Time to Leave

by Lorraine Anderson

"Princess... I have to go."

She looked towards him in the shadows of the room. His head was bowed; she could not see his face. It seemed for a second she could see the overlay of something horrible, something terrifying, but the moment passed. He raised his head and smiled at her.

"Tonight?"

"I can't delay any longer. My plan is already set in motion."

"Your plans." She knelt down beside him. "You cannot go. I forbid it," she said without conviction.

He laughed lightly. "Princess, you have to come up with something better than that. You know you can't rule me."

She laughed bitterly. "I never could."

He smiled. "But it was fun trying, wasn't it, Princess?" He knelt down to kiss the top of her head. She raised her head to smell him. For the last time, she wondered.

"Will you come back?"

"If possible. If at all possible." She looked at him. He was looking at the wall, and she turned his head to look at her.

"You're lying."

"If I can come back, I will." She looked into the depths of his eyes. He was not coming back. He knew it.

A baby cried in the next room. They smiled at each other. "Which one?" she said, knowing his unerring accuracy.

A second cry. "Both of them," he said with a smile. He stood and pulled her up.

"Let the nurse get them."

He looked toward the room. "I need to see them."

She followed in his wake. The nurse was coming in, he waved her back and she disappeared back to her room with a look at the Princess. He knelt over the crib and looked at the crying baby. The baby looked him, and quieted down with a slight burp. He picked the child up, and the baby nuzzled his head into the father's shoulder.

The Princess picked the other child up, and stood by the man. He reached out to touch the other baby's head, and the Princess started crying. "How can you leave this?"

"The future of the universe is at stake," he said. "How can I not leave?"

"I don't understand." She understood very well, and as she looked at him, she could see that he looked right through her.

"The fate of one man is unimportant. But I have reason to hope for redemption at the end." He looked at the Princess. "You know about sacrifice, Ami."

The Princess Amidala looked at her baby, Luke, still nestled in his father's arms as if he, too, knew that his father was leaving. "He's strong in the force, too, isn't he, Ani?"

"Yes." He had his hand on Leia's head. "She does, too, but she won't get a chance to develop it, I think." He shivered. "Oh, Ami. I wish I had never heard of the Force."

And she found herself hugging him with her free arm. "And I think you didn't have a choice, either. Would you rather still be a slave in a junkyard?"

"I think... I think..." She felt him squaring his shoulders. "No." He looked to the door. "Palpatine is leaving tonight. I must join him or forever lose the chance."

"And join the Dark Side. What should I tell Obi-Wan?"

"Nothing. He will think that I joined the Dark Side because of my anger." He laughed. "He never realized why I was angry. I saw the future, and never told him. I realized that I needed to join the Dark Side, so that the universe would eventually be free."

"And Palpatine will die?"

He looked at her, as if weighing what he needed to tell her. "Yes. He will be dead, and this will give the rebel force a chance. And the good side of the Force will spread, I believe, helped by Luke and Leia and Leia's husband." A shadow went across his eyes. She didn't press him any further. "Luke should go tonight. Your guards are ready to take him?"

She thought about the couple who was going to take her son. They had been long-time retainers in her service, recently retired, childless. They welcomed the chance to raise Luke as their own.

"But not tonight."

"You should. I will become a danger to you. You need to get him out of harm's way."

Fresh tears sprang up in her eyes. "Tomorrow."

She saw him look into himself. "Yes. Tomorrow. No later... I must go."

They kissed passionately. The babies in their arms made no protest, as if knowing this was a solemn moment. Then Anikan Skywalker pulled himself away, gazed at her tenderly another moment, then handed her the baby in his arms. Then he turned his head away, and walked swiftly out the door.

But not before Amidala saw the tears in his eyes.

She held both babies tight as she looked at the door. Tomorrow she needed to set everything in motion. Tomorrow she would be strong.

Her tears ran down her face. Tonight... tonight, she needed to mourn the death of Anakin Skywalker.