[9 months post-Identity;
2yrs + 9 months post-Endor]
The weeks leading up to the press conference at which her intimate connection to the bloodline of Darth Vader would be revealed were perhaps the most politically strategized of Leia's life thus far.
She had strategized before; that was inarguable – she had been raised in a royal court that taught her statecraft, she had rigorously studied diplomacy, she had cut her teeth in the Galactic Senate, honed her skills in espionage, earned an scarred and sturdy armor in revolution – to be sure, she was no stranger to tactical maneuvering, in both war and peace.
With such explosive information on hand, there was a minefield to navigate regarding preparation for the moment of its release – Leia sought to mitigate backlash where, and if, she could – that meant anticipating all possible angles at which the Media could attack the narrative.
She balanced carrying out her day-to-day duties with spending a grueling amount of time working closely with her father, with Carlist Rieekan – one of the few of her colleagues read in to the impending declaration – with Luke, with Ruwee, when possible – even with Winter, and Rouge – she sought all sorts of perspectives, tried to foresee what would be thrown at her – and her brother – when the information was public.
Leia planned for no one to care, and planned for every being in the galaxy to cry out in indignation. She planned for an understanding populace, and she planned for a mob who would demand she be deposed from her position and questioned for war crimes –
There were moments when Han shook his head at her, and looked at her with pleading wariness – Sweetheart; you can't think it's going to be that bad – no one's going to say this about you – he said to her one night, sitting on the edge of her desk in their apartment, trying to coax her to bed, and she sighed, rubbing her eyes, tired, having spent the better part of a week composing balanced responses to a list of heinous – though hypothetical – accusations Winter had postulated.
She'd just looked at him silently, and moved forward to lay her head on his thigh, resting for a moment – she found it hard to illustrate politics to him exactly because of how much he hated them – she found it hard to tell him that there were people, perhaps even good people, who might use this against her even if they liked her, if they could find a way to further their cause, whatever that may be –
And there were people who hated her, regardless of what Han thought, and regardless of the good she tried to do; there were former Imperials who loathed her, members of different cultures who despised Alderaan's ways, and every liberal and progressive thing that she had stood for, and still stood for – there were people who didn't care enough to stick up for her –
It wasn't just herself she planned for, either – she strategized for Luke, to do what she could to prepare him, and fight to preserve the public's faith in him and his Jedi dreams; she planned for the Naberries, for Jobal, and Ruwee, and Ryoo and her girls –
She started small – easing the Naberries into the idea, discussing it lightly; it was perhaps a month after her return from Naboo that she and her father dug into the scheme and started organizing objectives, mentally, emotionally, physically, and politically preparing –
She obtained personal narratives from the Naberries on both Anakin and Padmé; little collections of stories from each of them, humanizing the story; she let them choose what they personally wanted provided to the public, and only asked it of them if they would agree –
She brought first Rieekan, and then Mon Mothma to the table; she asked that Mon Mothma play the part of a negative advocate, comprising a red team with Winter and Rouge – Mon to represent the politically ambitious who would manipulate the information, Rouge to represent the old world elitists, and Winter to represent the motley amalgamation of any groups that were left who might cause trouble.
As the designated date approached, Leia quietly, cautiously, and painfully, drew additional people into the impossibly small circle of those who knew; she did the former Alliance High Command the courtesy of briefing them privately in advance.
The reaction there was – mixed, subdued; for the most part, the former Command was comprised of military thinkers; Dodonna, Madine, Ackbar – all of them seemed bowled over, but not particularly wary of Leia – with the exception, perhaps, of Ackbar, who had withdrawn, somewhat, though politely. She hardly blamed him. The Empire – Vader's – treatment of non-human species had been –
She needed to feel a little of that rejection, a taste of what it would be like when millions in the galaxy widened their eyes and drew back in shock, because there was no hope that every single being would take it as well as – Dansra Beezer had.
She had provided the same courtesy of advance knowledge to her Alderaanian Council – with the exception of Threkin Horm – and though the resulting stone cold, screaming silence had nearly deafened her, she'd been relieved to hear Dansra's cool, unconcerned scoff suddenly break it – You're Bail Organa's daughter, that's the end of it for me.
Her statement seemed to have awakened and rallied the Council; all it took was a firm nod of agreement from Evaan Verlaine, and not a one of them turned their back on her, and Leia could breathe for a day or two – reminded that her people had always been good, accepting; Alderaan was so much more a culture of individual judgment on personal merit and kindness than the rest of the galaxy.
She listened to the opinions and judgments of the Council, and of the former Alliance Command, taking to heart their words – their advisements – on making the announcement at all, and resolved still that she would do it, though a fair few of them had their reservations –
It's your privacy, Your Highness –
Ambassador, there's no need; it'll cause undue uproar –
Is it best for stability?
Yes, I agree, transparency is best –
Leia was set, determined; Luke was, too – the both of them, committed in their own rights to proclaiming their bloodline, fervent for their own reasons when it came to establishing the truth –
She saw to it that all areas were covered – her inner circle prepared to deal with the fallout, her close colleagues aware of the firestorm that would soon flare; she saw to it that Ryoo's family, on Naboo, was protected by security Leia personally hired – she even offered them her place on Corellia if they needed it –
Sola and Jobal, with the aid of Evaan Verlaine, were with the Queen of Naboo in Theed to handle anything that came up there, as Naboo would have a spotlight on it - and on Coruscant, Ruwee joined his granddaughters, and grandson, on the day of reckoning – with all of the preparation done, as securely and as aggressively as it could possible be – there was only to await the moment –
Late afternoon, gathering her bearings in a briefing room off the western wing of the Nubian Embassy's Media hall, Leia took a deep breath, glancing for the last time in a mirror before stepping out to the chatter of her closest circle –
Luke took her arm almost immediately, drawing in a deep breath. He squeezed her elbow tightly for support, dressed in one of his finest tunics – sleek black, complete with a cloak Leia knew to be Anakin Skywalker's, though she doubted he'd reveal the information –
She herself had chosen to wear the sunny, flowing embroidered golden yellow gown Jobal Naberrie had bid her to keep; she wore the gown in honor of Padmé Amidala, in reference to the past, the beauty of it, the dust of it – she had it hemmed, taken in only a little, and it fell on her almost perfectly, a light contrast against her dark hair and dark eyes.
Pooja was thrilled to see her in it; Ruwee could only look at her with a calm sadness – grief for his daughter, anxious anticipation for the coming maelstrom –
Around Luke and Leia, last-minute activity fluttered; Winter was with Tavska, Leia's personal assistant, fielding last minute questions from the upper echelon political elite – Leia's colleagues not on the council, or part of the former High Command, who had been informed this morning, last minute, of what would happen in the afternoon.
Their heads were reeling – their political advisors were no doubt losing their minds, screaming with panic; Leia had no doubt that half of them were being told to detach themselves from her party and her projects immediately –
She put a hand to her ribs, and took a deep breath; Luke leaned over and tucked his head near hers –
"Are you alright?" he asked quietly.
Leia nodded, closing her eyes a moment – she opened them, steeling herself fiercely.
"Yes," she said firmly.
She was – ready for this; she was ready to fight this – if anything, she felt like her life had been building to this. It wasn't – that this was more important than anything she'd ever done; no, to date, she could point to a handful of events that were more important than divulging an inflammatory family secret – but somehow, revealing this, admitting it – not so much embracing it, but owning it – felt like coming of age in a strange and indefinable way –
As if once it was out, and she was laid bare before the galactic jury, there would be no going back; seizing the future would be an absolute, and not an act that had heretofore been metered by a little fear, and some insecurity –
She and Luke had discussed, at length and in lively, quiet philosophical mental conversations, the concept of destiny and their part in it, their beliefs in it – and she concluded that destiny was a choice, and in this act they were making the educated decision to bear the legacy of their parents.
Bail, convinced she was politically correct but worried about her emotionally, bonded with Ruwee in his reservations; Rouge fretted over the implications, scared for her reputation on a shallow level, and desperately worried about her family on a level only Leia and Bail could see – Winter remained cool, the Naberries fortified themselves, Chewbacca stood strong and loyal – and Han, Han –
Han pulled her aside, towards a corner, his eyes lingering for a moment on the door that led into the room where the press conference would begin, and he placed his hands on her shoulders, and then slid them down to her waist, lowering his head – he pressed a kiss to her jaw.
"I love you, Sweetheart," he whispered, brushing his thumb along the bodice of the dress. He grimaced, and his stomach twisted almost nauseously – he had been provoked into stress, taught to worry, because Bail had disabused him of his – almost naïve belief that no one could turn on Leia merely because of her – genetics.
Leia nodded, and kissed his neck, resting her forehead on him for a moment.
"You sure you don't want me out there?" Han asked.
She took a deep breath and looked up at him, letting it out slowly.
"It isn't that I don't want you," she said – and he nodded; he understood – it needed to be her, it needed to be Luke, and Bail – and Ruwee and Pooja, too; they were the intimately involved parties, at least in the secrecy of it.
"I'll be here," he said gruffly. He jerked his head around. "We all will."
He meant – himself, Chewbacca, Winter, Rouge – Carlist. The few people who were privy to being in the wings to leave with Leia when all of this was over, and the shocked silence slowly started to fade into a roar of tyrannical curiosity and – Sith knew what else.
She heard Tavska call out the time, and then her father call her name – Leia, are you ready – ?
Leia took another deep breath, and smiled at Han bravely. She set her shoulders back, and ran her hands over his chest before stepping aside, and moving past him, joining her father and the others at the exit of the room –
Behind her, Rouge moved towards Han, looking small next to him, even smaller near Chewbacca, and Leia heard her faint, final warning – I still don't think this is a good idea – and Han's quick, confident response – Hey, Rouge, it's Leia's idea, they're all good ones –
That little comment – it somehow gave her a unique strength, a strength all of the preparation and calculation hadn't afforded her; Han believed in her, and these people she held so dear believed in her – and there were millions more who admired the things she did, in some respect, who loved Luke, and –
"Do you think any of them know what is coming?" Pooja asked, her head high, and her eyes alight with something – nerves, anxiety, but bravery, too, and fierce determination.
"No," Ruwee said flatly – he looked over at Luke, and Leia, and nodded at them both, a small smile on his face – he seemed to encourage them with his eyes, reminding them he agreed to this; he wanted his daughter vindicated, like Luke wanted his father's story to be whole, to illustrate everything.
Bail rested his hand on Leia's shoulder, and gave her a quiet look, asking the same thing Luke had asked, wordless – and Leia nodded again –
She raised her head with the grace of a Princess of Alderaan, with the tenacity of a child queen, with the grit of a warrior – possessed of all the sagacity of a seasoned diplomat, and the composure of the woman who had raised her –
Bail opened the door to the outer annex –
- Leia stepped lead the procession into the press conference with calm certainty and, in her mother's dress, armed only with words, and the best intentions, she stood next to her brother to tell them all who she was – and despite the flashes of the holocams all around her, her eyes were open, honest, and unwavering in the bright lights.