Chapter 1: Meet Up
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument loomed over Luke, somehow looking as dignified and honorable even while overlooking a crowd of FFA students posing for a yearbook picture. Limestone faces and bodies, with bronze weapons and tools, looked like they were about to lean down and shake enormous fingers in Luke’s face. As if they knew he was about to break the rules. The camera’s flashed a few times before the group was allowed to break.
Luke circled around the monument, leaning against the limestone banister overlooking the huge fountains.
“Luke?” Luke jerked to the side, covering the screen of his phone protectively as his best friend, Biggs Darklighter, slung an arm over his shoulders. “Whatcha doing?”
“Nothing, Biggs,” Luke lied, pulling away from his friend. “I’m just looking at the water.”
“They are pretty nice fountains,” Biggs agreed, “you know they empty these when winter hits. They put in a ton of Christmas decorations.”
“Neat,” he pulled out his phone, checking the messages, “what are you doing Biggs?”
“Oh, you know. Just chaperoning my best friend carefully. Making sure a little farmboy like him doesn’t get lost in a big city like this.” Biggs pinched his cheek affectionately, grinning when Luke scowled and brushed him off.
“Come on, Biggs. This is Indy. No one can get lost in Indy. The city is on a grid pattern. Three rights and you’re right back where you started.”
“Not always, but you’re mostly right. I’m actually wondering why you look so depressed, Luke.”
“I’m not depressed.”
“You love the FFA Convention. It’s your favorite part of the school year. You love coming to the city and going shopping at the mall and seeing all of these depressing monuments to wars. You even like talking to the lady over by Starbucks whose always knitting things and panhandling.”
“She’s very nice,” Luke said automatically, “and I still have those mittens she made me.”
“Well, I’m glad, but you’re moppy, and you love Indy.”
“I’m not,” Luke sighed, tugging on a spare thread on his blue jacket. “I’m a little depressed,” he said after a moment. “Because I don’t know if I can get the scholarship I want to go to Purdue.”
“Oh,” Biggs sobered, the smile sliding off his face. “Luke, you know, there are thousands of applicants for that scholarship.”
“I know,” Luke sighed, flopping over the banister and staring at the water below. “Be realistic, be hopeful. You sound like Father Kenobi.”
“Well, the good Father’s got a few good ideas,” Biggs mused, “even if he can’t grow anything worth a damn. Did you see his tomato plants this year? They were awful.”
“I did, I gave him some of our extra ones. Aunt Beru grew way too many.” Luke stopped, perking upright as his phone buzzed in his pocket. Grinning, he pulled it down and read the message. “Biggs, you’ll cover for me, right?”
“We’re allowed to explore the city, right?” Luke said, smiling.
“Yeah, but the buddy system is in effect, Luke. You need to take a friend.”
“I’m going with a friend,” Luke clapped Biggs on the shoulder and took a few hopping steps back. “I’ll see you at the convention center, alright?”
“Luke!” Biggs yelled, aghast as his friend bounded down the stairs and jogged through the seething, pushing horde of high schoolers in matching blue and gold blazers, and vanished in the crowd. “Damn!” He pulled out his phone and sent a quick text.
KEEP ME UPDATED! DON’T BE LATE! STAY SAFE!
Luke’s reply came a few moments later. A simple smiley face followed by a winking face.
“That little brat,” Biggs said, more amused the angry. “Always headed somewhere else.”
Luke bounded as quickly as he could manage, up the steps of the mall and into the Artsgarden. A wide open space filled with plants and arts and small tables and chairs, standing directly above the wide street. Traffic, foot, and motor, passed by underneath.
But he wasn’t focused on the art or the plants. His attention was focused on a short brunette, wearing a pencil skirt, brightly polished Mary Janes, and an FFA blazer that was nearly identical to Luke’s except the word across the back was “ Pennsylvania.” She stood beside a small table, holding two ice-cream cones with one hand and her phone with the other.
“LEIA!” Luke jumped the last two steps, sliding across the floor until he collided with his friend, careful of the ice-cream and her phone.
“Luke!” She laughed, equally excited. Hugging him as much as she was able. “You made it! What took so long?”
“I had to shake my chaperon,” Luke beamed as he pulled away, “ice-cream?”
“Yes,” Leia held out both cones primly. It didn’t even look like it had started melting yet which was only common sense? Ice-cream wouldn’t dare melt on Leia. “Choose your flavor?”
“I’ll take Superman,” Luke accepted the cone, and Leia grinned as she pulled her pistachio closer. “I don’t eat green desserts.”
“That’s because you have no taste,” Leia said, “you don’t have to eat the ice-cream. I can take it back.”
“Nope,” he licked up one side, grinning. “too late.”
“Then stop complaining,” she sat down at the little table, “and we need to have a serious discussion.”
“Um, about what?”
“About an essay competition,” she answered briskly, reaching into her backpack and pulling out a folder. She flipped it open and turned it to Luke. “If you’re one of the best four essays you get to on a Europe trip. It includes Britain, France, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Spain, and Naboo.”
“How long is this trip?”
“A month, and we need to win.”
“Leia,” he shifted, “you can afford to go on a trip like this. You don’t need to win it in a competition.”
“I know, but I thought it would be more fun if we went together.”
Leia, unlike Luke, was from a rich family. Part of the old elite in Philadelphia, she’d been a debutant, and had a driver, and a security guard, and a nanny. Luke was a farmer and only got to go on trips like this because the school helped pay for them.
“But what if there are other students who want to go, and can’t afford to go,” Luke said, and Leia’s expression darkened. It wasn’t what he wanted to see. They hadn’t seen each other in person since the last FFA convention, a year ago.
“But I already picked out our topics!” Leia exclaimed, pulling out a page and waving it in his face. “Look, I did the calculations, and I even weighed the topics on how interesting they’d be. If one of us writes on Naboo, we’re more likely to win. No one ever writes about Naboo. It is a tiny country. I put the statistics of each country on the list on another paper and the different subjects.”
“Naboo, that is a small country.” Luke licked his ice-cream as he flipped through the contents of the folder. It was through an outline of the rules in easily understood language. The prize, and the cost of the prize if paid for out of pocket. Who had won in the past, what they’d written about, and their essays. All marked through with red and purple gel-pen and highlighted to show where they’d done well and where they’d messed up. “When is this due?”
“Check the top page,” Leia said, still scowling out the window and eating her ice-cream with offended gusto.
“Leia! This isn’t due until half-way through our senior year!”
“That way we have plenty of time to work on it. I’ve also gotten this together. This is all the information I could draw up on Purdue scholarships, plus other ones you can apply for. Do you want to go over it now or just read it when you get home.”
“When I get home,” Luke said, reaching the cone and taking a bite. “Why did you put all of this together?”
“Because we’re best friends,” Leia said officiously. “You’ve helped me do stuff.”
“You don’t need me to do anything,” Luke shook his head, “you’re going to Harvard or Yale, or one of those big law schools.”
“I am, but you're going to Purdue.” With that said, Leia closed the folder and leaned back in her seat. “How is your family?”
“Oh, Uncle Owen’s fine. He was one of the only people in the county who didn’t lose most of his crop. We had that huge wind storm in the middle of the summer. Aunt Beru is pretty great; she’s working at the school some days. Um, that’s about it. We pulled all of the corn in before that heavy rain storm, so it’s actually been a pretty good year. I think we’re the luckiest people in the county.”
“I still want to drive a tractor,” Leia said, “I’ve been in the FFA for a year now, and no one will let me drive a tractor.”
“You live in the middle of a big city. Why would you drive a tractor? I still have no idea how you found an FFA group in the middle of Philly.”
“There wasn’t one in my area originally,” she winked when Luke frowned. “But I convinced the school it would be a good idea. You know, so many people don’t know anything about where their food comes from or anything about farming. The school board thought it was a great idea.”
“You got your own FFA chapter started?” Luke gaped, “why, how?”
“I had a friend tell me that it was a great club to be a part of,” Leia winked as Luke began to laugh. “Besides, it will look fantastic on a college application.”
Chapter 2: Secret to be Learned
Anakin Skywalker still hates some people, and you don't get over some things.
There were times that Anakin wished that Naboo prisons were a little more like American prisons. Dingy, poorly cared for, crowded, and dangerous. The fact that Prisoner 0 still managed to have a comfortable bed, top-rated medical care, and decent food, infuriated him.
“Sir,” he paused outside the door, glaring at the small window that looked in on the prisoner. He was sitting upright in his bed, looking older than Anakin ever remembered him.
“He’s extremely fragile, sir.” Captain Typho was long used to Anakin; he didn’t even flinch. “Just be careful.”
“How does a treasonous son of a bitch rate this,” Anakin muttered as he flexed his prosthetic, “and I was in a shit-hole of a hospital when I was recovering from losing my fucking arm?’’
“Sir,” Typho shifted, one hand on the door, “are you?”
“Yeah,” Anakin sighed, rubbed his forehead, “open it up.” He pushed the door open, and Anakin stepped in, wrinkling his nose at the smell of chemicals.
“Ani, my dear boy!” Sheev Palpatine opened his eyes, smiling as he came to a halt at the end of his bed. “How are you?”
“What do you want, traitor?”
“Can’t I speak to my friend one last time?” Palpatine croaked, his hands twisted over each other. The thing fingers, wrinkled skin, and protruding knuckles made Anakin look away.
“We aren’t friends,” Anakin snapped, staring at the heart monitor screen. “I’m only here because it’s my duty.”
“Yes, as the Prince Consort. As the toy that Padme keeps around. You know she used to love playing with little toy soldiers. Now she has a life-sized doll.”
“Your manipulations are getting worse,” Anakin hissed, taking several minutes to calm himself and reminding himself that if he pulled the plug on the old man, he could end up in prison too. “You used to be much better at driving a wedge between myself and my wife.” He emphasized the last word.
“Perhaps.” Palpatine's sickly eyes focused on his prosthetic, “or you are simply stupid. It’s a shame you aren’t on strong medications anymore. It was much easier when you were drugged out of your mind.” He cackled gleefully as Anakin stared, helpless with rage. Trembling with fury as the old man laughed.
“You’re wasting my time,” he stepped back, moving toward the door.
“Wait a moment, my impatient American friend,” Palpatine wheezed, settling down a bit. “If you leave now, you’ll miss the great news.”
“You’re dying slowly and painfully?”
“Dying slowly, but not painfully. Thank God for Naboo healthcare,” Palpatine’s sickly eyes twinkled. “It’s a shame that an American war hero doesn’t rate the same.”
“What is it, old man?”
“Oh,” he sighed, making himself comfortable in his pillows. “You’re a good boy, Anakin.”
“I’m not a child,” Anakin snapped, and the old man nodded.
“No,” he hummed, “but you would be interested to know.” There was something like wicked delight in his eyes, “that yours did survive my attempted coup.”
“WHAT?” Anakin froze, suddenly feeling every gas molecule hitting him, the sensation of being pulled through a vortex, of free-falling from an airplane. Every thundering beat of his heart in his chest, the rush of blood in his ears, the phantom pain where his arm had been amputated.
“Your children? Those two darling twins,” Palpatine grinned as Anakin forced himself to take a deep breath. His bright blue eyes wide open with shock. “They’re alive, Anakin.”
“Why?” Anakin jerked to a shuddering start, lurching over to the bed and seizing the older man’s shoulder. There was alarmed yelling from outside the door. “Why would you wait this long to tell us?” He shouted, shaking the ex-prime minister. “Where are they? WHERE ARE THEY?”
“You’ll never be free, Ani,” Palpatine hissed as Anakin was yanked away by guards and soldiers. “I’ll always be there. I will always control you.” The soldiers and the prince froze as the old man began to and continued to laugh — a wheezy, evil noise that chilled each spine in the room.
“I have to go,” Anakin wretched himself free of the soldiers, and ducked out of the room. His head spun, every limb shaking as he tried to keep himself from falling into another panic attack. “I,” his eyes were wide and unseeing as he made his way out of the prison, desperately in need of some air.
“Your Highness?” Someone reached out, touching his arm, “are you alright?”
“I need some air,” he seized her arms and wasn’t sure what was going on until he was outside the prison. He shook his head as he sucked down breath after breath. “What?”
“Your Highness, should I call for someone?”
“No,” Anakin swallowed a dry sob, straightening himself as he did so. He glanced at the road beyond the prison, woods a ways away. He knew this area of Naboo like the back of his hand. He had hiked all over. Gravel crunched under his feet as he turned away from the unnamed soldier. “I think I’ve got this.” Without another word, he took off running.
He sprinted toward the palace, toward his wide, and his best friend. There were miles of hills and city between them, but Anakin was skilled and well-trained. He’d served young, and knew how to cover the distance as quickly as possible. He swerved through the woods, dodging trees and logs, leaping over rocks and boulders, and sliding down hills. It helped him focus, the movement of his feet, the determination it took to push through his rising terror and panic.
He had to reach Padme. He had to get to her. To tell her the news. That Palpatine had spared their children, even as he’d killed so many others.
Anakin broke out of the forest and into a park area. It was empty, save for a few teenagers swinging idly around and chatting. He skidded to a halt a few feet away and collapsed against the slide with a gasp. He leaned his head against the plastic, focusing on controlling his breathing.
“Are you alright, sir?” He cracked an eye open. The teenagers were standing, all of them fashionably dressed and watching him carefully. Recognition bled into their eyes as he sat up and gave a tired wave. “Your Highness, are you alright? Jobal, call the police. I think the Prince is hurt.”
“I’m fine,” he lied, and the teenagers ignored him. “Don’t call the cops. Can I borrow your phone so I can call someone?”
“Yes,” the oldest girl handed him her phone, eyes wide with worry. “Your highness. What are you doing all the way out here? This is a long way from the palace.”
“I know” He rubbed his forehead, dialing the number the head of security had forced him to memorize.
“Who is this and how do you have this number?”
“Artoo,” Anakin sighed, watching the teenagers out of the corner of his eyes. They were still staring. “I think I fucked up.”
“Where are you? Are you hurt?”
“I’m not,” he looked up, “where am I?”
“You’re in the Garden of Time,” the girl said, “you ran out of the woods.”
“I’m in the Garden of Time,” Anakin relayed, and Mace swore. “I’m not hurt. I’ve got to speak of Padme. It’s important. Hugely important.”
“I’m sending a car, Skywalker.” His friend said, “don’t move from where you are.”
“Alright,” he shakily hung up, handing the phone back and knowing how awful he looked. The teenagers crowded around at a respectful distance, exchanging looks.
“Your Highness,” the oldest girl dug a granola bar out of her bag and passed it to him. He took it, turning the foiled snack over in his hands nervously. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” he forced himself to open his eyes and meet hers. She looked familiar. “Have we met?”
“Um, once, your highness. You came by to visit my school to discuss why it's important to learn about plants.”
“Oh,” he blushed. “Knowing where your food comes from is important.”
“Yes, your highness.”
“And having plants around you is good for your health,” Anakin’s hands trembled as he tore open the wrapper of the granola bar. “We met?”
“Just for a moment, sir. You were talking to my friend about how to raise her succulents.”
“Oh,” he took a hefty bite of the granola bar and nodded to the other students. “Thanks, kids.”
“You don’t look very good, your highness. If you don’t mind me saying.”
“I’ve been worse,” he answered, and rubbed the back of his head. His prosthetic ached, as well as surgery scars on his chest and legs. The full force of what Palpatine had told him hadn’t hit yet. He knew that much. This was a strange form of shock. Dissociation to help cope with the emotions. He’d been like this before. During the accident in basic training, during the war, and during the coup. They were obviously scared and worried, but he couldn’t help it.
The rumble of an engine followed quickly by thundering feet, had him looking up.
“That was fast,” he said weakly as Artoo skidded to a halt beside him, waving off the teenagers.
“Boss, you called 30 minutes ago. Follow the pen-light.” He obeyed. “You’ve been zoned out, boss. Come on; we need to get you to the doctor.”
“No,” Anakin stood easily, towering over his short friend. There were several members of his security team taking up positions around him. “I need to speak to Padme. It’s important.”
“I need to talk to her, where is she?”
“I told her you were coming,” Artoo dragged him toward the armored car, shoving him in with as much ceremony as he ever did. “What the hell happened? You ran all the way from that bastards prison to here? Do you know how far that is?”
“No far?” Anakin offered, and Artoo scoffed as the car pulled away from the park.
“That’s over 12 miles. You’ve been missing for a couple of hours. What the hell did he say to you?”
“I can’t,” Anakin’s hand began to shake again, “I can’t. I have to talk to Padme. She has to know.”
“Ani, buddy.” Artoo took his hands, squeezing them tightly. “What did Palpatine say to you?”
“He said that the children are alive,” Anakin only just managed to force the words past trembling lips. He knew his eyes were filled with tears, and too strung-out to care.
“He said that the twins were alive?”
“Yes, he said that they were alive and that…that I’d never be free of him. Oh my god, he’s right. We’re never going to be free even when he dies. He’s always going to control a part of me,” he was crying. “The twins are alive, and Palpatine stole them from us.”
“Ani, Ani, Ani,” Artoo pulled his taller friend in for a hug. “Come here; you’re alright. That bastard doesn’t have any control over you. He’s in a prison cell; he’s locked away.”
“But he’s still manipulating me,” he cried, “he’s still using me. What if he’s lying? What if they really are dead?”
“Anakin, we’ll handle it. We’ll go through every record we pulled from that coup all over again. We’ll search everything he’s ever touched, every shit he’s ever made, every person he ever even looked at. If he’s telling the truth, we’ll rip apart the planet to find those kids, alright.”
“Ani,” Artoo rubbed Anakin’s back, careful of the sensitive spots. “I’ve got you. Padme’s got you. We’ve all got your back. We’ll call Ahsoka. I’ll call all of my contacts back in the states. You’re not alone, Anakin. I’m your best friend. If Luke and Leia are anywhere, we’ll find them.”
“He,” Anakin shuddered, grateful of the privacy screens between the back seat and the driver, and the tinted windows. He glanced out, watching the beautiful buildings of Theed pass by. “He could have sent them anywhere.”
“I know, Ani,” Artoo said quietly, “I know, but we’ll find them.”
“I don’t know why I ran. I had to get out of there. I was sick. I needed space. I needed to breathe.”
“I understand,” Artoo let Anakin pull away. “I get it, Ani. I really do.”
“Padme,” he said desperately, and Artoo nodded.
“She’s been waiting for news since you ran away from the prison. We’ll tell her and get that investigative team up and running.”
“Yeah,” Anakin rubbed his face, careful of his prosthetic. “We’ve got to tell her.”
A few minutes of silence followed, and the car pulled up at the front door of the palace. It was a beautiful building, rich with history and modernized for comfort. The wings that had been destroyed during the coup were being re-built from the original blueprints.
“Anakin?” Artoo hesitated before opening the door.
“I’ve got,” he nodded, “I’ve got this.”
“Okay,” the both stepped into the bright sunlight and hustled up the steps. There he was met with the worried and confused eyes of the staff, and guards standing by. “Where is she?” He asked, and a guard pointed down the nearest hallway.
“In Portrait room,” she answered, and he nodded gratefully. He rushed as quickly as he could to his wife, wrenching the door open and coming to a halt as Padme Amidala, Queen of Naboo, turned his way.
“What happened, Ani?” She asked, reaching for him as he reached her. “They said you ran away. Did you really take off running? What did he say to you?”
“I, I’m sorry for worrying you. I love you. I’m sorry,” Anakin kissed her hand, suddenly tongue-tied. “Padme, he’s. He told me.”
“You’ve been crying,” she traced a cheekbone with her thumb, careful of his old scar. “Any, what did he say?”
“He said that,” he paused, terrified. “He said that they could…be alive.”
“What?” She stilled, her beautiful brown eyes going hard and stern.
“He said they were alive, Padme.”
“It’s not. That coup was almost successful. He had everything planned to a T. If he wanted to fake their deaths, then he could have. The children would have been smuggled away for him to use later. He could have done it.”
“Anakin,” Padme seemed frozen, “Anakin, Palpatine is a manipulator. He is evil. He could just as easily be lying to us. He could be giving us false hope.”
“But what if he’s not. What if he’s telling the truth and the twins are alive and out there.” Anakin felt dangerously close to cracking. Only a few things could make him react like this. He hated it. “I know what he’s done to us in the past. All of the manipulations and all of the evil things, but what if he’s right?”
“We’ll,” Pamde looked like she could hardly dare hope. She sat on one of the only chairs in the room, an antique that Anakin didn’t dare look twice at. He knelt beside the chair, still holding onto her hand as tightly as he could. “We’ll look into it. There’s still so much evidence that has to be processed.” Her bottom lip trembled. “Luke and Leia….alive?”
“That’s what he said. If we can get the rest of the information out of him. If he knows where he ended up, then we could find them.”
“17 years is a long time,” Padme answered, and she leaned against her husband. “Ani, my god, Ani. If they’re still alive, they can come home. Our children could come home.”
“We just have to find them. Padme, I have a lot of friends and contacts. If anything, we can call…”
“Ani, don’t say it.”
“Fett,” Anakin blurted, and her worried expression twisted into annoyance.
“Jango Fett used to work for Palpatine. He is a mercenary and a pirate.”
“He’s interested in money. We find him; we can find the rest of what we’re missing.”
“Anakin,” the Queen rubbed his forehead. “Jango Fett vanished off the face of the planet. He’s been missing since the Kabal was taken down.”
“Exactly, he’s the only one we’re missing. He could be the key. He might know. I can call Ahsoka. She’s the best in the business if she can find him, great. If she can’t, I’m positive she can find whatever shallow grave Palps threw him in.”
“Alright,” she stood up. Anakin followed. “Alright, we’ll follow this thread. If he says the twins are alive, then they’re alive, and we’re going to find them. I’ll call an emergency session, and get our teams on the case. We need more evidence.”
“But Ani,” the Queen faltered. “You know…he is evil, Ani.”
“We both know how evil he is, Padme.”
“Anakin, he bombed the palace. He blew up our home. The nursery was gone. They couldn’t even identify the bodies we did find! We were supposed to die that night. You and I were both supposed to be dead. We had no reason to think that the children were alive. Even hoping that they were miraculously alive was too much. We…are in therapy for this, Ani. Moving on past their deaths, building a new future.”
“I know!” Anakin cried. “I know, but I didn’t even think it was possible until today! I know it’s dumb to hope, but what if.”
“What if they are alive, Padme. What if they really are out there. They could be alive, and we’d never know because we were still in the middle of trying to figure out if some decomposing corpse was lying to us!”
“ANAKIN! THEY WERE MY CHILDREN TOO!”
“I KNOW!” They stared at each other, both teary and breathed hard. A fight hovered over them. A tempest beyond the horizon. A storm threatening to break. "I know."
“Ani, we could look for a hundred years and never find them.”
“I know,” Anakin hugged his prosthetic close, his eyes closing. “I know, Padme, but I can just feel it. I know they’re alive. I’ve always hoped. Padme, Artoo said that same thing you did, but even the possibility of finding the twins should be enough.”
“If,” she visibly steeled herself, “if they’re alive, then we’ll find them. We’ll bring them home, Ani. I promise you.”
“We will find them,” Anakin promised, and she gave a watery smile. “I know we will.”
They stood in silence for a long while, their grieving now mingled with hope.
Chapter 3: Home
Hiding secrets is a little hard when you live in such close quarters.
“Now I know that you’re not all that comfortable talking with some people,” Owen Lars shoved his pitchfork into the dirt as Luke startled and glanced over from where he was trying to repair a stall door. “And I know there ain’t a doctor between here and Indy that isn’t a piece of garbage.”
“You don’t know that,” Luke blurted, not really sure where the conversation was going. “What do you mean, doctor?”
“I mean a therapist,” Owen answered, and busied himself with his work again. “They stink.”
“How do you know that? Also, why were you looking?”
“I know because I know some of the patients they have and they don’t have good results. I’m looking because I’m worried about you.”
“You think I need a therapist?” Luke’s confusion and wonder made the older man glance up.
“I think that you could use some help. We all could; it’s been a rough couple of years for all of us. I was reading an article in the paper that said that people who see a therapist are happier. Now, I know this town sucks, and you hate it.”
“I don’t hate it,” Luke protested but sighed when Owen shot him a glare. “It’s not so bad.”
“The three churches in town are stocked with the ugliest people in the state, son. All controlling and creepy, and judgmental.”
“Father Kenobi is not controlling or creepy.”
“He’s a little judgey,” Owen continued to work, focusing on something besides the conversation. “But I don’t like his parish. Taking the Word and using it as a weapon ain’t right.”
“Now, I’ve got something for you.” Owen straightened, “and I want you to use it as often as you like.”
“A present,” Luke brightened.
“Yes,” He stuck the pitchfork back into the pile and stomped from the stall to the tiny collection of papers and files that he kept stored in the barn. From the middle of the pile, he pulled out something wrapped in plastic grocery bags. Luke followed him, curious.
“Uncle Owen, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” he answered gruffly, and he handed the present over. Luke watched him and then turned to unwrap the gift. A thick journal was revealed, leather-bound with beautiful geometric designs etched on the front.
“I saw it in a little shop in Shipshewana. I thought you might like it. It’s for all those secrets you can’t anyone else. Even that internet friend of yours.”
“I don’t have any secrets,” Luke said, but Owen glared at him, disbelieving. “Alright, but what’s going on? This is really out of the blue.”
“I just want you to have somewhere you feel like you can,” Owen struggled to find a word, “confide…safely.”
“This town is small and small-minded, and the only entertainment is shopping at the dollar store and drugs.”
“I don’t do drugs, and the dollar store if twenty minutes by car.”
“I know,” his discomfort level obviously reached and pushed past but Owen continued talking. “We’re very proud of you, Luke.’
“Uncle Owen, you don’t think I’m one argument away from doing drugs do you?”
“No, but your classmates are already in trouble for drugs and shoplifting. I just want. We just want you to.”
“Oh, damn,” he smacked his hand on the table and rubbed his forehead. “Luke, I know.”
“Know?” Ice-cold terror slipped down his spine. Luke held very still and watched his uncle carefully. “What?”
“I know who you like, Luke.” Uncle Owen refused to look at him, more engrossed in his hands and the scars that traced over them. “The types of people you like. I know, we both saw…your book.”
“My book?” His breaths felt physically painful.
“That book on the different types of queer.”
“Uncle Owen, I can explain.”
“You don’t have to,” Owen finally seemed to pull out of his funk. “Luke, we love you no matter what.”
“How long ago?”
“A few weeks,” his uncle admitted, “we saw the book and then we.”
“What?” He held the journal tightly, leather and plastic crinkling beneath his grip.
“We did some research,” Owen answered, “figured we’d find out how best to help.”
“Help?” The terror was ebbing, little by little.
“It’s a small town, Luke.” Uncle Owen didn’t look at him. “Small-minded people.”
“Yeah,” Luke agreed breathlessly.
“We just want you to….feel okay. Be okay with who you are and to not be afraid to be yourself.” It was obvious his uncle was reciting something, which helped Luke calm down more than anything. “And we don’t want you to hide stuff like this.”
“Uncle Owen,” Luke felt dangerously close to crying. His fear becoming something else, a hopeful excitement that bloomed at his uncle’s half-hearted smile.
“We love you, Luke.” Uncle Owen said gruffly. He’d never been one for great emotional bonding moments. “Even if you’re just exploring your…you still can’t have sex. That’s a no-no. You’re too young.”
“I don’t want to have sex,” Luke blurted, “it’s gross.”
“Sex is natural and healthy,” Owen’s weather-beaten face was bright red, and he stared at a spot over Luke’s shoulder. His recitation almost making him laugh.
“Okay, but I’m not interested.”
“Thank god,” the farmer breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “I’ll keep an open mind, but there’re plenty of kids getting in trouble in this town. I don’t want you to be one of them.”
“I was reading the book because I didn’t know and I was doing research,” Luke admitted in a rush. “My friend checked it out of the Indianapolis Public Library for me. I was going to mail it back.”
“We’ve got internet. Why not look there?”
“I’m not sure…you aren’t watching what I look up on the internet, are you?”
“No, a man’s got to have privacy.”
“Oh,” Luke loosened his grip on his journal. “Just, wanted properly cited sources, you know.”
“Why did you talk to me? Not Aunt Beru?”
“Because,” the man shrugged, “because your aunt is always the one who handles these things. Thought you might feel better if you were…affirmed by your grumpy old uncle. ‘cause I had to be the one you were more worried about.”
“Oh,” Luke really was crying now. He breathed a shaky sigh, not realizing until now how much he’d been weighed down. “Uncle Owen, you’re the best.” He grabbed him for a hug, feeling safer than ever when Uncle Owen’s arms wrapped around his shoulders.
“Remember that next time you complain about having to tidy up the kitchen,” Owen grumped, holding Luke until the teenager drew away. “But that journals for you to write whatever in.”
“Thanks, Uncle Owen. I love it.”
“Good, well. You’ve got that stall door to finish. Make sure you oil the hinges before you screw them back in and see if you can’t get to tightening the deadbolt, move it if you have to.”
“Okay,” Luke brushed stray tears out of his eyes. Grinning weakly, “I love you, Uncle Owen.”
Owen ruffled his hair and nodded, visibly overwhelmed. “Back to work you.”
“Sure thing!” Luke passed his book back down and returned to his work, beaming.
Chapter 4: MURDER
History is altered with a few short murders
Neither Padme or Anakin got much sleep that night, staying awake staring at the ceiling. Worries and anticipation curling in their stomachs, holding hands and occasionally muttered a word. As Queen, Padme would be due to wake up in a few hours, and Anakin had his morning packed with meetings from foreign governments.
Which was why, awake and silent, they were out of bed the moment someone began pounding on the door.
“What is it?” Padme wrenched it open, pulling her bathrobe on completely. The head of security, breathless, leaned against the door jam.
“Prisoner 0 has been murdered, Your Majesty.”
“What?” Anakin appeared behind his wife, looming over her petite form and glowering heavily at the Nubian.
“Please, Your Majesty, come with me. I believe that Prince Anakin should come along as well.”
“Ani,” Padme beckoned to her husband, hurrying into the hall after the security officer. Anakin appeared a moment later, wearing one of his oldest t-shirts. Worn so often it was almost threadbare, and Padme wasn’t sure how security meeting with the words Semper Fi stamped across his back, and the symbol of the Marines across his torso.
“I’m dressed,” he said when he caught her appraising look. “Not my fault those old bastards don’t like me.”
“Ani,” she sighed, enjoying the routine of the argument. It was almost a dance at this point, but she was too tired and too strung out to care about this fight. The only possible lead to their children was now dead.
“Sorry,” his crooked smile made her heart melt, even as they were ushered into a small security room. The prison warden was on one screen, looking shocked and worried.
“Gentleman,” Padme surveyed the room, “what happened?”
“About an hour ago there was a blip in the security systems,” the head of her cyber-security stood, eyeing Anakin before dismissing him. “We went to investigate the cause; someone had damaged the wires to the security of the building.”
“That should be near impossible.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the prison warden spoke up, “but while we were securing the prison, we came across Prisoner 0. He was dead when the first guards arrived at the scene.”
“How?” Padme glanced at the Chief of Police.
“Single bullet to the head, Your Majesty. Small caliber, probably shot with a silencer. That would explain why no one heard it. But the building was in chaos. The guards stationed at the door were shot with tranquilizers, they’re in the hospital wing of the prison. No one else was hurt in the altercation.”
“Do we know who could have done this?” The Queen straightened, alarmed, when all eyes turned to Anakin. “Anakin was with me the entire evening.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Captain Typho agreed easily, but he hesitated. “We know exactly who murdered Prisoner 0 because he didn’t bother to disconnect the cameras in the cell.”
“Do not play the suspense game with me,” Padme snapped, “this afternoon Prisoner 0 confessed that your prince and princesses are alive and only a few hours later he’s murdered?” Sensing that their Queen, sleep-deprived and stressed, wouldn’t tolerate their dallying any longer. One of the men produced a tablet and pulled up a video.
“It’s graphic, ma’am.”
“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” Padme tapped the circle in the middle and fell silent as the image of Palpatine, serene in his sleep was cast into bright light as someone entered and flipped on the light. There was visibly a commotion outside the room, but the intruder didn’t seem to mind.
“Hello there,” his thin, reedy voice crawled from the speakers and down her spine. She shivered, knowing just how close he’d come to murdering her. “Ah, the assassin who never misses, it has been a long time.”
“It has,” Jango Fett looked from Palpatine and gave the camera nod. “You look half-dead already, old man.”
“Hmmm, why do young men think that that’s an insult, Assasin-who-never-misses-except-for-the-time-it-was-most-important.”
“I don’t miss,” Jango seized the man’s bony wrist before he could hit the button to call for a nurse. “Not so fast.” With methodical, clinical precision, the assassin began to unhook every IV and monitor except the heart. He stepped away and dropped the lines off the side of the bed where Palpatine couldn’t reach them.
“Oh I know,” suddenly worried but pretending calm, Palpatine glanced around the room. “How else would I learn that the brats were still alive?”
“I let you find out,” Jango answered, “because I wanted you to suffer from the knowledge that all your plots have failed.”
“Failed,” a wispy eyebrow was raised. “How have I failed? In the most heavily guarded prison in Naboo, under strict guard and care, I have still learned information from the outside.” Padme and Anakin exchanged a glance.
“I’ve been feeding you information for years,” Jango told him easily and held up the folder he’d been carrying. He opened it and started pulling out pictures. “Your informant in the palace staff. So sad he died in the car crash in Poland. That man in the banks, probably shouldn’t have gotten into a fight in Las Vegas. You know how touchy Americans can be.”
“No,” Palpatine croaked. “No.”
“That Brit you have on retainer, deadly home invasion. Those diamonds were nice though, funded my trip to Canada for a vacation where I found that other assassin you kept. No one suspects an animal mauling a hippie city-woman.”
“You couldn’t have,” Palpatine’s eyes got wider and wider as each photograph landed on his lap. The bloody pictures showing bodies and crime scenes. “I controlled everything. I owned it all.”
“Then there’s that American senator you bought. A shame he had a heart attack. Senator Taa was not a healthy man.”
“Liar,” Palpatine hissed. “Filthy pig.”
“Every con-man, every pickpocket, every criminal and cop you’ve hired have all gone down, Sheev,” Jango tossed a few more pictures down. “Your whole ring. I wasn’t hard to get the Swiss to drain your bank- account. It’s amazing how little they liked you.”
“This isn’t possible for one man.”
“Didn’t you wonder how your coup failed? You planned it better than anyone could have managed.”
“You rigged the bombs to detonate at the wrong moment. You spared the royals lives?” Palpatine surged upward, only to fall back against the pillows.
Padme and Anakin hugged each other tightly, entranced with the drama unfolding.
“I never miss,” Jango pulled another set of photographs from the folder and held them up. “Look at them, old man.” Palpatine couldn’t take his eyes off them, horrified and despairing all at once. “They’re both 17 now. Look how they’ve grown up. Look how happy they are.”
“Why?” Sheev gasped as the photo was folded and stuck into Jango’s back pocket.
“You took my son,” Jango answered, “I was happy with money, but you wanted a hostage, and you took my son. That was a big fucking mistake. You don’t mess with a man’s children. How long did it take you to recover from Skywalker’s beating?”
“Why wait this long? Trade them for a pardon? “
“Because I only finished three days ago. You can’t hurt anyone anymore. You’ve got no money, no friends, no freedom…”
“I will rebuild,” Palpatine hissed, “this is not the end.”
“I wasn’t finished,” Jango stood too close, he was pressing on Palpatine’s shoulder. Right where Padme remembered putting a bullet. “I wish I could leave this for the Queen or the Prince, but they get in trouble if they do things like this.” There was a moment of harrowing silence. “No money, no friends, no freedom, no life.”
Despite everything, Padme flinched when the gun went off. Jango turned to the camera again, gave a lazy salute, and was gone. She lowered the tablet and jerked when Anakin swore.
“What the fuck was that?”
“I’m sorry,” the warden asked, “that was our prisoner getting murdered.”
“I don’t give a shit about that,” Anakin pressed his hand on his hips, visibly struggling to keep calm. “What the fuck was up with Jango?”
“I knew him. I’ve met him. He’s practical, closed off, succinct. He doesn’t monologue; he doesn’t brag, he doesn’t show off. He would come in, shoot and leave. No muss no fuss. That was a display. He was…showing off, which isn’t like him.”
“He left the camera running,” someone piped up, “was it possible he was telling you this?”
“Jango is a criminal scum, but he’s got a code. He’s got a very strict code. He wouldn’t lie to a dying man,” Anakin leaned into Padme’s touch. “The twins are alive, and he knows where they are.”
“Our children are alive.” Padme staggered to the nearest chair, which was vacated swiftly. “Oh my god.” She rallied quickly, “order an arrest warrant for Jango Fett, alive. Alert everyone and Interpol. I want him found and arrested. Have investigative teams go through every photo left in the cell. I want a new investigation opened into Palpatine’s ring of influence. Contact the Swiss, go through everything, once, twice and three times. Leave no stone unturned.” She stood, “the priority is Jango Fett. Find him.”
“And Prisoner 0?”
“I leave that to the Chief of Police. Every ounce of cooperation is needed if we’re going to find Prince Luke and Princess Leia.” People dove into action, scattering from the room, pulling out phones and shouting into them. All the while, Padme and Anakin stood very still. Afraid that if they moved the dream would be shattered.
Chapter 5: Leia and Ahsoka
Leia exists while Ahsoka is called.
Leia Organa woke up to her cat pawing at her foot and the sound of the door opening.
“Leia!” Her father’s voice pulled her from her hazy dream and into proper wakefulness. “Get up! You’re going to miss all of the excitement.”
“Nooo,” she buried her head under the pillow, whining. “I have jet lag. Go away.”
“Absolutely not,” Bail Organa picked up her cat and dropped it onto her back. Winter took off running, hissing all the while. “Sorry, Winter. Darling, get up. You and I both know for a fact that you hardly ever experience jet lag. Since you’re not returning from Japan, only from Indianapolis; the only reason you’re still tired is because you stayed up too late.”
Leia grumpily extracted herself from her blanket and glowered at her father. He at least had a mug of tea in one hand and bag with donuts in the other.
“I was talking to my friend.”
“I know,” he said gingerly, “I understand, but we can’t miss the dedication ceremony.”
“Why do I have to be there?”
“Because it’s named after your mother, Leia.” He set the mug and donut on her bedside table, moving to the closet. “You want to make Governor Organa proud, don’t you.”
“She hasn’t been governor for four years,” Leia inspected the cup of tea, wishing for coffee. “You’re the Senator Organa.”
“Yes, but your favorite person will be there.”
“No, Senator Mothma is coming as well,” Leia burnt her tongue as she sucked down a gulp of tea too quickly. “Ah,” he leaned out of her closet, holding a dress up. “What do you think?”
“What’s the weather?”
“Cold and colder,” he disappeared, the dress with him. “Something warm, but fashionable. We’re all here to support your mother.”
“I know,” Leia wasn’t a morning person, but she could pretend to be for her parents. She picked up her tablet, and eyes the plethora of news alerts. “What happened last night?” She clicked one, a BBC link and perused the article.
“What happened?” Bail emerged, holding a few hangers worth of close, still beaming.
“A man was murdered,” Bail was across the room and at her side in a second. “in Naboo.”
“Good gosh,” Bail leaned over her shoulders, “Naboo’s Benedict Arnold is dead?”
“Prisoner Zero,” Leia muttered, picking up the first donut her fingers touched. “killed last night. I remember reading about him. He’s the one who tried to take over the country.”
“Yes, right about the time you were born. He was responsible for dozens of deaths, including the infant prince and princess. That was right after that enormous scandal when Queen Amidala married an American ex-marine.” He rubbed his beard. “They eloped, apparently the biggest scandal in Naboo since the invasion in 1940. Right after that, Zero tried to take power. I think he was apprehended by the Queen herself, and her husband. Story goes that she shot him, and he beat him senseless. Zero tried to sue them.”
“He tried to sue people he tried to murder?”
“Hmm, they were laughed out of court. Still, he’s been in prison this whole time.”
“I bet that was hard,” Leia frowned, opening another article. “I bet they wanted to kill him.”
“You know I’m a pacifist by nature,” Bail kissed her temple, “but if anything happened to my daughter, I would do something just as awful.”
“Thank you, Papa,” she leaned over, kissing stubble. “Aren’t you going to shave?”
“No, I am not. I’m told my beard looks very distinguished.”
“Nope,” she continued to scan the news, watching for anything else before Bail gently pulled it from her hands.
“Leia, you need to get dressed.”
“Fine,” she grabbed the clothes and vanished into her bathroom. “But can we go to the library?”
“Certainly, are you looking for a specific book?”
“Yes,” Leia emerged and Bail didn’t bother to hide his brightening smile. Leia was competent, intelligent, and amazing. He had the most amazing daughter in the world.
“Your mother will be so proud,” he said, “come, we should hurry. That way she has a chance to see you before the dedication ceremony.”
“You don’t have to fuss, Papa,” Leia rolled her eyes, but was pleased. It wasn’t often she got an entire day with her father. Their closer, personal moments were few and far between these days. “I have to grab my make-up case, don’t forget to bring the donuts.”
“I won’t. Let’s go before we’re late.”
Ahsoka Tano had become accustomed to a lot of things. Shouting, explosion, coffee lids that never seemed to hold, slow and fast internet, being hunted across several Eastern Asian countries, waiting for her girlfriend to get out of the shower, taking cold showers after her, eating half microwaved burritos, and occasionally dealing with her mentor’s problems. While he had never seemed to run out of problems, his life has been calm in the last decade.
So getting a call at one in the morning as she staked out an office building, on the phone only Anakin could access, was a little strange. She fished it out of her pocket, never taking her eyes off the target below.
“Hi,” she said, smiling as her camera shutter clicked, “congratulations on that bastard dying. Did you guys celebrate yet?”
“I’ve had a few shots,” Anakin admitted easily, his voice too-calm and controlled. It reminded her too much of the days in the desert, of the operations that followed. He didn’t sound like the conventionally attractive arm-candy/ house husband of a European royal he was supposed to be. He sounded like a captain who’d dragged them out of danger time and time again. “We broke out the wine you sent a few months ago.”
A bottle of wine that was worth a few million bucks, and had been liberated from a French aristocrat after he’d stiffed Ahsoka on her payment. She’d also taken a few other things, enough to cover her fee and the “emotional damage,” as well as blackmail to keep him from pursuing.
“You cracked a seal on a 200-year-old bottle of wine to celebrate him dying?”
“No, we took shots of vodka and some whiskey to celebrate him dying. We cracked the wine because we got other news.”
“Must have been big,” Ahsoka’s interest in the affair across the street wasn’t as interesting as what could have made the Naboo royals open an antique, illicit bottle of wine they’d promised never to drink. “Where do you want me to meet you?”
“You’ll have to come in,” Anakin said, “can’t tell you over the phone, but you need to get to Naboo as quickly as possible.”
“Quietly,” he murmured, “don’t let anyone see you. This is of the utmost importance, alright?”
“Need me to bring any presents?”
“Only your presence,” Anakin’s voice cracked with a smile she couldn’t see. “See you soon, Snips.”
“Bye, Skyguy.” Ahsoka shimmied down from her rooftop, after calling in a tip to the police. She had a few ways to get in and out of Naboo that would be reliable. It wasn’t a country that lacked smuggling because of a crack-down or some insanely tight border. Naboo didn’t get a lot of smuggling because the citizens in Naboo didn’t really want to smuggle. The crime scene was almost non-existent, had been since Palpatine had been arrested. “I’m coming.”
Chapter 6: Han Solo
Han Solo is learning a new trade and gets a job offer.
A Day Later
The book in Han’s hand weighed more than he wanted to admit, his grip was weak, and his hands were sweaty, but he didn’t move as he glared down at the student at the base of the ladder.
“Give me the book, Solo,” the other man hissed, deadly threat in his eyes.
Han frowned, mockingly thoughtful as he held tightly to the last copy in the library of the book they were both using for research. He hadn’t moved his arm, still hoisting it high, mostly for the drama of irritating the younger student.
“Are you researching the impact of smuggled artifacts with a specialization on the economy?” He blinked innocently.
“Yes,” Leopold King seethed, and wasn’t that a pretentious name? A 19-year-old prick with a rich family, complete with the stupid haircut, baby-face, pastel polos, and khaki shorts no matter the weather. Han hated everything about him, including his overly involved research paper. “Give me that book.”
“First come first serve,” Han finally lowered his hand. Leopold wasn’t the type of guy to give up easily or take no for an answer. If he tried to run, he had feeling Leopold was going to tackle him or get some friends to do it. “Don’t you have enough money to buy a couple of these books? Why are you chasing after me?”
“Give it!” All pretenses of calm vanished, Leopold surged forward up the stairs, grabbing the little railings as he did so. Han couldn’t help but think that the kid was an idiot as he ducked under the safety railing and skittered down the 10 or so feet of safety bracing and landed on the marble floor as lightly as a cat. His scuffed and worn boots hardly making a sound as he trotted down the row of shelves, laughing to himself. He could hear Leopold cussing, and clattering down and took off in pursuit of where he thought Han might be going. He probably didn’t expect Hand to loop back around the shelf, wait, and then climb back up the ladder to get the rest of his study material.
“Getting into trouble, Han?” A familiar voice wafted from across the shelf. Han moved a few volumes of books about Egyptian artifacts and smirked at Cad Bane.
“Always,” he glared at the older smuggler.
“I got a job for you,” Cad moved the matchstick around, idly chewing.
“Sorry,” Han shrugged, “I don’t do that anymore.”
“It’s lotta money, Solo.”
“Yeah, but I’m trying to go straight.”
“Guys like us can’t go straight. You tried, look where it got you, dishonorably discharged.”
“I’m not interested.” Han replaced the books he’d moved. “Fuck off.”
“Not even for a treasure hunt?”
“What treasure hunt?” Despite himself, he moved the books back, “what kind of treasure?”
“The client wants us to find some stuff his grandfather wanted to smuggle into the country.”
“Really, who’s the client?” Han glanced around to make sure none of the other archeology students were hanging around. They were in the clear, most of the taking the Friday afternoon to go drinking or relaxing.
“The boss,” Cad chewed on the matchstick, “knows you’ve got special skills. What with this new shiny education of yours, you’ve got a good chance of finding it.”
That sounded suspicious.
“What’s the catch?”
“You find this treasure the boss wants, you get an easy three mil, and he wiped away your debt, student and otherwise. You fuck up in any way; we kill you dead.”
“Right,” about a decade ago, Han would have been intimidated, scared even. Now, he only glared back at the criminal. “What are the details?”
“Knew you’d see if my way.” Cad winked, “meet up at the usual spot, ten tonight. Look sharp, and try not to embarrass the boss.”
“I’m bringing Chewie,” Han told him as the smuggler disappeared, and scoffed as he grabbed another promising looking book. He was going to get a head start on the essay if it killed him.
The usual spot was a shiny, expensive, and high-class bar where business executive plotted tax evasion, cheated on their wives, bought politicians, and did hard drugs. It wasn’t the place that Han would ever go to; he liked to drink with respectable criminal scum.
Jabba’s Palace was an invitation-only place where a martini could cost $20, with an extra large tip to make sure it wasn’t poisoned or drugged.
“How do I look?” Han straightened his tie as his best-friend picked lint off his suit.
“Like an idiot,” Chewie told him in Russian.
“Thanks,” Han pushed the car door and climbed out of the breaking down Voltswagon. His friend followed a moment later, somehow looking more rugged and handsome than Han. A fact that annoyed him to no end.
With one last glance over they trooped up the clubs front door, which was heavily guarded by ex-cops and ex-military.
“Han Solo,” he flashed a bright smile, “they’re expecting me.”
The man slipped out of the door, tall and bald, with such a sickening smile that Han felt his stomach turned. Bib Fortuna waved them up the stairs.
“He was expecting you a while ago,” Fortuna said, as Han bounced up the steps. “What took you?”
“Traffic, there was a wreck on the interstate.” Which was the absolute truth. It had been a mess, and it had taken them an hour to skirt around the mass of twisted metal and rubber. He made the sight of the cross. “A few people died.”
“A shame,” Fortuna drawled, visibly uncaring. “Hurry up.” They were escorted across the floor, and toward the back rooms where Jabba liked to hold court. It was crowded with a dozen people, all drinking and smoking. The two poles in the room were oddly empty, which suited him fine.
“What’s up, Jabba?” Han smirked, tucking his hands in his pockets. The enormously fat criminal, an insult to Al Capone, straightened from where he was leaning. Smoke billowed out of his mouth as he laughed.
“Han! How is your school going? Are you more valuable to me yet?”
“I’m always valuable, Jabba,” Han winked, “but not to you.”
“Ah, because you owe me money. Employees must gain skills to make their bosses more money, so I do not mind you taking a sabbatical to go back to school,” Jabba breathed a cloud of vapor into Han’s face, and it took all of his effort to not physically recoil. “But that is not why I’ve asked you to attend to me.” Han did make a face at that. “You’re a smuggler, a retrieval specialist, and I have need of you right now.” Jabba waved a fat, lazy hand, and people began to scatter. The hanger-ons all left in a rush until Jabba, Chewie, Han, and Cad were left behind.
“You know, my grandfather moved to America when he was young.” Jabba puffed thoughtfully, “but his father told him of the family treasure, an inheritance my father never got. You find this inheritance, bring it back, and you’ll be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams, Solo.”
“So?” Han shrugged, “what about my friend?”
“I’m touched,” Cad sneered, but Han jerked a thumb in Chewie’s direction.
“The same will go for your little friend,” Jabba told him, “but you have to find it, avoiding any authorities, and bring me this treasure back safely.”
“Where do we start?” This sounds too easy, the reward is too big, and the fact that Jabba’s still ignoring Cad Bane.
“Here,” Jabba reached under his seat, groaning as he twisted his body in unfamiliar ways. He pulled out a box and tossed it carelessly to Han.
“Careful,” Han snapped, having been conditioned by a terrifying TA on how to properly handle older objects. Somewhat bemused, Jabba leaned back in his seat and watched as Han turned the box over in his hands a few times. It was old, solid, with faint markings he itched to shade in and figure out. But his equipment was still sitting in his locker in the labs, so he would have to make due.
The latch lifted easily, and musty smell of paper and dust wafted out. Frowning at the small lettering, Han pulled a spare set of reading glasses from his jacket pocket and decided to ignore the chuckles from Jabba and Cad.
They were an interesting sort of letters, and most frustratingly, written in German. The dates were interesting, he leafed through them and noted that that oldest was 1946. It was fascinating.
“Just letters?” Han asked, looking for as many clues as he could, “Anything else?”
“No,” Jabba’s tone was cool, and Han knew that he was hiding something. This didn’t add up, but now he had a case. Maybe something he could write for credit.
“So what can you tell us, Solo?”
“I need to do research,” came the automatic answer. At their irritation, he shrugged, “I can’t read German.”
“He moved from Peru,” Jabba told him.
“Then why isn’t this in Spanish or,” the ex-smuggler, turned archeology student, hummed thoughtfully. There were a couple of potential answers, and he didn’t like any of them.
“How long with this take?” The gangster demanded.
“I don’t know; you don’t happen to have a home address for where he moved from?”
“No, only that he moved from Peru.”
“Well, I can’t go digging up half of Peru for some buried treasure,” Han still didn’t look at the man, “that requires special permits. If I’m going to narrow down where he lives, then I have to do research. Is this all you have from your grandfather?”
“Yes,” the older criminal moved around, almost uncomfortable. “Find my inheritance, and you won’t have to worry about your debt ever again.”
“Yeah,” he closed the box up tight, tucking it under his arm as he made a quick about-face and made his escape.
In the car, heart hammering slightly, he began to leaf through the letters again.
“Do you think you can find it?” Chewie asked.
“I think so, but I’ve got to translate these letters first. There’s always a chance the old man didn’t write anything about this inheritance.”
“Must be worth a lot, if he’s willing to pay us both that much.”
“Must be,” that didn’t narrow down the field. Artifacts and stolen goods were a several billion dollar industries. “I gotta make sure these are authentic, translate them.”
“Once you translate them?”
“Then we’re going to be doing more research,” Han pulled off his glasses.
“The movies make archeology look a lot more…fun.”
“Yeah, but mostly it’s research,” Han grinned, “paperwork, permits, and dig-sites. If I can document this whole thing, then I could probably use it. It depends on what the inheritance is.”
“Be careful, Jabba is going to betray us.”
“Probably,” he wasn’t too concerned. It wasn’t the first time that had happened. “What do you want to do?”
“Leave you to your research,” Chewie answered as he shifted lanes and flipped off another driver whose lights weren’t on. “I don’t want to be bored.”
“It’s interesting,” Han told him seriously, and let his head thunk against the headrest when a police siren and lights lit up behind them. “Fuck.”
“Fuck,” Chewie agreed, and pulled over on the interstate, reaching for his wallet.
“Don’t bother,” Han rubbed the heels of his palm into forehead, “it’s the FBI fuck.”
A frowning woman knocked on the driver’s side glass, and the Russian obligingly rolled the window down.
“Gentleman, strange to see you two here.”
“Not as strange as it is to see you, Agent Salone,” Han told her cheerfully. “What do you want?”
“Going to one of Jabba’s parties is skating on pretty thin ice, Solo.” Her dark eyes moved from man to man. “Going to give me a reason to arrest you for real this time?”
“I’m pretty sure my face is reason enough for you to arrest me, Agent.”
“That’s true, so, what did he want? “
“To hire me, so far it isn’t illegal.”
“You aren’t a registered PI.”
“Yeah, but giving me an old box of letter isn’t enough for an arrest warrant for either of us. So if you want to bag Jabba and you want my help doing it, you’d best leave us alone for now.”
“You belong behind bars, Solo.”
“I’ve been behind bars,” Han thought longingly of his impounded plane. “Come on, Salone. Chewie was even driving the speed limit, what do you want from us tonight?”
“We’re watching you, Solo,” Salone told him, brushing a stray hair from her eyes, “one reason.” She nodded meaningfully, before retreating to her own vehicle.
“That’s got to count as intimidation,” Han groused as she drove back onto the interstate.
“Cops are the worst criminals,” Chewie answered, “but if Jabba wants to keep this out of the law, you could end up back in prison.”
“We both could, but I’ve got a feeling Jabba’s going to shoot us before then. He’s a miser, and he’s willing to shell out that much for some old trinket. He’s not a sentimental guy, so whatever he wants is valuable.”
“I said this.”
“I know, but I’m working through the options in my head. Come on, if I’m going to be going to the authentication office I’m going to need sleep. That woman is an absolute snake.”
“You make being a student sound worse than being a soldier.”
“Nah, if you report your superiors misbehavior something actually happens." They shared an ugly laugh as they drove back to their small apartment.
Chapter 7: Parliament
Ahsoka gets a mission and Padme prepares to negotiate.
“Hey, stupid head!”
“What?” Anakin didn’t look up from the machine he was working on but shifted a bit to let Artoo take the stool beside him. “You know that you shouldn’t be calling me that. I’m a royal.”
“A royal pain in the ass, maybe.
“I walked right into that one,” he frowned, and finally looked up. Artoo’s wrinkled and weather-beaten face shifted into a smile. “What’s up?”
“I’m here to make sure you’re okay and to tell you have a marriage counselor appointment in a few hours.”
“I remember, I have an app on my phone that reminds me of these things. I don’t need a silver-fox like you coming back to bother me. Or are you on your way from flirting with the steward?”
“No,” Artoo lied, “that man need to chill out. I don’t care if he used to work for the British royals. This is Naboo.”
“And we stand on a lot of ceremony or haven’t you seen Padme’s ceremonial clothes.”
“He still needs to calm down,” Artoo shrugged, “are you doing okay?”
“Why is everyone asking me that?” Anakin put down his soldering tool, and flipped it off, “what’s wrong?”
“Anakin, you took the twins death really hard. I mean really hard.” The prince looked away, sighing.
“You slept, you didn’t eat, and you both took it really hard. Which, no one can possibly blame you. I mean, you lost your arm. It’s just, that with the new evidence that they’re alive…I don’t want you to do.”
“Yeah, plus you’ve always been.”
“What?” Anakin glared as Artoo shrugged.
“Sensitive, which makes me worry. People are worried because they care. You should have seen Threepio.”
“You know you can’t keep calling him that.”
“When he lightens up, he’ll get a different nickname, but he ordered a bunch of your favorite foods. He’s got that American cookbook out; he was fussing over the chili.”
“Really? I love chili.”
“Yeah, everyone does, but he’s re-made it three times because he wants you to have comfort food. The handmaidens are even worried, not that you can tell.”
“I’m not worried about me,” Anakin picked up a chunk of steel, fiddling with it. “She’s…too closed off. Like she’s too careful to be too hopeful. If this doesn’t pan out, I’m afraid of what it’ll do to her…what it’ll do to me. Hell, I wouldn’t blame her if she.”
“She’s not going to toss you out, Ani. She loves you.”
“Love only goes so far. Our children,” his voice cracked, “the twins were so perfect. Even the chance that they’re alive feels like too much. We buried their memories ten years ago. If they’re still alive, they’re 17. They’re in high school.”
“Ani, Ani, we’re looking for Fett and Ahsoka is on her way. Come on, Ani. You’re not alone; you’re never alone.” Artoo moved to hug him on instinct, and he leaned in, his breath shuddering as he tried to keep himself from crying further.
“Thanks, Artoo,” Anakin chuckled wetly. “I guess I am a little over-sensitized right now. Last night I cried when I got a paper-cut.”
Artoo swore softly in Spanish, refusing to let his younger friend go. “I’m not going to pretend that everything's going to be okay, mijo, but we’ll all be here.”
“Yeah,” he rubbed his smarting eyes, untangling himself from Artoo’s arms, “I can’t keep crying like this. We have a public statement to make tomorrow, and I can’t be seen with red eyes. People will think I’m drunk.”
“From celebration. I was in a bar last night, and there was a hell of a party. I think the whole country is celebrating his death.”
“It should be tasteless, but I really don’t give a shit. You know, I gotta be hopeful. That we’ve got confirmation, they’re alive. Jango seems to think so, and he’s the best wet-work guy in the business.”
“How are the investigations into his agents going?”
“We’re finding a lot of blood. They were all killed by something. A few suicides, a few murders, accidents, Jango was going after them with a vengeance.”
“You should see his kid; he’s not a pushover either.”
“It’s what you get when you mess with an assassin's son. Too bad you didn’t get the chance to shoot that old ball-sac.”
“I was hoping I would get the chance. But I’ll take his murder.”
“Do you think Luke likes chili? I mean, if he doesn’t that’s okay. What about Leia, is she’s a girls girl or is she a tomboy. I wonder if they got my height. Maybe Padme will be the shortest in the family. That would be funny.”
“I’m not sure,” a new voice echoed from the back. Both Anakin and Artoo cheered when Ahsoka sidled into the workroom. “but what’s this about twins?”
“They’re alive, and we need you to find Jango Fett because he knows where they are.”
Ahsoka paused a few steps away and blinked rapidly. “What the fuck?”
“Jango Fett betrayed Palpatine,” Anakin told her because his former student obviously didn’t believe him. “And he saved the twins, smuggled them out of the country. We find him; we can find the twins.”
“Alive? As in…seriously. Jango Fett smuggled two babies out of the palace and out of the country before anyone could notice?”
“It’s a little hard to believe,” Anakin stood, “but we have probable cause. Come on, Snips, don’t doubt me now. Let’s go talk to the security director, and he’ll fill you in.”
“I want to talk to Padme,” Ahsoka hugged him, face still twisted in confusion.
“She’ll be out of a meeting with parliament soon. They want to find Jango Fett, not sure if they want to arrest him for award him.”
“That is a damn good reason to break open that wine,” she agreed, “but Jango’s been underground for almost a decade.”
“He resurfaced long enough to break into a secure prison to shoot Palpatine in the face,” Anakin replied wryly, “and no one matching his description boarded a plane, train, or passed through any of the checkpoints at the borders.”
“Knowing Fett, he could already in Aruba, drinking a mimosa and enjoying himself.”
“Exactly, come on. We’re going to talk to a few people.”
“People who don’t like the Prince Consorts, disreputable American friends?”
“Exactly,” Anakin threw an arm over her shoulders, guiding her out. “Now, you have to be careful around Padme. She’s extremely tense about the whole situation.”
“Like your not?”
“I absolutely am,” he admitted readily, “come on.”
Padme wasn’t sure if the member of her parliament wanted to find Jango Fett to imprison him, or to award him for the timely murder of the man who’d killed seven of their number. The fluttering and arguments and occasional shots being taken were amusing and irritating in equal measure.
“That discussion, my friends,” Padme's voice rose of the chattering, “is about the deal we are willing to offer Jango for pertinent information about the location of Prince Luke and Princess Leia! We should not be discussing,” she glowered at Lando Calrissian the Fourth who was unabashedly shaking another martini, “how best to burn an effigy of Prisoner 0.”
“I think hay would work best,” Calrissian winked, “but wood works too.” He poured his martini, plucked an olive out of the jar on the table with a toothpick. After a moment of surveying his drink, he downed it in one go. “But Jango has committed too many international crimes for us to offer him protection. “
“He also won’t stop committing crimes just because we did so.” Padme turned to another member, “he’s wanted in 18 countries, including Puerto Rico.”
“We should simply offer not to prosecute him,” another one spoke up, “and that should be enough. Our agents are some of the best in the world, and Interpol would love to have a crack at him.”
“Threatening him is not advisable,” Padme told them shortly, “he is the only one we know of who has information about the twins. I won’t have them put in danger, but if need be, we will use excessive force.”
“Perhaps we offer not to pursue him,” Calrissian was mixing another drink, this one for the member to his right. “What is it he wants? Criminals like valuables, right.”
“We cannot pay Fett an enormous amount of money. It would damage our reputation, as well as implicate us in Prisoner 0’s murder.”
“Perhaps we should draw up a list of thing we are willing to offer Fett, and let the agents who find him pick which one would work. Or we could ask him.”
That wasn’t a bad idea, and Padme sighed her headache mounting. What could be offered in exchange for the information on the twins? Her Chief of Police, long experienced, was totally confident that Jango knew where the children were. Even so, they did several DNA tests to make sure that it really was Palpatine's body and if the bullet hadn’t finished the job, the cremation that followed definitely would.
Her hand trembled in her sleeve as she considered the reality of her situation. It felt as terrifying and wonderful as she thought it might. Her greatest tormenter was dead, and her children were alive. It was possible that they could bring them home. That she could hold them in her arms once again, learn who they’d become.
By the time they were done, the meeting had run over by several hours, and she had a full-blown headache. Thankfully, they had ironed out what to do.
“Your majesty,” from parliament to a meeting with her security team worsened her headache, which only slightly lessened when Ahsoka Tano pushed her way through the crowd.
“Ahsoka,” grateful for the momentary distraction, she held out her arms, pulling the younger woman into a tight hug. “Thank you for coming as quickly as you did. We are in desperate need for your expertise.”
“I was taught by Skyguy,” Ahsoka grinned, “how are you? He told me what happened, are you alright?”
“I’m doing better now that you’re here. Ahsoka, you know the Security Director?”
“Yep,” the American winked, “what’s the gig?”
“We need you, and a member of our team to track down Jango Fett. It is suspected he has the location of the prince and princess. We need that information as soon as possible.”
“Parliament is willing to deal with Jango, and exchange what might be necessary for the information,” Padme added smoothly, catching Anakin’s eyes. He stood at the back of the room. “But we must find him first.”
“Agreed, Agent Tano, this is Agent Lux. He will be assisting you in this case.” Lux Bonteri was a handsome man with a sly smile and slicked back hair. “He has the authority to negotiate with Fett, within reason, for the information we’re seeking.”
“We won’t be arresting him?” Ahsoka asked, and the collected Naboo authorities shook their heads.
“It would be pointless if we did,” Padme sighed, making her way over to one of the only seats in the cramped room. “He managed to break into one of our most secure facilities, breaking out wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“Gotcha.” Lux joined Ahsoka by the Security Director. “I assume there’s a debrief packet?”
“Here,” Lux’s soft voice was heard above the rest of the group. Padme closed her eyes, clutching back at Anakin’s hand when it landed gently on her shoulder.
“My friends,” people stopped moving, “I cannot stress how important this is. Not just to myself and husband,” Anakin’s smile was as warm as it always was, “but important for the country. There were so many dark days 17 years ago. It felt as if we lost part of our identity, part of our future when the twins were dead. There is a chance to regain some of our hope and the drive for future if we can locate them. Agents,” Ahsoka and Lux both straightened. “This is a monumental task; it could very well be dangerous. If you do not wish to participate, now is the time voice your doubts.”
“I won’t stop until we find them,” Lux pushed his chin out, “your majesty.”
“I still have exclusive spoiling rights as their cool aunt,” Ahsoka told her, cracking a stiffly relaxed smile.
“I realize this is a bit unorthodox, given your current occupation.” Padme usually pretended she didn’t know what Ahsoka was up to. But having a thief, con-artist, freelancing PI, and occasionally crasher of museum galas help in a Naboo investigation was unusual. “But your underworld contacts will be most helpful.”
“Everyone is going to spot the cop at fifty paces,” Ahsoka jerked a thumb at Lux, “but don’t worry, we’ll find Fett.”
Chapter 8: Letters
Letters lead Han on a new adventure.
Han was deeply aware of his two stalkers. One from the FBI and one from Jabba’s crew. Cad Bane had vanished somewhere last night, and probably wouldn’t re-surface until Han had a lead. But the authenticator had given her assent, dating the letters and ink for the years they were dated with. The translation was harder though, Han was forced to bride one of the German studies TAs with an entire box of donuts to go through the letters.
When he had the letters scanned, and digitally preserved, as well as their translated counterparts; Han decided to stick it to Jabba and entered the letters in the school’s archives.
“Why?” He accepted a sandwich from Chewie when he slid into one of the seats beside him. The other students had cleared the small study room hours ago. “Would a German named who calls himself a colonel run away to Peru?”
“Why?” His friend knew him well enough that he waited for Han to elaborate.
“1945, the war ends. A year later one of these letters is written. So, this guy, Jabba’s great-grandfather, is Nazi-scum. The letters talk about the climate of Peru, whining a lot of the time and drawing comparisons between his home. His home, around that time of years, which would have been coldish. At least not as hot as it was in Lima.”
“So, he’s from Germany, but he’s talking about another home. One in the mountains, “overlooking the Swiss” so he’s probably living in the Alps. Now,” Han picked up a copy of an old map and then a book with a modern atlas. Look at the countries along the Alps. There are six countries that border Switzerland, one of them is Germany, but we know he’s somewhere else. So, he’s writing in reference, in the first letter, to one of the countries invaded during the war, along with the Alp border.”
Chewie nodded and traced the outline of Switzerland. “So, which is it?”
“Not sure, he doesn’t talk about any country by name, except Peru. He mentions his homeland a lot.”
“How do you know he’s Nazi-scum?”
“He’s an officer with an “illustrious career” and he runs away to Peru with some treasure that Jabba thinks is his inheritance. Something expensive.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be looking for the inheritance, not…whoever Jabba’s great-grandfather was?”
“Yeah,” Han studied the maps and shrugged, “but Jabba was being cagey, and the answers are basically spelled out here.”
“If you know what to look for,” Chewie put in, and Han nodded.
“How was work at the shop?”
“Fine, busy. Potholes are breaking a lot of tires.” Han’s oldest friend picked up a letter, “any luck in locating the treasure?”
“Not yet, but I think I can start narrowing down where he left it and what it could be. A lot of national treasure were stolen during the war, plus a lot of personal stuff. There could be a list of stuff that’s still missing.”
“It would have to be valuable,” Chewie reminded him, “above a certain price-tag.”
“Something that could be transported across borders stored long-term,” Han muttered incoherently as he delved into the next few letters. “I haven’t seen any mention of his real name, but if we find it maybe we could figure out where he was really stationed, then we could figure out which one of the countries he stole from.”
“Han,” Chewie leaned in close, gripping his shoulders tightly, he switched to Russian. “You know that Jabba won’t let us live.”
“Yes,” Han muttered back in French, “but we’re on the trail of stolen good, possibly artifacts. Do you know how many international laws are tied up in the illegal movement of antiques and artifacts? How strict those laws are, and the fact that people are still uncovering things stolen by the Nazis? We blow the cover on this, the right way, we get a shit-ton of money from legal sources, and we take down Jabba.”
“We are good criminals, Han. We were the best smugglers in the business. We liked Cuba.”
“Yeah, but I’m not living the rest of my life as someone’s scapegoat,” it was an old argument. Han hadn’t turned from crime because he’d discovered religion or had a turn of conscience, but because he’d been burnt by too many people and too often.
“I understand, but this is Jabba. He is dangerous. He will kill both of us, take this treasure, and buy whatever he wants.”
“Yeah, but this is a way out. We uncover whatever the hell this is we can get out. Salone wants info on Jabba, how about wanting to smuggle stolen goods?”
“So, there is a chance?”
“There’s a chance,” Han replied, “if we’re very, very, very careful.” With that, Han switched back to English, “we need to find some old maps of Lima and Cuzco.”
Chapter 9: Searching
The search for the prince and princess take the agents to a Berlin Nightclub.
“A nightclub?” Lux Bonteri couldn’t look more like an undercover cop if he tried. Well, no, he was very good at looking like he fit in. His problem was that Ahsoka was too skilled to see anything but a cop when she looked at him.
That didn’t guarantee that everyone else would notice.
Across the street, busy with whizzing traffic, the nightclub seemed to bounce from the music. A line of people crowded at the front door, dressed in party clothes and some of them already drinking. She and Lux were both dressed to blend in, but he didn’t look too comfortable in his tight leather pants.
“It’s the best place for information right now.”
“But why a nightclub?”
“There’s someone in there’s who is the best at getting information, and she’s got dealings with every criminal in the world. She knows everyone.”
“Who is this woman?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Ahsoka straightened her bowtie, “follow my lead and don’t get punched.”
“Right,” he nodded seriously, and a limp bit of hair fell over his eyes. She shook her head, and moved across the street; smirking when the bouncer let them in without a word. Soon, they were mashed into a crowd of dancing bodies of dancing bodies, and people carrying drinks and food around the bar. It was an enormous nightclub and nothing like the ones Ahsoka usually liked to frequent. Thankfully, it was only one of the owner’s clubs. Her older clubs for her older clientele were in different cities. But this one fit into Berlin perfectly.
“Ahsoka,” a tiny Japanese woman seized her elbow, pulling her to the wall were space and minimal privacy could be found. “My men told me you were here. What brings you to my club?”
“I’m glad you were in Berlin, Maz,” Ahsoka leaned down and kissed her cheeks, hugging her. “And not in Tokoyo. That would be too far to travel right now.”
“You look tired,” she looked around the former spy, “why do you have a man with you? Where is Riyo? You didn’t break up with her, did you? I like that girl. Hmmm, he looks like a cop.”
“That’s because he is one,” Ahsoka grabbed a drink from a passing tray, showing it at Lux. “You need to blend in, idiot.”
“Right,” he took a hasty sip, making a face as he did so.
“What brings you to Berlin?”
“We’re not interested in Berlin,” Ahsoka told her, “we need to talk to you.”
“Oh?” Maz glanced between Lux and Ahsoka, “hmmm, why?”
“That would be telling. We need some privacy.” The thumping bass was shaking her teeth, and normally she might enjoy it, but there were literally lives on the line. “This is important, Maz. It’s not just me asking.”
Maz expression shifted a bit, and she nodded. “Follow me, my friends. We’ll go upstairs where there’s some room to breathe. You, pretty boy, do you want something different to drink?”
“No, thank you.”
Maz tugged Ahsoka across the dance floor and up a cast iron spiral staircase. She took a moment to glance down on the dancefloor, hoping she might catch a glimpse of her quarry — no such luck.
When they were in Maz’s inner sanctum, Lux refused to sit but took up guard at the door.
“So, what is so important that you have to drag me away from my guests, eh?”
“We’re looking for someone,” Ahsoka gauged the tension in the older woman’s face. “Jango Fett.”
“HA!” Lux jumped at the bark of laughter. “That one! What do you need him for?”
“Max, do you know where he is?”
“I might be willing to part with the information I do have if you tell me why you want him. He’s been underground for a while now.”
“That is classified,” Lux interjected, but Ahsoka took the liberty to ignore him.
“He has information about the death of Prisoner Zero.”
“Prisoner Zero? Ah, I saw that in the news. Terrible business, everyone here got free drinks that night. It was a nice party.”
“Well, he was here two days ago. Spoke to me, said he might be heading to America.”
“Where in America?”
“Oh, he mentioned an old city. I think he knew he was going to be followed. Why would he surface after so long? Hmmm?”
“You tell me,” Ahsoka didn’t waver, and Maz laughed.
“He said he wanted to see Carpenter’s Hall.”
“Great, thanks.” Ahsoka jumped to her feet and paused when Maz raised her eyebrows. “Yes, I’ll send you an invitation to my wedding with Riyo. If she accepts.”
“She will accept, I have too much money riding her not to.”
“I wish you wouldn’t bet on my love life.”
“Do you have any idea how much money we all lost when your teacher married the Queen of Naboo? Too much.”
“You all built a very nice hospital.”
“We did, but I don’t like to be blindsided,” Maz waved a hand. “I want to know what happens when you find Fett.”
“I’ll see what we can tell you.” Ahsoka grabbed Lux, dipping out of the club as quickly as she could.
If Jango had smuggled both of the babies into America, there was possibly a paper trail to follow.
“Why am I here if you’re not going to let me do my job?” Lux demanded, and Ahsoka whirled on him.
“Listen,” she snarled, “your job is work through the law enforcement, and to talk to the cops we encounter. We need to make a call to the FBI and tell them we’re coming and we’re going to need cooperation.”
“What will you do?” The Naboo agent pulled out his phone as they both clattered into the rental car.
“We need airline tickets to Philadelphia,” she eased into traffic, hating how she couldn’t teleport to the U.S.
“So what is Carpenter hall?”
“It’s where the signed the Declaration of Independence,” Ahsoka answered, cursing under her breathe, “and Jango’s leaving us a trail. He knew someone was going to follow him.”
“You happen to know the building where they signed that document off the top of your head? I thought the American education system was worse than that.”
“It is,” Ahsoka didn’t enjoy the patronizing and smug glance he gave her, “I watched National Treasure a few weeks ago.”
“Yep,” there were a lot of reason she hated working with and for Europeans. “Now shut up and get a hold of the FBI. Get a hold of your embassy in New York, tell them they might be having some important guests soon.”
“You think one of them could be in Philadelphia?”
“It’s a possibility if Jango’s leading us there. She wasn’t joking when she said that he’s been underground most of the last two decades. He’s been making a mess of everything for Zero, but he’s fixing things too. Still, he hasn’t been about and about. There hasn’t been a decent sighting of him since.”
“I hate playing politics,” Lux sighed, but thankfully he had enough manners not to complain further. “Miss Tano, why would you be asked to help with this investigation?”
“Because I have the contacts,” she glowered at the other drivers, “and a cop wouldn’t know the right places to look for someone like Jango. I don’t know any decent criminal that would give you the time of day even if you did find a lead.”
“I understand that much, Miss Tano, but your history with Prince Anakin is what troubles me.”
“I served under him when we were both in the military.”
“Yes,” Lux gripped his seat tightly as she swerved the car into heavy, fast-moving traffic, “please be careful. Diplomatic immunity doesn’t cover criminal negligence. But the nature of Prince Anakin’s departure from the military, as well as yours, raises a few concerns.”
“Let me stop you right there,” Ahsoka’s grip on the steering wheel tightened. “I was framed for that bombing, alright.”
“I am aware,” his smooth tones faltered as Ahsoka glowered heavily at him. “But you must understand, You went AWOL to clear your name, and Prince Anakin was sent to hunt you down.”
“We found the evidence, didn’t we.”
“Yes, you were cleared, and Prince Anakin helped, but this leads me to consider that you are a criminal.”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“So why would you be assigned a case, such as this one, when you have shown a deliberate habit of ignoring the law. You may have the contacts, but you don’t have the respect for the law that the police uphold.”
Without taking her eyes off the road, Ahsoka reached over and slapped Agent Bonteri across the head; punching him to take the edge off her frustration.
“Excuse you!” He exclaimed, trying to bat away her arm, “stop that.”
“Listen here, Eurotrash, I don’t give a shit about the laws. You’re right; I went AWOL because I knew I was innocent and every law on the fucking planet would have convicted me and left me for dead. No one would have helped me, because the law was supposed to take care of me. The law didn’t do shit. I’ve seen the law uphold criminals who will steal millions times more than I ever will, and people who murder for fun and because the law will always side with them. I’m on this case because the law doesn’t matter to me, but justice does.”
“Ah,” he paused, and it was clear he wasn’t about to apologize. She rolled her eyes.
“Call the Feds, idiot.” She ordered and pulled into a parking garage with a neat pit maneuver that left several drivers cursing behind her. “I’ve got to get us plane tickets.”
Chapter 10: Flight Plan
Han and Chewie head off on their adventure.
“Chewie!” The Russian didn’t flinch as the door was slammed open, bounced off the wall and swung shut. “SHIT Chewie,” Han pushed through the door, eyes wild and looked like he hadn’t slept in several days. “We need to go to Peru!”
“Now?” He moved the eggs around the skillet and glanced back at his girlfriend.
“Hey!” Han paused, baffled by her presence. “Destiny?”
“My name is actually Hannah,” she told him, “what’s in Peru?”
“Um?” The cozy domestic sight was strange in a normally bachelor apartment. “We’re going to hike Machu Picchu?”
“Demyan, why is your boyfriend lying to me?” Hannah sipped her coffee with a grin when Han sputtered.
“He does not know any better,” he paused cooking long enough to pull his young friend closer and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “He is sorry.”
“I am not!” Han exclaimed, rubbing at his head, “and you need to shave. There’s no way a lady likes that huge beard of yours.” He floundered out of the tiny kitchen and into the living area. “I’m going to pack!”
“So, what is in Peru?”
“Don’t know,” Chewie lied, and he switched to Russian. “Did you clear this with your professors?”
The answer came in French, “Yes! I’m even getting an extension on that damn paper.”
“Do you two have to do this?” Hannah rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to sell you out. We’ve been friends for years.”
“You should learn French,” Han told her, scrambling back into the kitchen to grab a roll of duct tape from the drawer. “Or Russian.”
“You can’t speak Russian, and he can’t speak French.”
“Don’t have to speak it, I can understand Russian just fine. He understands French, so it’s great to confuse people with.”
“It confuses me,” she complained, “you don’t need to confuse me.”
“Sorry,” Han leaned over and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. He switched back to French. “Chewie, we need to go as soon as possible. Hera’s at the airport, she’s got the Ghost fueling and ready to take off when we get there. Flight plan is cleared.”
“Already?” The eggs were dumped unceremoniously onto a plate and shoved in front of his girlfriend.
“Yep, hurry up with the packing!” The former smuggler handed her a few crisp bills.
“Han Solo, I am not a prostitute.”
“And I’d never imply that you were, this is so you’ll tidy up the apartment and make sure we don’t accidentally blow the whole building up with a gas leak. Sorry about the short notice, feel free to steal one of Chewie’s shirts too. If Cad Bane comes by later, tell him we’re driving up to Boston to talk to one of the professors at Berklee.”
Hannah shrugged and nodded, tucking into her breakfast as the two men rushed about. Their frantic packing came to a pause when they both rushed out the front door with a final goodbye and left her with an empty apartment smelling faintly of eggs.
“Why would you put us in this danger? Why taken Syndulla’s plane?”
“Because Jabba was going to book up a flight somewhere, he could box us in, and we need to shake his goons before we land in Lima. I’ve got appointments to keep with a few people in Peru.”
“You have lead?”
“A couple and I think I’ve narrowed down where the old bastard was stationed. It’s either In Naboo or France. “
“So, there is actually a registry of things missing from both countries!” Han all but bounced in the driver's seat.
“You are very excited,” Chewie observed, and Han shrugged to affect nonchalance he probably wasn't feeling.
“Just doing stuff,” he muttered, “using a degree that they told me was useless.” His brown eyes sparkled with excitement. “I bet I could find the holy grail if I really wanted to.”
Chewie kept his thoughts to himself as they pulled into the small airstrip and parked the car in one of the older hangers. The Ghost, piloted by one Hera Syndulla, was obviously ready to fly, its pilot waiting just inside the control center.”
“Han! Chewie!” The former Senegal national stood with difficulty that was explained when she’d moved around the counter, and they caught sight of her protruding stomach. “You’ve kept me waiting!”
“Sorry,” Chewie accepted her hug, kissing her cheeks with genteel manners that Han usually gagged at. “You know how he gets.”
“Of course,” Hera smiled.
“Congratulations,” Han hadn't taken his eyes off her stomach, “you look like you’ve swallowed the moon.”
“Han!” Chewie reached over, smacking his friend’s head before glancing apologetically at the pilot.
“Sorry,” Han lied, “but this should be an old hat for you by now. How are Ezra and Sabine?”
“At school right now, thankfully. Ezra was furious to hear I was going on a trip without him. You know how he gets.”
“Did Sabine send in any of her applications for art school?” Han asked as they carried their bags toward the plane.
“Yes, but it is still early to hear back from any of them. We’re hoping for one on the east coast to accept her, but we’ll be happy to send her to California if need be.”
Conversation died until they were taxing down the runway, Han having stolen the co-pilot’s seat. Their headsets crackled as they leveled at cruising altitude.
“We’ll be picking Kanan up when we land in New Mexico,” Hera told him, “he’ll be flying us the rest of the way to Lima.”
“How is he doing?”
“He’s going baby crazy,” she told him, “and he’s been picking out jumpers for the baby and reading up on modern baby theory. He gave me a two-hour lecture on gender-roles and gendered colors, and they ’re terrible.”
“How was that?”
“I agree with him. You know, for all of the children we’ve fostered, this is our first baby.”
“You must be excited.”
“Absolutely,” Hera flashed him a bright smile, “I’m surprised you didn’t fly the Falcon down. It would be cheaper.”
“Yeah, I got my reasons,’ Han didn’t elaborate.
“But don’t you have to save for school?”
“Does everyone know that I’m in school now?” Han demanded, and the other two began to laugh. “Can’t a man have a little privacy?”
“When one of the best smugglers in the business drops out to go to college, everyone hears about it,” their pilot winked at him through her thick flying goggles. “Besides, aren’t you just getting the degree to smuggle bigger and better things?”
“No,” Han protested, “I’m out of the smuggling gig. I’m going to be an archeologist.”
“Why archeology?” Silence, save for the plane and the rush of wind, fell for several minutes.
“Already learned a lot when I was a smuggler. Definitely learned a lot when I was in prison and had nothing to read but those history books some school donated.”
“His minor is in teaching,” Chewie interjected.
“You’re kidding,” her laughter crackled in their headsets and the object of her amusement hunkered down in his seat. “Han Solo, a teacher, shiny degree and all.”
Used to the ribbing from criminals and friends alike, Han ignored them.
“Do you have the field journal?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it. Professor Hamill said that a good archeologist keeps a detailed field journal. Went to Barnes and Nobles and splurged on one of the fancy leather ones.”
“I thought you might have forgotten it,” Chewie shook his head as he opened it, despite Han’s glare. “In the rush to pack.”
“Rush to pack? Han chartered this flight two days ago.”
“He didn’t tell me until we were already late.”
“You, Han Solo, are lucky to have such an understanding boyfriend,” Hera’s amusement was clear even over the static of the headsets. “I’ve kicked Kanan out of bed for less.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he rolled his eyes, “I’m a lucky fellow. I get it. Can we focus on flying right now?” He subsided at his friend's laughter.
Chapter 11: Enter Jango
Leia crosses paths with a man she doesn't know, while Ahsoka followed Jango to the US.
Growing up the daughter of a state governor and now Senator, Leia had learned to spot a tail and every breed of stalking paparazzi there was. She’d been trained to notice people, their quirks and clothes, as well as recurring faces in the crowd that were trying to blend in. That combined with an uncanny ability to know when someone was watching her, Leia figured out she was being followed pretty quickly.
He was tall, with dark skin and hair, with a stare that reminded her of the soldiers she’d met. His silver and gray suit fit in with the crowd around him, blending with politicians and donors with ease. The only remarkable thing about him, besides his distinctively military stance, was a deep blue scarf hanging around his neck.
He fit in well here, and he’d fit in well in the crowded coffee shop she’d been to yesterday, and he’d blended seamlessly with the group of Secret Service and other bodyguards the day before yesterday. Of course, he had changed how he’d looked. Probably applied a little make-up to hide distinctive features, and knew how body language changed his appearance.
“Leia?” She glanced up at her father. “Are you alright?”
“We’re being followed,” she told him, turning her back to the man in case he could read lips.
“Dangerous?” He visibly struggled not to go on high alert, but there was no question that the guards hadn’t heard them. Bail Organa wore a type an earpiece in case someone tired to threaten him in private at one of these events, which had happened too many times so far.
“Ex-military,” she whispered, “silver and gray suit with the blue scarf. I’ve seen him around the past few days. He was at the coffee shop yesterday, and he was with the guards the day before.”
“Alright,” he set a hand on her shoulder, “it’s alright, Leia.”
“Papa, you could be in danger.”
“This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been stalked,” Bail answered, “security knows now.”
“Good,” Leia glanced at the enormous metal flower vase in the middle of the room, watching the reflection of the strange man. He was gone, and she caught the tail end of his coat vanish into the crowd. “He’s gone.”
“Don’t worry, security will follow him out. If all else fails, they can pull of the security tapes from outside and get an ID.”
“I’m not worried,” Leia told him, “just…”
“Worried,” her father guided her to the table where her mother was waiting. “Breha, there’s a small security concern.”
“Mama,” Leia took the seat beside her, “are you alright? You’re not pushing yourself too much, are you?”
“I’m not made of glass,” Breha Organa smiled at her small family, “I think I can manage a full day of events. You haven’t beaten me at this game yet, Bail.”
“I never could,” Bail leaned close to kiss her cheek, “but I need to speak with security.”
“So, who was it?” Leia turned from watching the door and the other party-goers to her mother.
“I don’t know, I’ve noticed him over the last few days. I have no idea who he is.”
“Hmm, he could be a reporter,” but the former governor of Pennsylvania didn’t look convinced. A life-long politician who had helped train Leia in the art of reading people; she had confidence in her daughter.
“I hope it’s nothing,” Leia said, wishing that she could be anywhere but at the party at the moment. It wasn’t often she wanted to abandon these events, but her heart wasn’t in it. She wanted to go home, to talk to Luke and relax.
“Dear, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she shook her head, “I’m just a little tired.”
“You’ve had a busy couple of days,” Breha told her, “have you been sleeping enough? You know, we could leave early as long as we know there isn’t a real security risk.”
“I’ve been having nightmares,” the teenager scanned the crowd, picking her father out easily. He was deep in conversation with a man in a military uniform — General Mace Windu.
“Nightmares, is it the same one?” Breha perked up, concern obvious.
“Yes,” she pursed her lips, “the same nightmare.”
“I’m sorry, Leia. Do you want to schedule another sleep study? Or maybe a few more appointments with your therapist? You haven’t seen her in a while.”
“I don’t think so. I just have a bad feeling about this.”
A Few Days Later
Jango Fett was too experienced to miss the way the security outside Carpenters hall was staring at him. It made sense, but he’d been sitting outside the hall in the afternoons for days before anyone noticed him. Hell, the princess had spotted him after only spotting him three times. He’d been wearing something different each time, but she’d still made him.
Still, even if security was going to see him and get suspicious, he wouldn’t be bothered.
“Dad,” Boba’s voice echoed in his ear, “you’ve been made. Your name showed up on security alerts from the party tapes.”
“Took them long enough,” Jango muttered, flipping the page of his book. “That princess is better than most security guards. I would’ve been fine if she hadn’t seen me.”
“Probably,” Boba sighed, “it’ll probably be a while before they find you, but people know that you’re in the city.”
“That’s fine,” Jango spotted the familiar face of Ahsoka Tano and a Naboo secret service agent jogging through the crowds of tourists. “My guests are here.”
“Took them long enough,” Boba scoffed.
“Don’t be too hard on them,” Jango tilted his head at Tano when she spied him, faster than anyone else, “they had to wrestle with the FBI the last few days.” He stood, brushing down his coat as the two agents approached. They were doing a good job of checking his surroundings and looking for back-up and traps. “You’re late,” he groused as Tano came to a stop a few feet away.
“You know how the feds are,” her dark eyes skipped over him, and Jango reminded himself that she wasn’t someone to toy with. Tano had earned her reputation fair and square. He spread his hands, showing that he wasn’t holding a weapon. Not that he needed on to take care of her.
“Who’s the face?” He nodded to the secret service agent.
“Agent Bonteri,” the man said stiffly, “and I’m here on behalf of Her Majesty Padme Amidala and Parliament of Naboo.”
So, one sent to negotiate, and one sent to beat the information out of him if he didn’t help.
“How was Maz?” He asked Tano, deciding to ignore the agent.
“Doing fine, seemed very confused as to why you crawled out of the woodwork. You’re not one for drama or a big show; you can see why we’re all confused.”
“Nice to see that people noticed me,” Jango shrugged.
“You left a trail a mile wide. Strange, since you’ve been dropping bodies across the planet.”
“He shouldn’t have mess with mine,” his grin was toothy and unfriendly, but Tano wasn’t deterred. “I take it personally.”
“You slaughtered an entire underground ring of political dissidents and criminals to get back at Prisoner Zero?” Bonteri was staring at him, sharp eyes marking every move.
“Couldn’t be sure if we’d be safe if they were left alive.” They stood in silence for a moment.
“Where are they, Fett?” Her expression darkened when he wavered.
He pulled an envelope from his pocket, holding it up for them to see. “In here are two photos and two addresses, but I want to know what you’re offering me.”
“Fine,” Lux glanced around, “but we need to take his conversation elsewhere.” The security guards at Carpenters Hall were edging closer.
“I’ve got a reservation,” Jango jerked his head, gesturing down the sidewalk, Tano fell into step beside him, and Lux pulled up the rear.
“Are they alright?” She pressed, and he nodded. It had been ages since he’d had a conversation with someone who wasn’t Boba. He’d almost forgotten what it was like.
“Doing fine,” he answered gruffly, “no idea about the shit-storm headed their way.” Both agents visibly bristled.
“You’ve been keeping an eye on them.”
“Just a little bit,” the admission was easy, “covering all the bases.”
The tense walk became a tense brunch as a cheerful hostess ushered them to a secluded corner table. Jango allowing himself to be boxed in; his chances of escape were still high if this turned south.
“First,” Lux cleared his throat, “I’m not saying this as an agent, or as a representative of Naboo right now. I’m saying this off the record and under the table.” He swallowed. “Thank you so much for getting rid of that man.”
“I’m saying thanks too,” Ahsoka raised the salt-shaker, “as Ahsoka Tano.”
“Right, and you understand that Naboo or the Royal Household cannot…extend similar sentiments for various reasons.” Lux gave the older man a significant glance, too significant. Fett and Tano exchanged annoyed glances.
“I got it,” Jango tapped the table, he leaned back as the waiter brought them water glasses, “we’ll just have some of those potatoes and cheese dip.”
“Sure thing! I’ll be right back.”
The agent winced as Tano kicked him under the table.
“Mr. Fett, you understand that you are responsible for a significant number of crimes in Naboo. Murder, arson, aggravated assault, treason.”
“Doesn’t count a treason if I’m not a citizen.”
“Plotting to overthrow the government is an offense, Mr. Fett. Along with thievery, breaking and entering, speeding, illegal parking.”
“I didn’t park illegally,” Jango interjected. “They ticket for that too much. Your meter maids are on a hair trigger.” Tano smiled into her glass of water, but Bonteri continued undeterred.
“Damage to national and private property. Damage to historical landmarks, not to mention a host of all other offenses that go with setting those bombs off in the palace. Kidnapping, smuggling, forgery, owning a weapon without a license.”
“Get on with it,” Fett ordered.
“Which can all be forgiven,” Lux opened the envelope and pulled out the first packet of paper within. “This is a detailed list of crimes you’ve admitted to, we’ve tied you to, and ones we suspect you were involved with.”
“You’re missing a few,” he slipped through the list. All neatly typed up in English.
“The corresponding prison sentences are beside them, Mr. Fett. The total is on the last page and amounts to several lifetimes worth of sentences.”
“And.” He flipped the paper upside down at the waiter came back with an enormous plate of potato slices and a bowl of sauce. “Thank you,” he held up a crisp fifty-dollar bill. “We need some privacy for the next hour or two.”
“Sure,” the man said, taking the bill neatly an tucking it into his breast pocket; all without batting an eyelash. “Take your time.”
When he was gone, attention turned to both the negotiation and the steaming potatoes. “One thing about this country is that they can work wonders with potatoes.”
“That seems unhealthy,” Lux clutched his paperwork protectively to his chest; eyeing the plate with distrust.
“Europeans,” Ahsoka rolled her eyes, picking up a slice of potato, “for future reference, I like fries a lot more.”
“If you're wanting to work with me, Tano, you can’t work for the prince of yours.”
“He might actually kill me if I worked with the man responsible for his arm getting blown off.”
“Mr. Fett,” Lux continued, “these crimes are significant, and these are only the ones that we know of in Naboo. Your host of international crimes is much longer.”
“Her Majesty is willing to offer you, graciously, a full pardon for your crimes against Naboo.”
“Is that the thank-you gift or what she’s offering in exchange for this?” Jango tapped his pocket holding the envelope. Neither agent bothered to disguise their expressions of hunger. Tano turned her attention to the plate of potatoes.
“Her Majesty is not offering you a thank you gift,” the agent told him stiffly.
“You know,” Jango didn’t like to play mind games but he knew exactly what he would be able to get out of this deal and a full pardon was akin to a cheap Wal-Mart gift card in this circumstance. “We didn’t end up separating them for a few days.” They were silent, shock and fury evident. Tano looked like she might lunge across the table and do her best to claw his eyes out. “But when we did neither of them stopped crying for weeks. Probably why it took them so long to get adopted out. No one wants a fussy baby. The nurses thought they might have been going through withdraw, you know that happens.” He idly dipped a slice into the sauce, watching the hunger for information mount in their eyes.
“First, that night I wasn’t working alone. You blame me for that assassination attempt, but I was the backup. Zero hired Zam Wessell that night to kill them. I sabotaged her work.”
“Zam is dead.”
“You’re welcome,” they blinked a few times. “But whatever favors and things your queen can offer, I’m not interested. I want land.”
“Land?” Lux straightened, and Jango fished another paper out of his pocket. He passed it over.
“The specifics of the types of land I’m looking for. A lot cheaper than paying how much I was going to charge you,” Jango sipped his water. “I think this is pretty fair compensation.”
“If Her Majesty does not accept these terms,” Lux said after a long moment, “will you accept an equal monetary compensation?”
“You should know,” Ahsoka leaned across the table, ignoring the food and fingering her glass with threatening deliberation. “That if you fuck this up. If you even think about going back on your word, if you even think about hurting those kids, I will hunt you down and gut you like a pig. I’ll drag your corpse back to the palace and stick your head on a pike, old school style. I don’t give a shit what they say.”
“You know better than to be emotionally involved in a situation, Tano,” Jango, “but those aren’t my only demands.” He passed the Naboo agents another slip, “a few ideas for them to consider.”
Lux stared down at them and nodded slowly, confusion obvious on his handsome face. “This is a strange…list, Mr. Fett.”
“Easily done too,” the silence stretched too long. “I leave this table, the deals off and I walk out of here with the information you have to come running after me and good luck finding me.”
“There’s no need,” Lux folded the paper easily, “we accept your terms.”
They spent the next few moments signing documents and exchanging scant contact information before Jango reached into his breast pocket and paused. The two agents glowered, clearly willing to bypass manners if he didn’t hurry.
“You take care of these two,” he pulled out the envelope and handed it to Agent Tano. She ripped it open and seized the two pictures. The first one was a boy; bright blond hair sticking every which way. He wore muddy black work-boots, a bright blue shirt, and overalls. His smile was blinding as he leaned against a rickety fence post. His eyes were focused on someone off-camera, and it was clear that this was taken at a distance.
“Luke?” Ahsoka breathed a reverent sigh, tracing the outline of his head. “He looks just like them.” She flipped the other photograph over. A stylish teenager, wearing her hair in buns and holding a stack of textbooks as she descended an enormous set of stairs. She was as short as her brother, but where he was blond, she was a brunette. “My god, they are alive.”
Fett left before the entire mess could dissolve into sentimentality and figured that they would pick up the bill.
Ahsoka pulled out her phone and dialed Anakin. After that, things moved very quickly. Both Anakin and Padme were on a flight to New York for a stay in the embassy, and the two agents were there to greet them.
Chapter 12: Owen Lars
Owen Lars gets a worrying phone call while Padme intimidates regular people.
The most irritating thing about her husband, Padme thought as she accepted another cup of tea, was that jet lag never seemed to bother him. He was wearing his royal regalia already, waiting for the CPS agent to arrive, ready to intimidate the poor bastard. Padme hadn’t gotten dressed herself yet but was sticking to her house robe and coffee while she tried to adjust to New York.
Only Anakin had slept on the flight over, his years of military training kicking in. Padme had been too nervous.
She glanced down at her tablet, at the two pictures that Ahsoka had scanned and sent them. Luke and Leia, they both looked so familiar, yet like complete strangers. She could already pick out which features they’d inherited from Anakin and which from her.
“Padme,” he leaned close, his nervous energy under control only by the grace of his rigorous training. “Do you want to get ready?”
“They aren’t due to arrive for another hour, Anakin.” Padme set her tablet on the desk, sipping her coffee slowly. “Please don’t pull out your sword and try to stab them.”
“I’m not promising anything,” Anakin tapped a nervous beat on the back of her chair. “I just found out that my grumpy, miserable, sour, old man of a step-brother raised my son. I’m not sure I want him anywhere near Luke.”
“Luke looks happy,” Padme sighed, finding out exactly who had raised the children had been an infuriating hour. Her son, a farmer and her daughter already an American politician. “and we’ve both been through their social media accounts.” They’d been through Leia’s social media accounts; Luke didn’t have any.
“Staged, she was adopted by politicians. They can’t have their daughter embarrassing them. Fuck, this is going to be a political nightmare if Organa throws a fit.”
“I might be more concerned with Owen,” Padme drained the last of her coffee. “You’ve had a rocky and unhappy past with him, love. You haven’t spoken in 20 years since the argument.”
“Oh, god! Luke might already think that Anakin Skywalker is a jackass. Owen is not the forgiving kind!” Anakin slumped to his knees, leaning against the desk and staring at her with a miserable expression. “Our son is going to hate me before he even knows me. If I’d talked to Owen before now, I might have found our son!”
“We thought he was dead, Ani. You might not have recognized him, besides, what are the odds that he ends up at your step-brothers home?”
“Owen lives in the armpits of Indiana. It is a shitty state, the only redeeming thing about it is its airport because you can fly out of Indiana. Our son was raised in a state where there are more churches in some towns than actual businesses. In an area of the country so dated and miserable, sometimes I half-expect to hear that they’ve just installed their first phone lines. Indiana! In a town that acted like my mother, was a monster for having existed! For having a child without getting married. People called me a little bastard and meant it. There’s no telling what it is like for Luke.”
“Anakin,” she reached for his hand, only to have something to steady herself. “Anakin, we don’t know anything about our children. We know that they’re alive and from these two pictures, they look perfectly healthy and happy. Please, please don’t drive yourself to distraction with worry.”
“You’re right,” Anakin turned around to sit on the floor, leaning against the desk. “But we’re going to lean on the CPS agent. We need all the information on everything.”
“Anakin,” Padme smiled into her coffee, “we’re going to handle everything.” She drained her cup. “I have to go get ready. Please don’t run them through.”
“I make no promises,” Anakin tilted his head back, watching her exit with a sigh.
It wasn’t an hour later, the CPS agent had come ten minutes early, that they were assembled in the parlor. Anakin had been all for greeting the CPS agent in the greeting room, full of pomp and circumstance enough to terrify him. Padme disagreed, hoping to keep the man calm enough to get a significant amount of information from him. Even so, he looked overwhelmed and rightfully terrified of Padme and Anakin glaring down at him.
“Your majesty,” he licked his lips nervously, eye darting between them and the soldiers based around the room. “Your Highness, this is highly unprecedented.”
“Was the evidence we presented not enough?” Padme asked, her voice soft but challenging. Implying that the evidence ought to have been enough.
“It was, it was certainly strange, your majesty. However, the record we opened after getting permission from a judge...they are incomplete.”
“Explain,” Padme waved for the man to sit in the chair opposite her. “Please sit.”
“Your majesties, the record of the princess and prince were sealed after they were adopted; but the record is incomplete. They don’t have either parent named, and the fact that they were...obviously forged. Combined with the evidence you’ve provided...well.”
“The documentation of the children is not my concern at the moment,” Padme cut the stuttering federal agent off. “Mr. Thomas, I want to know the health of my children.”
“Erm,” he coughed into his hand, quailing under her glare. “Well, after adoption...we don’t usually check up on the children. If there have been no problems with the family or any reports of abuse there is usually an assumption that the children are doing well. We have no record of reports for either the Lars or Organa families.”
“I see,” Anakin clenched his jaw as Padme curled her fingers around her armrest. “Mr. Thomas, you can understand my impatience with this matter. Until very recently, I believed my children murdered.” He squeaked. “My husband and I have mourned their deaths for 17 years!”
“Yes, I understand, ma’am, and I’m very sorry. We plan to send agents to the families to explain the situation.”
“How do you intend to tell a 17-year-old farmer from Indiana that he is due to inherit a nation and a crown?” Padme demanded. Anakin fought the urge to smirk. The man cowered behind his briefcase. “Or a young woman who has been groomed to be an American politician that she is of royal blood, due to inherit a nation and a crown?”
“I insist that my household is permitted to assist.”
“I’m sorry, your what?” The agent glanced at Anakin, hoping for backup or assistance, he wasn’t sure. He only shrugged.
“My household, Mr. Thomas, meaning that we will be helping.” She gestured lightly to Anakin, who continued to glare.
“Erm, your majesty. We can’t simply drop in.”
“We will have to inform their adoptive guardians,” Padme agreed, and Mr. Thomas floundered for a cue from Anakin. Eventually, when Anakin remain stone-faced, he nodded.
“We’ll speak to them at once. We’ll have to contact them through our agency. I am sorry, but this could take some time. There’s bound to be some questions, and I’m sure….” A frosty silence fell, and the agent gulped nervously. “We’ll get on it right away.”
Owen Lars spent most of his time in the late fall and early winter, getting ready for the winter and the next spring. He also spent his off months deep-cleaning the house. Halfway through dusting the various knick-knacks, the phone rang.
He reached over the couch to grab the heavy black receiver, waving his dusting rag at the enormous tea-pot still waiting to be cleaned. “Lar residence.” It if was another telemarketer he was going to use what little French he had to confuse the hell out of them.
“Hi,” there was a breathless person on the other end as if they were excited to speak to him. “Is this Owen Lars?”
“This is Owen, who is this?”
“Hi, Mr. Lars, my name is Gary Thomas. I’m from Child Protective Services.” Owen felt his stomach bottom out. “I’m calling about Luke.”
“What’s wrong with Luke,” he demanded.
“Well, sir, I’m not calling because you’ve been reported. I’m calling because there was been...an issue with Luke’s adoption paperwork.”
“There can’t be a problem with them,” Owen scoffed, “we made sure that everything was filed properly.”
“Well...the adoption paperwork was filed properly, Mr. Lars, but there have been some issues with his...is it possible we can meet to have this conversation?”
“No,” Owen barked into the receiver, “what the hell is going?”
“Mr. Lars, I don’t mean to alarm you but there is a distinct…no...we’ve uncovered evidence that Luke was smuggled into the country as an infant.”
“Smuggled, who the hell would smuggle a baby!”
“Well,” the man on the other end seemed to be steeling himself. “The same man who kidnapped Luke.”
There was a moment where Owen seriously considered hanging up the phone and ripping the cord from the wall. Where he could pretend this entire conversation hadn’t happened, and he could go back to cleaning. The world around him seemed to narrow down to the phone in his hand to the faint breathing from the man on the other end.
“You mean,” Owen swallowed hard, holding the phone tighter to try an anchor himself, “that...Luke was kidnapped as a baby and smuggled into the country?”
“I don’t believe you.” Owen muttered, “I don’t. Who the hell would kidnap a baby? Who would go through the effort of dumping him in an adoption agency? It doesn’t make any sense! How come it took 17 years for anyone to figure this out?”
“There is a lot to explain, Mr. Lars, which is why I wanted to speak to you in person. I know you might be having a hard time believing me.”
“Damn straight!” Owen shuddered as he glanced toward the front door. Luke wasn’t due home for another two hours, Beru was five hours out. “We are definitely going to be talking about this. If you think you can just feed me a load like this, without evidence, things are going to get ugly!’
“I assure you, Mr. Lars, I am not lying! When can we meet, please?”
“You’ll have to come to Anchorhead,” Owen grumbled, “I’m not driving into the city.”
“And we can’t meet until tomorrow.” He told him.
“Done, would meeting at the courthouse be acceptable?”
“Sure,” Owen took a deep breath, “four tomorrow.”
“Absolutely,” the agent told him, “tomorrow at four. Thank you very much for your time and understanding.”
“Whatever.” With a scoff, Owen hung up and considered the phone before quickly dialing for Beru’s office line.
Chapter 13: Breha
Bail Organa meets a few agents that turn his world upside down.
“Senator,” Bail Organa paused just before he entered his office, staring down at his office administrator. The much older man waved him closer. “Sir, I’m sorry but I couldn’t keep them from entering.”
“There’s a gentleman here from Child Protective Services, and someone who represents the embassy of Naboo.”
“Naboo?” Bail considered what he could have done to warrant the attention of Naboo. “Did they say why they were here?”
“No, sir, only that it was very important that they speak to you.”
“I see,” Bail pursed his lips as she pushed his office door open and surveyed the two people already sitting in his waiting chairs. “Gentlemen, what brings you here this fine afternoon?”
“I’m sorry, Senator Organa,” the CPS agent, easily identifiable by the cheap suit and worn-out briefcase, held out a stiff hand. “For barging in unannounced and without an appointment, but something has come up and this is very important.”
“I am sure you have excellent reasons,” Bail shook his hand, “what can I help CPS with today?”
“It’s not just the CPS,” the second man said, and his accent was very, very, European; almost French, but with a severe tilt that gave it German underpinnings. “I am Agent Bonteri, I represent Naboo’s interest in this matter. I extend the apologies of the ambassador for being unable to have this conversation in person.”
“It is no matter, would you two care for something to drink? Coffee, tea, water?”
“No thank you,” Agent Bonteri glanced around the room.
“Then let’s get down to business,” Bail moved around his desk, sitting. “What brought you both here today?”
“Sir,” the CPS agent swallowed, “my name is Darren Blue, and today I’m here about...Leia.”
“My daughter?” He didn’t miss the way Agent Bonteri’s expression soured. “Is there something wrong?”
“Yes, sir. You see, there have been some inconsistencies with Leia’s adoption paperwork.”
“Impossible,” Bail shook his head, “we have three lawyers who ensured that the paperwork was sorted through properly.”
“Well, there are some problems with her other paperwork, such as the documents surrendering her to the agency. Furthermore...when we opened her file.”
“Her file was sealed by court order. We weren’t allowed to look at it.”
“Yes, sir. I know, but there is evidence to suggest that...her file was incomplete on purpose. It doesn’t list who her biological parents are, and it was stolen….from Naboo.”
“Yes, the incomplete paperwork, we suspect it was sealed by a judge that was bribed, was from Naboo. Recent evidence uncovered by Agent Bonteri...”
“Leia was kidnapped from Naboo, Mr. Senator,” the agent spoke up, heedless of Bail’s shocked expression. “She was smuggled into America and placed in the adoption agency, and her records were left incomplete on purpose.”
“To throw her citizenship into doubt,” Mr. Blue told him, “and…the citizenship of her twin brother.”
Bail’s thoughts ground to a halt, he glanced between the two men. “You think?”
“We have the evidence, Mr. Senator,” Agent Bonteri told him. He pulled out a thick envelope and a few pictures of a man. “Do you recognize this man?”
“I?” Bail glanced down, “this is the man I saw at my last fundraiser. Leia said that she’d seen him around, always blending with the crowd. We alerted security, but he was gone before anyone could intercept him.”
“This man is Jango Fett. He has been tied to the kidnapping.”
“You can’t be serious!” Bail stood, too flabbergasted to keep a straight face. “You aren’t thinking that my daughter could possibly be...the Princess of Naboo?”
“Technically the Princess of Theed,” Bonteri put in, not looking at all surprised by his leap of logic.
“How did you?”
“A kidnapped infant from Naboo? Has a twin brother, presumably named Luke?” Bonteri nodded. “She is 17, and an agent of Naboo is here with you to tell me that my daughter was smuggled into the country!”
“That is about the sum of it, Mr. Senator.”
“No,” Bail sat back down, feeling shaky and off-kilter.
Breha had suffered several miscarriages before they’d tried to adopt. The toll on her health and happiness had been considerable. When they’d tried to adopt, they had been turned away time and time again. Bail had sued several adoption agencies for discrimination and getting Leia had been a godsend. The impossible dream brought home in a tiny white blanket.
Leia had cried a great deal as a baby. Almost every night, as if she was missing...someone.
How had it been for Queen Amidala? Losing her children in a single violent night where she had been betrayed by her most trusted advisor?
“There is no way that I’ll believe this until a parental test is done” Bail rubbed a hand down his face. “Even then,” he swallowed the lump in his throat.
“I understand that this may be difficult for you,” Mr. Blue nervously shifted in his chair, “but.”
“Where is the proof?” Bail demanded, “I want absolute proof.”
“Of course,” Agent Bonteri began to unload his envelope and for the next hour, weaved a too-incredible tale of murder, kidnapping, betrayal, and loyalty.
There was an oppressive, frightened air in the house when Leia returned home. Almost as bad as the night that someone had taken a potshot at her parents. When the house had been swarming with Secret Service, FBI, and police. But right now, the house was empty.
She paused just inside the door and could hear her parents muffled conversation from the kitchen.
“Papa?” The conversation stalled, and her father poked his head around the corner. “What’s wrong?”
“Why don’t you come into the kitchen,” he offered instead of an answer. “We’re making tamales.”
That, more than anything else told that there was terrible news. The last time they had made tamales was when her grandmother had died.
“What happened?” She was in the kitchen a second later glancing around and caught sight of the manila envelope sitting on the counter. When she reached over it, her father picked it up quickly. “Mama, what’s wrong?”
Breha looked worn out, her eyes were puffy as if she’d been crying. Her hands shook as she mixed the masa.
“Leia,” Bail handed her a cup of cocoa, steering her to one of the barstools beside the kitchen island. “We love you.”
“More than anything, mija,” Breha sniffed loudly and brushed at a stray tear with the back of her hand. There was flour down the front of her apron, and Bail had stray spots of tomato on his shirt and down his apron.
“What happened? What’s going on?”
“Leia...do you know how...you know you were adopted.”
“You were...today I was visited by two gentlemen. One was from CPS and the other was a representative of the Naboo embassy.”
“Did one of those garbage racist neighbors call the CPS on us again?”
“No... Leia, there isn’t an easy way to say this, but...you were…kidnapped as a baby?”
“Yes,” Breha added, voice heavy, “agents of your biological parents reached out to us.”
“My...biological parents?” Leia leaned back in her seat, feeling the world tilt around her.
“Yes,” Bail’s hands fluttered nervously around his chest before he picked up the bowl of soaking corn husks. “I demanded absolute evidence before I even considered accepting that this might be true. It is, the evidence is all there,” he pointed to the manila envelope.
“They don’t think that you had something to do with it, do they?”
“No, thank God, but no. We went through the very legal process of adoption, but someone went through the very illegal process of smuggling you into the country.”
“Oh my God! You’re really serious! Kidnapped? From where? By whom?”
“We’re serious...and they said you were kidnapped from Naboo.”
“Yes, and...do you remember that man you saw the other day. The one you think had been following you?”
“Yes, he was following.”
“He,” Bail set down the bowl and handed her the envelope. Leia tore into it as fast as possible. The first photograph was of the same man she’d seen before. The second one was older, but the same man and in this one, he was holding two white bundles. “He was the one who kidnapped you.”
“Who...” she came across the next photograph. This one of crime scenes, the aftermath of a bomb that had destroyed an enormous portion of a room. “Who did he take me from?”
“Your biological parents...so far as they suspect, with a great deal of evidence to back it up,” Breha told her, “are Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker.”
“You’re kidding!” Leia dropped the envelope, “you’re joking! No! No! No, this can’t be right! I’m not!”
“Everyone has to come from somewhere,” her father said quietly. “Why can’t you be from Naboo?”
“Because you’re trying to tell me that I’m a princess who is supposed to be dead!”
“Leia, Leia, please don’t panic. You don’t have to meet with them if you don’t want to. You don’t have to agree to the paternity test if you don’t want to.” Breha wiped her hands clear, coming around the island to hug her. Leia clung to her, confused and frightened.
“Why did you tell me?” Leia asked, “why?”
“Because you deserve to know the truth, Leia. You asked us about your biological parents when you were younger, and we aren’t allowed to answer your questions. We know the answer now.”
“How can you be so sure? How can you positive that I’m the baby that was taken?”
“I made the agent from Naboo go through every step of the investigation and through every piece of evidence, twice,” Breha rubbed her back gently. “I would have thrown them out the front door if I suspected I was being lied to.”
“But this is crazy!” Leia finally pulled away. “I don’t...”
“I don’t feel like a stolen baby. I feel like...Leia Organa!”
“And you are, Leia, you are our daughter...but we always knew that we were sharing you with someone. We’ve always known that you had someone else out there.”
“But it sounds so crazy! I’m a baby that someone stole from a...castle. Holy cow, an honest to goodness castle.”
“Yes,” Breha brushed her hair back, “what happens next is up to you.”
“Will you?” Leia gestured to the pile of papers and photographs. “Explain all off this?”
“Of course,” Bail seemed relieved, he took over Brehas work on the tamales as the former governor began to walk Leia through the offered evidence.
They ended the night wrapped in blankets and stuffed onto Bail and Breha’s bed.
“I want to do that blood test,” she said after an hour of near silence. Bail and Breha exchanged a glance over her head.
“Of course,” Bail adjusted the blanket, hugging them both. “They will be happy to...see you.”
“But what will happen?” Leia asked, “If I’m really a... you know...will I have to leave?”
“I don’t know what will happen, Leia, but no matter what happens we will always love you. If you do go to Naboo for any length of time, we will always be there for you. You are our daughter, and we love you.”
“Thanks,” Leia buried her head into the pillow, looking depressed and confused. “I don’t even think I know who I am anymore. Those pictures...I guess I look like them. What was it like?” She shifted to stare at the ceiling. “For them?” She seemed to jolt. “I have a brother!”
“How did I miss that! I have a brother! I have a brother named Luke!”
“Yes?” Breha frowned as Leia scrambled out of the bed. “I thought she was still on the fence about accepting that she was a missing twin?”
“If she gets to lord over a younger brother, I am not surprised she adjusted so quickly,” Bail smiled, “she wanted a sibling for years.”
“Leia, where are you going?”
“RESEARCH! There should be a mention of my brother in the information!”
“She won’t get any sleep tonight,” Breha muttered, and she rubbed her forehead. “Bail...are we ready?”
“What do you mean?” Bail rolled onto his side, reaching across the space Leia had abandoned to grab her hand.
“To share her, Bail. To...let her go and discover this?”
“Her heritage, Breha.”
“I know, and she deserves to discover where she’s from and who her parents are, but I don’t want to give our daughter up!”
“She loves us,” Bail whispered, “she does.”
“Every baby bird has to fly,” Breha inched across the bed, holding her husband close. “I know it isn’t fair to be so reluctant. Padme and Anakin thought their children were murdered, and we raised their daughter.”
“But now we have every excuse to bring out every baby picture and home video we have ever taken and show them off. Even that little dress she hated so much.”
“That’s true,” Breha gave a wet chuckle. Bail knew he had to look just as distressed because she reached over to rub a thumb over his cheek. “I have a feeling that everything should work out fine.”
Chapter 14: Red Folder
Luke has always been a little insecure about his position as an adopted son. His nervousness only worsens when a stranger shows up in town.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Luke was supposed to be on bus 23, headed toward home but was sitting in the only decent diner in the entire town of Anchorhead, sipping at a glass of water and watching his friend argue with the waitress. His back-pack was at his feet, and as he bent to pull out his wallet, he caught the sight of a familiar red pick-up truck out of the corner of his eye.
“What the?” He squinted through the glass, watching the truck park in front of the courthouse, directly across the block, and watch his aunt and uncle both get out. Aunt Beru was still dressed in her scrubs, and Uncle Owen held a plastic red folder that Luke instantly recognized. “Why would they have my adoption papers?” The last time Luke had seen that red folder he has been eight and his parents were explaining what adoption meant. They’d hidden it shortly afterward because Luke had tried to burn it a few times.
Beside the red pick-up truck, a shiny black car pulled up. The person who stepped out was dressed in a fancy suit and carried a black briefcase. He caught sight of the Larses and waved. The couple paused on the steps of the courthouse, turning around to see him and watched him scramble up the steps to catch up with them. There was a moment of conversation before the group vanished into the courthouse.
“What the hell?” Luke gaped. He remembered last night, how he’d hardly seen Uncle Owen and when he did the man hadn’t looked him in the eye. How this morning Aunt Beru had stared at him for a few minutes before bursting into tears and rushing out the door. Luke glanced at the two slices of pie he’d bought, an apology gift even though he wasn’t sure what he was apologizing for. Whatever he’d done to make his aunt and uncle avoid looking at him, and make his aunt cry, was probably something serious.
Whatever it was, they looked like they were meeting with a lawyer.
Why would they be meeting with a lawyer? Why would Aunt Beru take off in the middle of her shift?
“Hey, Biggs,” he reached over and paused as another car pulled up, this one sandwiching the truck in. From this one, stepped a tall man wearing enormous spectacles, and a tailored suit that had honest to goodness coattails. He looked nervous, one narrow hand coming up to run through his pale-blond hair a few times before the second man got out of the car. The one was shorter, his coat was bright blue with white and silver highlights, he had a blue and white cap fit over his head. He was carrying a laptop case, a backpack, and was arguing with the first man. Their conversation continued as they marched up the steps. Luke had no reason to think that they were going to the same place as his aunt and uncle, but his stomach twisted.
“Do you think you could take me home?”
“Sure? What’s wrong?”
“I just gotta get home,” Luke told him, “thanks for the pie, Camie.”
“No problem, pay up, Biggs.”
“Fine,” Biggs grumbled as Luke packed up his bag, “what’s the rush? Usually, you like to stay around until I buy you dinner.”
“I just have a lot of homework to do.”
“Yeah, like you didn’t do it all during study hall.” Biggs frowned when Luke shrugged. “Hey, is that your truck?”
“Not mine,” Luke hastily pulled his friend toward the door, “Uncle Owen’s.”
“What is he doing in town? He hates coming into town.”
“I don’t know, and I know.” The bell above the door clanged as he pulled them onto the sidewalk and toward the car. Both Luke and Biggs stopped as a police car, followed by an enormous black SUV, which was followed by a State Police vehicle, all stopped in front of the courthouse. The SUV was flying unfamiliar flags, but they were obviously important because the first few people who got out of the SUV were all women dressed in severe black suits and dark sunglasses. They gathered around a different woman, wearing a beautiful but wildly impractical gown. It looked like something out of a history book. Her hair was done is an elaborate style that looked like it could have taken a few hours to do up, Luke gaped after her as she hurried with queen-like grace up the stairs. Her bodyguards led and followed, keeping a respectable distance around her.
“Who the hell was that?” Biggs gasped as they piled into his car. “What the hell?”
“I have no idea! Just please get me home!”
“Are you alright, Luke. Are you in some sort of trouble?”
Luke was quiet as Biggs drove Luke out of the tiny two and into the countryside. “I think Uncle Owen is going to send me away.”
“What the hell?” Biggs careened around one of the sharper turns, “he can’t send you away!”
“I saw him with my file!” Luke exclaimed, hardly able to contain the terror now bursting in his chest. “They had my file and they were talking to a lawyer!”
“Surrendering parental rights is really hard,” Biggs told him, “why would they want to get rid of you? You haven’t gotten into any fights recently, have you?”
“No! We were getting along fine. The last fight we had was right before the convention!
“If it’s been that long then you’re doing pretty well.”
“But who the hell was that woman?”
“I don’t know! But they took my file to the courthouse and they met with a lawyer!” A hundred horrible scenarios rushed through his head, each one making him feel sicker than the last. Were they mad at him for something?
There weren’t any answers, and Luke wallowed in his worries until Biggs pulled up his driveway and stopped.
“You know, maybe it isn’t all that bad. Maybe they’re just going to adopt another kid?”
“Maybe,” Luke said dubiously, “but we’re really poor. Adoption is expensive. They haven’t talked to me about it.”
“I don’t know, Luke.” They both paused as his phone began to ring. He reached for it, frantic until he caught sight of the picture and number. “Not your uncle?”
“Oh, well, you should probably take that. Hey, if anything happens, just call me.”
“I will, thanks, Biggs.” Luke clambered out of the car, sliding the accept button over. “Leia, what’s up?”
“Luke! Are you available to talk?”
“Sure,” Luke tucked the phone between his ear and his shoulder as he stuck his hands in his pockets. “What’s up?”
“The craziest thing happened,” she told him, “it was crazy! I don’t even believe it myself.”
“Oh?” Luke proceeded into the small kitchen, pulling out the two slices of pie and setting them on the counter. He checked the mailbox to find it empty.
“My biological parents reached out to my family!” Leia exclaimed; Luke paused.
“My biological parents reached out to my adoptive parents!”
“You...is this a good thing or a bad thing?”
“It is a thing!” Leia shouted “they told my parents and my parents told me! They want to meet me in New York! They want to meet me!”
“It is insanity! Apparently, I have a twin brother! We were separated at birth! I have a twin brother!”
Luke paused at the bottom of the stairs, glancing out to the driveway, hoping to see the red truck pulling up. There was nothing.
“That’s great, Leia.”
“What’s wrong with you!” She demanded, “this is huge news and you’re hardly even responding.”
“I,” Luke rubbed a hand over his face, “I think my parents are going to send me away.”
“I’m not 100% positive, but I saw them go into the courthouse with a lawyer. They had my file, and they looked super nervous.” He decided not to mention the strange men and women that had followed them.
“But why do you think they’re sending you away?”
“I don’t know!” Luke cried, and he sat on the bottom step, feeling tears well up despite himself. “I just…I’ve been nervous about it forever! Ever since that woman from the gardening club said.”
“Said that if you weren’t grateful enough that they could send you away?” Leia sounded furious on his behalf. “She shouldn’t have said that! She’s a bitter old hag! Just because she doesn’t know what a loving family relationship is, doesn’t mean she should try to ruin yours. Luke, you know your aunt and uncle! I’m sure they wouldn’t do anything like this without warning.”
“I guess,” Luke brushed his tears away, “but I’m adopted, and I’ve always been the weird one in town. Because of me, my aunt and uncle don’t have any friends in the area! I don’t want to be sent away!”
“I’m sure they won’t,” Leia told him, and Luke felt a little better. His friend had excellent intuition and had helped him navigate through sticky solutions before. “You should talk to them.”
“You’re right,” he sighed, leaning back against the stairs and glaring up the ceiling. “I should, I just...how do I bring this up? Hey, I saw you in town with some lawyer, are you wanting to get rid of me?”
“I’m sorry, Leia. I derailed the conversation. You’re going to meet your biological parents. That’s great news.”
“I actually haven’t decided if I want to meet them,” Leia whispered.
“Because,” she sounded nervous, “if I do then everything will change.”
“That’s not always a bad thing,” Luke wrapped an arm around his knees. “They’re your biological parents. Haven’t you always wanted to meet them?”
“I did...I do...I just...I have a family out there that I don’t know and it seems like so much. A few days ago, I was just...Leia Organa. Now I’m someone else entirely. I have the whole name that comes with history and...so much else. Honestly, I’m a little scared.”
“This is pretty big. It would a be a little strange if you weren’t.”
“Maybe,” Leia sighed, “do you ever think about meeting your biological parents?”
“Yeah, when they first told me I was adopted I had a complete meltdown. I was angry at them. I threw a few fits, I think. I stopped calling them Mom and Dad, started calling them Aunt and Uncle. I think...I think I really hurt them when that happened, but when I was told all I wanted to do was go out and find who my parents were. I...I hated and still hate Anchorhead. I wanted some fairy godmother to sweep into the attic and tell me my parents were waiting for me to come home.” Luke paused, “I watched a lot of Disney, but Mr. Olsen told me that boys don’t get fairy godmothers and that I should be such a fairy.”
“What a jerk!”
“I get the insult now. I still hate Anchorhead, but I love my aunt and uncle.”
“I love my parents too.”
“So, who are your biological parents?”
“I can’t actually tell you yet.”
“That’s strange, why not?”
“Because it is supposed to be a secret. Seriously, I’m not supposed to be telling anyone, but I had to talk to someone who understood. You were adopted. I was adopted. You know how I feel.”
“Yeah,” Luke kept an eye on the driveway. “I think you should go for it, Leia.”
“I...alright. I’ve got to go. You’ll keep me posted on what happens with your aunt and uncle, right?”
“Sure,” Luke promised and listen to Leia hang up. He sat on the staircase for a few more minutes before deciding that it would be best to make dinner and wait for his guardians to return.
Dinner was made and had gone cold without Beru or Owen calling to tell him they’d be late. The sun was down, and Luke had gone to bed before he heard the car rumble up the drive. A few minutes later he heard the door open and his aunt and uncle come tromping through, talking quietly.
He didn’t get up to listen in on their conversation, or when Aunt Beru knocked lightly on his door. Fake sleeping was something he’d perfected years ago. She slipped in through the door and unplugged his alarm clock. As she returned to the hallway, he heard her mutter, “we’ll have to tell him tomorrow, Owen.”
“I know,” Uncle Owen sounded tired, “I know.” Luke waited until they had gone down the hall to their room, before rolling onto his back and swallowing down the lump in his throat. Finally, he pulled the blanket over his head, crying until he fell asleep.
The next morning, he woke up later than he was used to. His head hurt, and his eyes were red and sticky, and he felt sick. He sat up and got dressed as slowly as possible. When he went downstairs, his aunt was gone. There was a plate of breakfast on the table as well as a note for Luke to meet Owen in the south pasture.
He ate slowly and spent twenty minutes obsessively cleaning the kitchen until he felt he’d put off the inevitable long enough.
Uncle Owen saw him coming and came to meet him at the gate.
“You alright?” The older man squinted at Luke, “you don’t look well.”
“I feel sick,” Luke admitted, “its fine though. I just didn’t sleep well.”
“Right,” Owen shifted a few times and jerked his head toward the four-wheeler. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” they climbed onto the four-wheeler, and Uncle Owen directed it over the pasture and toward the tree-line in the distance. They bumped over the familiar road that Luke used to race his kart until he stopped at a turn in the road that overlooked the valley and a small creek. It was a pretty spot, where Luke sometimes liked to take picnics.
“Uncle Owen?” The man snorted, sighing heavily and leaning forward on the handles. “What’s wrong?”
“I got a call yesterday,” Owen told him, and his stomach tightened. “From CPS.”
“Why?” Luke bit his lip, climbing off the 4X4. “What happened?”
“Nothing bad,” Owen said, “but there’s...something you need to know.”
“You going to send me away?” Luke asked, “did I do something? Are you mad at me? You guys got home really late last night and I know we argue a lot, and I’ve got a bit of a temper. I’m really sorry.”
“Hold up! Hold up! What do you mean send you away? What’s wrong with you? Did you talk to that old hag from the gardening club again? Is that what this is? Because you shouldn’t listen to her. Luke, we aren’t sending you away!”
“But then why did you talk to that lawyer yesterday?” Luke cried, frantic.
“What?” He leaned back, “what lawyer?”
“The man in the courthouse. I saw you go in with him. I was...at Albert’s with Biggs,” Luke shrank under the incredulous stare. “I was picking up some pie. I was trying to say sorry because you weren’t looking at me and I made Aunt Beru cry! I don’t know what I did!”
“Damn, Luke!” Owen smacked his thigh and buried his face in his hand. “That wasn’t a lawyer. That was a guy from CPS, he was talking to us because he was telling us that your biological parents have...reached out.”
Luke paused in the middle of his freak-out, he deflated. “What?”
“Your biological parents, Luke,” Uncle Owen told him, upending every preconceived notion Luke had ever had on its head. “They contacted the CPS, they want to meet you.”
“What?” Luke stared at his uncle, “what?”
“Here,” Owen reached into his front pocket and pulled out a crisp white envelope. “I met with your mother yesterday. She wrote this for you.”
“My...mother?” This was absurd! This was crazy! “My...real, actual, biological mother?”
Luke stared down at the envelope before picking it up carefully. There were already smudges across the papers, probably from Owen. He turned it over, and his name was written in impeccable cursive.
At Uncle Owen’s nod, his opened it and pulled out the letter. The letterhead of the Anchorhead mayor’s office was stamped across the top, but the handwriting was too beautiful to be his.
“Dear Luke,” it began, “for the past hour I have stared at a blank page. I am not sure what to write to you. I am not sure where to begin. There is so much that I want to tell in this letter, Luke. So much I want to write, but for the sake of keeping this at a manageable length, I will try to be brief. Please know this as absolute fact; I am your mother.” Luke gasped. “My name is Padme Amidala, your father, already known to you through some twist of fate, is Anakin Skywalker.”
“Anakin Skywalker?” Luke yelped, “that same Anakin Skywalker you had that horrible fight with when Grandma Shmi died?”
“The very same,” Uncle Owen, and Luke’s head spun as he considered the fact that Uncle Owen really was his uncle. “Keep reading.”
Luke returned to the letter, “You must have questions, more than I can answer in a letter. I must admit to having questions of my own. 17 years is a long time to be separated from you, my son. While I grieve the many lost years, I take great joy in the fact that you are able to read this now. I can’t offer enough apologies son, but work has demanded that I return to New York City. I hope you can join me there soon.” Luke paused, lifting the letter to his nose. It smelled…it smelled familiar. He closed his eyes, trying to remember exactly how he knew this scent.
“I,” he stared back at the letter. “I have…my mother is alive and she…she wants to meet me? Right? Does she want to meet me? My mother….my mother wrote this letter!” Luke took a step forward and paused. “My mother wrote this letter.” He held it tighter to his chest, staring sightlessly at the creek below. “My mother is alive.”
“Luke,” Owen held out his hands, “Luke.”
“I have a mother who is alive!” Luke shouted hundreds of emotions warred in his chest, he felt like he wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. “My mother…my father! My mother's name is Padme! Anakin is my father! I’m…I’m Luke Skywalker!”
“Luke.” He could hardly glance at his uncle. He trembled in silence until Uncle Owen came from behind, setting his hands on his shoulders. “Luke, son, look at me.”
“My parents,” Luke said quietly, turning around at his urging. “Uncle Owen, my parents!”
“I know, Luke. I know...” He seemed equally at a loss. “They do want to meet you. They’ve got…a lot of explain.”
“Why did they wait 17 years? Why didn’t they…why did they give me up! How did I end up here! How did Anakin not know that I was here?”
“Luke,” Owen held him tighter, pulling him close until their foreheads were almost touching. “Luke, I can’t…I can’t answer those questions. You have to talk to your parents.”
“Don’t you know?” Luke demanded, “do you know?”
“I do,” Owen didn’t let Luke squirm free, “Luke, there’s a lot that happened. You might not…believe everything. I hardly believe everything.”
“But I’m…I’ve got parents, Uncle Owen. Not just you guys,” he amended hastily, seeing the hurt Luke in Owen’s eyes, “but I’ve got biological parents and it’s…they’re alive, Uncle Owen! I can meet them! I’ve always wanted to meet my parents!”
“I know, I know, I know, Luke. You gotta listen to me! Luke, listen to me.”
“My parents,” Luke muttered, eyes drifting up the road as if he was about to take off running.
“I know, Luke. I know but listen to me. Listen, alright?”
“No matter what,” Owen said sternly, “no matter what happens you need to remember that your aunt and I love you. That your parents love you. We will always be there for you, Luke. We will always be there, okay?”
“Promise me,” Owen demanded, “promise me that you understand.”
“I understand,” Luke promised, “I do.”
“Good,” Owen grunted, he let Luke slid out of his arms, “your mother is in the city.”
“You met her! Is she nice? Do you think that she’ll like me? Do you think that I should bring something, like flowers? What should I wear? Holy cow! What if she doesn’t like me?” Luke waved the letter around, pacing around the four-wheeler and muttering to himself. Owen Lars watched with a confused frown. “What if my father doesn’t like me? I mean, she was a soldier before he got married! Maybe he wants his son to be like all the other guys in the area.” Luke posed, exaggerating flexing for a few minutes, “all manly and big. I’m not big and manly. I’m short, I’m kinda girlish! That’s why I used to get beat up.”
“Your parents are going to like you, Luke. No matter what, because that’s what parents do. You mother is nice…she’s amazing. You won’t hardly believe it, Luke.”
“Okay,” Luke paused, “what about Aunt Beru?”
“What about her?”
“Is she alright? Is she upset? I mean, she’s…got to be a little upset.”
“She’s at work,” Owen told him, leaning again on the handlebars, “she’s…we’re more worried about you, son.”
“I’m going to meet my parents!” Luke shouted, jumping into the air, “I’m going to meet my parents! I can’t believe it, Uncle Owen! I’m going to meet my parents!”
"Yeah," Owen waved weakly, unhappy and tired, "yeah, you're going to meet them." The old farmer watched his son continue to celebrate and tried to chase away the hollow feeling in his chest.
That's about as far as I've gotten.
Chapter 15: Meeting
The family meets up.
This chapter is long because I care.
“I’m waiting for the call.” Anakin held his phone up, waggling his eyebrows at Padme as she tried to calmly take her elaborate hairdo down. Her face was pinched with worry and fury, and no small amount of nervousness.
“The call where Owen yells at us for not waiting around in town to meet Luke.”
“These damn Americans!” Padme only just retrained herself from throwing her hairpieces onto the vanity. “So damn arrogant and annoying. If Owen calls to yell at me then hand me the phone and I will handle it.” She glowered into the mirror, nothing how Anakin shrugged. “If I didn’t have to play footsie with the overly stupid politicians, then we could meet Luke in Anchorhead. There would be no reason to drag him and Owen or Beru to New York City.”
“I don’t like having him come to us here in New York!” Padme exclaimed. “It feels like we’re summoning him! Like we’re demanding that he step out of his comfort zone to meet his parents.”
“Owen said he was practically vibrating off the wall to meet us,” Anakin said, “do you want help with your hair, beloved?”
“A little,” she admitted, “but he may be excited, but he was raised a farmer, Anakin. He has never been to a city like New York. If he comes to the city, then perhaps he’ll be off-balance? He might not be himself.” For a moment she closed her eyes, angry. The tension drained slowly out of her shoulders as Anakin began to disassemble her elaborate hairdo, pulling pins out and rubbing her shoulders.
“We can’t change what happened, Padme,” Anakin told her, “politics is politics, and you know the reason you didn’t stay in Anchorhead is because we don’t want to give the media any idea that...we don’t want to deal with the media firestorm, love.”
“I know,” she muttered, “I know. The paparazzi will be on them like sharks on chum.”
“We’ll meet Luke and Leia,” Anakin promised, bending down to kiss her neck. “We’ll meet them here in the embassy in New York. They want to meet us.”
“They want to meet us,” she dropped her head to her arms, “I understand why you’ve had such a difficult time with your step-brother. He’s...difficult. He is more stubborn than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“Including me?” Anakin asked.
“Including you, it was an excellent idea for me to go to Anchorhead to explain the entire situation to him. He didn’t want to believe me.”
“It’s a good thing he did in the end though,” Anakin growled, but his hands on her shoulders remained tender. “Darling, we’re going to meet out children.”
“The same children we thought here dead.” She stirred, lifting her head a bit. “Leia and Luke are alive, we’re going to meet them. Oh my God, Anakin. What if they don’t like us? Leia was raised as an Americans politician’s daughter and Luke is a farmer. I want them to be comfortable with us as their parents.”
“Well,” Anakin paused as his phone rang. They glanced to the bed where it sat, and Padme nodded. When Anakin picked it up he offered a tentative greeting.
“Anakin?” It was Owen, the rage and dislike he’d felt for the man years ago had faded, but jealousy still reared its ugly head.
“Yeah, this is Anakin. Owen?”
“Yes,” the gruff voice of his step-brother sounded tiny over the phone lines. “Erm…I’m calling about those…plane tickets.”
“Yeah,” Anakin’s chest loosened slightly, “did you both want to come to New York? You and Beru, that can be arranged.”
“No, no, there’s too many chores on taking care of the farm,” Owen replied, “so Beru has agreed to go with Luke. The hospital is giving her the time off, so she’ll be able to go for a week.”
“A week,” they exchanged a glance, “a week should be good. Um… have you, does Luke have a passport?”
“No,” Owen told him shortly, “never needed one. I’ll send him to the post office to get one tomorrow.”
“That’s not necessary,” Anakin shrugged helplessly at Padme. “I’m sure we can work something out. He might not need one.”
“I’ll send him to the post office anyway,” Owen grumbled, “need some stamps.”
“Right, right,” Anakin scuffed the carpet of the bedroom. Padme watched him curiously from the vanity, her long hair curling over her shoulders. He made a face her direction. “Um…Owen…how is Luke?”
“Over the moon. He can’t wait to meet either of you.”
“Oh, that’s good,” he breathed out a faint sigh of relief.
“What there ever any doubt?”
“I wasn’t sure…” he hesitated. “I wasn’t sure if you…told him about me?”
“I told him about you, Anakin. If you’re asking if I muttered against you then no. I didn’t.”
“Oh,” his voice probably sounded higher than normal evidenced by Padme’s raised eyebrows. “Good, then um.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Owen grunted, “just tell me what day and time I need to get them to the Indy airport and I’ll get them packing.”
“Erm,” Padme stood and rushed to the door. Threepio stepped through, holding a tablet. They had a muffled conversation. “How soon do you think they can get packed?”
“Probably tonight, drive is about an hour and a half to Indy.” Anakin repeated the information and he watched the steward tap away frantically. “Alright, we…got the tickets for,” he crossed the room and read the information gleaming up at him, “the flight leaves tomorrow at…one in the afternoon.”
“We can handle it,” Owen said.
“You guys should be getting a confirmation in your email inbox,” Anakin paused, his heart clenching in his heart as he heard young man’s voice on the other end shout in excitement.
“UNCLE OWEN! Is this for real? Am I really going to New York?”
“Always on his damn phone,” Owen grumbled good naturedly, “alright, I have to go. He’s going to be climbing the chimney again if I don’t talk him down.”
“Climbing the chimney?”
“He’s done it before,” Owen sighed, “I’ll talk to you later, Anakin. Tell Padme I said hello.”
“Sure,” the phone went dead, and he relayed the message. Padme shook her head slowly as Threepio gaped down at tablet and then shook his head.
“Your majesty,” Threepio seemed to shake with restrained excitement, “should I have the guest rooms prepared?”
“Yes,” Padme reached out to Anakin, squeezing his hand tight. “Have them prepared. Send the ticket information to security.”
“I’ll arrange everything,” Threepio promised breathlessly, “leave it to me, Your Majesty!” He stiffly walked out of the room, excitement plain on his face. Padme and Anakin sat in silence for a moment before exchanging huge grins.
“They’re coming to New York!” Anakin exclaimed, “they’re coming to New York!”
“We’ll meet Luke and Leia!’ Padme laughed, breathless and stunned. She hugged Anakin, and they swayed excited from side to side. “Our children are alive! They’re coming to meet us!”
“They’re coming!” Her husband picked her up easily, swinging her around the room as they shouted wildly. “They’re coming!”
“We’re going to see them again!” Padme and Anakin laughed until they were breathless and crying. The shock of realized hope mingled with anticipation and glee was overwhelming. When they fell onto the couch, too wrung out to keep standing but too tired to let go’ Anakin and Padme stared at the ceiling as millions of scenarios played out in their head.
“I heard his voice,” Anakin whispered, “I heard his voice. God, Padme. He’s alive. I heard his voice.”
“What did he sound like?” Padme turned her head, resting her cheek on the back of the couch as she stared at him, her bright eyes were hungry for information.
“He sounded…like he’s lived in Indiana his whole life,” Anakin grimaced, “loud, excited, and with a heavy midwestern accent.”
“I like midwestern accents,” Padme winked when Anakin huffed in annoyance. “I liked yours.”
“I sounded like a hick when we first met.”
“No, you didn’t. If I recall correctly you were speaking Turkish to the ambassador from Turkey. Then you went to laugh at jokes from the Japanese delegation. I thought you were suave if a little air-headed because you didn’t recognize me.”
“In my defense,” Anakin grumbled, “I was being kicked under the table.”
“You were, but I only because you were flirting very badly with a queen.”
“I still flirt very badly with a queen,” Anakin winked and was relieved when Padme laughed.
“You do, and I find it very charming.” She kissed his cheek, “I don’t think that I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”
“Honestly, me either. Luke and Leia are coming to visit tomorrow. I’m going to see my step-sister-in-law and…our children. Oh my God, I never thought this day would come.”
“We thought they were dead,” Padme whispered. “Dead and gone, along with so many of our friends who died during the coup. It’s a miracle that Jango ever saved them, saved us. He didn’t have to. He would have been unimaginably wealthy if he’d let us die.”
“He didn’t, and we could spend all night talking about the could-have-beens and the potential futures where he didn’t, but that isn’t healthy. We need to talk about something else. Something really nice, because thinking about all of that will make us horrible and distracted and very grumpy tomorrow.”
“You have been paying attention.”
“My therapist gives me a lot of assigned readings,” they held each other close as the pondered the very near future where they would finally meet their missing children.
“I know that we don’t want to stalk them, but can we look at their social media accounts again?”
“THANK GOD!” Anakin dove for his computer. “YES!” He flipped it open and pulled up Leia’s and Luke’s facebook accounts. As well as Leia’s twitter and Instagram. Luke wasn’t as active on social media, but he was still present enough that he had a digital footprint.
“Look at this picture,” he pointed to one of Leia standing in front of a statue of a founding father. She was copying the pose of the stature, even her expression stony. “Look at this.”
“I think she took a picture like this whenever she found a new statue. Her feed is absolutely full of them. It’s charming. Do you think she’ll like the statues in Theed?”
“I hope so,” Anakin turned to Luke’s facebook, “he’s hardly ever on here. Look, here’s one from the FFA convention trip. Look, he’s in the FFA and he actually makes that uniform look pretty good.”
“Well,” Padme shrugged a bit, “no one really looks good in that jacket.”
“I looked good in that jacket.”
“No,” she leaned over to press a kiss to his pout, “you really didn’t.”
“You are wrong.” Anakin pointed to another picture. Luke holding a small toddler wearing a hot pink dress and sunhat. They both were covered in mud and grinning broadly. “Look at that.”
“I can’t believe,” Padme wanted to trace the outline of her son’s face. To stare forever into his blue eyes. He was so alive in this picture. Chaos captured in a single instant. Joy trapped in light and frozen for her to see. Just a moment of the many she’d missed. “I can’t believe that they’re alive, Ani.”
“I know,” he was staring at a picture of Leia, now holding a stack of law books up with one arm. She was flexing and smirking. “That is a lot of books to be benching.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Do you think that they’re looking at my social media accounts?” Leia asked as the seatbelt light turned off.
“What?” Bail frowned.
“Do you think that they’d look at my social media accounts. I mean, that would be the first thing that I would do. Wouldn’t you? So looking at them makes a lot of sense.” She was babbling again. Something that was happening more and more as they got closer to New York. Her leg was bouncing up and down in a nervous habit she was trying her hardest to break. She also didn’t look like she’d slept hardly at all.
“Leia,” he reached over the armrest, taking her hand carefully. “Maybe you should get some sleep.”
“It isn’t a long flight, Papa. I can’t sleep. I did all sorts of research last night and I’m just…where do I start? Do I ask them questions? Do I?”
“Maybe you should let them hug you,” he suggested. “They have gone a very long time thinking that you weren’t…alive. They are definitely going to be a little shell-shocked. You’re going to need to be a little gentle with them.”
“I get that, but it's so strange to think that there are people out there who don’t even…who have been waiting to meet me.”
“You used to ask about your biological parents a lot,” Bail reminded her, waving the flight attendant off with an easy smile.
“I know that. I used to dream about my time in foster homes. I wanted a family that loved me and was mine. I got you and Mam. I got the Organa’s and I…I didn’t need them anymore. Now it’s all back. They are my biological parents.”
“They are your biological parents and they absolutely love you. You are their daughter.”
“But I’m yours too,” Leia leaned back in her seat, sighing heavily.
“Leia,” Bail held her hand tightly. She looked over at him. “We love you and we will always love you. Padme and Anakin also love you and they have missed you for so long. This is going to be scary. This is going to be strange and a little odd, but I know that you can do this.”
“I don’t even know them. I don’t…I’m not sure that I’m doing it for myself or for them.”
“That’s,” Bail honestly wasn’t sure what to say. Was there anything to say. How often did a problem like this come up? Did the parenting books have anything to say about it? “That makes sense; but remember to please be gentle with them, okay.”
“I’ll be gentle and I’ll be really…I’m so nervous, Papa.”
“I’m nervous too,” he admitted, “but I’m going to be here the entire time. It’s going to be okay. If anything, I’m sure they’re a little bit more nervous than you are.”
“You know I’ve never been on a plane,” Luke reminded Beru for the fifth time as they walked down the terminal and toward their gate. “Have you?”
“No,” Beru watched Luke eyeball the enormously over-priced candy store that smelled so strongly of sugar that she could smell is a hundred feet back. For his first plane trip, she did want to get him something silly and overpriced to enjoy on the plane. She also wanted something to settle her stomach. Candy wasn’t the way to go, but her breakfast was settling poorly in her stomach. “I’ve never needed to fly anywhere.”
“Oh,” Luke looked momentarily distracted by a toddler running across his path and the paused to let the parent chase after her. “Um, so if you could fly anywhere, where would you fly?”
“Well,” Beru considered her options, “I think I’d fly to Japan to see the cherry trees in the spring. I’ve heard that’s very nice.”
“They probably are,” Luke gestured wildly at their gate. It was already packed and full of people. “There we go, B26. Too bad there aren’t any places to sit. It’s too full.”
“We did get the airport a little late,” Beru told him, “the boarding time is just a minute away. I can stand to stand.”
“Sure,” she was gratified looked at her, worry visible in his eyes. He seemed as worried about her reaction as much as he was vibrating with excitement with meeting his parents. “There’s some seats in an open gate over there.”
“I am fine, Luke,” she said, patting his arm. “The flight to New York is going to be pretty long. You should try to get some sleep.”
“I’ll try,” he promised but he was practically vibrating in his skin. Beru had heard him tossing and turning all night. Clothes and bag packed as soon as they had confirmed the travel arrangements. “I won’t promise anything.”
“That’s the best we can do,” Beru sighed.
After take-off, and the unpleasant realization that Beru had ears sensitive to air pressure, watching the clouds had become a bit boring. It was exciting, to a certain point. Luke didn’t seem nearly as troubled, he was all but vibrating in his seat.
It was nice that his parents had sprung for first-class tickets though. Beru had always thought flying would be an absolute nightmare instead of something comfortable and enjoyable. She got a blanket and a pillow, falling asleep about twenty minutes in.
She did wake up as the flight began to descend through the clouds. Luke was leaning heavily against her, out like a light. He didn’t stir until she leaned over and shook him awake.
“Luke, we’ve landed.”
“What?” He sat up blearily, blinking heavily. “What are you talking about?”
“We’re here,” she told him, and Luke jolted awake.
“WOW!” He turned to stare out the window, but there wasn’t much outside beside tarmac and other planes. The excitement returned and she had to keep a tight grip on him to keep him from vanishing as soon as he could.
“Be patient,” she reminded him as they began to file out of the plane. Luke was staring around, eyes wide. The bustling airport was full of people, rushing around and about, streaming past them. IT wasn’t often that Beru felt uncomfortable or out-of-place, but she felt tired and shabby compared to some of the fabulous people walking around the terminal. She felt a bit like a small town yokle. Still, she kept a hand on Luke and they both navigated the enormous airport until they were past the gates. There were dozens of people standing around and holding signs. “Luke, keep an eye out for someone with our name.”
“Okay,” Luke was already scanning the crowds, they ducked to the side to avoid the traffic flow, and continued searching. “Don’t we have to go to baggage claim?”
“That’s already handled,” they jumped at the voice that echoed behind them. Beru hefted her carry-on threateningly when the man in a suit gave a courteous bow. His sign read “Beru and Luke Lars”. “I apologize for startling you, Mrs. Lars.”
“It’s alright,” she nodded to cover her nervousness. “What do you mean our luggage is already been handled?”
“We spoke with the airline, Mrs. Lars. Your luggage will be offloaded and in the…car in just a few minutes. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Guile Bisset. I will be driving you today.” His accent was definitely European, as were his manners and clothes. His uniform looked like it cost more than some of her equipment from work. He was older too, maybe in his early 50’s, with salt-and-pepper gray hair.
“I’m Beru Lars,” She shook his hand firmly, “this is my son, Luke.”
“Hi!” Luke held out his hand, beaming, “I’m Luke.”
“Yes,” there was something like excitement in his cool gaze. Anticipatory and gleeful, as well as affectionate. It was like he was drinking in the sight of Luke, and hardly able to believe it. His handshake was lingering. “Yes, of course. Luke, it is a pleasure to meet you.” He coughed when Luke raised an eyebrow. “Both of you. It is a pleasure to meet both of you. Would you like me to take your bags?”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that.” Luke shook his head. “I’ve got it.”
“I’m fine,” Beru echoed, and waited for him to press the issue, he didn’t.
“Please follow me,” he tucked the little sign under his arm and gestured for them to follow.
Beru shook her head, following him. She would have to get used to this behavior. People In Naboo were going to go crazy when they realized that their prince was back. The chauffeur already seemed to be having trouble, but clearly, his training and professionalism were keeping him from grabbing her son and crying all over him.
They were escorted through the airport, past the shops and the crowds and families, and to the pick-up area. Parked spectacularly illegally, was a stretch limo with flags flying on the hood. Two black SUV’s were parked in front and behind it. Beru felt a little embarrassed when Mr. Bisset greeted another man who was leaning against the door. It was overwhelming and a little shocking, but she couldn’t lose face in front of Luke. Who had stopped walking and was openly staring?
“Um,” Luke plucked at her sleeve, visibly nervous when the chauffeur reached for the door handle. A few other people appeared from the side, pushing one of the heavy carts with their small battered suit-cases that Cliegg’s mother had used years and years ago. She straightened her shoulders and refused to feel embarrassed.
“Come on, Luke,” she yanked him forward and pushed him toward the limo. “Go on, get in.”
“Thank you,” Luke stuttered at Mr. Bisset before clambering in. He was holding his carry-on in front of him like a shield. Which made sense, when Beru climbs into the limo and was stunned by the appearance of a snack and drink bar. There was fresh fruit, sodas, a few beers she didn’t recognize, pastries, and a bucket-full of ice. “Wow.” Beru bit her lip but frowned at the back of the drivers head when he slid into his seat. “I always thought the movies were joking when they said that there were snack-bars in a limo.”
“You did have a very long flight,” Mr. Bisset bit his tongue and half of the word he didn’t finish speaking. “Young sir, we’re also going to be traveling during rush hour traffic. We thought some light refreshment might be appropriate.” He turned to the man who was sitting beside him and nodded. Beru watched the man tap an ear-piece, muttering in French. Slowly, the SUV in front of the limo began to pull out. The car lurched a bit as it drove forward, and Luke sank further into his seat.
“Aunt Beru?” He whispered, looking lost and unsure.
“It’s okay,” she patted his arm. “We’re in New York, look at the city.”
“We’re in a limo being escorted by two big cars and there are people with earpieces. Aunt Beru…what’s going on?”
“Your parents sent someone to pick us up,” she said, and Luke glanced from the back of the drivers head to the little snack bar.
“Okay,” he held the bad tighter, his leg bouncing in place. “Okay.” He was only nervous a little while longer, before getting distracted by the city that was passing by. “Should we call Uncle Owen and tell him we’re in the city?”
“That’s a good idea, Luke,” she eyes on the pastries, which looked delicious. It was a good idea for Luke to call Owen because the man was usually the anchor for some of Luke’s more wild fantasies.
The drive wasn’t that long, but Luke spent it jabbering to Owen and staring out the window and telling him everything he was seeing as well as promising to take lots of pictures and show them when he got home. Beru waffled between nervously tapping her fingers and fiddling with her purse strings. Luke, always keen to pick up on her feelings, handed the phone over with a smile and nod.
“Beru?” Owen’s gruff voice cut through her turmoil and nervousness. “Are you alright?”
“I’m okay,” she turned to admire the city flashing past them. She could see curious people in other cars trying to peer through the tinted windows. “The city is a little overwhelming.”
“New York is a big city,” Owen told her quietly. “It’s okay.”
“It’s been a bit crazy,” she sighed but offered Luke a quick smile when he glanced over. “Are you holding up alright?”
“This house has never seen so damn quiet,” Owen complained, “don’t tell Luke, but I put on one of his CD’s in the boombox. That band he likes so much, Imagine Dragons. I don’t much like it, but it’s like…” his voice was choked off. “It’s like he’s walking around upstairs.”
“You’ve got my jazz records,” Beru told him, “you should play some of those.”
“I will,” her husband promised. “Promise me you’ll try a New York hotdog, alright.”
“I don’t even like hot dogs.”
“When in New York, you need to try a hotdog. It’s required.”
“Required? Seriously?” She shushed Luke when he nodded vigorously. “Alright, Owen, we’ll go for a New York hotdog.”
Leia gripped her father’s hand tightly as they ascended the steps of the Naboo Embassy. The royal bodyguards were mingling with Bail’s as they stepped through the front doors. Years of practice and training were the only things keeping her from running away when she felt the attention of dozens of people. The people waiting at the desk, the guards inside the door, the gentleman waiting a few steps away. He was tall, thin, and with pale gray eyes, and his pale-blond hair was cut short and flattened to his scalp with copious amounts of product. Nervousness radiated off of him and he cleared the last few steps between them in short, stiff movements.
“Senator Organa,” he bowed, “it is a pleasure to meet you and,” his eyes turned to Leia and he seemed hardly able to contain himself. “Miss Leia,” he said breathlessly and bowed again deeper this time. “I am so happy,” his voice was choked off and he brought a dainty handkerchief to his eyes and sniffed. “I am so happy you are here…” he dabbed at the corner of his eyes, clearly overwhelmed. “I’m so happy you are here today.”
“Are you alright?” Leia asked, and felt stupid when she did. He clearly wasn’t alright.
“Yes!” He turned away, “I promised myself I would not cry. I am so sorry you had to see this, Miss Leia. I really.”
“It’s okay,” Leia patted his back, and the strange man turned around again and beamed weakly at her. “I get it. It’s a bit….overwhelming for all of us.”
“Yes, oh yes. Last time I saw you, you were absolutely tiny. You seem to have kept favoring white as your color.”
“I’ve favored white?”
“Oh, yes,” he nodded, “white is the traditional colors of the young of the families in Naboo. Your brother hated it. We always thought because he was sensitive to certain colors and textures like your father.”
“I’m sensitive to certain textures,” Leia blurted, and the rest of her brain caught up. “Did you know me?”
“Oh,” there was a brief pause and the man burst into noisy tears. Bail stepped forward, clearing his throat.
“I am sure that there is somewhere else to have this conversation,” he said quietly, but his voice infused with firm authority. “Mr ?”
“Oh, I am so sorry!” The managed to quiet himself. “I am so sorry. Please, follow me.”
Leia held on tight to her father, but her curiosity wasn’t sated. “So…what is your name?”
“My name is Tiblad Pierron, manservant of her Royal Majesty Queen Amidala.”
“Yes,” they walked further into the embassy. “I was also serving as yours when you were.” He had to pause to collect himself. They stalled in the hallway. “When you were a baby. You can call me Threepio, everyone does.”
“It is a terrible nickname that has stuck.” They walked down the hall until they were in a new room. It was beautiful, detailed murals of unfamiliar landscapes covered the walls. Chairs and couches that were like the ones Leia had seen in historical dramas and museums.
“Oh,” Leia stared around. “Where?”
“I am sorry, but we are waiting for your brother to arrive. He should be here in a few minutes. We thought it might be best you two meet.”
“My brother,” she’s forgotten about her brother. A boy named Luke. Her brother, and her twin. It was crazy to think she had a brother and parents she didn’t remember. This whole situation was crazy. “Right.”
“Would you like something to drink or something to eat?” Threepio looked hopefully at both of them.
“Water?” Leia croaked and Threepio nodded and vanished a second later.
“This is crazy.” The turned around to one of the bodyguards. “Sorry, sirs, but this is crazy.”
“Not disagreeing,” Captain Antilles shrugged, “this is crazy. You alright, Leia?”
“I’m okay,” she held onto Bail, and he hugged her close. “Really.”
“I’m not disagreeing,” they all turned toward the door as it opened and an awfully familiar voice the carried through it. “But if you’re going to find a hotdog stand then you can do it online. You should walk the streets.” Luke Lars stepped through the opening door, deep in conversation with an older woman she knew was Aunt Beru. He paused, looking up and meeting her eyes.
There was a moment of horrible silence, in which Leia’s brain stuttered to a halt and everything slotted into place.
“Leia?” He blinked a few times, “what are you doing here?”
“The same thing you are,” she said breathlessly. She knew her father didn’t understand what was going on, and judging by the confusion on Aunt Beru’s face, she didn’t either. “Oh my God! LUKE! You’re my brother!”
“You two know each other?” Threepio gasped when he walked through the door. The scene was frozen until a grin spread across Luke’s face. He was across the room in an instant, sweeping her into a spine-crushing hug and spinning her around.
It made sense, in the crazy way that her day was going. There her impossible friend was impossibly her brother.
“You’re my sister! This is amazing!” His excitement was infectious, and she started laughing. “My sister! My best friend is my sister! What are the odds?”
“You two know each other?” Bail blinked and turned to Beru.
“I think that they’re internet friends,” Beru whispered back. “Oh, I’m Beru Lars.”
“Bail Organa,” they shook hands and turned back to the confusing reunion going on in front of them.
“You should have seen that airport! I couldn’t believe how big it was!” Luke and Leia hadn’t let go of each other, “and this city is HUGE! It is insane!”
“I know right!” They pulled away from each other just long enough to get a good look at the other.
Luke was sure his heart was about to burst out of his chest as he held tight to his best friend and his sister. He had seen Leia not too long ago at the FFA convention. They’d shared ice-cream and a plan. They’d talked about their futures.
It made facing Anakin Skywalker a hundred times less terrifying than before. With Leia with him, he couldn’t be afraid of anything that could happen.
“Internet friends?” He turned his head to Leia’s dad, Bail Organa. “This is your internet friend?”
“We’ve met before, sir,” Luke slung an arm over her shoulder. “At the FFA convention in Indianapolis.”
“How long have you known each other?” Threepio hadn’t stopped crying once, but he seemed a little calmer now. Like the other adults in the room, very confused.
“A few years,” Leia answered, “we met on a chat-room for people who wanted to ask questions about gardening.”
“We were the only people who were younger than 35,” Luke grinned, “and we started a private chat about room gardens. She wanted to know what kinds of planets were good for pets.”
“Luke wondered why anyone didn’t have a garden,” they both shared a quick grin and turned to the adults. “What?”
“You two,” Bail covered his mouth with his hands, stunned. “Already know each other?”
“You’re a pair of separated, long-lost twins and you already know each other.” Beru took a seat, looking shaky. “Oh my God. Oh, God.” She put a hand to her chest. “Owen is going to laugh himself sick.” After a second, she jumped back to her feet and held a hand out to Leia. “I’m Aunt Beru.”
“Aunt Beru,” Leia shook her head, only a little surprised when the older woman pulled in close for a hug. “Luke’s told me all about you.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Leia felt close to tears when Beru patted her cheek, beaming. “I’m so glad you two found each other. Anakin is going to….well, he won’t believe this.”
Threepio dabbed at his eyes, and he sniffed. “I hardly believe this myself.” He shook his head. “I….sirs and madams…they are waiting.”
“Oh,” Luke swallowed hard, turning over to Leia in time to catch her nervous expression. He wasn’t sure he could breathe right. He’d waited for this moment for so long. He’d dreamt about it, imagined all sorts of things, and he was dying for a chance to meet his parents. Coming up on the moment felt like standing at the edge of a cliff and daring to jump over the edge.
“Yes,” Leia straightened her shoulders and nodded at the other students.
“Do you want me to stay, Luke?” Beru touched his arm gently. He looked over and felt his words die in this throat. He only barely noticed Threepio vanish through the door. The senators guard followed shortly after and then it was only the four of them in the room.
“We could leave,” Bail offered, “if it would make you two more comfortable.”
“Please stay,” Leia reached out with her free hand to grab her father. “Don’t go.”
Luke didn’t say anything but kept his eyes on the door. A horrible, anticipatory feeling fell over the room as a new set of footsteps approached. None of them spoke as the door cracked open to reveal Anakin Skywalker.
He looked older than in the one picture Uncle Owen kept in the little tin with other precious family memories. There was a new scar of his right eye, and Luke could see a state-of-the-art prosthetic arm curling around the door. He was wearing a button-up shirt tucked into jeans, and comfortable sneakers. Both were staring at Luke and Leia like they couldn’t believe it. No one had spoken, but Padme had her hands over her mouth and was crying silently.
“Hi,” he gulped, and pushed the door open a little further and a beautiful woman came into view. Dark brown eyes and hair with a few gray streaks. She was beautiful and wearing a casual outfit. Luke had seen her before, at the courthouse. He’d seen her, surrounded by guards and wearing that wildly impractical gown.
His mother had been right there! His mother had been right there and neither of them had been the wiser.
“I,” Luke stepped forward, extracting himself from Leia and Beru. He lifted the letter he hadn’t set down once since he’d gotten it. “I got your letter.” He could feel all eyes on him, but he soldiered forward. “You know, um, I recognized your perfume….from it. It was like…one of those flashbulb memories they talk about. I,” his voice stalled. He lowered the letter and glanced at Anakin Skywalker.
Padme choked out a sob, lurching forward and yanking him into a crushing hug. She cried, muttering in French and tightening her hold as each second passed. Without anything else to do with his hands, he hugged her back.
Eventually, her French melted to English and he could almost understand what she was saying. “You’re alive! You’re alive and you’re here! You’re alive and you remember my perfume! You got my letter.” She held him at arm's length, sniffling as she drank in the sight of him. “You are so tall and handsome. Oh, you look just like your father. Look, you have his chin and you have his smile. My God, I can’t believe you’re here.”
“So is Leia,” Luke turned to his sister. “Leia and I are actually old friends. We’ve known each other for a few years. Can you believe it?”
“You know each other?” Anakin finally spoke, his voice was just as tremulous as Padme’s.
“We met online.” Their parents exchanged a look.
“We saw each other during the FFA convention not long ago,” Leia pulled out her phone, and in a second had pulled up one of the pictures she’d taken of herself and Luke hanging out. “See?”
“Leia started her schools FFA chapter,” Luke told him and grinned weakly when his father looked over. “You were in FFA, right?”
“How’d you know?” Anakin blinked rapidly, tears slipped from the corners of his eyes. He was crying copiously, as was Padme. “You?”
“I found your old uniform. Um, we re-sized it to fit me.”
“Oh,” Anakin started helplessly. “I’m glad that…”
Luke held out an arm and was rewarded when his father can in for a hug. Almost lifting them off the ground in his excitement.
It left like coming home. Like he fit in their arms and nowhere else. As if a missing puzzle piece was finally slotted into place and the picture was whole. When they let him go enough to reach out, he reached for Leia, pulling her into a hug that was covered by both their parents.
“So, Leia,” Anakin ‘s hand hovered awkwardly over her shoulder. It gave it a short pat. He desperately wanted to grab hold of her and never let go. But Leia’s visible discomfort kept him back. “You’re…a…FFA member too?”
“I am,” she turned toward Bail and then back to Anakin. “Big cities are food deserts. People don’t know where their food comes from. I started my FFA chapter to help people learn and so they begin to understand what farming is like in the United States.”
“That’s amazing,” his chuckle was watery and tired. He was beaming through, grinning with tears in his eyes. “I was in FFA because it was the only after-school program that mom trusted.”
“Mom?” Leia pounced on the word and whipped her head back around to Luke. “Grandma Shmi?”
“Luke told me about her,” Leia said, “do we have more grandparents on your side?” Padme nodded.
“I haven’t told my parents that we found you,” she said, her accent getting thicker as she spoke. “They will be so happy. My family will be so happy. Children, there are so many people who will be so happy to see you.”
Luke rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Um, Dad.” Anakin whipped his head around. The newness of the word starling them both. It fit, it fit perfectly on the older man’s shoulders. “You remember Aunt Beru right?” He gestured to his aunt who had been watching the scene beside Bail. Both of them were silent.
“And this is Bail Organa, my…my Papa.”
“Beru,” Anakin’s mouth twisted in a wry smile. “It’s been a long time.”
“You look a little older,” Beru said, “finally.” She reached past his outstretched hand to pat his cheeks. “What happened to Captain Babyface?”
“Oh,” he laughed, “you haven’t met some of my old crew and you haven’t met my friends. They’ll tell you all about it.”
“I hope so,” she turned to Bail. “So, Senator Organa.”
“Beru Lars, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” They shook hands. “This is easily one of the stranger things that’s happened to me.”
“Same here,” she good-naturedly elbowed Anakin. “My step-brother-in-law, Anakin Skywalker.”
“Actually, Naberrie,” he held out his hand. “Senator, hope the agents didn’t give you too hard of a time.”
“They weren’t any trouble,” Bail told him, “ma’am.” He and Padme shook hands. “It is an honor to meet you both.”
“Thank you for your service to Naboo,” Padme said, “this is…this is wonderful. To find my children so happy and healthy and I know that this is because you two have taken your parental duties so seriously.”
“Wouldn’t do anything else,” Beru and Bail said at the same time. They shared a laugh.
“I brought a few of Luke’s baby pictures,” Beru told them and waved off a groaning Luke.
“And I brought some of Leia.”
“But we should wait,” Beru nodded toward the door and began tugging Bail toward it. “We should let you four meet.”
“Agreed,” Bail offered a sallow bow and let Beru pull him out of the room.
Once it was the family left alone, Padme went back and hugged both twins tightly. She was crying again, but neither Luke or Leia minded. “I can’t believe I have you again,” she whispered. “I have you back in my arms. I thought you were gone forever. This is a miracle.”
“I never thought I’d meet you,” Luke told her, he turned around to Anakin. “I was always hoping that you’d come visit.”
“Owen told you…about me?” Anakin looked hopeful.
“Just that you two were step-brothers and that you left after an argument after Grandma Shmi’s funeral.”
“Yeah,” his father shrugged and looked away. “It was a hell of a fight.” He laced his hand with Padme’s.
“You can come visit you know, both of you. There’s a fold-out couch.” He blinked when Anakin laughed and grinned at Padme. “What?”
“I’m just trying to imagine your mother sleeping on a fold-out couch.”
“You have to visit Mama, Luke,” Leia smacked his arm. “You have to visit her. Now that I know we’re siblings she needs to meet you so she doesn’t think my internet friend is an ax murderer.”
“You don’t have to sleep on the fold-out couch,” Luke said hastily, avoiding Leia blows. “You can have my bed.”
“That’s alright, Luke,” Padme laughed. “it doesn’t matter what I sleep on. As long as you are nearby it can’t be so bad.”
“Oh,” Luke blushed, “shucks.”
“Shucks?” Leia laughed, “only you, Luke. Only you.”
“What? Because it’s old and folksy? Uncle Owen says it too.”
“Yes,” Anakin shook his head, hugging Luke to shield him from Leia’s amused glower. After a moment Padme joined in, pulling Leia in behind her until they were all hugging as many people as possible.
“This is crazy,” Leia muttered. The hug slowly untangled, and they were left staring at each other. Leia was gaping at Padme and then at Anakin. “This whole thing is crazy. I can’t believe that I’m supposed to….what’s going to happen? I mean, are we supposed to move to Naboo? Are we supposed to…to move? What’ll happen now?”
“Why would we move to Naboo?” Luke asked, scratching his nose, and flushed when Leia gaped. “What?”
“Don’t you know who they are?” She demanded and Luke shrugged awkwardly.
“Uh, our parents?”
“Luke! We’re in the Naboo Embassy for a reason!”
“That’s because….” Luke didn’t want to admit to his ignorance. Uncle Owen had told him, years ago, that Anakin had married a rich European woman. From the building, Luke guess that he’d married someone from Naboo. There had to be a lot of technical and legal issues about his weird adoption. “Okay.” He turned around to Aunt Beru, who shrugged.
“We were going to let your parents explain,” she told him. “We didn’t think…that you’d want to hear it from us.”
“You don’t know?” Leia exclaimed, “seriously?”
“Um.” Padme and Anakin looked a little out of sorts. Their eyes were wide. “Should I?”
“Luke, remember that essay we were going to write?”
“Yeah,” that seemed like ages ago.
“Luke,” Leia said patiently, “who is the queen of Naboo?”
“Padme Ami…” his breathe froze in his chest, and he locked eyes with his mother. “OH MY GOD!”
“Luke,” she stepped forward and Luke scrambled back a few steps.
“HOLY COW!” His retreat was halted by Leia grabbing his arm and yanking him to a halt. “Leia!” He gasped, and turned around wordlessly, gesturing wildly. “LEIA!!”
“Luke, calm down. Please,” she kept her hand tight and faced Padme. “I’m sorry, he’s usually high strung when he gets new information. His parents looked aghast. “Luke, calm down.”
“Maybe you should sit down,” Padme offered, glancing at Anakin and then at Leia. Leia looked halfway shocked and halfway amused.
“I!” Luke stumbled away from Padme, entirely missing the heartbroken expression that flashed across her face. Leia did not.
“Luke, these are your parents.”
“But!” Luke stared at her and then at Padme. “But Uncle Owen said that Anakin only married a rich European lady! That’s all! He didn’t mention anything about who it was!”
“There’s a reason for that,” Anakin sighed, begrudgingly amused. “No one in Anchohead liked me very much and no one wanted to admit that I became something besides a heroin addict.”
“Not to mention it was an enormous scandal in Naboo and all across Europe when we announced that we were married in a private ceremony,” Padme sighed. She watched Luke digest the information slowly and then shake his head.
“This is crazy,” he dropped his head into his hands. His voice was muffled by his palms when he spoke again. “Leia, how long have you known?”
“Since Papa told me that they had reached out to him. It wasn’t…difficult to put together.”
“Oh my God,” Luke moaned, “what does this even mean?”
“This,” Padme glanced at Beru, who gestured at Luke. She sat beside him, clearly nervous. “Luke, it means that you are our son.”
“But what else does it mean? Am I supposed to move? I’m…was the paperwork problem they were talking about? What does this mean about…college? I can’t move! I can’t go to Naboo!”
“What?” Anakin and Padme protested as one.
“Why not?” Leia demanded.
“I can’t leave in the middle of the semester! Not to mention who is going to help with the farm? Packing up and moving? I don’t even have a passport!” There was a ringing silence.
“Luke,” Anakin started and then he stopped, his voice was soft when he continued.
“I can’t go,” Luke said, voice cracking, “I have to help take care of my aunt and uncle. Besides! I can’t just…leave them! What will they think? They’ve raised me and I know that you’re my parents but…but.” He turned to Leia.
“Our citizenship as Americans is already in question,” she told him. “Since we were both smuggled into the country. As the national ruler and as a royal family from a long history, I don’t think we’re going to keep out citizenship.”
“But, that’s crazy! Smuggled into the country!” He gaped. “It’s not that I don’t want to know you,” he focused on a striken Padme and Anakin. “I do. I’ve wanted nothing more than to meet you for years and years…but I can’t just leave.”
“I wish I didn’t understand,” Anakin said, turning away with his eyes suspiciously shiny.
“I do want to go,” Luke told Padme earnestly, taking her hands in his. “I do, but…I don’t think I can go yet. I mean…Europe? You’re a queen!”
“You’re a prince,” Padme said, “and Leia is a princess.”
“Oh my God.” He didn’t protest when she pulled him close, hugging him gently as his head fell against her shoulder. “This is unreal.”
“I’ll say,” Anakin agreed, hugging Leia. “It feels so strange to know that our children are all grown up. Look at you, you’re…perfect.”
“That’s what Papa says,” she tossed her head, smirking.
“I don’t know how to be a prince,” Luke said into Padme’s shoulder. “I can’t be a prince.”
“We can fix that,” Padme said patting his back, “if…you truly wish to delay your return to Naboo then we can send Threepio with you.”
“He can teach you!” Anakin agreed brightly, “he taught me!”
“But what about Leia?”
“I already have my formal etiquette training,” she said primly.
“I suppose it is a good thing,” Padme said, letting Luke pull away slowly. “We have to inform Parliament and we have to plan how we’re going to alert the media. There will be…a media firestorm.”
“Oh,” both twins stared blankly at each other.
“Luke’s not used to the media,” Leia said slowly. “I am…oh! Luke, you don’t have incriminating things on your social media?”
“Luke doesn’t have social media,” Anakin said and shrugged when Luke shot him a disbelieving stare. “of course we stalked your social media after we learned you were alive.”
“Oh,” Luke laughed, “that makes sense but…” his voice trailed off and blinked a few times. “Alive? What do you mean…alive?”
“You didn’t…know?” This time Leia spoke up and Luke swallowed hard. “Um.”
“You were both kidnapped,” Padme said quietly, “and…we didn’t know that you were alive until a few days ago.”
“You thought that we were murdered?” He croaked, and turned to Leia, eyes wide.
“My…Prisoner 0 set up a coup that would have been successful. Killing all of us and destroying half of the palace and our parliament building. If it weren’t for his best wet-work agent betraying him then it would have succeeded. He would have become King. As it was,” Padme stopped, her eyes were bright with tears and she looked away.
“We lost you,” Anakin said quietly, “for 17 years. A week and a half ago…when he was murdered…we found out that you were both alive.”
“Fett kidnapped you both,” Anakin said tightly, wrapping an arm around Padme.
“And when…and when the explosives…” her voice choked up and Luke was frozen stiff. “We didn’t know that he’d taken you.”
There wasn’t much to say to that, and he knew that Leia felt the same. She’d had time to digest what this meant. She knew what it meant and she’d known long before he had. This was the first he was hearing about it. That he was a kidnapped prince, twin, thought to be murdered as a baby by man who wanted to steal a whole country.
“So…we’re twins,” Leia pointed at herself and then at Luke. “You are our biological parents. We’re from Naboo and we’re both…royal?”
“Yes,” Padme wiped at her eyes, “the Naberrie line is one of the oldest in Europe. Since…there is an unusual situation than worrying about the succession of the crown isn’t going to be our priority.”
“Then what is our priority?” Luke wondered, and flinched when Leia kicked him.
“Please don’t kick your brother, Leia,” Padme said, “Luke, our priority is only to get to know you. To see the man and woman that you both have become…to learn everything we can about you.”
“Oh,” he was full to bursting with millions of emotions and he didn’t know what he wanted to say. He didn’t even know what to do. So he settled on hugging his family again and let himself be swept away.
Anakin glanced at Luke and Leia and tried to suppress a grin. They were both unconscious, having sacked out twenty minutes ago after a long day of meeting and getting to know their suddenly new family. A lot of tears had been shed that day. Not just by the twins but by Padme and Anakin too.
He couldn’t believe that they were here. That they were alive. That they were so healthy. Luke was curled up on his side and cradling a pillow to his chest. He looked impossibly young and angelic. Leia too was perfect. Sprawled over the bed and taking up more than her share of space. One leg was thrown over Luke, not that he seemed to notice, and she’d stolen most of the pillows.
It was nearing three in the morning now, and he knew he needed to get some sleep. He and Padme were too caught up in the miracle of having the twins back to even consider it. Padme was watching them, just watching them., and couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away.
She looked desperate and tired, still fully dressed and she hadn’t bothered to take off her make-up yet. He knew for a fact that her eyes had to be burning. She’d hardly slept that last few days, suffering from jet-lag and worry.
“Padme,” he nudged her arm, “we should get changed.”
“I don’t want to leave them,” she said, “if we leave them, then who knows what will happen? We thought that the palace was safe when we last put them to bed. We thought,” she looked away, shoulders shaking.
“Padme, doll,” he scooted across the couch, hugging her shoulders as she sniffed. “I’ll wait here, right here while you get clean up and changed and then you can watch.” This was going to bring a whole new round of therapy for the both of them.
“You’ll watch them?” She glanced back and then over. “Keep an eye on them?”
“I’ll even tuck them in,” he said and pushed on the small of her back. “Please, go.” She went reluctantly and Anakin followed her to the door before grabbing a set of spare blankets and throwing them over the twins. If possible, Luke and Leia looked even cuter. Despite himself, he pulled out his phone and snapped a quick picture. He’d already taken a few and he knew that Ahsoka would want to see all of them.
Padme was back sooner than normal, smelling like her favorite soap and her face was clear of make-up. She’d also changed into pajamas. For a moment she eyed the twins before plopping herself down on the couch and wrapping herself up in a blanket. He took twice as long, careful to detach his arm and returned to find Padme watching the twins through half-lidded eyes.
He sat beside the couch, leaning against it and taking one of her hands in his. “They want to…stay.”
“I know. It’s something we should have expected.”
“To hop up and move so far away from everything they’ve known so quickly,” he shook his head, and let his eyes close when Padme began to thread her finger through his hair. “They’re wonderful.”
“They really are,” Padme agreed. “They really are.”
Chapter 16: Breakfast
Luke makes breakfast and realizes that there is more to this than meet the eye.
Leia woke up and her brother was gone. She had the bed to herself, and her parents were so closely intertwined on the couch that she wasn’t sure where one began and the other ended. They were still sleeping and must have slept through Luke’s escape. For a moment she hesitated before climbing off the bed and checking her phone.
7:23 AM. Way too early to be awake after the night they had, but Luke was always a bit of a morning person. She glanced back to her parents and figured she’d let them sleep. Outside the room, were four guards. A lot more than she was used to, and she paused. They all turned to her.
“ Good morning, Princess Leia,” one said.
“Good morning,” she answered, nodding to herself. That was strange to hear. Usually, people calling her princess were mocking her. “Erm...have you seen my brother?”
“He’s around,” another answered.
“Morning people,” Leia grumbled, “thank you.” She decided to brave the rest of the embassy in her rumpled clothes, figuring that no one was going to be overly judgemental. There were a lot of bodyguards around, and every time she passed by they stiffened.
Luke had probably freaked out, greeting each and every one of them. He didn’t know the rules of having bodyguards or security. She quickened her pace and the paused. This was an embassy and she had no idea where she was going.
“Might I suggest,” an agent coughed into his fist. “Checking the kitchen?”
“The kitchen?” Leia frowned, “how do I get to the kitchen?”
“Noooo,” she waved him down, looking around to see if there was anyone else. “I’ll find it. It’s okay.”
“I’ll show you, it is easy to get lost.”
Seeing no other way out, Leia shrugged, and followed the guard deep into the building. She first heard music, soft, swinging jazz that seemed to fit the sleepy early morning mood perfectly. Then she could smell cooking meat, onions, and the sharp scent of garlic mixed with coffee.
Her brother looked up from the stove, his face flushed with heat. “Leia! Finally awake!” He looked tired and vaugly manic. He’d also made an entire feast.
“How long have you been up?” She asked as he set the spatula aside and opened the oven to reveal the results of his stress baking. Biscuits, delicious looking biscuits that looked and smelled better than any of the ones Leia ever ate.
“A while,” he said, setting the tray aside to cool. “I dreamed I was suffocating...woke up to your legs on my chest.”
“Oops,” Leia ducked around him to steal a still-hot biscuit. She juggled it a bit, laughing. “I need jelly for this.”
“Don’t eat everything,” Luke told absently.
“Why are you making such a big breakfast anyway?” Leia asked, and Luke shrugged.
“I always try to make Aunt Beru a nice breakfast if I get up before her. Doesn’t happen very often, you know. She works at the hospital an hour away, so she gets up early.”
“And if she’s sleeping in today,” Luke flipped a slice of ham, the sizzle made her stomach grumble. “Then I want her to wake up to something she’ll love.”
“Huh,” there were a few issues there. “What about our mother?”
“Um….” Luke froze…. “I just...sort of started.”
“Yeah,” he dragged the word out before sucking on his bottom lip. “You think she likes biscuits?”
“Uh,” he threw her a curious look. “He should, this is Grandma Shmi’s recipe.”
“Hmmm,” Leia slathered the bread with the first jelly she could find. That was another problem. Now she had a whole family she knew nothing about. Grandma Shmi had been mentioned a few times, and she knew a lot about Uncle Owen. Luke liked to complain.
“Do you think she’ll like an omelet?” Luke asked, prodding the ham in the pan.
“I don’t know.”
“I wonder if I should take this to Aunt Beru,” Luke wondered, “or let her come get it?”
“Morning,” Bail wandered into the kitchen, nodding his thanks to his escort. He had a laptop under his arm and a phone in hand. “How are you?”
“Papa!” Leia set her breakfast aside, going to her father for a hug.
“Are you alright?” He asked, and she nodded. “Luke?”
“Oh, uh,” Luke shrugged, “I’m fine, Mr. Senator.”
“Luke,” when he smiled, her Papa looked like the kindest man in the world. It was enough to quiet the terror rising in her stomach. “Please, call me Papa, or Uncle Bail. We’re basically family.”
“Right, um. Did you see my aunt?”
“We went to bed fairly late,” Bail said, “I didn’t see which room she went in to.”
“Okay, thanks.” He sensed Luke’s nervousness and exchanged a heavy glance with Leia. Bail ignored the tension and began to assemble himself a cup of coffee. “How did you sleep?”
“Fairly well. Leia, Luke, how did everything go last night?”
“Like expected,” Leia told him, “there was lots of crying. I finally remembered that story. The one where I was on the playground.”
“Oh! That’s my favorite!”
“And Luke,” Leia pointed at her bother, who was stirring food with unnecessary viciousness. “Told us all about Anchorhead.”
“I’m surprised to see you both up so early,” Bail admitted. “It has been a very trying few days for the both of you.”
“Have a biscuit,” Luke said quickly and jerked away from the stove when Anakin’s voice echoed through.
“Do I smell biscuits?” He stepped through, looking both alarmed and relieved. His bathrobe hung open to his waist, revealing a lean torso with more than a few scars. Padme stepped through, looking exhausted but pleased. “Is this Mom’s recipe?”
“Uh,” Luke nodded, looking like a deer in the headlights. “Yeah...I...it’s uh...a surprise.”
“This is a lot of food?” Padme observed, taking a seat and watching Luke turn back to the stove with a shrug. “Are we feeding an army?”
“Leftovers are good,” Luke answered, “um, and who doesn’t like biscuits as a snack?”
“These are amazing!” Anakin exclaimed. “Just like Mom used to make them! I’ve tried making them myself but I could never get it right! What did you do differently?”
“Secret,” Luke said, lifting a finger to his lips, “um, secret ingredient.”
“Oh,” Anakin nodded, grinning, as he handed Padme a biscuit. “Should I get Beru then?”
“No, no, let her sleep in. She’s on vacation time right now, and she really needs some rest.” He pulled the pan off the stove and wiped his hands on his apron. “She can eat when she’s up for it.”
“So what’s on the schedule for today?” Leia asked, and every adult glanced nervously at the other. Bail sipped his coffee, staring at his computer. Anakin stared into the still-steaming biscuit, and Padme made awkward eye contact with Beru, who had just come through the door.
“I’m a bit tired,” Beru said, giving Luke a quick peck on the cheek and stealing a biscuit for herself. “I don’t think going out is on the table for me.”
“Same here,” Luke said quickly, piling a plate of eggs and ham and handing it to her. He missed the grateful look Padme and Anakin shot his aunt, who smiled back. “Mother?” Padme straightened, “uh, what do you want?” He gestured at the stove, avoiding looking directly at her.
“A bit of everything,” she said quietly, “I think. It looks delicious, Luke.”
“Beru? Did you teach him?”
“Myself and Owen,” Aunt Beru answered, preening. “He taught himself a bit too. He’s very good at cake.”
“The girls in Anchorhead must be crazy about you then,” Bail joked and frowned in confusion when Luke and Beru exchanged heavy glances, and Anakin began to laugh. “What did I say?”
“Anchorhead is the reason ‘cast not your pearls before swine’ was invented,” Anakin told him.
“People like me,” Luke protested but shrugged when Beru frowned at him. “Some of them like me. Doesn’t help that we’ve cut ourselves off from town and everyone else.”
“Umph,” Beru tossed her head, looking away. “Nothings changed since your father lived there.”
“Except I lived there.” Luke shrugged at Bail’s inquiring look. “Apparently some old ladies at their old church told them they shouldn’t be allowed to adopt me.”
“Why?” The senator demanded.
“Apparently,” Beru hissed into her coffee, “not being able to have children of my own was a sign of a sinful life and I didn’t deserve it.”
Protests rang through the kitchen, none louder than Anakin’s exclamation. “That is asinine!”
“Why we don’t speak to any of the religious folk,” Beru told him, and Bail looked frozen in horror.
“Except the Amish town nearby,” Luke told them quickly.
“They’re all of the same stock anyway,” Beru continued.
“But those were your friends!” Anakin sputtered, “you grew up with them!”
“How could they say something like that!” Padme demanded.
“I don’t know, but it made dumping all of them so much easier.”
“What do you mean the same stock?” Leia told the biscuit off Luke’s plate. He didn’t notice, too busy wrestling with the lid on the peanut butter jar.
“Doesn’t matter if they’re Baptist, Presbyterian, or any other offshoots of Christianity; in a town that small the religious folk will always gang up on anyone they see as an enemy of Anchorhead. Very close knit sort of place, which can be a good or a bad thing. There, it is a bad thing. They all regret being so horrible about Luke’s adoption now, of course.” She smiled darkly. “And will definitely regret it when all of this breaks, but I’m not goingto let them come crawling back into my good graces.”
“Aunt Beru holds a grudge,” Luke told them pointlessly.
“I’m so sorry, Beru,” Bail set a hand on hers. “I’m so sorry. You know, I and Breha had no luck with conceiving children. Some of the older members of my family thought the same thing. But I only heard through rumors, none of them would have said it to my face.”
“You poor dears,” she patted his hand, “you should have seen Cliegg, Owen’s father, react to all of that nonsense.”
“Don’t tell me the Pettigrews are still the big family in town?” Anakin asked, disgusted. “They always treated Mom horribly.”
“They ate their words” Beru’s smugness was a bit new, and Luke was both terrified and intrigued by this side of his aunt. “You know the oldest Pettigrew daughter, Hope?”
“Not really,” he scratched his head.
“What happened to her?” Leia piped up, tired of being left out.
“Well,” Beru gestured them closer and said in a low voice. “Not long after the fight, she got pregnant. Had a baby out of wedlock. Her mother had an absolute fit! Right in the middle of the Knights of Columbus meeting hall. The whole town knew in a few days.”
“I should not be laughing at this,” Anakin said even as the corners of his lips turned up. “I remember Mrs. Pettigrew. What a shrew.”
“Still thinks she’s a real society lady,” Beru told him, “even with the drinking problem.”
“I can’t stand her,” Luke shuddered, “she hates me. When I was little, she pinched my ear.”
“Ugh,” Leia grabbed his shoulder, “She sounds like my first-grade teacher. Refused to believe that Papa was my Papa the entire year. They had to send the security to pick me up, because every time he showed up, she called the cops.”
“You’re kidding!” He looked to Bail for confirmation, who nodded. “Did she get fired?”
“Eventually, she’s been banned from teaching in Massachusetts.”
“I almost regret that,” Bail smirked when Beru held her fist up and bumped it.
“What happened to Hope Pettigrew’s daughter?” Leia asked, and Beru laughed.
“Oh, her name is Camie and she works at the diner in town. Her mother opened it, you see, and she’ll inherit it.”
“CAMIE!” Luke sputtered, “that Camie! The one who sometimes gives me free pie?”
“Wow, I had no idea she was related to Mrs. Pettigrew!”
“So Hope is doing well for herself?” Anakin sighed, “that’s good.”
“This is fascinating,” Padme joined in after a few moments of silence. “I had no idea small towns were like this.”
“Nor did I,” Bail saluted with his coffee cup. “This sounds like politics.”
“Public opinion is big in Anchorhead,” Anakin told them, “families are big on it.”
“Unless you don’t care,” Beru pointed out, “and have nothing to do with it, and are so far out of having anything to do with it, then people are jealous.” She held up her coffee cup. “I live so happy and well with Owen and Luke.”
“Same as myself with Breha and Leia,” Bail clinked her cup with his.
“And we found happiness, despite Prisoner 0’s best attempts,” Padme said, rallying quickly and picking up her own coffee cup. “To revenge on our enemies.”
“Hardcore,” Leia whistled. “I now have six parents.”
“We should have a grill-off,” Bail said suddenly.
“Owen will lose,” Beru groaned, “he cannot grill. He can make a souffle.”
“Really?” Anakin asked, amazed, “when did he learn that?”
“For my birthday a few years ago,” she told him, “but he is terrible on the grill. I grill. He always burns the meat.”
“He’s not so bad,” Luke said, more in an effort to defend his uncle than anything else. Beru frowned at him, and he shrugged. “He’s not here to argue.”
“At some point, I want to take Luke shopping,” Leia told the group.
“Shopping?” Beru asked, echoing Luke’s surprise. “Why?”
“Because we’re in New York!” Leia exclaimed, “and if today is going to be an indoor day, then we need to plan the next few days. I’d like to take Luke shopping. He’s got serious opinions about fashion, and I want to see if he’ll walk the walk...or the catwalk in this case.”
“Luke?” Both his parents and his aunt stared at him. Luke shrugged awkwardly, blushing.
“It isn’t like there’s a lot of fashion in Anchorhead and it isn’t like I’d wear it. I just like the looks of it!”
“Huh,” Anakin shrugged, “we should arrange something. But I think Bail and Beru promised us baby pictures?”
“I brought home videos!” Bail announced. “We made a hundred or so of them.”
“I brought pictures,” Beru chimed in, “and a few other things.”
The video showed a tiny leia, wearing a bright red dress and an upturned bowl on her head. She was stamping over the hospital room, her shoes lighting up with every step. Behind the camera, Bail Organa’s deep laughter was heard. Breha Organa was sitting on the bed, almost smothered in blankets looking tired and worn. The medical devices hooked up to her could be heard beeping, all but drowning out the tired giggle she gave.
“Baby,” the at-the-time-Governor lifted a thin hand. “Baby!”
“Mama!” Tiny-Leia shrieked, stomping over to the bed, trying to clamber up. “MA-MA!”
“Help her up, Bail.” The camera shifted a bit, and a long arm came into view. Hooking around Leia’s waist and depositing her on the bed. “Leia.” Breha smiled, as Leia scrambled over the blankets.
“Gently, Leia,” Bail chided. “You have to be gentle. Mama is very sick.”
“Mama.” Leia settled comfortably at her side, the bowl on her head tilted up and flopped on her mother’s lap.
“I like the flowers you got me.” The camera turned to room and then focused on a vase of mostly crushed daffodils. “They’re very pretty.”
Luke glanced around the room. Anakin and Padme were entranced with the screen, and Bail was dabbing at his eyes with a sleeve. Leia was hiding her face in a pillow, and Beru was patting her back.
“I like the bowl,” Luke told her, “it’s a good look for you.”
“You were so small!” Anakin breathed. “So small. Look at that!”
Right, he sobered up. His parents had thought they were dead for years, until a few weeks ago. They didn’t know that Leia liked only sprinkled donuts or that she had once snuck out to see Imagine Dragons perform live. They didn’t know that Luke had once spent a few weeks living in the barn because he’d been nannying a sickly foal and the vet was too expensive at the time.
Padme was holding the photo albums to her chest like a lifeline.
Luke stood up abruptly, “I have to use the restroom,” he announced and fled the room. The hall was empty, and Luke too a moment to cover his eyes and take a few deep breaths. His throat felt tight and painful, and he had to scrub at his eyes.
“Luke?” He whirled around, Threepio was standing behind a small cart covered in plates, clearly headed toward the sitting room. “Young master, are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” He lied, “just a little, um, overwhelmed.”
“Ah, that is perfectly understandable, my prince.” They stood in awkward silence. Luke flicked the wall a few times, and sighed. “You know, you make excellent biscuits.”
“You like them?”
“I may have snuck one,” Threepio admitted, “certainly better than mine.”
“Are you...a cook?”
“I am, I also function as a manservant. I serve to whatever capacity her Majesty needs me to be. This also means that I am here to help you. Is there something I can do to help you?”
“Not unless you can rewind the last couple of hours,” he sighed, and stared when Threepio gave a slightly bitter laugh.
“If I could rewind time, young master, I would have rewound it a long time ago. “
“Oh...right.” Luke rubbed his arm. “Um...just a little...uh.”
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there is a room for you.”
“A room? “
“Oh, yes. There plenty of space in the embassy for guests. Of course, but you spent so late catching up.”
“Oh…” He could not have been more thrilled to have found his parents, but seemed there was a lot of baggage involved.
Chapter 17: Shopping Trip
Everyone goes shopping.
The idea that she had a twin brother came more easily to Leia than the fact that she was suddenly a European princess. She’d always been a princess, something Luke teased her about, but she had been an American princess. Intent on conquering the House, the Senate, and then the Executive office. Famous from the day of her adoption to the first time she’d won a debate team trophy, and then when she’d started her own FFA chapter.
Luke Lars had slid into her life so easily, it was always a wonder why he hadn’t been there before. First, a comforting notification on her phone, then the voice whenever she had a free moment or wanted someone to talk to. Even if they’d only known each other for two years; as far as Leia was concerned, Luke had always been there. The same way Bail and Breha had. Her parents in every sense of the word.
Upsetting this balance, was Padme and Anakin. Bringing with them more baggage than she knew what to do with, more relatives, and then the looming responsibilities and staggering expectations. Even having been raised in the public spotlight, she knew she wasn’t ready for the media firestorm that would erupt when the news broke.
What was she going to do about school? What about her citizenship? What about her friends? What about her fanfiction! What if someone found her fanfiction account!
“Leia?” Luke opened his eyes, which were barely visible under the pillow on his head. He must have sensed her unhappiness.
“Shh, you should be asleep.” He had been asleep, and she’d learned that Luke fell asleep and stayed asleep in the same position. Even if he was face-first in the softest mattress into the world; that he’d planted into only two hours ago.
“Yeah?” He slurred, rising slowly and blinking sleep from his eyes. “What are you looking up?”
“Naboo,” she answered, and grimaced when her phone beeped an alert of low-power. “But not much longer, my phone is dying.”
“Plug it in,” he suggested, flopping onto his back and lying as still as a corpse. “Got to sleep.”
“Got to sleep?”
“Go,” he sighed, eyes fluttering shut again. “To sleep, Leia.”
“Luke, aren’t you worried?” He was so quiet she thought he might have passed out again. It had been a long day, and the clock was ticking steadily closer to 6:00 AM.
“Duh, but you’re already a princess. I’m a farmboy, remember?”
“They didn’t even mention succession, or who gets what!”
“Don’t think they care right now.”
“I understand that part,” Leia leaned off the bed, groping for her charger. “But why can’t we discuss it. I need to have an idea of the future!”
“You wanted to go shopping, right?” The last of the light in the room vanished when she turned her phone over. Unbinding her hair and fluffing it out, she finally laid down with a sigh.
“Then that’s the future. We go shopping in New York.”
“Who is going to pay for it?” She asked.
Luke sounded on the verge of sleep. “There’s got to be a thrift store or two….I brought a few bucks.”
“Thrift store?” Outraged, she turned to her brother, only to find him fast asleep. “You are not getting thrift store clothes.” As if! She’d take him to the most fashionable places in Manhattan. He was not going to get any more hand-me-downs. Luke deserved new and beautiful things. She was going to make sure that happened.
Cuzco was the sort of place that Han loved. Busy, packed, and lively. There was history in the very bones of the city, peering at him at every street corner. Amazing food, interesting trinkets, and people.
“You should move here,” Chewie told him as they watched crowds of people wander by in the Plaza de Armas.
“And be another ex-pat? No, we like where we are. Visiting is nice. I like this place a lot.”
“You should, how was your meeting with the professor?”
“I got the maps of the areas, pictures of them. I think I was able to narrow down a few spots I think he might have gone to. Since we aren’t sanctions on this trip, we have to be really careful. Like, insanely careful. If we did dig anything up. “
“I’ve looked into the rules, Han,” Chewie handed him a pastry. “I will be careful. This isn’t one of my jobs; this is yours.”
“We just need to start looking through the places the old guy mention. Find a hiding spot and figure out what he stole, who he stole it from, and how to get it back to them.”
“Are you sure we can’t come visit?” Ahsoka pushed Lux away as he leaned closer to her conversation. He frowned, wiggling a donut in front of her face to tantalize her. “What? I know they’re just getting to know you, but I’m their aunt! I have rights!”
“Tano,” Lux hissed.
“Shhh,” she waved aggressively at him, still not looking his direction. “Look, Skyguy, New York is a big city! Can’t we just casually bump into them? Why not? They will love us! Well, they’ll love me. I’m going to be the cool aunt! I already got them presents and everything!”
Lux grumbled and began to eat the donut.
“Ani! When do I get to meet them properly?” She paused, and Lux nearly jolted about of his seat when she screeched. “TWO MONTHS!” A faint pause, as he tried to dislodge a bit of donut from the back of his throat. “LONGER!” He spat the bit of bread onto the ground, glowering at Ahsoka when she abruptly hung up on his prince.
“Must you be so rude?”
“It’s Anakin,” she waved lazily, “it would be weird if I wasn’t rude. I can’t meet the twins yet! This is terrible! “
“I can’t meet them either,” he reminded her grumpily. “They are my prince and princess.”
“And? What are they going to do? Let them stay at their school until they graduate? When are they going to tell the whole country?”
“Parliament knows that they’ve been found…as do most of the security team. There were one or two people in CPS and the FBI…not to mention Fett and whoever he may have told. This is a large secret,” Lux held his donut out of reach as Ahsoka swiped for it. “I’m not sure how long they can keep it.”
“People had better hope that the tabloids here don’t get the story first,” Ahsoka glowered at her phone. “I will kill a reporter if I have to.”
“Luke needs to go shopping with me!” Beru looked up from her lunch, glanced at Bail, and then at Luke. Her nephew was picking at his breakfast with half-hearted motions and shrank beneath her stare.
“Leia really wants to go,” he told her, rolling a blueberry around his plate. “She’s got a thing for fashion.”
Luke had a thing for fashion, something he probably thought she didn’t notice. He’d been unbelievably picky about his clothes when he was younger; before he realized they couldn’t afford anything spectacular. He still refused, flat out, to wear anything camouflage for anything that wasn’t hunting. The staples of a small-town midwestern closet were rejected on the grounds of tackiness, and tastelessness.
“You should go,” she told him, and Luke grimaced.
“Shopping in New York is expensive.”
“That’s not an issue,” Bail piped up, “I’ll handle it.”
“No you won’t,” Anakin swept into the room, clearly trying to stave off the headache that Leia was intent on giving him. “We’ll handle it. Right, Padme?”
“Of course,” Padme followed after Leia, smiling at Luke. “The only issue is that we can’t send you out in an embassy car…or with an embassy escort.”
“I can’t call you my brother either,” Leia told Luke, who frowned at the group of adults. “The tabloids and gossip rags sometimes follow me. It is possible that the trip would make a few New York rags, and people might think we’re dating.”
“I know, but if I call you my brother then that opens up a whole can of worms too.”
“None of you are worried about the price?” Luke asked, and Beru kicked his ankles. After a few seconds of significant glances, he relented.
“We could take Threepio!”
All head turned to the manservant currently pouring Padme a cup of tea. He blinked a few times before nodding.
“I would be honored to go with them, your majesties.” Threepio, like the other staff in the embassy, was almost shameless with their attention to Luke and Leia. “I am sure we can take a discreet car.”
“Yes! I need to take Luke shopping!” Beru watched Luke duck his head, grimacing. “He is a fashionista.”
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are! You complained for hours about people wearing John Deere merchandise!”
“Because that’s lazy and I’m not a corporate shill!”
“The green and the yellow is hideous,” Beru agreed, “I won’t wear them either. It makes shopping a little difficult in Anchorhead.”
“Exactly, Luke has strong opinions.” Leia whirled on Bail and Beru. “Which is why he needs to go shopping in New York. It is one of the most fashionable spots in the entire world, and I want to see what he has to say about popular fashion.”
“Security would have to be tight.”
“It would have to inconspicuous,” Leia shrugged, “people are going to get uncomfortable around so many bodyguards. It’ll have to be something for a senator’s daughter, right?”
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable,” Anakin rubbed his jaw, glancing at Padme. “I mean…a shopping trip…without bodyguards.”
“We don’t need a platoon,” Leia set her hands on her hips, and Luke recognized her tone of voice. She was going to get what she wanted, come hell or high water. “Papa, you can take Aunt Beru to find a hotdog stand.”
“I wanted, ow!” Despite kicking her brother’s shin, Leia didn’t even look at him. Her eyes were focused on the adults. “Shopping, Dad, let’s do the shopping.”
“Alright,” Padme said, and all eyes turned to her, shocked and dismayed. “I expect you both to be safe. To not drop any sort of information. You will be as discrete as humanly possible.”
“Mums the word,” Leia mimed zipping her lips.
“Do we have to have a bodyguard?”
“Absolutely,” Anakin interjected, “I could dress up as a bodyguard! I have a suit.”
“Anakin,” Padme set a hand on his, and after a moment of significant staring, he shrugged unhappily.
“Do they have curfews?” He asked Bail and Beru. “Can we give them one? Like, five o’clock?”
“Hey, now!” Luke sputtered, and Aunt Beru laughed.
“Luke doesn’t have a curfew, because he doesn’t need one. I trust him not to do anything stupid.”
“Leia’s curfew is ten,” Bail smirked when Luke turned around in his chair, sticking his tongue out at his sister.
“I think six is good,” Anakin continued, “You know, bedtime is about eight?”
“No,” Leia tossed her hair, “that is not enough time to do anything. We’ll be back when we’re back. It’s sibling bonding time.”
“Good lord, Ani!” Beru didn’t waste time with sweetness; she kicked the back of Anakin’s knee. Almost toppling him. “You’re going to have to trust them! They won’t have any fun if you’re hovering over them. “
“Beruuuuu!” He whined, “their my babies!” He wrapped his arms around Leia’s shoulder, holding her close. The teenager rolled her eyes, but didn’t push him away. “My tiny tiny tiny children.”
“You’re making this a little weird.”
“We have things to talk about anyway,” Bail closed his laptop. “I think getting them out of the house is a good idea. Besides, isn’t this Luke’s first trip to New York.”
“It’s my first trip anywhere,” he admitted, “I do want to…go see some of the sights.”
“Great,” Leia clapped her hands, “Luke, go get changed into something less…miswestern.”
“This is what I’ve got.”
“I’ll get the security detail,” Anakin released Leia and dramatically moped out of the room.
“I’ll arrange the car and the expenses. I expect you both to enjoy yourself fully.”
“YES!” Luke blanched when Leia pumped a fist in the air.
“What have you done?” He asked Padme, “what have you done?”
Luke didn’t shop at department stores very often. He usually spent his time shopping at second-hand thrift stores and Goodwills. Only his shoes were brand new, and the occasional jacket and coat during Christmas. Before today, he’d never been embarrassed by that fact; it was something most of Anchorhead did. The only people who bought brand-new mall clothes were reckless spenders or the snotty jerks on the football team. Beru and Luke had even collaborated to make a jacket once. A bright yellow thing had gotten him mocked in school.
He wanted a moment to breathe before Leia yanked him into a store where he felt too poor to even look at the display mannequins. His sister marched in as if she owned the place. Head raised with a queenly poise she must have learned from Breha.
“Hi!” A smiling shop attendant appeared from nowhere, and Luke had to swallow down a yelp of surprise. She was beautifully coifed, with eyeshadow and eyeliner so perfect he wanted to ask how she’d done it. There were at least three different colors faded together seamlessly. “I’m Amy, what can I help you with.
“Luke,” Leia elbowed him, and he realized he’d been staring too-much.
“I’m sorry,” he held out a hand automatically, reaching up to grab a nonexistent hat. “Your makeup is amazing.”
“Oh!” Her smile widened into something genuine. “You like it?”
“Yeah, I didn’t know you could do something like that with…eyeshadow?”
“It is eyeshadow,” the attendant couldn’t have been much older than Luke and Leia. “I used my new palate. It was sooo expensive but clearly worth it.”
“Eeyup!” He stuffed his hands back in his pockets, awkwardly. “I’m sorry. I’ve just never seen anything like it before.”
She laughed, “you’re cute! Thanks. I don’t mind. So, you two are here shopping? What are you looking for?”
“He needs,” Leia gestured broadly at Luke, “clothes. I’m looking for everything.”
“Ohhhh, are you getting the Queer Eye treatment?”
“If I get my hair dyed,” Luke shuddered, “Aunt Beru would string me up.”
“We’ll start with clothes,” Leia pushed Luke toward the racks. “And then we’ll see about a hair cut.”
“I don’t,” he stared nervously at the clothes. So different from what he was used to, soft and fashionable. It was all very new. “No hair-cut.”
“We have a wide selection of men's grooming,” Amy told Leia, “and if you don’t like our stuff, there are a few shops not too far away that might work.”
“I want to see if I can get him eyeliner by the end of the day.” The ominous hiss behind him, had Luke turning. Leia and Amy were both staring at him, grinning too widely.
“So,” Beru wasn’t stupid, and she knew how to read a room. Right now, she knew that Padme and Anakin were torn about asking her plans for Luke’s future. As a prince, she’d done her research; he’d have to go back to Naboo and live there the rest of his life. He’d have to spend holidays and vacations far away. Leia too, but Bail already seemed resigned. “When are you going to tell everyone?”
“Hmm?” Anakin twitched, while Padme remained perfectly still save for a slow blink.
“Your country,” she nodded to the queen. “When are you going to tell everyone?” There, she’d kicked the elephant in the room. It would take an actual conversation to get rid of it.
“That,” Padme looked down at her teacup and then at Anakin, “is something we must all discuss. Revealing that Luke and Leia are alive with not only cause a national uproar but a global one. While they presumed death was not much broadcast outside of the Naboo, France, Germany, and Switzerland…the fact that they were raised in America will bring the matter to the planetary spotlight. Even if Luke and Leia wished to remain in the United States, I don’t think it will be possible.”
“Luke wants to finish out the semester,” Beru leaned back in her chair, sighing gustily. She wasn’t going to pretend and lie to these people. They were all family now, united through the twins.
“Does Luke speak…any other languages besides English,” Padme asked, and Beru fought the urge to roll her eyes.
“Spanish, but this is only his second year. I know there have to be a lot of…things he’ll need to learn.”
“I’m….not sure.” Anakin bit his lip. “But there’s.”
“What is it?” Beru flicked a cookie-crumb at him, despite every instinct telling her not to. “Just say it, Anakin. I don’t think is the time to play footsie with facts.”
“Luke needs a tutor,” he blurted, spurred by her demands. “He really needs a tutor. I needed a tutor when I first got married. There are…there is a lot of protocol. Not just that, but there is a lot for him to know. We can’t pretend otherwise.”
“What about Leia?” Bail passed Beru another cookie.
“She needs a tutor too, but a little less. You’ve already taught her a lot about politics and manners.”
“Luke is perfectly polite!” Beru sat up straight, glaring at her brother. “He is a perfect young gentleman. Owen and I saw to that.”
“Yeah, but not,” Anakin grimaced, looking to Padme for support. “But not the ones he needs. He’s. “
“Midwestern,” Padme set a hand in Anakin’s and turned her focus to Beru. “Which is wonderful, and it is charming. I adore Luke and the staff I have spoken to in the embassy adore him. There is nothing wrong with his manners, but they are not the ones he needs in Naboo.”
“Fancy manners.” An obnoxious way to say he needed to be taught different etiquette, which was something Beru was fine with. “Fine, but Luke might want to finish high school in Indiana.”
“I’d honestly rather he didn’t,” Anakin grimaced, “but he’d have to speak French fluently to even go to a high school in Naboo.”
“Leia speaks Spanish and English,” Bail cut in, “she’s taking German at the moment. We could get a French tutor.”
“That’s true, but Naboo isn’t exactly French. It is a specific dialect.”
“Oh,” Beru nodded agreeably. “Well…”
“I’d like to have Threepio stay with you,” her brother blurted. Padme graced him with a warning frown, but he shrugged. “We’ll cover all of the expenses and everything. It’s just, there is a lot to learn, and Threepio is the best to help him.”
“You don’t think a man like Threepio is going to stand out in Anchorhead?” She crossed her arms.
“Oh, he will,” he sounded more resigned. She knew if she told them no, that they wouldn’t push. Padme and Anakin just weren’t those sort of people.
“I’ll talk to Owen, but don’t get your hopes up. We don’t have a lot of space.”
“Of course,” Bail coughed, “once everything breaks…there will be a great deal of news about myself and my wife.”
“I worry what the effect will be on them. The British royal children already deal with so much. There is so much gossip and stalking. Everyone who has ever met Luke will be paid for an interview.” Bail shrugged, “this…may be too much for Luke. Leia, we trained on how to deal with social media and the news. We’ve had to deal with so many toxic reports and such.”
“Yes…” Padme agreed, “I think breaking this to Luke will be vital.”
“If Leia doesn’t tell him today.” The senator looked grim. “I still can’t believe you gave her a black card to go shopping in New York.”
“Consider it the presents for missing all of the birthdays and holidays.” Her tight smile betrayed her nerves. “There are several positives in this situation. Luke’s social media presence is minimal, and Leia is an expert at its use. I believe that fall-out will be manageable. Naboo will want to see them as soon as possible after the news breaks. I believe that we must be as honest and as open as possible about this situation with the children, as well as Owen and Breha.”
“We also need to discuss the matter of security.”
“Do you think we’ll have to move?” Luke smoothed down the shirt he was trying one, turning every which way to see how it fit. It was a soft green sweater type shirt, with a wider and taller collar than he was used to. Almost, but not exactly a turtleneck, but had gotten the sale-girl to grin and shoot him a thumbs up. It managed to be both baggy and tailored, and it was insanely comfortable. It paired with the loose black jeans another enthusiastic sale-rep had tossed his way.
“Move?” Leia knocked on the door, “come on out, Luke. I want to see the outfit.”
“I’m coming,” he pushed his way out, to find Leia sipping a boba tea and smirking.
“Good choice, we’re getting it.”
“Where did you get that tea?” He wondered. Boba tea wasn’t something they had an abundance of in Indiana if you weren’t in a big city.
“Ordered it, they brought it here for me. I got you one too. I’m assuming you’ve never had one.”
“You’re right,” he picked up the plastic cup and sipped cautiously. “It’s sweet…I like it. So, this outfit too?”
“Yes, to both.”
Luke dropped on the seat beside her; and stared at the phone in her hand. She was texting someone at lightning speed, and he wasn’t sure who. “Move to Naboo?”
“Obviously,” she didn’t look up, “we’ll both have to move. You know that when everyone finds out that the world is going to go crazy, right?”
“I mean.. I guess?” He hadn’t really looked into it.
“Since you didn’t even look up Anakin and you didn’t even bother to research Padme Amidala. You only just found out. I’m only a senators daughter, and I still get stalked by the Paparazzi. Well, it’s also the fact that my parents are Hispanic and I’m not.” She tucked her phone into her pocket. “No one wanted to let them adopt a little white baby.”
“But normal, people have been following me for ages. We’re both going to be in the spotlight. Me, because of how promonint my parents are. You, because you’ll have been living as a farmer in the same town that Anakin grew up in. “
“Don’t people have other things to do with their lives?”
“Some do,” she waved at the dressing room. “But who doesn’t love a good scandal. Don’t worry, Luke. I’m sure everyone is going to be helping us. Go get changed. I have a new idea.”
“But if we move, don’t you think we’ll have to learn a lot? I don’t know French.”
“OF course we’ll need tutors,” Leia rolled her eyes, “we’re both Americans. If we’re going to be their kids…we’re going to have to learn.”
“Oof da,” he ran a hand through his hair, sighing unhappily. “I don’t know how Uncle Owen is going to take that. I mean, he doesn’t like anyone coming around the house.”
“I’m sure they’ll talk to us about this in the future, Luke. You need to go get changed. I want to see about getting you beauty products.”
Anakin had once spent three days sharing a Turkish prison cell with a chatty and overly-flirtatious Hondo Ohnaka. In those three days, he hadn’t eaten, had only had a few sips of water to tide himself over. When he’d staggered through the streets of Ankara, he was sure he didn’t look half as bad as Luke did returning from a New York City shopping trip with Leia.
Both were laden down with a dozen or so shopping bags and wearing new outfits. He had to admit that despite the fact that Luke looked sucker-punched, he looked much better. Leia, of course, swanned into the room and dumped her bag on the couch, smirking.
“We had fun,” she said, and Luke settled his bags down neatly before flopping dramatically down.
“I’m never going shopping again.”
“How much did you buy?” Beru sounded horrified, already pawing through the bags. “Luke!”
“Um,” Anakin’s frown dimmed to see his son sinking into the couch, shamefaced. “Probably too much.”
Beru sucked in a deep breath and blew it out gustily as she caught Anakin’s stare. “Well…did you get anything that wasn’t clothes?”
“I think I was going to get a succulent,” Luke muttered, his eyes closed so he couldn’t see Leia’s wicked grin. “But I can’t transport that on a plane.”
“Luke got a lot of phone numbers too,” his daughter informed the assembled adults. Bail nearly choked on his coffee as Beru stared.
“Really, Luke?” Padme looked over her table with the same patient, considering gaze that made members of parliament melt into the floor. Luke didn’t even see it, but Anakin watched a blush crawl up his neck.
“I…guess?” He looked over at Beru. “I don’t know. I was just nice to them?”
“He was cute,” Leia perched on the side of the couch. “He was cooing over that succulent for ten minutes. I thought the salespeople were going to faint.”
“They were nice!” Luke exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “It was just…you know…Mom, back me up.”
“Aren’t you a little young to be dating?”
“I’m not dating! I don’t know anyone well enough to date them! I just…they just handed me their numbers.”
“How many did he get?” He directed the question to Leia, who held a hand, fingers spread wide. “Five? In one afternoon? Well done!”
“I think it was the Midwest farmboy charm.” Luke groaned as everyone laughed.
“They’re all in for a nasty shock soon enough,” he muttered. Padme and Anakin exchanged a curious glance, wondering if they’d heard correctly. Had Luke already started thinking about the realities of the future? He glanced to Leia. Had they discussed while they were out today?
“They sure will,” Bail Organa agreed, and his smile couldn’t hide the grim worry lurking behind it.
Chapter 18: Speculation Preparation
Luke and Leia get to know a bit about their parents, and plans are made.
Her children were a miracle, and Padme could hardly believe that they were here in front of her. It was as if every fever dream, every desperate wish, and every late-night prayer had been answered.
They were perfect, and she could hardly stop herself from crying.
She ran a hand over the picture of a ten-year-old Luke holding a bright yellow chick, beaming from ear to ear while surrounded by a dozen other chicks. He was mud-stained coveralls, and he had grass sticking out of his hair.
“Padme?” Anakin leaned over the back of the couch and caught sight of the picture. “Oh, what a cute kid.”
“Yes,” she tapped the other photo album belonging to the Organa’s and showed him a picture of Leia wearing a brand-new school uniform. “Look, Ani.”
“They look,” he took a deep breath. “They look like they grew up without us.”
“They did,” she admitted slowly, “but at least they got to grow up.”
“Absolutely,” Anakin agreed, “at least they got to grow up.”
For a moment they both wondered what would have happened if Jango Fett hadn’t betrayed Palpatine. If the old man hadn’t stabbed the mercenary in the back.
Neither of them would be sitting here, casually observing Leia and Luke flipping through guide-books of Naboo while snacking on pears.
“It says here,” Luke said, lifting his book and catching the attention of everyone in the room. “That Naboo is famous for their pears.”
“This explains all of the pears we’ve been eating.” Leia lifted her slice of pear, considered it, and ate the whole thing. “These are good.”
“We export a great deal of pears, they’re prized for their firm texture and sweetness. They make some of the best poached pears in the world.”
“They are good,” Anakin agreed, “did you two find anything interesting in those books?”
“It’s all interesting,” Luke told them earnestly. “I can’t believe some of it. Do you both really live in Theed Palace?”
“We do,” Padme bit her lip to keep from bursting into tears. After a deep breath, she spoke some more. “It’s a beautiful palace, the history goes back hundreds of years. There are gardens and stables, and an orchard. The palace, if need be, is entirely self-sufficient.”
“They needed that during the second world war,” Anakin said, “it also helped feed a bunch of the city once food rationing got bad.”
‘Yes,” Padme grimaced, “my great-grandmother was queen at the time. Your great-great-grandmother.”
“Wow,” as always, when there was a sign or mention of Luke’s new family history, he looked flabbergasted. “That’s insane.”
“Huh,” Leia propped herself up on her elbow and she and Luke exchanged a quick glance. It was all of the warning the parents had before she spoke again. “Are we going to have to move to Naboo? If so, when? And we both need to start learning French,right?”
“Does Threepio really need to come back to Anchorhead? Because that’s going to raise a lot of questions.”
“And what are we going to do about our citizenship.” Leia sat up properly, crossing her legs and staring at the assembled adults. “It is wonderful to meet my family and to learn a lot of our family history.”
“Leia,” Luke hissed, tugging on her sleeve. She elbowed him off. “But I have a lot of questions and a lot of worries.”
“I thought we said we were going to be gentle about it.” His blue eyes fixed on Padme and then Beru.
“What we…” Padme sighed and Anakin slipped into the seat next to her, watching the other carefully. “What we need to do first is take a blood test, as well as a DNA sample.”
“Proof,” Luke muttered, and she nodded, gracing him with a soft smile. There was worry in his eyes, rapidly mounting insecurities.
“There is no doubt in my mind that you are my children,” she said swiftly, “our children.” She took Anakin’s hand. “But there must be physical evidence, beyond what we already have for the inevitable nay-sayers. Then, we.” She swallowed. “You must understand, Luke, Leia. When Zero enacted his coup...it was a dark time for Naboo. You,” she covered her mouth. “You both were...you meant so much to so many people. Zero...taking you...was so much worse. It was twisting the knife in our back. He betrayed the entire country, their trust, and loyalty. You must understand, children.” The twins stared at her, wide-eyed and stunned. “Everyone will celebrate. Zero’s death meant that there was no school or work the next day. The entire country was drunk!”
“She’s not exaggerating,” Anakin interjected. “Seriously, everyone was drinking.”
‘When the public at large knows that you’re alive. It will be a celebration like none other. They will expect you to come back.”
“So...a ticker-tape parade?” Luke wondered and Padme nodded. “So, how much longer...before you have to tell everyone?”
“Many people already know, and I’m afraid that both will have to come to terms with the possibility that you may have to withdraw from your schools sooner than you expect.”
“Oh, geez.” Luke dropped down to the floor, sprawling out and staring at the ceiling. “No one is going to believe this at school. They’re going to freak!”
“Yes, and you need to prepare for the possibility that your classmates and anyone you have ever met speaking to the news crews and selling all sorts of wild stories about you. There will be speculation the likes of which you have never seen. I know that the American news outlets will...Ani?”
“Combust,” he grinned, “and it will be...messy.”
“And you both do need to learn French.”
“Theepio will be coming to Anchorhead, just not right away.” Beru spoke up, “and Luke, he’s going to help you with French.”
“Oh,” he nodded shallowly a few times.
“And,” Bail cleared his throat. “I don’t know if you’re going to be able to be able to finish high school in America.”
They looked like they were handling it well.
“We need to get you lists of people to look out for. We have friends from all over the world. We have enemies from all over the world. We’ll make you a list.”
“Yes,” Anakin tugged on his chin and exchanged a look with his sister-in-law. “You see. Well. I joined the marines...awfully young. And you won’t believe what happened.”
The week seemed to fly by, leaving the entire family discombobulated when the reminders came for Beru and Bail about their departing flights.
“So what time do you leave tomorrow?” Dinner was a genuine New York pizza eaten on the floor of the living room. They had had plenty of Naboo’s popular dishes and snacks, but Anakin had insisted on New York Pizza.
“Our flight leaves at noon,” Leia answered, folding her slice in half.
“How...I get that we’re supposed to go back and be...normal.” Luke pressed his hand against the bandage wrapped around his arm where they’d drawn blood. “I mean...we have to act like nothing has changed.”
“Consider it training,” Anakin answered, lifting his detached prosthetic off his lap to let Padme slide a plate onto it. “You’ll need it. Trust me, the first people finding out that you’re a secret prince should not be high-schoolers.”
“Nothing will be much different for me,” Leia pointed out.
“We know, we know, you’re already a princess.” Bail scoffed at this and Luke ignored it. “I didn’t think that it would freak out your classmates, but mine? Mine will go ballistic.”
“That’s what I thought when I got married to Padme, but it turns out that…” The couple exchanged a hasty meaningful glance.
“There was other stuff going on at the time.” Padme said.
“What was it?” Luke wondered and he sighed internally when they remained silent.
“I’m googling it.” Leia scoffed through a mouthful of pizza. “Seriously.”
“No! Don’t!” Anakin ran his hand through his hair, grimacing. “It was...we got married while I was still technically a member of the Marines and...Zero didn’t like that Padme had a shotgun wedding with an American hick. There was...a scandal, but not around our wedding. It was...I...there was a trial and my student.”
“Scandal? What could be a bigger scandal than a marine marrying a queen?”
“Well, it had to do with one of my students and one of her peers.” Anakin sighed, “I don’t want you finding this out online...but I...well.”
“Your father’s student was framed for bombing a temple.”
“What?” Aghast, both teens whipped back to their father, who shrugged helplessly.
“Myself and my student...Ahsoka Tano. She’s in the packet we’re sending home with you. I was really young when I first met her, and I basically raised her. What happened was...someone set off a bomb and Ahsoka was blamed for it. I went,” Anakin sighed and stared at his pizza as his children didn’t dare breathe. “I went to arrest her...because there was a lot of compelling evidence and then...she went AWOL.”
“To find out who really did set the bomb. I went after her, accidentally.”
“Anakin,” Padme admonished. He sighed.
“I went AWOL too, to find her. I promised her that I’d help clear her name, and then she went and teamed up with an assassin and there was a very very very long trial and...the assassin came forward to clear our names and it turned out that we had been set up. Okay?”
“That’s...insane!” Beru shrugged when Luke glanced back. “Aunt Beru!”
“So I don’t want you to get upset when you do start googling us.”
“Did you know,” Leia said suddenly and then paused. “Never mind, I’m going to wait until you start looking stuff up on your own.”
“Okay?” He shrugged, “But, Dad, that must have been insane! Why did you guys marry in secret?”
“It was a very...very... spur of the moment thing,” Padme leaned back in her seat, surveying her dinner. “I was being courted by this utterly boorish fool named Rush Clovis.”
“Ew,” the twins said simultaneously, despite not knowing who he was.
“And he was so dull and boring and utterly bland. I met your father at a dinner party in Switzerland.”
“How old were you?”
“I was 19,” Anakin replied, and he looked sheepish at the disbelieving looks all around. “Shut up, all of you.”
“And he was charming, very bad at flirting, didn’t know who I was, and spoke several languages. He’s already distinguished himself since he’d…”
“Forged Clieggs signature to join early,” Beru interjected.
“I was 17,” Anakin nodded, and pointed his prosthetic in Luke’s face and then Leia’s. “If you even think about joining up, I swear I’ll lock you in a tower. Dearest, don’t we have one?”
“We have several. I think we also have a very very very obliging security team.”
“Wow, you don’t have to give me this spiel! Uncle Owen already rammed it down my throat.”
“It’s true,” Beru agreed.
“He seriously doesn’t even send me to schools on the days that the recruiters will be there. He said…”
“That you’re not making a legacy of idiocy in our household,” Beru finished when Luke flushed. Anakin grimaced. “Of course, he didn’t think that you joining up wasn’t the dumbest idea until way too late.”
“He can join the club.” Anakin sighed, gesturing with his free limb. It was a little strange to see a hand flop around every which way. “Look, one of the big things you’ll have to prepare for, and I can’t believe I forgot to tell you, is the insane amount of history people will start digging up.”
“Like when the lavender hat club comes into the dinner and I can hear them talking about stuff?” Luke wondered.
“Like when people will stalk your old accounts to dig up receipts, Luke.” Leia bit into her half-eaten pizza. “That sort of stuff.”
“Yeahhhh, and trust me,” he rubbed his head, “there is so much.”
“I already know most of it,” Luke decided that he didn’t care what they dragged up. “I’ll bite Mrs. Pettigrew again.”
“You bit her?” Absolutely delighted, Anakin set his prosthetic on top of Luke’s head in an attempt to ruffle his hair.
“Anakin!” Padme scolded, but Beru held up her hand for a high-five. “Beru!”
“She had it coming.”
“She pinched my ear!” Luke whined, pouting dramatically until Padme rolled her eyes and sat back. “She had it coming.”
“I bit one of my nannies,” Leia shrugged, pushing Luke over and stealing the slice off of his plate. “I didn’t like her either.”
“Leia,” Bail pinched his nose, sighing. “This isn’t something you brag about.”
“Luke was bragging!”
Luke blew a raspberry, grinning at her outraged expression. “I’m the cute sibling.”
“They don’t know how much trouble you can get into. Aunt Beru, did you know.”
“What about that dragon excursion?” Luke hissed venomously. The twins glowered at each other while Bail and Beru exchanged confused glances.
“What did he do, Leia?” Aunt Beru wondered.
“If I’m going down,” Anakin joked, “I’m taking you with me.”
“I think my sister and I had a conversation like this before,” Padme told the room.
“Everyone calm down. We’re not going to get into a fight right before we have to separate,” Bail waved everyone down. “Luke, you can text me what Leia did later.”
“What did Leia do?” He blinked innocently at the senator, who frowned. “Are you going to make this difficult?”
“She didn’t do anything.” Laughter erupted around him. “Except steal my pizza! Leia, give that back!”
“It’s mine now!”
“Leia! Stop it! Give it back!”
“Nope,” She shoved him away. “My pizza!”
Padme laughed at their antics, her heart feeling lighter than it had for almost two decades.
The goodbye hugs seemed to stretch on forever. None of the small Naberrie family wanted to let go of the other. Anakin kept his arms around Leia’s shoulder eyes closed and trembling despite his best efforts for several minutes. She didn’t draw away and only smiled when he finally did pull away.
Luke, on the other hand, blinked a few tears into Padme’s shoulder and tried to impress the memory of her hug into his brain.
“We’ll see each other soon,” Padme promised, and Luke felt guilty for making her have to reassure him. She had thought he was dead the entire time, she had been grieving for years and now she was trying to make him feel better.
“I know,” he blinked hard a few times. “And we’ve got texting and emails and everything else.”
“Remember to text me,” Padme said, brushing down his collar and glancing critically at his outfit. “You and your sister have excellent taste.”
“I do,” Leia preened, “and come on. We’ll see each other at Christmas.”
“That’s three months away.” Luke reminded her, and Anakin hugged Luke as Padme reached for Leia.
“We’ve waited 17 years,” Anakin told him. “We can wait a few more months.”
“Threepio,” Anakin adressed the short butler over Luke’s shoulder. “Have all of the bags been packed?”
“Everything is ready for the young highnesses to travel to the airport.”
“Okay, great, okay.” Parents and twins stared at each other for a few more minutes. “You two...behave.”
“Remember to keep in communication,” Padme ordered, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.
“\We’ll be sending you information packets that...you will need to read.”
“Yes, read those.”
“We’ll need to leave soon,” Threepio interjected, deeply apologetic, “if we are to make the flights.”
“Alright,” Luke cleared his throat and gave his sister one last hug. “Christmas. I’ll see you all at Christmas.”
Owen didn’t admit to himself that he’d been waiting at the airport for half an hour, having decided to park and wait outside the gates in the exact way he promised Luke he wouldn’t. He didn’t bring flowers or a sign, but that didn’t stop Luke from zeroing in on him the second he walked around the bend.
“Uncle Owen!” There was a visible change in his adopted son and newly realized nephew. He looked like he was carrying a lot more on his shoulders, his eyes were rimmed with red, but he looked happier than Owen had seen him in a while.
“Luke,” he ignored the amused and soft smiles from their audience as Luke skidded to a halt just in time to throw his arms around him. “How was your flight?”
“Flying is amazing, Uncle Owen! You should have seen it!”
“Right,” he ruffled the blond hair and frowned. “Did you go shopping? Did you get a haircut?”
“Just a little bit,” Luke admitted, not commenting about the brand-new backpack hanging from his shoulders. It looked expensive and Owen had to bite back an ugly retort about his step-brother. “Leia wanted to go really badly and she has...expensive tastes.”
“Oh, Beru,” he turned into a kiss from his wife, noting the heaviness in her eyes. “How was the trip?”
“It was wonderful, Owen.” She nodded at Luke who hadn’t stopped beaming. “We have a great time.”
“I’m glad,” the gruff tone didn’t seem to deter Luke. “Well, let’s get your bags and you can tell me in the car.”
“Sure!” Luke all but bounced down the stairs to baggage claim. When he was out of earshot, Owen leaned down to Beru to kiss her cheek.
“I missed you,” she said quietly. “I don’t want to be gone for that long ever again.”
“I don’t understand,” Owen muttered, “how they were even standing after everything they went through. Luke was only gone for a week and...and.”
“They didn’t want to say goodbye.” They both rounded the corner, watching Luke at the baggage claim. “None of them did.”
“We only get until Christmas,” he tugged on his beard. “Christmas isn’t...far away.”
“We’re going to have to get a guard dog or something,” Beru told him.
“For all of the reporters and such,” Owen nodded and at Beru’s confused frown, shrugged. “Anakin sent me a few emails while you two were gone. The head of security too.”
“And you said that you weren’t going to pick us up,” Beru elbowed him lightly as they reached Luke. “Softy.”
“MAMA!” Leia burst through her front door, dragging her bags behind her and dumped them just inside to spring up the stairs to her mother’s favorite lounge. “MAMA!”
“Leia! Shoes!” Bail called after her and Leia only stopped long enough to yank off her shoes and drop them on the staircase before rushing the rest of the way. Her mother was sitting on her usual chaise lounge, a blanket over her legs and a dozen folders resting on her lap.
“Leia! How was your trip?”
“My brother is Luke!” Leia exclaimed.
“Luke? We knew you had a brother Luke once.”
“No, no, no! Mama, my brother is Luke! The boy who introduced me to FFA! My friend! From Indiana! That is my brother! I didn’t even know until I walked into the room! I just walked in and saw him and asked him what he was doing there and then it hit me!”
“Yes!” She threw her hands up, “that Luke! He’s my twin!”
“Your twin brother...long-lost twin brother is the same boy you’ve been friends with for two years?”
“I always thought it was odd that we were so connected!” Leia exclaimed, “but he really is my brother!”
“How were...Anakin and Padme?” Breha was almost afraid to ask.
“They were...restrained...I think they really just want to hold on and never let go but they were...a lot more chill than I thought they’d be.”
“No doubt they didn’t want to overwhelm you.”
“And we talked about,” Leia deflated a bit, sitting on the edge of her mother’s seat. “Leaving.”
“Your father and I spoke to them while you were shopping,” Breha pet her shoulders gently. “I understand that this is so very strange, Leia. The choice is still up to you.”
“I’m not like Luke,” she told her mother. “He always wanted his parents. He always felt...a a disconnect from his adoptive parents. I didn’t...I don’t have that. You are my mother and then there’s this woman...who is a queen! It’s...insane. I’m pretty sure that Luke is wondering he’s actually supposed to go live in Naboo. I know, I know that our paperwork is in question and there’s all sort of evidence...but... I love you. I don’t want to..hurt you too.”
“Leia,” Breha cut her off gently, “don’t work yourself into a panic attack. We love you, no matter what. We were blessed with you in our lives and we have treasured every moment.”
“Even when I poured a bottle of ink on Governor Tarkin’s head?”
“Even then...especially then. I know that Anakin and Padme will love you no matter what as well, and the fact that you’re even alive puts so much of their pain at rest. I will have,” Breha coughed a few times, “something Padme will never and as she will have something that I will never have. Biology or time, we are your mothers and we love you dearly. I’m sure it is the same for Anakin.”
“They want me to learn French, Mama. They want me to...start learning about Naboo and...thinking about moving. I tried to be calm and normal and everything.”
“You did an excellent job,” Bail said, entering the room. “Though I think Luke noticed.”
“They want me to be a princess!”
“You are a princess anyway,” Breha replied, letting Leia settle awkwardly onto the chair and lean against her shoulder. “It’s…”
“There are no easy answers, Leia,” Bail finally said after a few minutes of silence. “This is a strange situation and I wish I could give you some better advice.”
“I’m worried,” Leia admitted, “everything is going to change and...I’m not sure that I’m ready for it.”
“I don’t think anyone would begrudge you if you stayed in America a little longer,” Lando Calrissian told them, his voice echoing through the speakers followed soon after by the jaunty sound of a drink being mixed.
“The twins have left for their homes,” Anakin said, “and we’re leaving the ambassador to handle the paperwork.”
“Of course,” Lando hummed and they heard ice clinking into a glass.
“Due to the nature of the beast, we won’t be releasing any information to the public until December 18th.”
“That’s,” Lando hummed, “a ways away, your majesty. This is...a large secret.”
“Luke and Leia need to be able to finish their final semester in peace and preparations have to be made.” He glanced over at Padme, who was holding her phone and staring at one of the many pictures they had taken of the twins. She seemed checked out, and he set a hand on her shoulder.
Padme stirred finally, blinking a few times and then nodding.
“Don’t worry, the twins will be coming home.”