When I started this story, The Force Unleashed had just come out, so this does not have any of those intervening details in them. I have no plans to make this story comply with those stories, just so you know. I am overhauling this because I noticed how horribly it was edited the first time through.
Obi-Wan leaned over Padmé and softly spoke to her. "You have twins, Padmé. They need you . . . hang on."
"I can't," she told him. He saddened at the prospect of losing both of them, that Anakin's children would grow up without either of their parents.
She winced again and took Obi-Wan's hand. She held the japor snippet Anakin had given her so many years before.
"Save your energy," Obi-Wan said, trying to sooth her.
"Obi-Wan…there…is good in him. I know there is…still," she told him with her dying breath. Obi-Wan studied the necklace, feeling that it was something of great importance to both her and Anakin.
There was little time as they decided to split the twins; it seemed the only obvious way to keep them safe. "I will take Anakin's Lightsaber so that Luke can have something of his father when he is old enough. Leia should have something of Padmé's."
Taking the necklace from Obi-Wan, Bail examined it. "I know this cord; no matter what she wore, she was wearing this."
"I don't know what this symbol is, or what this material is, but I feel it is something that was very important to Padmé. She wanted me to have it, to keep it safe, that there was something important about it. Leia should have it when she is old enough."
"I wonder why it was so important to her?" Bail asked absently. "I will keep it safe until Leia is of age."
"Thank you, my friend. I will keep in touch as much as I can."
"I know you will. The Rebellion will need souls such as you."
Obi-Wan nodded. "I do not know how much help I will be. My primary task will be watching over Luke, and the Rebellion must come second to that."
The two parted with their separate charges, knowing that saying any more would only prolong their pain.
Vader walked into the mausoleum that held his wife's body, looking on her face, knowing that he had been the one to kill her. He rested a mechanical hand on her swollen abdomen, horrified at what he had done. Pain filled him as he looked on her face, and he knew that it was her. There were no doubts anymore. She was gone. He wondered why she was not still wearing her Japor snippet necklace, but he thought perhaps it was because no one had known its importance to her. Had Obi-Wan been there as she died? Had he even tried to save his daughter?
Leia Organa was dressed and ready for her party, specifically her eighteenth birthday party. She was looking in the mirror, adjusting her hair once again, when her father appeared in the mirror, behind her. "You look perfect, sweetheart."
She turned to face him, and that was when she saw the small box in his hands.
"Daddy," she chided, "I thought we agreed that I didn't need any more jewelry."
"An old friend gave this to me to give to you. It belonged to your mother."
Now curious, she took the box and opened it. Inside was a small piece of something white with a symbol carved into it.
"What is it?"
"We don't really know. I think it was something very important to her."
She pulled the necklace from the box, and as she did, she caught a whiff of perfume, a scent that was both reassuring and unfamiliar.
My mother's perfume. She examined the worn cord on which it had been threaded, and said, "She must have worn this often."
"I don't think I ever saw her without it."
"Why won't you ever talk about her?"
"Leia," he said, pleading with her to understand.
"I want to know, Dad. It's not unreasonable."
"I'll think about it," he said finally. It was the closest she had ever gotten to getting any information about her real parents from him.
"I know you said even knowing the names of my parents was dangerous, but I'm an adult now."
He sighed, "Yes, but you are also my daughter, and I will always feel the need to protect you."
"I love you, Dad," she said and handed him the necklace. "Can you put this on me?"
He hesitated, but only for a moment. "Of course," he told her.
Darth Vader had gotten the strangest impulse. He wanted to attend Viceroy Organa's daughter's eighteenth birthday party. He hadn't done anything simply because the Force wanted him to for years, especially something so life affirming.
He imagined that the only reason he had even received an invitation was that if he hadn't, the fallout wouldn't have been pretty. He had not been there long when the viceroy approached him. "Lord Vader."
"Viceroy," he answered without looking down.
"I didn't expect to see you here," he said, carefully neutral.
"I didn't expect to be here. I was unable to return to Coruscant for Empire Day. The Devastator has developed a problem with her hyperdrive."
"If you would like for me to send technicians to take a look at it, I would be happy to see to it."
"That will not be necessary. If the technicians on board have not corrected the problem by the time that I return to the ship, I will see to it myself," he said, glancing down at Bail.
He caught the suspicious look on Bail's face before his Senatorial mask fell back into place. "I forget sometimes how good you are with mechanics."
He settled himself. Whatever suspicions Bail had about his motives, the Emperor would not hear them. "You must feel fortunate that your daughter was born on Empire Day."
"I feel fortunate that she was born at all. I place no great store in the day upon which she was born."
Vader didn't respond; the herald announced the entrance of the Princess. She was dressed in a very low-cut, off-the-shoulder, floor-length dress. His eyes were drawn up almost magnetically to her neckline where she had adorned herself simply, with a single pendant necklace. Even from across the room it looked familiar. Maybe look wasn't quite the correct word, felt was better.
Leia had very much enjoyed her party. Darth Vader, with whom she'd had very little contact with, ever, had come. He was important, but that didn't keep him from creeping her out.
"Good evening, Princess," he said as she stood on one of the many balconies that were open for that night's party.
She turned to face him, but instead of finding the imposing Emperor's Right Hand, most feared man in the galaxy, she instead found a sad, broken man. There was nothing in his posture to indicate the difference to her; it was something more fundamental. In examining him, she couldn't have said what made her think that; where the line had suddenly and clearly been drawn for her between the man and his job.
The angry retort that would have so easily rolled from her tongue died on her lips. She felt the sudden urge to be gentler with him. "Good evening, my Lord."
Now close enough to her to touch, he reached up tenderly, and lifted the necklace her father had given her just that night. "Where did you get this?"
"It was my mother's," she said, not being particularly good at coming up with lies on the spot.
He was silent for a very long time, contemplating the necklace, running his thumb over the pattern of it. "It was the first gift that your father gave your mother," he said finally. "It is a Japor snippet, carved with a symbol of luck."
"How do you know?" she asked, but by the time she had gotten over the shock of what he'd said, he had left.
She headed out into the main room, knowing somehow that he hadn't gone far. She found him alone on a different balcony. "How did you know what this is?" she asked him, her fingers playing with the necklace, which was much more important to her because of what he had told her.
He didn't answer her, and she knew she wouldn't get an answer that way. "What else do you know about this?"
"Your father carved it for your mother when he was four. He didn't know then that was its purpose, but he often did things without knowing what their ultimate purpose was. He was nine when he first met her, and she was fourteen, and the most beautiful creature that he'd ever met. He was a slave, but a very talented boy, and as such was able to, with the help of some of her companions, win his freedom in a race. He was a very good pilot, even then."
"That's why I like to swoop-race," she said, but he didn't really seem to hear her.
"Your mother was a fair pilot herself. Your father's mother was also a slave, but she could not be freed as well, and your father had to leave. It made him very sad to do so; but he knew that he would see her again."
"Yes, but that is not part of the story of the necklace. He left his home, everything he knew, so that he could go into the greater galaxy. He had his reasons for going then, that I won't go into, but they were good reasons."
"Yes. Even at nine, your father was walking a path destiny had set out for him. That night when everyone else had gone to sleep, he was still awake, and he was cold, because the planet he had come from was very hot. Your mother helped him through that night, made sure that he stayed warm enough, and that he wasn't frightened by all the strangeness of the ship. He gave her the necklace, for luck. She wore it, I suppose, until she died. I saw her only a few days in the last year before she died."
"Did you know my parents well?"
He looked down at his hands, contemplating something. "Yes, I knew your parents well."
"Tell me about them," she said, and it was a request, from someone who'd always wanted to know something that no one would talk about.
"Your mother was as beautiful as she was intelligent. She was in politics by the time she was your age; that you have followed her in that respect would make her proud. Your father was a damned fool."
"What gives you the right to say that?"
His silence stretched on, but she didn't break it. She waited for him to answer the question. "I am your father."
Gasping in shock, she took a step back from him. He felt even sadder than he had before, when he was talking about her mother, and he left, and this time she knew she wouldn't be able to follow him, to find him.
Vader returned to his ship. The technicians had just finished performing the tests to ensure that they had found all of the problems with the hyperdrive. He listened to the report, nodding to the messenger once the man was finished, and he hurried back to whatever duties Vader's arrival had interrupted. Tion, the man who currently held the command of his flagship, came up to him after the messenger finished. "Your orders, my Lord?"
"Proceed to Coruscant. This delay will undoubtedly have already put the Emperor in a foul mood. No need to worsen it by delaying further."
"Yes, sir. Is there anything else?"
"I am retiring to my quarters. I do not wish to be disturbed until we reach Coruscant."
With that, the man left. He was at least reasonably competent, unlike some of the other officers he'd been stuck with.
He made his way to his quarters, and entered his hyperbaric chamber. When it was closed, he allowed himself to relax, just a bit, and the bitter tears of having realized that he had lost two decades with his daughter came in a torrent. He sobbed from the obvious evidence that Padmé had at least lived long enough to bring their child into the world. A fire, flashing into raging fullness from the barest embers, burned inside him now. He had a reason to exist once again. He had a goal, a truth to seek out. He had a daughter. After the tears dried, and he'd spent all the energy that his body had to spare to the task, he felt as though a great weight had lifted from his heart, and he slept peacefully for the first time in eighteen years.
"Daddy," Leia said, entering her father's office on the day after her birthday.
"Yes, Leia?" he asked, without looking up.
"I wanted to ask you something."
"Do you know who my father is?"
He put his datapad down, and looked at her. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I want to know."
"Yes, I know who your father is, and he is dead."
A puzzled look crossed her face. "I don't think he is."
"What makes you say that?"
"I was on the balcony last night, and Darth Vader came and talked to me. He told me he was my father."
"Why would you believe something so preposterous?"
She shrugged. "He told me the story of where this necklace came from."
"What did he tell you?" he asked, clearly becoming alarmed.
"He said that he gave it to her when he was nine. He doesn't seem at all like the man who's been terrorizing the galaxy."
Bail was quiet for a long time. "There was a time that your father was a good man, but he turned his back on the good things that he had, and destroyed many, many people, including your mother. The good man that your father was died the day you were born and Darth Vader took his place."
Leia was angry with her father for not seeing that there was possibly another side to Vader. "I don't believe that. There is good inside him still. He still loves my mother very deeply."
"Please, Leia, understand. As much as I would love to believe that you have even one chance in a million to save him from what he has become, he made the choice to be the way that he is. He won't turn into a loving father just because you say so." Bail sighed then continued, "I think its time you met General Kenobi. I want you to go to Tatooine where he has made his home. He'll be expecting you."
Shocked that her father was sending her away like a disobedient child, she left, and didn't speak with him again for the rest of the day.
Vader woke feeling rested, like he hadn't felt since before the Clone Wars. They were nearly to Coruscant, not there yet, or someone would have woken him. He took the time to carefully bury the freshly dug up emotions that his meeting with his daughter had provoked. It would not do to have the Emperor finding that he'd been thinking about his family; or worse, finding out about Leia. The heat of passion and the desperation of a young man who thought he was about to lose everything he loved had driven him into being a Sith, but he was not that person any longer. Lies had been the foundational stones for everything that Palpatine had built inside him, and they were shored up only with the thinnest rods of truth, and now those lies were being exposed, and crumbling to the touch, and the truths underneath were not nearly enough to keep him under the Emperor's thumb for much longer. Desperation had led him into slavery once again.
Realization that he had in fact, sold himself back into slavery stopped him cold. When he had been nine, there had been little that he could have done by himself to alleviate the situation, though in his weakened state, there might be little that he could do now. He activated the mechanism to lower his mask, and return him to his status as the Menace of the Galaxy.
After leaving his quarters, he went to the bridge, where Tion was still commanding, having apparently not gone to bed. "How long until we arrive?"
"My Lord," he said, straightening formally. "We expect to revert in ten minutes."
Vader nodded, but made no comment. He stood unmoving, sorting through what he planned to say to the Emperor. Somehow, after meeting his daughter, she had become infinitely more important than the whims of Palpatine.
Leia looked out of the front window of the Tantive IV, wondering again what this General Kenobi could tell her that her father thought he couldn't. He had served with her father in the Clone Wars; that much she knew, but she knew little to nothing else about the man. Captain Antilles had come with her to pilot. Not that she couldn't do it herself, but her father had sent him as both protection for her and to ensure that she actually arrived at the destination he had set for her.
They landed in a small bay that hardly qualified as such, but Tatooine was such a small, poorly funded place that it must be all that they could do to keep the spaceport that they had together. Her father had arranged for the transportation from where they were landing in Mos Eisley to another town, Anchorhead, which was closer to her destination. She would need to find her own way in from there, or General Kenobi would find her. She wasn't really sure on the details. She and R2-D2 got into the speeder and headed off, the being driving her to the edge of the specified town, and said, "Here is the place."
She got out, and the driver left. His payment was coming from her father, not her. She pulled the hood of her overshirt over her hair, and used it to partially obscure her face. Somehow she missed the boy crossing her path and ran into him, much to the amusement of several youth gathered in the shelter of the adjoining building. "Sorry," he said, running his hand through his sun-bleached blond hair.
"Hey, Wormie, you got a girlfriend now?" one of them called.
He closed his eyes, obviously wrestling a nasty retort down. "No, Fixer, just a girl," he called over his shoulder. "Are you ok?" he asked her. His blue eyes were kind, and they flashed with the same kind of inner fire that she had. She liked him instantly.
"I'm fine. I'm meeting an old friend of my father's."
"Really? Who?" he asked her quietly. She was sure it was so that his friends couldn't hear.
"I wonder if Obi-Wan is related to Old Ben Kenobi, who lives out past my place," the blonde mused more to himself than to her.
"Well, I don't know, but probably."
"He lives in the Wastes. That's a dangerous place. You shouldn't go there by yourself."
"I have R2 with me," she said, somewhat defensively. She didn't understand why she wanted to tell him what was going on, to share with him, now only moments after having met him. She shook her head, not understanding, but accepting it because it felt so right.
"I'll take you out there. I know where he lives." She nodded, somehow trusting that he wouldn't lead her astray. "Hey, what's your name? I'll introduce you to everybody."
"Leia, but your name can't be Wormie, can it?"
"Luke," he said, and he turned around, indicating his friends in turn. "This is Fixer, Camie, Tank, and Biggs. Everybody, this is Leia."
"Hello," she said, somewhat more shyly than she ordinarily did.
"Took your time introducing her to us, didn't you, Wormie?" the one he'd called Fixer said.
"Some things take longer than others, Fixer," he said, and glanced up at the chronometer, and frowned. "Like this. I have to get home. Uncle Owen wants me to go over the vaporators on the west ridge tonight."
"Your uncle works you too hard." Tank said, "Are you still going to the Academy next year with us?"
"I don't know. I think I've talked Uncle Owen into it."
"Let's hope he stays talked into it." Biggs said, clapping him on the back.
Luke returned the gesture after a fashion, and she departed with him. Before they'd gotten too far, they ran into a hooded figure. "I see you found the only interesting person on this planet, Princess."
"Old Ben, we were just coming to see you," Luke said before she could answer.
"Go home. Your uncle would not like that you have been cavorting with me. You know that," Ben said. She thought he seemed quite irritated with something.
Luke looked upset, but he relented. "But Ben," he started, but she knew it was a last ditch effort that he didn't expect to work.
"Life catches you up quickly enough, young Luke. Do not be too anxious for adventure. It will find you soon enough," he said, placing his arm around the boy's shoulder. Luke sighed, and got into the speeder, heading off. "Now, Leia, your father said something that warrants some discussion. Let's go," he said, turning stern, and the difference was not lost on her. In his eyes, she'd done something that, if not wrong, at least had been dangerously reckless.
They walked in silence to where he had a beast of some sort that he seemed intent on riding out to his home. "You've got to be kidding," she said as they approached the huge beast.
"You have gotten yourself into this, Leia. Come along."
Scowling, she got up on the beast, which she later learned was called an Eopie.
Vader walked into Palpatine's throne room. "Lord Vader, it is good to see you, my friend."
"Thank you, my Lord, it is good to find you well."
"You could not attend the Empire Day Celebrations here on Coruscant."
"No, my Master, I could not. At our last transition, Alderaan, the hyperdrive of the Devastator developed a severe leak. That, unfortunately, delayed us for a full day while repairs were made."
"I see. You didn't notice this problem until it was critical?"
"The problem had been noted on at least one report; it was scheduled to be replaced while we were docked here on Coruscant."
"How strange. Do you not ensure that such things are taken care of early?"
"Yes, my Lord. This was an unexpected catastrophic failure."
"Interesting. You might want to check for Rebel saboteurs," Palpatine said in his oily voice. Vader found himself irritated that his 'Master' would think it was necessary to remind him of such trivial matters. His thoughts started to turn to his new-found daughter. He clamped down harder on them.
"Do not presume to hide your feelings from me, Lord Vader," Palpatine said. Vader fought not to give any reaction, and barely won the battle. "I know my suggestion annoyed you, just know that MY master would've been far crueler and far less accepting of your lateness. Especially since I had planned a special announcement this Empire Day that you spoiled."
"How did my absence spoil your plans, Master?"
"Simple, I was going to announce your upcoming wedding," Palpatine said, a small, evil smile formed on his worn, leathered face. Vader's outrage at such a statement flew out in all directions before he regained control.
"Why was I not informed of these…proceedings?" Vader asked, spitting out the words.
"I wanted it to be a surprise, my friend. You've shown no interest in women at all since that unfortunate business with your first wife. I am concerned that you haven't moved past it all. My friend, you must look to the future."
It took all of Vader's considerable control to keep from striking at his sovereign. He wasn't ready to start that fight, as damaged and old as Palpatine was he was far from helpless, and Vader was uniquely vulnerable to Palpatine's favorite weapon. Instead, he asked, very slowly, "Who is to be my bride, my Master?"
"The Countess Vesenj from Cormoron,; she just came of age and her father asked if you were seeking a bride. I of course hadn't considered the possibility until he mentioned it and I do want to see you happy, my friend."
Yeah right, you rotting fossil, the thought came unbidden and sounded far more like his former self than the Sith Apprentice he was supposed to be. Vader stood impassively waiting, hoping Palpatine didn't pick up on the errant thought, but Palpatine said nothing about it.
"It is … unfortunate you were unable to make the announcement, Master," Vader said.
"I made it anyway, my friend. In fact, you have a date for tonight with the good Countess," Palpatine said, the evil grin growing wider.
"I understand, Master," Vader said.
"Good, I'll have the royal tailor meet you to fashion you something suitably…festive. You are dismissed."
"Yes, Master." Vader said, and left. He was really annoyed. He briefly toyed with the idea of simply killing the Countess on a whim, but decided it wasn't her fault. This was all Palpatine's doing, trying to gain even more control over his apprentice. This was going to be a long evening.