Disclaimer: Star Wars: A New Hope and all related characters, settings, and details are the property of George Lucas and 20th Century Fox. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made.
Author's Note: Strangely enough, of the Star Wars stories I've written, almost all of them have been spurred or inspired by something I've dreamt just before waking. In this case, it was an image of Princess Leia sitting alone in a small room at the Yavin base, watching a holovid, and crying, and wondering how a young woman of only 19 would cope with the loss of her father, her family, and her entire world.
I reference one character not in the movies, and I've tried to stick to canon, but it's more than likely that I've made a few mistakes here and there. There's a LOT of Star Wars universe out there. Speaking of, the lines from the movie are a mix of memory, an online script, and a few tweaks, because what sounds fine in the movie just doesn't read as well in type.
Time For Sorrows
She knew so many of the faces she saw as she led Luke, Han, and Chewbacca through the hanger, but it was General Willard she went to.
He took her in an embrace as warm as her father's.
"You're safe!" he exhaled, squeezing her. "We'd feared the worst."
Then he remembered himself, that while she was the daughter of his close friend, safe from immediate danger, he was also a general, and she was now the last member of the House of Organa, the royal house of his homeworld, which no longer existed. His expression solidified into tightly controlled grief and joy, and he bowed to her.
"When we heard about Alderaan, we were afraid you were . . . lost along with your father."
The hammer blow that struck her heart reverberated through her entire chest, but she managed not to let it discompose her. Oh, how her aunts, who had despaired of ever seeing her master the arts of deportment would ta- have taken pride in her. She put her hand on the general's arm, just above his elbow, to turn him back towards the headquarters.
"We've no time for our sorrows, General," she told him, setting the immediate tone. "The battle station has surely tracked us here. It's the only explanation for the ease of our escape."
She gave Captain Solo a pointed look, which he managed to miss entirely, even though he'd been watching her closely.
"You must use the information in this R2 unit. It's our only hope."
It was done.
This was, almost literally, the first time she'd had to herself that she hadn't spent dead to the world in sleep.
The Death Star was destroyed. Grand Moff Tarkin – may his soul rot in Hell – was dead. The initial confusion over whether Darth Vader had been killed in the Battle of Yavin was beginning to tip towards the probability of him living through it. His power in the Force had probably been enough to keep him alive in a damaged TIE until he could be rescued. In one swift stroke, the Rebel Alliance was now a going concern.
The Emperor, having spread the news far and wide of his battle station's destructive power, couldn't then pretend it had never existed, and could hardly conjure it to threaten other systems when it had been blown to dust. Star systems by the hundreds were declaring their allegiance to the rebellion. She had gone through the lists forwarded to her by Mon Mothma.
She kept catching herself composing a letter to her father, or thinking of some way to get a holovid to him, so he could hear the joy in her voice. If it wasn't that, she felt an itch, in the back of her mind, that she would hear one of the perimeter guards announce the approach of his personal ship, or that he would walk through the door into the command center, where she worked daily with Generals Dodonna and Willard. That she would look up and see the smile on his face.
Her father was dead.
As were her aunts. Her adopted sister, Winter, her cousin, her former classmates, the people she'd been so proud to represent, the throngs of Alderaan citizens who'd applauded her election to the Senate, the docent of the museum she'd best loved, the gardener who made sure to plant her favorite flowers outside her bedroom window, and every single soul that had lived on her home world.
They were all dead.
When events on Yavin had finally slowed down enough to consider the need to eat and sleep, General Willard had taken her aside.
"I've arranged for you to take my suite of rooms, Your Highness," he told her. "I'm aware that you arrived without any baggage or resources. One of my lieutenants will leave some clothes for you. I'm afraid they're only standard issue, and they'll probably be too large-"
"That's quite all right, General," she managed to assure him.
She would have preferred to say 'I don't need special treatment. Don't bother giving me a room. I'll just find a spot to bunk," but she was aware that he needed to offer these things to her. He needed her to be the heir to the House of Organa. He needed to know that there would be something left of Alderaan, something of her father's legacy. She also knew that while the base on Yavin had been occupied for more than a few months, and ruins abounded, space with civilized conveniences – running water, beds, and privacy – were extremely short.
She had, she realized, been wearing the same gown through the capture of her consular ship, her imprisonment aboard a star destroyer, then the Death Star, through her interrogation and torture, Luke's rescue, a wade through a trash compactor and all the sewage that implied, and then the torturous hours leading up to the Battle of Yavin. She stank. She itched. She was probably barely recognizable.
And it didn't matter at all, because her father and her family and her people were dead.
"General Willard," she asked, haltingly, her throat tightening, "you mentioned . . . you said that my father was lost. Are you sure?"
Bail Organa, the head of the House of Organa, the royal family of Alderaan, could have been called off planet at a moment's notice. With the disruption of Imperial communication networks and the chaos that followed the destruction of Alderaan, coupled with the price that was surely put on his head by the Emperor, he might be on his way to Yavin or making arrangements to rendezvous with them at another point, now that this location was known.
But the pain that flashed across Vanden Willard's face told her otherwise.
"We spoke, Your Highness," he told her. "Only minutes before the destruction. He was on planet and intended to be there for at least another day. We only disconnected because he wished to follow up with an Imperial connection to consult on your disappearance."
So, he'd never even known she'd made it to safety. How could he? When he'd died, she'd seen it – removed by a distance of tens of thousands of kilometers, but she'd seen it, and she'd stood on the central weapons system deck of the thing that had killed him. She'd heard the executioner give the order.
She nodded her understanding to him, almost curt.
"My lieutenant will see you to your new quarters. We should have some appropriate garments for you within another day."
She barely heard him.
Numbly, she'd showered. She'd stuffed her gown into the oubliette for incineration or conversion. The standard issue regimental uniform had been too big, but once she'd pulled on the skin layer, combed her hair out and braided it simply, she'd crawled into bed and slept around the clock.
She woke herself several times, crying out for her father, begging Tarkin not to destroy her homeworld.
The morning after she awoke, when the Dodonna was still marshalling planetary and system wide defenses, as Imperial ships were already setting up a blockade, she went to the infirmary. The medical droid scanned her and gave her several injections – to repair neural damage done by the interrogation, to restore vital cytokines and neurotransmitters, to soothe the stress hormones that had run amok through her since she'd heard the general quarters alarm on the consular ship, and to restore her body's reserves for the next round.
On her way back to her quarters, she crossed paths with Captain Solo.
He gave her a look over, definitely appreciating her female form, even under the shapeless trousers and shirt. She would have reared up and torn him to shreds with the kind of verbal stripping her aunts had taught her, but it wasn't there.
"You don't clean up half bad, Your Worshipfulness," he quipped, grinning. "I hear your luggage finally caught up with you. There's half a flat of wardrobe crates and crown jewels for all I know with your name on it. Probably be delivered to your quarters by the time you get there."
"Thank you, Captain," she said, sticking to civil formality as a default.
"I hear you're going to be handing out some medals later today," he said, leaning in, as if to impart a very juicy bit of gossip.
"To you and Luke," she confirmed, "for your actions in battle. You'll be confirmed as a captain with the Alliance. Luke will be awarded the rank of commander."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "You're . . . not going to wear that, are you?" he asked, somehow perfectly mimicking the extremely polite tone Aunt Celly used to tell her she was dressed like a dockyard ruffian.
It would have amused her, if it hadn't pierced her heart like ricocheted blaster shot.
"It's this or I turn your wookie copilot into a coat," she told him. Her voice came out as an icy bite instead of the dry understatement she'd intended.
"Hey!" he protested.
She pushed past him and strode off to her quarters, snubbing him in a manner that would have earned her a grounding, an hour long talking to, and the loss of riding privileges for a week only two years ago.
Except, her aunts were dead and would never reproach her behavior again.
Back in her quarters, she found that Solo had been exactly right. He probably knew down to the hundredth credit what the shipping costs had been. The stack of crates were stamped with the names of Alderaan fashion houses. They must have already been shipped off-world when . . .
She turned her back on the crates and walked out of the study/receiving room into her bedroom.
General Willard had chosen the quarters well. The bedroom had several windows with deep stone sills. All of them looked out onto the forest. The lookout in that quadrant of the base was several stories above and couldn't see in. There wasn't another human soul to see.
She had, literally, nothing left to her but her name.
She didn't mind the clothes or the jewels or the accoutrements of being a royal princess. That was more Winter's forte. It had taken her years to feel comfortable in the formal clothes a young woman of her standing was expected to wear, and then, the garb of a Senator added to that. No, she didn't mind the loss of those things.
She would recover from knowing that her pets, her books, her diary, her old school papers, and the vine-silk ribbons she'd collected were forever gone.
But so were all the pictures, vids, and holovids of her father. So were the pressed flowers Aunt Rouge saved for her. So were her mother's letters to her. So was the portrait Winter had painted of her and given to her for her fifteenth birthday.
She had always traveled light, knowing she would return home.
She sat, staring out the window at the forest, now green at the end of the rainy season.
A member of the House of Organa was expected to be in control of her emotions and never let them control her. She was to be a model of dignity and probity to her people, so they knew they could trust her to represent them. She had never been one to cry, not over a skinned knee, not over a political loss. Just then, she knew she was crying, but only because the tears on her face had begun to fall on her hands, folded in her lap.
How could he not be there? How could she never see them again? How could it be that there was no home anymore? Not just that she couldn't go back to it – she'd known that was a risk when she'd begun to work for the Rebellion – but that it literally did not exist.
Her hands were trembling, and her shoulders began to shake. She pressed her hands over her mouth to suppress the sobs.
A breeze sighed into the room, stirring the netting around the bed.
"Do not despair, Your Highness."
At the voice, she stood upright and turned toward the speaker, her hand reaching for the blaster she always carried now.
The man who stood there did not exist either.
She had seen enough holovids of him to know who he was, even if they were twenty years old or more. She had seen him briefly on the flight deck of the Death Star, watched while Luke screamed his name, watched while Darth Vader had cut him down.
He stood there, his brown robe hanging in folds down to the floor. The side of the room he stood in was in shadow, but he looked like he was standing in full daylight. He was almost, but not quite, transparent.
"Grieve," he told her, "but do not despair."
A new pain squeezed her heart, crushing it.
"General Kenobi?" she asked.
He nodded, and though his smile was sad, there was the slightest twinkle in his eye.
"How . . ."
"A Jedi masters many things in his lifetime," he told her, "including several methods for dealing with the end of his lifetime. I saw a need for my guidance as well as an even greater need to provide you and Luke with an immediate escape. I'm sorry I wasn't able to answer your request as you wished."
She sank back down to her seat, her knees weak.
"The emotions of the living bend the Force," he continued. "While there is joy here, the joy of survival, the joy of success, the joy of purpose, your grief was enough to draw my attention."
"Has gone home again," Kenobi told her. "The Force has enfolded the spirits of all those who perished, both on Alderaan and on the Death Star. You will see him again, some day, when the time comes, but that won't be for some time."
"I stood there," she said, "when Tarkin gave the order. There was nothing I could do, but I still . . . there should have been a way for me to stop him."
Obi Wan regarded her for a long moment.
"Leia, I was present when you were born and named. I knew your mother, and she was a remarkable woman. There is a great deal of her in you. Yes, there should have been a way for you to stop the destruction of your home, stop the death of your father. There should have been a way, but there wasn't.
"Now, you are here. Tarkin and Vader would have destroyed this base and the Rebellion with it, but there was a way to stop it, and you found it. You were the one who survived interrogation by a Sith Lord. You were the one with the foresight to store the plans in R2 and send him to me. You were the one who comforted Luke and gave him the heart to go on. You are the reason, or part of the reason, Captain Solo remained to help. The number of lives you saved will more than balance out those lost on Alderaan.
"Bail Organa and your mother are very proud of you," Obi Wan told her.
She looked up at him, puzzled by the way he worded it. Bail Organa and her mother. But as she opened her mouth to speak, he was gone. And she was alone.
She sat and thought for some time, until there was a knock on her door.
She stood, checked the mirror, scrubbed at her cheeks to bring a little color back and remove the tear tracks, and went to the door. On opening it, she found the doorway filled with Captain Solo, who somehow managed to attach himself to the doorjamb, lounge as if he had nothing to do, and hold out a small package for her with an expression of reluctant apology.
"I . . . uh . . . kinda stuck my foot in my mouth back there," he said. "Threepio started into this whole explanation of fourteen different ways I'd given offense. Luke told me I was an idiot, and Chewie says, if you want, he'll turn me into a coat. So, I wanted to say, I'm sorry, and since I was on my way here, one of the logistics officers was coming this way. Said this had come in for you through some pretty interesting routes, and you'd want to have a look."
She managed to keep her surprise limited to a moment of slightly open mouthed astonishment.
"Well, of course, you're forgiven, Captain Solo," she managed. "And thank you."
She reached for the package, and he held it just out of her reach.
"Han," he told her. "It's Han, Your Falutin' Royalty-ness."
"Han," she repeated. "Thank you, Han."
He gave her the package, a smile, a wink, and strolled off. She closed the door and looked at the package.
It was small enough to contain only a few things – a data chip, jewelry, perhaps a holovid. The case was locked, but when she pressed her thumb against the lock, she felt a tiny hum as it read both her thumbprint and the pattern of capillaries behind it. The lock popped open.
It had been set to her biometrics, something only a person very close to her could do. Her hands started to tremble again, and she opened the case. Inside was a holovid, and the base lights blinked in a pattern that told her the power source was fully energized and the file it held was encrypted.
Almost stumbling, she brought it into the bedroom and sat down at dressing table. Placing the case on the table, she took out the holovid and put it in front of her. Then, she passed her hand over it.
"What season is it?" a mechanical voice asked.
Her heart skipped a beat. It would only recognize her voice saying the correct answer.
"Winter," she managed.
The power ring around the top of the base lit blue in response, and a figure only a bit taller than her hand formed. It was a young woman, only a year or two older than her. Her features were surprisingly similar to Leia's, though her hair was a blonde so light, it was nearly white. Her expression was one of haggard grief.
It was Winter, her adopted sister and best friend. It had to have been made after the destruction of Alderaan.
"Leia," Winter said, her voice cracking, "I don't know if you'll ever see this, because I don't know if you're alive or not. The newsvids say your ship disappeared in hyperspace, and your father said it was taken by an Imperial star destroyer. I just got the news about Alderaan."
Tears began running down Winter's cheeks.
"If you've survived, my hope is that you reached Yavin, so that's where I'm sending this message. I can't tell you where I am. I'm taking a huge risk just sending this, and I may end up burning one of my contacts, but I had to let you know, I'm all right. I was not on Alderaan when it was destroyed.
"I'm so sorry, Leia," she whispered. "Your father was a good man. None of us could afford to lose him, but you least of all. When my mission is accomplished, I'll join you as soon as I can. Remember that I love you, and that I'm with you. We will bring them to justice, Leia. We'll see the Republic restored."
Her figure blipped out, and the holovid shut down. The lights ran through a sequence Leia recognized as an auto-delete. Winter had taken no chances. Once Leia had seen the holovid, it was destroyed.
She was crying again, but this time, it hurt far less.
Winter was alive. Her sister was alive. She wasn't alone.
She put her head down on the table, covered it with her arms, and wept a mingling of grief and joy.
Two hours later, wearing a new gown, an iridium-platinum necklace, and her braid wrapped in an elegant coil, she stood on a platform with Generals Dodonna and Willard as the far door into the Great Hall opened and three figures stepped through. When they reached the platform – Han, Chewie, and Luke – R2-D2 began to tweet and whistle in happiness. She picked up the first medal, and when she met Han's eyes, he smiled at her.
She smiled back.