sighs. "Don't think you're off the hook now."
"You named your kid after me," Father says, and there's a touch of smugness there, an arrogance that has nothing to do with Vader and everything to do with that whimsical, prideful boy who met a Jedi Master in a junkshop and won a podrace to help a group of strangers.
Leia smiles. "Yeah, I really did."
And then, suddenly serious, he says, "But you are going to be all right, little one."
Leia's first instinct is to say yes, but she's not sure if that's true or not, and there have been enough lies between them for several lifetimes.
Father waits patiently until she's found her answer, holding her close. She can feel his breath on her head, stirring her hair a little. You'd think that his slow steady breathing couldn't not remind her of Vader, but it doesn't – maybe because she can feel his heartbeat under her cheek, too, and smell him: leather, ozone, engine grease and sun-warmed wool, dusty and strong.
It takes her a few moments to put her finger on where she's smelt that before.
"You smell like Luke."
"Hmm," Father says.
"It sounds silly, I know."
"Not really. You smell like my mother. Like... curry spice. And Dashan tea, just a little fruity."
Leia holds her breath for the next question. "What did Mother smell like?"
"Water," he says at last. "Fresh-cut grass. Citrus; she had this shampoo..."
"Yeah, she used to laugh about that. Not one of my better lines, apparently, but still true. You know, like a lake. Made you think of... deep green water. Cool and shady."
Leia giggles like Jaina, but finds herself growing serious again rather quickly. Pokes at Father's knee with her fingertip.
"Hmm?" more questioning this time.
"You didn't know me," she repeats.
He sighs. "Yes, I did," he says. "I might not have wanted to face the truth. Even after I learned Luke's name it was months before I let myself entertain the notion that he wasn't lying. That my child had lived. But I knew you, my Leia. I could sense you were Force-sensitive when Palpatine himself had no idea. That alone... I knew you."
"I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse," Leia says and starts to cry again; but it's not the harsh, furious sobs of earlier, more grief in her now than anything else. Father kisses her hair and murmurs comfort: Leia my Leia my beautiful daughter my little girl but he never apologises, not once, and Leia doesn't cry for very long, not this time.
"Sorry," she gulps, sitting up and facing him. "I have a feeling your tunic is ruined."
Father tsks. "Yes," he says. "A tragedy. Where I'm going to get a new one in the netherworlds of the Force..."
She snickers, tries to force it back, swallows one last sob and then laughs outright. "I think I needed to see you before I went to Yavin."
"Is that where Luke is?"
"Right. I want..." Leia pauses, remembering: I want to do it properly, she'd said to Luke on Endor two years ago, and he'd said... "I want to learn the ways of the Force, and be a Jedi like my father."
"Oh, I hope not, little one," Father says, smiling. "I expect you and Luke to do rather better than that."
He takes her head in his hands, gentle as he never was to her in life, and kisses her forehead in farewell: benediction.
Suddenly, Leia clutches at his forearms to stop him leaving; Father blinks in surprise. "Leia?"
"I remember the citrus," she says, smiling up at him.
Father laughs brokenly and kisses her again. "I'm glad for that."
Leia, Han and Chewie reach Yavin two days later and find – well, chaos, really. Jaina's cut her hair half off and Jacen looks scruffier than even his father ever has and Anakin is at his mischievous best and all three of their beautiful children are nut-brown and more prone to yelling than ever before and practically radiating happiness and Luke, wonder of wonders, Luke is laughing, truly and properly, with his whole body, and never once that day does he stop.
Leia puts the kids to bed that night in their suspiciously tidy guest room – have they been sleeping in Luke's bed? Set up some kind of tent in the living room? She wouldn't put it past them – and kisses both the twins, smiling at them.
"Goodnight, little ones."
"Little ones," Jacen says, contemptuous. "Mommy, we're awful big."
Leia caresses his cheek, laughing softly. When Anakin wraps his arms around her neck, she turns her head a little and sniffs at him, curious, catching just a whiff of something she thought she'd smelled earlier at dinner, too.
"I bathed," he says, eyes big and anxious. "I really did, Mommy. It was horrid, way less fun than –"
Here Jaina kicks him under the covers to get him to be quiet.
What have they been up to?
"I know," Leia says gently. "Anakin Solo, you smell like water."
"Yeah," Jacen says with an eyeroll. "Bath water."
"No," his mother says. "Not bath water. The proper kind. A lake. Big and green and shady."
"Mommy, are you all right?" Anakin says, sounding worried.
Leia laughs again and kisses him. "Oh, yes," she says joyously. "Mommy is, quite frankly, better than ever, my darlings."
She doesn't quite make it out of the door unscathed. "Mom," Jaina calls, making her turn back in time for her daughter to blow her a kiss.
Leia blows one back and winks at her.
"Sleep, you devils."
She closes the door on their giggles and returns to the kitchen, to her husband and her closest friend and the bottle of whiskey on the table and her brother, who is waiting for her to tell him something he already knows.
They make the old toast, the four of them, and drink the old whiskey, and farewell their ghosts together.