Disclaimer Not my characters, well most of them, and not my universe. I'd love to think I was doing this for money, but it's purely for fun. But maybe one day, Lucas?
Summary: Vader survived past the end of ROTJ, hidden from the Alliance and the remnants of the Empire whilst he recuperates, apparently redeemed. Leia isn't interested in playing happy families. She's kept her distance whilst she can. But now she needs to find Luke and Luke is with Vader.
Author's Note: Written for 'Skywalkathon'. Specific Request: Post-RotJ. Redeemed Vader wants to make some kind of peace with his daughter. Leia feels that would be a betrayal. This isn't the story I was expecting to write. But I thought I'd be adventurous and try going with the Leia-centric request. I'm not sure I've got her 'voice' right, but I've tried. I hope you enjoy it!
"I'm here to see Luke."
The first words out of her mouth were a rejection, but if the sentiment wounded him at all, he didn't show it. The first time she'd seen him since Endor, weeks ago now, and she couldn't muster up anything more civil than that. Her father her real father, her dead father would probably have reproached her for that tone of voice, had it been directed at anyone else. Leia liked to think he might have approved of her taking no prisoners with Vader.
"Of course," Vader replied. Although the words were mildly said, they echoed mechanically in the antechamber.
He still hadn't moved from his position across the antechamber, just beyond the doorway from where he'd appeared as she'd hesitated at the threshold of the house. Where her hesitation came from was... complicated.
She was a jumbled confusion of thoughts and emotions when it came to this man. There was the heartfelt desire to confront her fears of Vader, to banish the memories. And then there was the desire to protect the memory of her adoptive father and prove that, despite what Luke said, Vader was still evil and their genetic relation meant nothing. But there was also another desire that she really wasn't proud of the desire to witness him stripped of his power. And having that particular desire tucked away in the back of her mind sometimes made her wonder just how much of his blood really did run in her veins.
But right now her pride was in charge. She shoved aside her hesitation with stubborn determination. She was here now time to just find Luke and go.
"Good. Well... that's clear then," she said with a nod, and walked across the threshold and into the shade of the antechamber.
Inside the house the temperature was cooler. The smooth, organic architecture of the foyer was iconic of Alderaanian workmanship, and it triggered a barrage of memories that were coloured by melancholy. This wasn't Alderaan, but it was Alderaanian territory: a colony that had dwindled and failed but whose land had remained with the Organa family for years. Or rather, it had been Alderaanian after Alderaan's destruction all the Organa family's assets had been seized by the Empire and cast aside to rot. Including this colony, and the house they now stood in. Ironic, then, that it had become Vader's refuge from the Alliance and the Empire alike. When Luke had brought him back from the Death Star, barely alive, he'd needed somewhere neutral to recuperate, where his continuing existence could be hidden. This had been as good a choice as any.
Vader watched her as she walked towards him across the antechamber. Something in her rebelled at being under his scrutiny and she refused to stop until she was almost nose-to-chest with him and it was clear he wasn't going to get out of her way.
"However," he said, "Luke is not here."
"He's not here," she repeated. She'd almost said 'what have you done with him?' but managed to drag the words back before she said them. "Well where is he then?" she said instead.
"Close by," Vader answered. And said nothing more.
Leia let out an exasperated breath and wondered how she was going to get the information out of him without a fight. This close to him, she had to tip her head back to stare up at his masked face. How long had that image haunted her? Years, it seemed. And although she'd been told he'd changed, standing there under his regard, with him silhouetted against the glittering afternoon sunshine, her throat seized suddenly and no words would come out. Buried memories started to rattle through her mind, images of a past that she had no desire to face right now.
Had that flash of all-consuming fear shown on her face? "Where is he then?" she demanded, her pride kicking in again and protesting at even hearing Vader call her by her given name.
But she was supposed to be trying to play nice here, like Han had so succinctly reminded her on the flight here.
This ain't no trial and retribution, Princess. You might want to hang him out to dry but Luke doesn't. Play nice.
And 'playing nice' right now meant not jumping down his throat for using her first name. That was concession enough, for Leia.
But Vader didn't answer for a moment. His pause made her wonder what he was considering saying. Something placating, maybe? Maybe even an apology? Luke had told her Vader wanted to talk to her. But she'd spend the last few weeks resisting listening to her newfound brother's knowing appeal to her streak of dangerous curiosity, and she wasn't about to give up on that resistance now. After all, she was here to speak to Luke. That Vader was also here was just an unfortunate coincidence.
She could hear noise coming from a nearby room, a comm unit maybe, and she took the opportunity for an escape, hoping to find her brother's calming presence just around the corner. But the room she entered was empty, with a holocomm on the far wall providing the sound of voices. Leia turned back to Vader, who seemed intent on looming silently in the doorway.
"Well? Where is he?" Leia demanded.
"He's taken his X-wing out into the canyons," Vader said.
He was still watching her intently, and something about the way he crossed his arms in front of him spoke of his discomfort with her being there. Well, that made two of them then.
"For target practice," Vader added, when she didn't respond.
Leia arched an eyebrow at that. Like Luke needed target practice. But flying was his favourite distraction.
"Had an argument, did you?" she challenged him.
"A disagreement," Vader amended her.
Then he inclined his head towards the holocomm, and she paid more attention to what the screen was showing. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of beings were rioting. She recognised the cityscape they were destroying as being part of Coruscant, not far from the Imperial Palace. Parts of it were on fire as the people destroyed what they could of the Emperor's regime. Stormtroopers tried to contain the rioters. It wasn't clear who was winning, but Leia knew that the end was inevitable the Empire's rule hadn't ended with the death of Palpatine. Those people's celebrations would probably cost them their lives. Taking Coruscant was far beyond the Alliance's capabilities right now, and probably would be for some years. No Alliance aid would be coming to aid their rebellion.
She glanced back at Vader, and he approached cautiously. "I could contain the rioting, if I was to return to Imperial Centre and take control of what is left of the government."
A tingle of danger ran down her spine. She had to focus carefully on her words before she answered him. "You know you can't do that."
He tilted his head towards her. "Because you would stop me?"
She could feel her muscles coiling with tension, and suddenly her fingers felt a lot further from her blaster than she wanted them to be. "Yes. I would."
He took a step closer. "You would shoot me."
"If I needed to," she answered, surprised by the honesty she'd offered him there. "Your legacy is over."
He moved closer again, and lifted his hand. Fear shot through her briefly, but all he did was lay that hand on her shoulder.
"I know," he said.
She waited. His hand felt heavy against her shipsuit. She wanted to shuck it off, but didn't. I know. What was that supposed to mean?
On the holoscreen, the camera focused on a fire burning in a wide square. Something familiar caught her eye and Leia looked closer. The familiar shape was a burning effigy a long cloak and a black mask, engulfed by flames. She glanced back up at Vader: he was watching it too.
"I have no intention of returning to Coruscant. With enough force and brutality I could take control. The same could be said of your Alliance."
"The Council have discussed this. It'd be suicide. For the greater good, we can't do that."
"Then those people will all die. For your 'greater good'. And Luke is torn by watching the inaction of two groups of people who could intervene, yet choose not to."
Something about the implicit comparison between Vader's ideals and her own rankled with Leia.
"And you were siding with the Council?" she said, allowing disbelief to colour her words. She shook her head. "You can't run a government without making choices. Luke isn't a politician - he would like to save everyone. You're evidence of that."
He didn't respond. He turned back to the holocomm, which had focused on the melting mask.
"Would that I could burn this armour," he said, and she thought she heard a tone of bitterness in his voice.
"Luke has already petitioned me for funds to see if that can be done," she said, shaking her head at the memories.
"Money is not the issue. He wants me to be something I am not," Vader replied. "He is a hopeless idealist. I am not." He paused. "Nor, I think, are you. You're far too cynical for someone so... young."
She buried the urge to shoot back at his comparison of her to himself the second comparison in as many minutes.
"Well it's a good you're not relying on having that surgery, because it won't be happening. Changing your face won't change who you are or what you've done." She'd meant it to sound scathing, but it had come out more compassionate that she'd intended. She frowned at that.
She'd half expected an angry comeback to her audacity. But, irritatingly, she only got a laugh of amusement from the man.
"I see you have also inherited my lack of tact."
The third comparison, and in less than three minutes. The thought of inheriting anything from him made her stomach clench painfully. She turned on her heel and headed for the door, afraid that if this conversation continued, one of them was going to erupt with anger. And, worryingly, it seemed more likely to be her.
"Wait, Leia," Vader said.
She sucked in a much-needed breath of air before turning back to him. "Tell Luke when he arrives, that the Falcon is on the top landing strip. The military board want to know where he's been and we need to talk about what we're going to tell them. We'll be gone by night. You can have this place all to yourself no more disagreements."
"Leia," he continued, as if she hadn't spoken, "I am assuming Captain Solo is with your ship."
Puzzled, she stopped. "It's General Solo, now." She paused, realising how over-protective that had sounded. "So?"
"Yet you came in here alone."
Because I wanted to confront you alone, she thought And then wondered at the idea of confronting him at all. Impulsive, reckless idea. What had she been thinking? There could never be anything but sparks flying between them and she wasn't the most likely candidate for coming out on top in a fight.
"I came to see my brother."
I came to see you dethroned.
He didn't reply. Maybe he'd even picked up on that last thought wouldn't it be like him to be snooping around in her head?
The silence stretched, punctuated only by the sounds of rioting on the holo' and the rhythmic hiss of his respirator. The thought slid through her mind that every time she wanted to be near Luke now, to have the friendship and solace of the last three years, that sound would be echoing in the background, if only in her mind.
Resentment flashed through her resentment at Vader for turning everything upside down. Who she was, who her friends were, where they were all going to it had all changed in just a few seconds of revelation. And no matter how much she might wish it, there was no reversing that process.
The silence was growing uncomfortable.
"Luke said you wanted to talk to me. Obviously he was mistaken," she snapped, and whirled around on her heel, intent on stalking away and not looking back this time.
"He was not mistaken," Vader said as she walked away. "He worries about you."
"About me?" she shot back, incredulous that he'd turned this onto her. Some distant, meta-cognitive part of herself was aware that he was probably trying to provoke her, maybe to stop her leaving, but she turned back to him again, despite her resolution to leave. "I'm not the one embracing a mass-murderer for a father!"
"He's not the one starting a life-long relationship in the shadow of a family history of betrayal. If I have children, will they be like you? Will they turn out evil? Even if they turn out like Luke who, by the way, is the most selfless man I've ever met they'll have that responsibility on their shoulders. I love Luke, but sometimes he scares me. I'm scared of what he can do and I think he's scared too, sometimes. What kind of legacy is that to pass on to children?"
Legacy. There was that word again.
She stopped to take in another breath, curious that she wasn't more surprised with herself for letting out the worries that had been floundering around her mind for weeks. But Vader might as well hear what she thought of being related to him she wasn't going to be rushing back to tell him twice. It had been the Organa legacy she'd hoped one day to carry on. Those dreams were in ashes now.
"You're pregnant," was all Vader said.
She let out a long breath. "No, and I won't be getting pregnant any time soon. Not now I know what runs in my family."
He stepped towards her, and for once she didn't have the urge to either confront him or run away she stood her ground.
"The Force is not to blame for my choices," he said, stopping in front of her. "I am a free man, with the free will that goes with that. It has taken me over thirty years to recognise that. Don't go down the path that I went down, Leia, when I discovered my potential. Having great power in the Force does not pre-destine you to evil - or to good. Don't be afraid of what you have. Your fear will cripple you."
There was a whole repertoire of retorts she could throw back at him now. She could see that, strategically, he'd just left himself wide open, made himself vulnerable. If she wanted she could verbally pick him apart now. He'd shown her his weakness.
The part of her that was still Princess Organa wanted to strike out at that weakness, and hurt the enemy that had blown her world apart. There was another part, the part that was just Leia, maybe even Leia Skywalker, that felt an uncomfortable kind of empathy for him. Because she was afraid, even if she'd never admit it out loud.
"I have to go," she said, and heard the excuse in her own words. "Tell Luke that I-"
"You can tell him yourself," someone said lightly, from behind her.
"Luke," she said, turning around. He smiled at her from where he stood in the antechamber, leaning against the entranceway. She crossed the distance without realising she was even planning on moving, heading instinctively for the safe, secure presence of her brother.
"Hey, Leia," he said. Luke had held onto her tightly as she hugged him, and she held onto him, closing her arms around him with an almost desperate strength. He smelt of the heat of the day, and of the electric tang of exhaust fumes from a sublight engine.
"Where are you going?" she heard Luke ask, and realised he was talking to Vader.
Vader's heavy footsteps echoed as he walked towards and then past them, heading outside.
"I could do with some target practice myself," was all he said.
There was an underlying tone of familiar humour in that, and Luke laughed lightly.
Then Vader was gone. Leia let out a long breath, almost wishing she'd thought of some scathing final words to throw after him. Or rather, wishing she could hold onto her hatred enough to think of those words when instead his striking admission of fallibility was echoing in her mind.
Luke rested his cheek against the top of her head. "Thanks,"
She pulled back, puzzled. "For what?" He looked well, she thought distantly. The sun had given him an aura of health. Or maybe it wasn't just the sun that had done that.
"You talked to him."
She snorted. "Hardly."
"Well you didn't try and shoot him at least." He made a show of glancing around the room for collateral damage. "Did you?"
"I may have thought about it." Light-hearted humour, when she wasn't feel very light-hearted at all. She sighed and lay her head again Luke's chest. "Can we get out of here now, please?"
She felt the light pressure as he kissed the top of her head.
"Yeah," he said.
He pulled back slightly, scrutinising her with an expression of guarded curiosity. She knew that look. He wanted to ask her something, but was seriously considering whether it would be good for his health to say it.
"What is it?" she asked.
He paused for a moment, apparently trying to find the right words. Then he shrugged and said, "You are pregnant, aren't you?"
She let out a gasp of exasperated laughter and closed her eyes. So much for her sabacc face: Luke had always been able to see right through her. And, oddly, that didn't really bother her.
"Come on," she said, opening her eyes again, "let's get out of here."
He had a wide grin on his face. "Yeah," he said. "Sure."