Chewing on his lower lip, he couldn't hide his trepidation at their chosen course of action. Honestly, this had better work...

Because they'd all be screwed if it didn't.

"Are you sure this is the best idea?" Luke asked in concern, as he and Leia watched Anakin give their mother a passionate kiss goodbye before they embraced for a very long time, speaking in fervent hushed whispers to each other. Sadly, they'd need to wait to board until Padme had entered her ship and moved toward the cockpit before they themselves entered and holed up in the back of the ship to keep from making them all sick as Wyrkoons.

Which really sucked . He finally found out who his mother was - and he got to meet her - but he couldn't so much as touch her without causing some weird kind of time-space meltdown thing happening.

Not. Fair.

"Of course I'm sure. We're talking about a political coup on Coruscant. Remember? Besides, my parents did it all the time on Alderaan when I was growing up." Leia didn't look at him as she said this, and he could sense that though she was truthful, she also wasn't telling him the full story. Figures.

"I'm not saying it isn't, but…" he trailed off. It was so rare that either of them talked about the people they'd lost. It was like a mutually unspoken agreement to just not go there. It had occurred to him that his aunt and uncle were still alive in this timeline, but the thought of visiting them felt wrong reopening old wounds better left closed.

Honestly, he didn't think he could do it. That and well, he had zero desire to ever visit Tatooine again. H e had to admit, his twin sister was one strong individual. The very idea that Leia would soon be seeing not only her lost adopted parents, but also her entire lost planet…

He didn't know how she could face it, let alone so calmly. If he were in her shoes, he'd probably be going berserk about now.

"It's a good idea." She said, stiffly. She still didn't look at him, just at the ship. The moment their parents finally let one another go with one last kiss and Padme entered the ship, Leia motioned to follow. "Well, let's get this done."

He bit his lip, worried for his best friend and sister, but he followed without complaint.

At least, until they reached their father who was standing at the end of the ramp. He still stared up into the ship, even though Padme was out of sight, and it was obvious he too, was worried for their mother. "Take care of her." He said solemnly as the twins approached.

"You don't need to worry about us." Leia replied, and for once she didn't sound as snippy as usual. Luke wasn't sure if it was because she was distracted with her own upcoming confrontation, or if she understood Anakin's genuine desire to see their mother safely returned. Either way, he was glad that they weren't yelling. It didn't seem to be the ideal way to leave off a relationship with someone they might not see again.

Because...they were changing the future, right?

Their father could die. Their mother could die. Anakin could still decide to turn to the Dark Side. He could get arrested. He could…Luke shook his head, breaking off that dark spiraling train of thought.

"I just hope this works. For everyone's sake." Leia said stiffly, awkwardly. The closest she'd get to civility with Anakin Skywalker. Depending on how time travel really worked, maybe the next time they saw him they'd have a good relationship. Who knew? He didn't dare suggest it, but that didn't mean he couldn't hope for it.

Anakin gave her a small, wry smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "You don't need to worry about us." He quoted back at her.

She only rolled her eyes, but said nothing more to him before she turned and marched up the ramp without looking back, heading into the ship.

Leaving him alone with their father.

Once again, he was hit with the overwhelming sense of what if? Try as he might, he couldn't push it away, until finally he blurted out, "Let me come with you. I can help."

Anakin's blue eyes darted to his son's, and Luke swore he could feel the rush of understanding through their bond. He knew the answer before Anakin opened his mouth to say it, but it still crushed him when he said, "I would like nothing better than to have you by my side, my Son. One day, that will be the case...but not today."

"I know I wasn't trained like you, but-" Luke stammered, hoping to change his father's mind.

Anakin interrupted him by placing his hand on his shoulder. The warmth of his father's touch spread through him, and he fell quiet.

"Don't misunderstand me. I don't doubt your ability, Luke. This isn't meant that way. It''s for your safety, and your mother's. If this somehow goes wrong, I need to know someone competent is there in my place to protect your sister and your mother. I'm entrusting their safety to you, Son."

There was a heavy silence. Then Luke swallowed thickly and asked, "Even from you?"

Anakin's expression tightened, his eyes reflecting his seriousness. "I won't fall."

"You don't feel certain about it." Anakin didn't reply, and Luke's mechanical hand tightened. The physical reminder of what his father stood to lose. "Promise me you won't."

"I already said I-"

" Promise me, Father." He didn't know why he needed to hear that promise. Somehow, he felt as if getting that promise out of him would somehow make the chances of his father at least staying Anakin Skywalker more real.

His father sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I promise, Luke."

The Force rang with his sincerity. He meant it, and Luke felt like a weight had lifted off of all of them with those words.

"I believe you." And Luke was surprised to know he meant it. If someone had told him a few days ago that he'd be putting his trust in the man who would become the future Darth Vader, he would have called them crazy. But here he was...and by the way Anakin's hand squeezed his shoulder firmly before letting go, he got the impression he appreciated it.

And yet...the idea of turning around and leaving him…

Before he even thought to do it, he reached out and embraced his father, wrapping his arms around his shoulders. It wasn't a long hug, and Anakin stiffened awkwardly under it, but he didn't pull away either. Then, slowly, cautiously, he too reached up and returned the embrace...albeit with a few timid pats on the back.

Luke's eyes swam with unshed tears, and he quickly pulled away. "Sorry. I just...always wanted to do that."

"Probably not when I cut your hand off, though." It was a lame attempt at a joke, and probably a bit soon, but...Luke attempted to grin anyway.

"No. Not exactly. But I expect to keep my hand in the future." Then, he turned and started heading up the ramp. He felt Anakin's eyes on his back all the way up, and when he reached the top, the ramp began to close.

He turned, quickly catching Anakin's gaze one last time. "I'll guess I'll meet you again in, oh, six months or so?"

The last he saw of Anakin Skywalker, he snorted, and called back, "See you in six months, Luke. May the Force be with you, my Son."

Luke smiled one last time at the man he looked so much like, "May the Force be with you...Father."

Well, they'd arrived. On Alderaan.

And already their mother was expressing her concern.

"Are you sure you're going to be alright?" Padme called from the cockpit after they'd landed.

Leia scowled. What was with everyone and asking her if she'd be alright? Of course she would. She was in the past. She understood it was the past. These people…they weren't her people. Bail and Breha...they weren't her parents. Not yet, anyway.

"I'll be fine." She promised back. "Is everyone you invited here?"

"Bail didn't say over the comm, but let's hope so."

It was weird, to have a conversation with their mother from the other end of the ship, but any closer and they'd all feel sick. It definitely made things difficult. Her voice was starting to get a little hoarse.

She and Luke stood. Though Luke had stopped asking, she didn't miss the worried looks he kept giving her. "We'll go out first." He called out to their mother.

Leia's eyes darted to the lowering ramp. How different would everything be? Would it be the same as she remembered?

They'd landed on the landing pad outside the royal palace. As sunlight flooded in, she blinked, attempting to clear her eyes before soaking up the view before her.

First, it was just the permacrete landing pad. But then…

A young Captain Antilles stood there, waiting in his familiar uniform. His hair was dark brown, and there were far less wrinkles than what she remembered. He looked so different than the last time she'd seen him-when he'd been strangled by Darth Vader.

The first physical reminder of what she stood to lose if this all went wrong. But as she headed down the ramp, Luke steadfastly by her side, her breath hitched, her jaw clenched, and she stopped halfway down, her feet suddenly frozen in place as if locked in carbonite. In her breast, her heart started to hammer a staccato rhythm, and her palms felt sweaty. She moved her teary eyed gaze in a panoramic sweep across the landscape.

Her beloved Alderaan.

Towering skyscrapers, glittering in the sunlight. Lush green parks dotting the cityscape. Beyond that, snow capped mountains that she still saw nightly in her dreams, stretching as far as the eye could see.

She'd forgotten how beautiful it was. Not that she didn't remember, but her memories didn't do it the justice it deserved. Not even close.

It was a planet full of life, beauty, and rich culture. It was her home . It always would be.

And if things didn't go right on this little time warp trip of theirs, in nineteen short years it could be the first and only casualty of the Death Star.

"Wow." Luke said beside her, softly so Captain Antilles couldn't overhear. "I would have loved for this to be the first planet I visited after growing up on Tatooine."

She would have preferred they both grew up here together. They could have played in those parks, or in the hallways of the palace. She probably would have roped him into helping her catch the fish in her father's office tank when her parents' backs were turned.

An ache began in her chest and began to throb, and it deepened the longer she took in all that had been taken from her.

"Welcome to Alderaan." Captain Antilles greeted kindly, forcing her to pull her gaze away from the city she thought she'd never see again. "Senator Organa and Her Majesty are awaiting you in the parlor."

She couldn't breathe. They were so close. They were going to be received in the parlor, a place her parents used to greet those they were close with. How often had she returned home from Coruscant to find her mother or father waiting there?

But reality snapped back into place at the sound of her biological mother's voice behind her.

"Thank you, Captain. I would greatly appreciate it if you could show us the way."

Leia didn't need to be shown. She could get there in her sleep. This was her home after all, her family…

And yet...Padme waiting behind them was proof that she had another family. Her chest throbbed again. If things went right this time, then this wouldn't be her home anymore. The Organa's wouldn't be her family. She had to bite back a sob at that thought.

But at least they'd be alive and this beautifully lush planet would be safe and preserved from Imperial destruction. That had to be enough for her.

So, why did it hurt so much?

She couldn't think about that now. They had a mission to accomplish. So, she forced her expression to remain neutral as they followed Captain Antilles into the palace.

She managed to maintain her composure, regal and poised, even as she passed through achingly familiar corridors that hadn't changed much, even nineteen years prior to the last time she'd laid eyes on it. She acknowledged to herself that just thinking that fact was beyond weird. Padme followed behind them at a sedate but unflagging pace, keeping well enough away from them, but not far enough for Captain Antilles to really notice. Instead, he occasionally pointed out rooms or portraits of interest.

With a wry spark of humor, she realized if she wasn't in the past, she would have given the tour herself.

They finally reached the parlor. Her steps started to slow, but Luke quickly grabbed her hand so she wouldn't accidentally get their mother sick. And yet, as Captain Antilles opened the doors, she was struck with the horrifying thought that she wasn't ready, that she needed to take a deep breath before…

"Senator Amidala." Her father's pleasantly accented voice greeted. She blinked, her brain registering him standing there, along with her mother.

That voice. Oh, how she missed that voice.

Her breath left her chest in a whoosh, even as Luke gently pulled her to the side so that their birth mother could enter without issue. Force, Bail was exactly as she remembered, and yet not at all. There were less wrinkles, and there were no gray streaks in his hair. Though there were worry lines around his eyes, they weren't as pronounced.

Her gaze lovingly traced every feature of his face before turning to drink in the sight of the woman that raised her.

Her mother, the only one she'd ever known. She too, looked as radiant as she remembered. Gone were the gray streaks in her hair, the wrinkles…her dark eyes were full of happiness, even as they eyed her and Luke curiously but without any nuance of recognition. She couldn't help but notice how Breha's gaze darted between her and Padme, likely recognizing their overt physical similarities, and she frowned.

They were alive. Alive. And they were talking to her birth mother with the same pleasantries she'd heard them use with other colleagues before most meetings they'd held here. However, this time she watched the hugs and smiles they shared, Padme and the Organas, affirming their status as dear friends and allies, and she couldn't deny the measure of comfort that gave her...both personally and for their mission.

Then they were turning to her, and they said something…which, with her admittedly selfishly internally focused musings, she didn't hear.

"Hello. My name is Luke, and this is my twin sister, Leia." Luke greeted them, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

And suddenly, just like that, she could breathe again.

Get a hold of yourself! Kriff, she needed to focus! She was in the past. They didn't know her in this time period. She was just Leia here. Not Princess of Alderaan. Not leader in the Rebellion. And most definitely not the adopted daughter of Bail and Breha Organa.

She was just Leia.

"We're shadowing Senator Amidala." She didn't know what made her sound so calm and confident when she was anything but. Years of political training? Probably. Still, it wasn't what she wanted to say to them...

I'm sorry for failing Alderaan, for failing you both.

I'm doing okay now. I'm not alone anymore.

I've tried to protect what's left of our people, our culture.

I'm so, so very sorry.

Please forgive me.

I've missed you, terribly so.

I still dream about you, about Alderaan.

I love you. With all my heart and I always will.

...All of that. That's what she wanted to say. But she couldn't, not as 'Just Leia.' And much to her dismay, her parents were looking away from her again, back to her birth mother.

"Wow. Check it out. It's like Mon Mothma doesn't age one bit." Luke whispered under his breath. Leia blinked, realizing for the first time that her parents weren't the only ones in the room, and that they'd just introduced a bunch of senators (many of whom she knew) to them while she'd been thinking about what she wanted to say to her adoptive parents.

"Well, some people are just blessed with good genes, I guess." She said offhandedly, quietly, without much enthusiasm. Her mind was still rather...preoccupied...with her past fusing with their present reality.

Luke said nothing more, seeming to get just how difficult this had to be for her, but again his hand tightened on hers. Somehow, she felt as if he were reaching out to her, enveloping her in a warm embrace. He wasn't, but she felt it. Was that the Force? She didn't know, and frankly, she didn't have the energy to ask or care.

The doors to the parlor closed, and the senators sat down on the couches she'd played on, under, and around as a child. She'd fallen asleep on them numerous times while playing as a young tot or studying for exams as a teenager. She'd been chewed out by her parents on them on more than one occasion as well. Such wonderful memories.

Kriff, she'd give anything to have those moments back.

"Thank you all for coming." Padme was saying to the room at large. She was as composed and regal as the few holos the Empire hadn't destroyed of her portrayed. "I've called you here today because important, no vital, information has been brought to my attention that must not be ignored." She paused, taking a deep breath, her solemn gaze sweeping the room. Her next words detonated through their midst like an ion bomb.

"Chancellor Palpatine is the evil Sith Lord the Jedi have long been searching for."

Gasps erupted through the room, shock registering on almost every face. Leia, however, watched her parents' faces. They went grim, and there was little surprise in their expression at this news. Even then, even before the Empire had arisen, they'd always suspected. She felt a rush of intense pride swell in her breast.

"This is a grave accusation, Senator Amidala. If it's true, democracy is under a far greater threat than we supposed." Senator Mothma said in that calm, measured voice of hers.

"We do have some preliminary evidence that points to this, yes. The Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, are working diligently on further evidence as we speak." Leia tried not to think about the potential disaster that might be.

"When you say working on further evidence," Bail asked, and Leia knew from his voice that he already suspected the answer. It was the same tone he'd used when she was about to tell him she'd disobeyed him. "What exactly does that entail?"

Padme didn't miss a beat, showing just how much she trusted the senators in this room. Showing just how much she trusted her adoptive parents. "It means, Senator, that they will attempt to remove the Chancellor from power."

"It's a very risky move, Padme. You know how Palpatine will respond." It was her mother who spoke. Her mother too, had caught on to the same thing Bail had.

"Yes. Which is why it's likely they will kill the Chancellor."

The room went silent with this acknowledgement. Leia was sure she could have heard a needle drop.

"If they fail," a Mon Calamari senator said very gravely, "the consequences could be worse. Even dire. Especially if the Chancellor is who you claim him to be."

"They understand." Padme replied smoothly, with a single nod of her head. "But this is what they do. There is nothing the Jedi have done in this war that has not been without great risk. What I am more concerned about, and what we here today need to prepare for, is the political aftermath. That is where things will get tricky."

"It will not be easy." Bail frowned, his brow creasing as it always did when he was thinking through a difficult problem. "We could fail."

"If we do fail, then even with the Chancellor dead or removed from power, we may lose our democracy anyway. Palpatine has convinced many of our peers in the Senate to support him wholeheartedly and without question. I fear, even with his removal for legitimate reasons, those supporters may continue his heretofore hidden agenda to topple the Republic and bring forth his planned Empire." Padme didn't mention she already knew they likely would. They'd cheer raucously for it, in six months' time, if things went according to the Sith's plans.

There was another long silence as the senators processed this. "Well then." Breha finally said. "Let's start with what evidence you have first, shall we?"

Padme nodded, expecting this very question, then motioned for Luke. "Luke has a copy of the evidence obtained thus far. Luke, if you would, please…?" She motioned for her unknown son to move forward.

Luke gave Leia's hand one last squeeze, before he stepped forward to present the evidence Anakin had extracted from his clone leader's chip. And thus began the next phase of one of the most important missions of her life. If they failed...Leia glanced at her parents.

She'd lose them - and Alderaan - all over again. And, by the Force, that just couldn't happen.

Why did he always, always find himself in the thick of one unfolding disaster after another?

And, by the Force, in terms of disasters...this one was the kriffing motherlode. The end all and be all. Of the most epic proportions.

He knew he was stewing over all the proverbial 'what if's' but damn it, this time it really was the entire galaxy riding on, his ...shoulders! One wrong move, and the entire future of the Republic was toast! All because of the conniving, underhanded, backstabbing machinations of the most vile and putrid sleamo this galaxy had seen in a millennium. They had to kill the bastard. There was no other way.

So, no pressure, right? Yeah.

They hadn't bothered to inform any of the Jedi of their arrival on Coruscant. Frankly, it would waste time they absolutely did not have. Not to mention risk revealing their hand to Palpatine. And that was one risk they wouldn't take. The sun had just set on the capital city-planet, and they'd been cleared for landing at the Senate building. After quickly going through the landing sequence, they exited the ship side by side, and it took everything in Anakin's power to look casual, to look normal... as he and Obi-Wan strolled unhurriedly past the guards. Outwardly, his face reflected peace and calm. Inside, however, he was a roiling bundle of raw nerves.

"Calm yourself, Anakin." Obi-Wan murmured quietly, soothingly. "Your feelings betray you."

He'd been told this many times before, but it was more important than ever that he center himself in the Force and not allow his emotional turmoil to sway or guide him.

Anger is the path to the Dark Side.

Didn't need to tell him that twice. It didn't matter that he was worried for his family on Alderaan. It didn't matter that he was utterly devastated by Palpatine's insidious betrayal and manipulation. It didn't matter that he was still worried out of his mind for Padme's health.

All that really mattered was that his children had suddenly appeared out of thin air - literally - and dropped the bombshell to end all bombshells. And now...

Now, he needed to end this.

Untold billions of people, including his own family, counted on it. Were counting on him . To save them all once more. This time from a fate worse than death. From enslavement to a sadistic Sith Lord.

He was the Hero With No Fear, right? He could do this. No, he had to do this.

Failure was not an option.

So, he forced himself to take deep breaths and calm down. He only mostly achieved it. But, it would have to be enough, for too soon, they were approaching the Chancellor's office. Palpatine's sanctum.

Anakin could sense his former mentor in there, and for the first time, he was struck by just how much he could sense him. How very peculiar . He'd always thought he'd sensed the Chancellor so clearly because he had a mentor-friend-type connection to him, but now, he wondered if it was actually because the Chancellor was Force Sensitive. Extremely Force Sensitive at that. Non Sensitives were discernible but duller in the Force, all with the exception of his beloved Padme...and Palpatine. He was always hyper aware of his wife, but Palpatine?

Definitely a Force Sensitive who obviously was a Master at shielding for him to have fooled the entire Jedi Order. Won't Yoda and Mace have a field day about that ? The thought was fleeting, but a much needed splash of levity sorely needed now that the confrontation was upon them.

And right now it was, much to Anakin's annoyance, difficult to pin down exactly what his intentions were. Every time Anakin tried, it slipped from his fingers. Tonight it did the same, but this time, he was sure the Chancellor had sensed him. There was a momentary flash of complete surprise, then it was gone, snuffed out just as the doors opened wide, and he and Obi-Wan stepped into his office.

Anakin tried not to be worried about the guards posted right outside the door...the guards they'd likely have to deal with when this was all over and done with. They'd worry about that later. Right now, first things first...

Something on the Chancellor's console blinked off, and he swiveled in his seat to face them. His familiar ever-kind smile was on his face...but this time, Anakin noted clearly how it didn't touch his eyes. "Why, Master Kenobi. And Anakin . What a pleasant surprise. I thought you were still engaged in the Outer Rim sieges, my friends."

He sounded so normal. Quite pleasantly so, actually. So concerned, yet also rather pleased. It sounded real, sincere, without so much as a hint of being contrived, and for a moment, Anakin hesitated…

But Luke and his mechanical hand flashed through his mind. Leia and her bitter hatred and fear of him. The devastation in their faces when they'd talked of the people they'd lost and the ruination of the galaxy that was their home…then Padme's horrified expression when she found out what this man had done to undermine the peace and security of the democratic Republic she'd fought so hard for.

Promise me, Father.

That promise sealed it. This Sith was going down.

"We were." Anakin replied, and he was surprised at how normal he sounded. Maybe he'd learned something from Palpatine, after all. "The 501st still is. Obi-Wan and I made this trip alone."

Palpatine frowned. "That seems rather odd. My dear boy, is everything alright?"

He sounded so normal. If Anakin hadn't seen the data on Rex's chip to confirm that at least part of the twins' story was true, he would have doubted his own kids. But he'd seen it. With his own two eyes. There was nothing on those chips that suppressed dangerous traits. They were an active signal, with a list of orders that could be activated at any time. Were designed to be activated, in fact.

Most notably, Order 66. A command to destroy the entire Jedi 'menace.' At the vocal command of just one person. How convenient.

And here that one person sits, acting so benevolent. All of it faked . It nearly made Anakin choke on the bile that he had to quickly swallow.

As they'd predicted, it didn't directly tie Palpatine to it, but if Leia had been right about the chips (and she was), and he'd seen the consequence of his actions directly on his son's own body…

"No. It's not alright." Anakin replied honestly, sweeping further into the office with a purposeful stride. "We've come to let you know that effective immediately, I'm resigning from the Jedi Order. We thought you'd like to know, as this will, in all likelihood, probably mean I'll be stripped of my military command."

Palpatine tensed, that concerned expression frozen on his face. Good. Their first strike scored a direct hit. He'd thrown him off. Just as he'd hoped.

"I'm afraid I don't understand. Why would you do such a thing, Anakin, when the galaxy so obviously needs you?" Palpatine finally managed. He still sounded concerned, but there was definitely a harder edge to it this time.

"The specifics are not your concern." Obi-Wan smoothly cut in with an offhanded wave of one hand. "We came here simply as a courtesy."

"You have, after all, been like a mentor to me." Anakin added with a shaky smile. He openly willed his conflicted feelings to be visible. Palpatine would likely sense them, and given the news he just told him, they shouldn't feel out of place. Nor would Obi-Wan's grim determination.

"I disagree, General Kenobi. I believe I do have a right to know. General Skywalker's an important figure in the war effort. I'll need to have an explanation to give as to why the Hero With No Fear suddenly left the front lines." His eyes narrowed on Obi-Wan, then on him. A logical explanation, but now that Anakin knew the real truth, he could practically see the cogs whirling, as he tried to get the information he needed to turn the situation around in his favor.

He suppressed a shudder.

"You can tell them I left the Jedi Order to pursue private matters." This time, Anakin's reply was nonchalant and given with a one shouldered shrug. Again, all technically true, and that alone would have made a good generic press statement. But of course, the Chancellor wasn't done. Not anywhere near.

More's the pity.

"Private matters?" Palpatine echoed, his eyebrows arching in surprise. "I wasn't aware that Jedi had private matters beyond the Order."

"That is between Anakin and the Council, Chancellor. If he wishes to divulge further information, he can when he's ready. But I believe you received enough for your press statement." Obi-Wan replied firmly, unwaveringly.

They were rewarded for their shock technique with an air of dawning comprehension, which seemed to ripple faintly in the Force. And that reaction solidified Anakin's resolve and squelched his nausea.

Especially given the man's next words.

Ignoring Obi-Wan entirely, Palpatine's gaze landed solely on him, morphing into almost delighted understanding. "Ahhh…I see. This has to do with Senator Amidala, doesn't it?" Anakin's expression tightened. Palpatine simply nodded his head. "It does. Yes, well...I feared as much." He shook his head on a sigh, standing.

He knew . This wasn't a guess like Obi-Wan's had been. Somehow, Anakin knew the Chancellor was very well aware of his relationship to Padme. To its full extent, no less. Did he know she was pregnant yet?

Force, he hoped not.

"Master Kenobi. Surely the Council will make an exception in this instance." He walked slowly around the desk, spreading his hands in an imploring gesture. "Anakin is the Chosen One, after all. He's meant to bring balance to the Force. How can he possibly do that if he isn't part of the Jedi, let alone the Council itself?"

"It's not my decision to make." Obi-Wan said, stiffly, his eyes watching the man like a Utaupian gorshawk.

The Sith tried again.

"But you have influence, General. Surely you'll vouch for your former padawan. You wouldn't just abandon him, would you?" His tone, though still persuasive, hid an ever growing blade of durasteel.

"My opinion is but one of many. The outcome will likely not change even if I do decide to vouch for him."

Anakin couldn't help but wince.

And Palpatine clearly noticed, and decided to seize on the opportunity. He approached him, placing a kindly hand on his shoulder. It was the same gesture he'd used countless times before. It was meant to be comforting, reassuring…

Anakin's shoulder burned where he touched him. It took everything he had in him not to shove his hand away.

"Let me step in. Perhaps, I can help you where the good General cannot." He locked his eyes with Anakin's, and that kindly smile was back on his face. "I'm sure I can help, Anakin." That hand squeezed once gently.

Anakin swallowed, hard. His heart was pounding in his chest. He hesitated. "I don't think even you can change their minds."

He meant it. Regardless of what happened next, the Jedi would, in all honesty, likely turn him away once they found out the truth. Simply toss him aside like so much spent trash. All for the sake of their vaunted 'Code.'

"Then, perhaps if Master Kenobi could keep quiet? At least until the war is finished. You are far too valuable in the war effort to be lost to us. Surely you see that, don't you, Master Kenobi?"

The Sith's gaze swung over to the bearded Jedi, that kindly smile seemingly plastered on his visage.

"This is my decision, Chancellor." Anakin said. And it was. "I will hide no longer. The truth will set us free."

And it would. Just not in the way the Sith had plotted and planned for.

Once again, the monster changed tactics, trying another vein as he once more set his sights squarely on the younger man.

Palpatine frowned. "My poor boy...Has something happened to Senator Amidala? Is she hurt? Sick?"

Anakin flinched. Unable to help himself, his mind turned to the uncertain future ahead. Padme. Possibly dead. His children, separated from each other and, more importantly, from their father. Him, a monster in his own right.

The hand on his shoulder squeezed again in supposed comfort, but it felt like a vise grip, those fingers clutching like talons, latching onto the inner turmoil and seizing an opportunity to turn it to an advantage.

Promise me, father.

"Whatever it is, I can help. Let me help you, Anakin. Let me-"


His lightsaber was in his hand and fluidly ignited in one swift motion before he could change his mind, the blue blade extending straight up through the center of the Chancellor's chest.

Palpatine's expression twisted from absolute a black, raging fury. One second his face was that of a kindly old man, the next it was as if Anakin was staring back into the soul of his very worst nightmares. The temperature in the room instantly plunged into an icy cold darkness, and before Anakin could move to block, blue Sith lightning arched up from the old man's hands, slamming into him. The snarl from Palpatine's lips echoing hideously through the room. Anakin, his body suffused in agonizing pain, was thrown back with a cry, flying through the air before tumbling across the floor with a grunt. His lightsaber deactivated and clattering away from his grasp.

"Anakin!" He heard Obi-Wan distantly yell, but he could barely focus on anything but what he was feeling in that moment. It felt as if all his nerves had been set on fire. He could barely breathe, and his vision was blackening. Or was that just the room? He couldn't tell.

In blurry slow motion to his overloaded senses, he watched Obi-Wan's lightsaber ignite, just as a red one appeared, out of nowhere it seemed, in Palpatine's hands. Yet...the old man was gravely injured. He blocked Obi-Wan's blows like a master duelist, but his breathing was ragged. Even now, Anakin could sense his life force fading.

" How?!" Palpatine snarled, his eyes now glowing an intense Sithly yellow.

"You will never know, Sith!" Obi-Wan smirked, his words inflaming his opponent's fury to new heights, as he blocked a wave of lightning sent his way with his saber.

Anakin slowly got to his feet, staggering with the effort.

"You are mine, young Skywalker!" Palpatine shouted at him, even as another blast of lightning barreled towards Obi-Wan.

Even now, even dying, Palpatine was powerful. Obi-Wan blocked, attempted to get closer, but was again pushed back.

He needed to finish this. For all their sakes.

"I can save the ones you love, Anakin!" Palpatine bellowed, even as Obi-Wan's and his own red blade clashed in a spray of sparks. "You do not need to be shackled to the pathetic ways of the Jedi!"

He took a step forward, pushing the image of Padme and his children away.

"You can be with her and be free!"

He took another step. Then another. Then…

He burst into a sprint.

Palpatine and Obi-Wan still had their blades locked together. Palpatine was weakening, even with the Dark Side coursing through him, attempting to sustain his life just long enough to destroy the two Jedi. As a result, by the time he noticed Anakin, it was too late. He brought his hand up and shot more lightning at him...but Anakin slammed into him, and they fell backwards against the window with a loud thud that shook it. With the lightning still shooting, the glass shattered, and they were both falling, plunging toward the abyss of Coruscant's lower levels…

A grip on his ankles stopped him with a jerk.


At the same time, the Chancellor grabbed the wrist of his mechanical hand.

Golden eyes met his. "It's not too late…" His fading life force said otherwise. "I can save your wife!"

Again, Padme entered his mind. Her smile. Her scent. Her kiss. Her touch. Her laugh. Her voice...

Promise me, Father.

"Anakin, I can't hold on!" Obi-Wan shouted in near desperation.

Anakin gritted his teeth. "I...made a promise." With his flesh hand, he reached over to where his mechanical hand met his flesh.

Palpatine's eyes widened in horrified fury. " Traitor! After...everything...I did…!"

"Go back to hell that spawned you!"

And with that, Anakin activated the attachment mechanism, and with a bloodcurdling scream, the Sith Lord fell to his fate, gripping Anakin's mechanical hand as if it was his last lifeline, all the way down, down, down…

His body collided with a speeder, sending the vehicle careening into oncoming traffic in the opposite skylane, and a massive explosion of light and darkness, as well as a booming fireball from the resulting crash, blinded Anakin, even as Obi-Wan pulled him back up into the office of the Chancellor.

For a moment, there was silence. Then…

"Are you alright, Anakin?"

Anakin was on his back, heaving air into his lungs, his muscles spasming and shivering as the remnants of the lightning blast coursed through him. He felt...he felt…

"It's like...there's a little less darkness in the galaxy now." He managed to gasp out, his eyes still closed.

Obi-Wan shook his head and breathed a sigh of relief...just as the doors to the office swung open.

"What... Where's the Chancellor?!"

The Guards.

Obi-Wan shot him a look. "Get the proof." He whispered before he stood up to face the guards. "I'm afraid the Chancellor has fallen...out the window."

Anakin tuned them out, pushing himself to stand before he headed to the Chancellors console. It was a bit harder to get into the system one-handed, but he'd manage.

"This is a Jedi investigation. Go quickly. I believe there was a speeder accident when the Chancellor fell…"

He was in. He pulled up a list of files. Most were boring political drafts, treaties and war strategies. All things one would expect to find in a Chancellor's files.

"You killed the Chancellor, didn't you?!"

"As I said. Jedi business. Go check…"

Deeper he dived. If he didn't find something, then it was over for him. He'd be arrested, and…

Then, he found it. A whole folder of recorded secret communications. He didn't know if they were incriminating, but they'd been hidden, so he assumed it was for a reason.

But on top of it all…

He clicked it open, and a red hologram appeared over the console. A large, round orb floated, words announcing what the file was appearing in the bottom corner.

The Death Star.

The weapon that had blown up Alderaan. Just like his daughter had said.

By the Force…

He felt sickened once more. What he would've done would have brought this monstrosity to fruition. He suddenly didn't care how bizarre and unethical his actions on Dathomir would seem, because just one wish , made in desperate hope of an answer to end a war, had literally saved them all. The proof stared him in the face.

Anakin momentarily bowed his head in gratitude, thanking the Force for the answer he was given.

"Obi-Wan." He said, grabbing the older man's attention as he immediately began copying all the files over. "I have it. I have the proof."

"What the hell is this?!" One of the guards shouted in bewilderment, and Anakin finally paid full attention to what was happening in the office around him. The two guards had brandished their weapons on Obi-Wan, who stood there calmly attempting to negotiate with them. "You murdered the Chancellor!"

"No." Anakin firmly said, making the hologram bigger so Obi-Wan could see it. He didn't give a damn if the guards knew what it was or not.

It was the Senate they'd now need to convince.

"We killed the Sith Lord who started this whole war."

"I fear dark days may be ahead of us if Anakin and Obi-Wan fail." Bail said as he walked them down corridors Leia knew by heart.

They'd just finished their hours long meeting, hashing out their plans to save democracy...and their backup plans just in case their first efforts didn't work.

She hoped and prayed it did work. The ways it could all go wrong played over and over in her head as she considered the various plans they'd come up with. Besides their first plan of action, all of the others had consequences of some sort, potentialities that they could probably deal was just not ideal.

She tried to relax, as she trailed behind Padme and the Organas, Luke at her side, quietly supportive.

She had to trust her birth parents to make the right decisions so that regardless of what happened, the galaxy would be a better place for their future.

Trusting her mother was easy. But Anakin?

It...was an uneasy trust, to be sure.

"I trust in democracy." Padme said, confident as ever. "Even if the Senate does not, as corrupt an entity as Palpatine has made it, I believe our peoples still have faith. It is they who we represent. Not the Senate. One way or another, their voices will prevail."

Their group collectively paused in the corridor.

"Well said." Bail stopped and motioned to a door. "Senator Amidala. Your quarters for the night." He motioned to the other two doors across the hall. Doors she knew all too well. "And...I'm sorry, you didn't tell me your last names…?"

She was speechless, staring at the door as if dumbstruck.

Her old room.

"It's just Luke and Leia, Sir." Luke covered for her smoothly. He smiled politely, and though he'd been raised on a farm on Tatooine, distantly Leia thought he might have made a good Senator had their roles been reversed.

Bail frowned, clearly not believing they simply didn't have a last name, but he decided not to press the issue. "Well. Luke. Leia. Your rooms for the night are located across the hall from the Senator. If there's anything that's not to your liking, please let me know, and our staff will see to it immediately."

Leia was still staring at the door that would lead to her old room. Obviously, it was likely a guest suite at this point in time. Her parents didn't have her, and the Queen couldn't conceive without endangering her own life. Therefore, it was likely just a simple room, and it definitely wouldn't have her personal touches in it.

And had still been hers . The layout would be the same. The sitting room. The master fresher. The arched ceilings. The glass double doors leading out to her private balcony overlooking one of the gardens. Her bedroom…

Slowly, quietly, she walked to the door and opened it, staring inside. Sure enough, it was just as she remembered, minus the personal touches. It didn't smell the same, likely due to no one consistently living in it, but…

It was hers.

And now wasn't.

"Thank you...Senator." She said, tightly, turning to Bail. Her father. She soaked him in, committing him to memory. If things went to plan, this would likely be the last time she saw him as the man who'd raised her. Who'd loved her so fervently as his own. "Thank you." She said again, and before she could stop herself…

She threw her arms around him.

He tensed, clearly shocked and unsure what to do. She simply closed her eyes, savoring the last hug she'd have with him, then let go.

"I...Miss Leia...I…" Bail stuttered, unsure of what had just happened.

She ignored the shocked expression on Breha's face and the silent understanding on Padme's.

She didn't say anything else. She simply turned and headed into her room, tears falling down her face, as she headed for her balcony.

Behind her, she heard Luke say apologetically, "Where we're from, Sir, hugging is a sign of deep respect." Then she heard the sound of Luke throwing his arms around her father, likely to add more credence to his hastily thought up explanation. Vaguely, she thought she'd have to praise him for that one. But then, quick thinking was a Skywalker hallmark, after all. Her feet stumbled a bit. Skywalker. Not Organa. More tears seeped from beneath her lids and slid silently down her cheeks. "Thank you for your hospitality."

Then, before Luke entered and shut the door behind him, she heard Bail say to Padme, "I didn't know that was a custom on Naboo…"

The door shut, and she and her brother were alone in her future bedroom. Or rather, what would've become her bedroom...possibly still could, depending on how things went on Coruscant. She couldn't think about it. Truthfully, she hadn't the energy.

Suddenly, she felt exhausted and drained. And far, far older than her years.

She opened the balcony doors, then took a long breath in of crisp, fresh Alderanian air, inhaling deeply, almost as if she was trying to imprint this place in her body on a cellular level. The scent of cool mountain air and fresh flowers filled her senses, steadying her mind. "Thank you for covering for me."

Luke came to stand beside her, sensing she needed to share this one moment in this special place with just him.

"I wasn't exactly expecting to hug Bail Organa, but I'd be happy to do it again, if it made you feel better." He was right by her side, lending her his presence, his strength, his comfort. "This was your room. Wasn't it?" He motioned around them with a wave of his hand.

"How did you know?" The tears hadn't stopped falling.

"I saw the look on your face when Bail said you'd be staying here." He reached up and put an arm around her shoulders. "And I could feel how you felt about it."

She closed her eyes again, leaning into his touch. Just that alone sent a wave of warmth through her. How had she not noticed this feeling whenever Luke was with her? That alone should have made her realize he was different. "I probably bombarded you with my emotions all night. Didn't I?"

"I didn't mind." He didn't deny it.


"No, really. I didn't." She opened her eyes and met his gaze. He smiled, though his blue eyes were sad. For her. For them both. "You have every right to those feelings, Leia. I'm glad you weren't alone with them."

Despite everything, she smiled back and leaned her head on his shoulder. "Thank you, Luke."

He leaned his head on top of hers. "Anytime, Sis."

They stared at the breathtaking mountain vista for a long while before the door opened behind them and in walked Padme. "Leia." She called out in concern, and reluctantly Leia pulled away from her twin brother to turn to her mother.

She stood there, her eyes roaming over her, making sure she was alright. "I'm so sorry. This must be...I can't even imagine…" She trailed off, her hands clasped together tightly before her. For the first time, the great Senator Amidala didn't have the words to properly express the sorrow of watching her daughter suffer without being able to do anything about it.

eia shook her head. "It's...overwhelming, I admit. But I'm not alone." She looked up at her brother and offered another shaky smile that he returned. "It's going to be okay. I truly believe that."

She didn't know if it really would . There were about a million and one different ways for it to all go wrong. But it felt right to say so, nonetheless. She wanted to reassure her birth mother as much as she could at any rate.

This wasn't any easier on her either.

"Besides. We needed that meeting." Leia continued. "It's better to be prepared than not."

"Yes, but…" Padme shook her head, sitting down on a couch that hadn't been in her room before. "I'm still sorry."

"Thank you." Her eyes roamed over the room again, noting the differences and similarities. "This was my room, you know. I grew up here."

Padme paled. "I...ah, do you want to switch rooms…?"

"No. It's fine. If Anakin does what he promised to do, we should be gone by morning."

Padme's expression darkened. "He'll do it. Don't worry."

Easier said than done. "How can you be sure?"

"He promised." Luke cut in, with a confidence she didn't have. "We have to trust him."

She opened her mouth to argue...then closed it. She didn't want to spend what little time she had left with her birth mother arguing. "Well. I guess we just wait."

"I guess so."

They found chairs far enough away from their mother and sat down.

"So. What do we do while we wait?" Leia asked after a long silence.

"I would suggest a game, but considering our distance issue, I don't think that would work very well." Luke said, glumly.

"Well…" Padme bit her lower lip as she considered. Then, "You've told us plenty about the terrible things that have happened in your lives. What about the good things? I'd like to know that I didn't completely abandon you to a terrible life."

"You didn't leave us intentionally…" Leia tried, with a frown.

"I know. But, it doesn't change the fact that I still left you. Please. There must have been some good memories you can share."

Leia and Luke looked at one another, silently communicating before Luke nodded. "Alright...Well, I didn't really love Tatooine, no, but Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were good guardians to me. They did their best to raise me well, and shield me from the dangers of the desert, as well as the Empire, I suppose."

And so the twins began telling their favorite stories of the good times they'd experienced in a galaxy gone wrong. Luke spoke a lot about his friends on Tatooine, as well as in the Rebellion, strongly reminding Padme of nine-year-old Anakin in his comments and enthusiasm, much to her amused enjoyment. He detailed what little he knew about the Force, and about how it'd made him feel closer to his family the more he learned. When he spoke of his love for flying, Padme smiled.

"You and your father are definitely related, Luke. Flying is his favorite thing in the whole galaxy...besides me, of course." She grinned and winked.

Luke brightened. "Yeah, Ben said he was the best pilot in the galaxy."

"He probably is. He certainly likes to think so. Though, I wish he'd take less risks with it."

When Leia spoke, she spent a lot of time talking about Alderaan. Though the Empire cast a shadow over everything, she'd had a happy childhood. She'd been given opportunities to learn anything she wanted. She spoke of adventuring in the mountains nearby, of the people she'd been close with. She talked about how she joined the Rebellion despite her parents' wishes, and how she'd dedicated most of her career to helping others in need right under the nose of the Empire. All things Padme explained she also would have done in her position.

When she spoke of Han, her mother's smile turned knowing. "You're dating this boy, aren't you?"

"I...didn't say that." Leia blushed, but Padme's gaze was expectant. There would be no hiding the truth from her. "I mean. We've kissed, and I told him I loved him before Darth Vader froze him in carbonite on Bespin…"

Padme's expression darkened at that last bit, but she chose to focus on the first part of her sentence instead. "Love is sort of an indicator that you're dating him, or you want to."

"But he's a scoundrel. Shouldn't you, oh I don't know, discourage me from dating him?"

Padme snorted, making her twins laugh. "Please. I have no room to tell you who you should and shouldn't date. I fell in love with a Jedi after all, and secretly married him in total defiance of their Code. I'm not exactly a role model by any stretch of the imagination." She tilted her head, her expression turning serious.

"But if he hurts you, then I expect you'll give him the hell he deserves."

"I didn't know you kissed him." Luke added, frowning. "Last time I saw you two…" he trailed off, and both of them flushed.

There was no way in hell they were going to share that memory with their mother. Not happening.

"Well. I'm glad you two had happiness. Even if...even if…" she trailed off.

"Even if our father destroyed most of it?" Leia suggested, earning her a look from her brother. "What? It's true."

"Even then." Padme reluctantly agreed, nodding. "And...whatever happens, thank you for trusting us to help change things for you. For everyone in the galaxy." She leaned forward, expression serious again. "I promise. As long as I live, I will fight for a better future for you both. If I can spare you some of that pain, I'll do it. Whatever it takes."

And though Leia wasn't necessarily enthused about losing the good things she'd loved about her life...she appreciated the promise just the same. "Thank you-" she began, but suddenly Luke's hand was on her own. She broke off, turning to ask him what was wrong...only to see that her hand was starting to disappear.

As was Luke's.

Quickly, they both stood, panicking.

"What? What's happening?" Padme asked, alarmed. She too was on her feet, clearly warring with the desire to go to them to help, but unable to do so without making it worse for all of them.

"I-I don't know," Leia said, voice shaking.

"I...I think…" Luke stared in amazement at his now translucent hands. "I think...I think Father and Ben did it…"

Leia froze, unbelieving for a moment. "Did...what, exactly?"

"I don't know," Luke shook his head, "but...whatever it was, I think...I think it fulfilled the spell."

"So, what's happening now?" Padme demanded, "Are you…?"

"I don't know," Luke replied, "Either we're going back to our new time, or going back to our version of reality, or…"

"Or what?!" Padme demanded when he hesitated. Their arms were now beginning to fade.

"Or this version of us simply won't exist anymore. I...I really don't know." Luke admitted.

Fear rushed through Leia, and she automatically reached for him, even though they were in the process of disappearing. "Luke…"

He reached for her too, as close as he could as they continued to fade. "I...I think it's going to be okay, Leia."

"How do you know?!" She demanded, near tears once more. The idea of disappearing, or entering a new reality…it was terrifying.

"I don't know. I...I just hope it will be." He looked down at her. His face was starting to fade… "Hey. Remember what I told you?"

At least we'll be together.

And just as they'd come here to this time together, they were facing their unknown future...together. She was still afraid of the unknown, but if Luke was there…

She turned to look at her mother for the last time. They both did. And...she smiled, even as their mother stared in horror, unable to do anything for them. "It's okay, Mom. We're going to be okay. We promise. You'll see us again."

And though she wasn't sure about those words, they felt right to say.

"Make us a better future. Just like you promised." Luke added, smiling reassuringly at their mother.

And Leia added, "We love you, Mom."

"May the Force Be With you," Luke said at the same time.

And as Padme opened her mouth-to say goodbye, to reaffirm her promise, to beg them to stay, Leia didn't know-they disappeared.

And they knew no more.

That's the longest chapter I've written in a long while! Urg. Battle chapters. Give me a headache every time.
Next chapter is the epilogue. This story was again written as a gift fic, and mine was one of the longer ones of our group. It's over 50,000 words long... which is long for gift fics. It's not as long as my other stories, but honestly I really like how it's wrapping up.
Stay tuned for the epilogue!