Chapter 1: if you fall, pick yourself up off the floor
i. When Leia was five, she picked up a Nerf bow, nocked an arrow, and let it fly.
It didn’t hit the target.
She didn’t think she would pick up a bow again in her lifetime. She thought, back then, that she’d be a lawyer like her father, a doctor like her mother, someone who Helps People. Scratch that--she knew she’ll Help People, just like her dad and her mom and her many aunts and uncles, some of them related by blood.
Then she grew up.
(When Leia is fifteen, she lifts up her bow--a real one, not a Nerf bow--and pulls the bowstring back. She looks down the shaft of the arrow, sees the tracksuit making a break for the mouth of the alley, aims for the back of his knees. Inhale. Exhale.
She lets it fly.
The man goes down with a scream, an arrow sticking out of the back of his left knee.
She’s gotten better over the years.)
ii. Leia was a little girl, barely a few months past her sixth birthday, when her father showed her how to punch someone.
“Here, Leela,” he’d said, and she had cracked up over her ice cream at the use of her old nickname, and he had smiled that silly, lopsided smile he always got around her and Luke and Mama. “Aw, baby girl--here, look.” He made a fist, laid it down on the table, and pointed at how she should hold her thumb outside her fist, between the first knuckles of her first two fingers, tucked below the point of impact.
“Now try it,” he’d said.
She tried it, and he corrected her form. “Not too tight, sweetie,” he said. “You don’t want to cut off circulation. Here--loosen up a little. There, good girl.” Then he called the waiter over and asked for extra sprinkles just for her, and Leia felt very, very proud of herself for the rest of the day.
The next time stupid old Brendol Hux called her a no-good cooties-bearing girl and called Luke and Gramma Shmi even worse names, Leia’s form was perfect and the punch laid him out flat.
And maybe Mama didn’t approve, sure, but when Leia looked at her dad--her big and strong and tall dad--he was grinning, the smile that said he was so, so proud of her. Leia had grinned back, even as her mother lectured her at length about using diplomacy and not punching people as a first resort.
She had thought that, as long as her father smiled at her like that, full of pride and joy, then she’d be okay.
She was six. Leia knows better, these days.
(Clint Barton teaches her a lot of things, but when he first asks her if she knows how to punch someone, she knocks him flat on his ass with one solid punch.
“Ow,” he says. “Jesus, Ley, you got a hell of a punch.”
“It’s Leia,” she corrects irritably. “That or Hawkeye.” She shakes her hand out, says, “I told you I knew how to punch someone.”
“Damn straight,” says Barton, getting to his feet. “Where’d you learn how to hit someone?”
“My dad,” says Leia, and something unreadable flickers in Barton’s eyes. Later, after the Yavin case, she’ll wonder--did Barton know, just then? Did Barton realize that his protégé’s father was the same man as one of the most dangerous criminals in Hell’s Kitchen?
But for now, she dismisses the flicker and smiles, cocky as anything, settling into a fighting stance.)
“Leia’s six, Ani. She shouldn’t be resorting to punching people, first and foremost, and neither, for that matter, should Luke.”
“Why not? Worked for me.”
“You’re a lawyer, you know better than anyone why not. And why are you showing them how to punch?”
“Yeah, I’m a lawyer, but the playground and the courtroom are not the same thing! Bullies aren’t going to back down just because Luke and Leia have arguments and evidence and the high ground, they’ll back down because Luke and Leia know how to punch them so hard they stay down.”
“Or they’ll back down because their teacher won’t stand for it, because you and I won’t stand for it, and they know that and don’t dare piss off an adult. Punching people won’t help our kids, Ani, it’ll only make things worse for them in the long-term.”
“You can’t deny it gets them results in the short-term, though.”
“Yes, like a broken nose and some ice cream and lessons on how to punch someone even harder than that. You have some incredibly skewed priorities, you know that?”
“You love them.”
“When they don’t involve our children, yes.” A sigh. “You have got to stop encouraging them to get into fights. Especially Leia. You know her temper. One of these days, she’ll pick a fight she can’t win.”
“So we’ll just have to make sure she can win as many of them as she can. I know a guy, he can teach her better than I ever could. Maybe he could even teach Luke--they both could use the stress relief.”
“Self-defense--fine. I can do self-defense. As long as they aren’t starting fights, which you should start impressing on them.”)
iii. Leia was only nine and a half years old when her parents stopped loving each other.
(It started, she thinks now, before that--her father’s downward spiral into corruption and crime had started long before Leia was nine.)
Oh, Mom and Dad were good at keeping things from her and Luke, most of the time, but this one they couldn’t quite keep a lid on. Leia could see the tension that seemed to build between them in the set of her father’s shoulders, in the narrowing of her mother’s eyes when he walked into the room.
More than that, she could see the rift between Mom and Dad, growing and growing with each passing day. Dad had a swanky new apartment that looked, in Luke’s words, “so cool”, but something about it had seemed wrong to Leia. Something about her father--who used to take her out for ice cream and who used to smile at Mom like Mom hung the moon and the stars--living in such a gloomy, bare place made her stomach churn uneasily.
But she was nine and a half years old when Mom sat her and Luke down and told them that their Dad wouldn’t be living with them anymore, would be living in his fancy apartment instead.
All Leia remembers of that day is--anger. Crying. Screaming into her pillow, because her dad was going away and nothing she could do could stop it happening. Helplessness, to either stop what was happening between Mom and Dad or to keep Luke from blaming himself, the stupidhead.
She didn’t like helplessness, then. She still doesn’t like it even now, but she has something she didn’t have at the age of nine--a bow, a quiver full of arrows, and a name.
(The day after the Yavin case, Leia yanks open the drawer full of her father’s gifts and dumps them all in the trash can. Then she finds all the photos she and her father took together and dumps them in too.
Her father’s Vader. Her father is fucking Vader. Her own father threatened to have everyone she ever loved slaughtered, before someone would come for her, shot at her and Luke and Fulcrum, grazed Fulcrum’s arm--
He’d taught her how to punch and took her and Luke out for ice cream and he’s fucking Vader and she should’ve known, she should’ve known--
Luke finds her sobbing in their bedroom. Mom finds them both crying into each other’s shirts, the shared trash can full of expensive gifts and family pictures.
She doesn’t ask. Instead she gathers them both in a strong hug and lets them weep.
Had someone been there for her mother, Leia wonders later as she and Luke clean up the mess she made. Had someone taken Padmé Amidala into their arms, and let her sob into their chest as her marriage fell apart and her husband fell away from her?
She hopes so.)
(An interlude, during the divorce:
Sabé opens her door to an exhausted Padmé and says, “Oh, my god--Padmé? Honey, are you--”
“No,” says Padmé, “god, Sabé, no,” and she falls forward into Sabé’s arms and starts to sob, loud and gasping and so broken, fingers gripping at Sabé’s shirt.
Sabé holds her close, maneuvers the both of them so she can kick the door closed behind her and get Padmé to a couch. Had this been college, she thinks she would’ve put on a romantic comedy or two, dug up some Ben and Jerry’s, let Padmé cry for a little while into her shoulder.
But this is different. This is a marriage, torn to pieces, and Sabé doesn’t know how to fix that, how to make her best friend feel even a little bit better.
“The kids?” she asks.
“Ahsoka’s looking after them,” says Padmé, “I just--Anakin asked for custody, I can’t let him--”
“He’s not going to get them,” says Sabé. “You’ve got Bail and Breha on your side, and they’re the best damn divorce lawyers I know. You've got Obi-wan and Ahsoka on your side, and they’re damn good lawyers too. Anakin fucking Skywalker isn’t going to get Luke and Leia for more than a weekend, and if he doesn’t like it, too bad.”
Padmé gives a breathless, hiccuping sound that could almost pass for a laugh, if Sabé’s shirt wasn’t currently wet with tears. “Oh, Sab,” she says. “How did this happen?”
“I wish I knew, Pad,” says Sabé, rubbing her best friend’s back. “I wish I knew.”)
iv. Leia finds out Luke is Spider-man on their first night out.
It isn’t really that hard to figure out--Luke doesn’t even bother with a voice changer, just tries to pitch his voice low. Leia’s a little insulted by the terrible attempt.
Then again, she’s just got a domino mask and a hoodie, so really, she probably doesn’t have any room to talk. At least Luke’s wearing a full-face mask, even if his costume is obviously homemade and sloppy. Hers is just as sloppy, anyway.
“You can quit trying to pitch your voice, Luke,” she says, as Luke is stumbling his way through an incredibly awkward speech about being glad for her help. “You’re terrible at it. And you’re a bit too short for a superhero.”
Luke splutters, says in a more normal tone, “Wait, how did you--”
Then he stops. It’s hard to tell behind the mask, and the huge eyepieces taking up nearly half of it, but Leia’s sure he’s squinting at her.
“Leia?” he says. “What in the hell? I thought you were asleep! I heard you snoring!” He pauses, then adds, “And we’re the same height.”
“Yeah, that’d be my phone,” says Leia. “And what the hell are you doing? Last I checked you didn’t have training--”
“Wait, wait,” says Luke, “you’ve been training? Is that what you’ve been blowing us off for after school?” He takes a step back, hand reaching up as if to run his hand through his hair before he remembers the mask. “How long have you been doing this?” he asks, and the heartbreak in his voice breaks Leia’s heart as well.
“I started just today,” she confesses, and the weight that’s been pressing her shoulders down lightens just a little, so she continues: “But I’ve been planning for weeks. And the training--I’ve been doing that for months.”
“Months,” Luke repeats, before he walks over to the edge of the roof and sits down on the railing. After a moment, he pulls his mask up so she can see his face. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks.
Leia lets out a long breath, then sits down next to him. “I wanted to keep you safe,” she says. “I got caught up in a fight against some tracksuits in Bed-Stuy, and if it hadn’t been for Clint Barton, I probably wouldn’t have gotten home at all. I decided I wasn’t going to get caught off-guard like that ever again.” She glances at the homemade spider insignia emblazoned in the center of Luke’s chest and says, “You?”
“You met Hawkeye,” Luke says, dazed, before shaking his head and asking: “You remember when I got sick for three days and accidentally broke a lot of things?”
“Yeah, I did. And yeah, what’s that got to do with it?”
“You remember my internship at ToscheCorp?”
Leia makes a face. She remembers ToscheCorp, all right, and how hard it worked all of its interns, all in the name of maintaining its (no doubt ill-gotten) prestige. Near the end of Luke’s, he’d developed a bad fever brought on by the stress it caused him, and their mother had pulled him out of the internship program very quickly after that. “Yeah, and?”
“I, um.” Luke pauses, coughs a moment, and ducks his head, scratching the back of his neck with a gloved hand. “I. Uh. Promise you’re not gonna laugh.”
Leia throws a glance over her shoulder. It’s a long way down from here. “I like not being a smear on the pavement, so sure,” she says. “Shoot.”
“I snuck inside a restricted room after the CEO because I overheard him talking to somebody called Dooku about something really shady,” Luke says, the words pouring out of him like a torrent. “Then I found this room full of spiders and one of them bit me and I’m pretty sure it was radioactive so now I have superpowers.” He waves a hand. “I. Told you it was stress, but really my body was--adjusting, I think? To being more spider-like.”
Leia stares at him.
Then she says, “What the fuck.”
“Don’t let Mom or the Organas hear you say that,” says Luke.
“What the fuck,” Leia repeats. “Who--why radioactive spiders? Those sound like a disaster waiting to happen.”
“I have no clue, sis,” says Luke. “On the plus side, I can do everything a spider can now, and I don’t need eight legs and a scary face either.”
“Like eating flies?” Leia asks.
“Almost everything,” Luke amends, lightly punching her shoulder. “Also, Hawkeye. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“We had tracksuits gunning for us for weeks, I was terrified one of them might realize I was related to you and Mom and they’d go after you,” Leia says. “I figured--I dunno, if I didn’t tell you, it’d be safer. You’d be at less risk.” She draws her knees up to her chest, says, “Stupid, huh?”
“Kinda,” says Luke. “We’re twins. We’re supposed to tell each other these things, if not Mom and Dad.”
“Said the guy who let me think he was dying from fever,” Leia huffs.
“How was I supposed to say it?” Luke asks, nudging Leia with his shoulder. “Hey, sis, by the way, I got bitten by a radioactive spider and now I have superpowers?”
“You’re ridiculous,” Leia tells him, nudging back. “No more secrets?”
“No more secrets from here on out,” Luke agrees, then holds out his pinky.
Leia snorts out a laugh. “What are you, ten?” she teases.
“C’mon, sis,” huffs Luke, and if there’s one thing Luke got from their dad, it’s the effectiveness of his pout. “Just to make sure.”
“Okay, okay.” She hooks her pinky around his and says, “No more secrets. Promise.”
(An interlude, years ago:
They’re in their bedroom, the nightlight turned on--because neither of them can sleep without the light on--when Leia crawls into her brother’s bed and whispers, “Hey, Luke.”
“Whassis?” Luke mumbles, blearily sitting up and running the sleep out of his eyes.
“Tell you a secret?” Leia says.
She grins at him, then whispers, “Dad showed me how to punch today.”
“No way,” whispers Luke, with no small amount of awe. Then: “Wait, isn’t it just making sure your fist connects with someone’s face?”
“Something like that,” says Leia. “Here, I’ll show you. Then we can practice on pillows. We can print out Mr. Krell’s dumb face tomorrow and stick it on them so you can hit harder.”
“Sounds good to me,” says Luke. “Mr. Krell’s a butt anyway.” His brow furrows, and he says, “But how do you punch somebody?”
Leia makes a fist, and says, “You put your thumb here...”)
v. There’s a lot of people Leia expects to walk into her improvised cell for her next round of “interrogation”. She’s even come up with plans of escape, depending on who comes in--Tarkin’s overconfident, Tagge’s overly careful, and the woman, the one calling herself the Seventh Sister, is just plain sadistic. She can use those.
She’s just glad no one’s ripped her mask off yet. She straightens up, gives her restraints another tug. Still no give.
There--the sound of footsteps. She gives her restraints one final tug, lets out a soft curse. Luke had better be on his way here, because she’s not so sure how long she can take the boredom and the interrogations. She just hopes he got away with Mon Mothma’s drive.
She cranes her neck to listen closer. It’s not a familiar stride.
Sidious is gonna be pissed, she remembers one of the guards saying, just outside her cell, clearly anxious. If we don’t get the info on the drive out of her, no doubt he’ll send Vader in to do it, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t wanna be anywhere near him.
Well, I don’t either, thinks Leia, tugging again at her restraints. Goddammit, if she can just get out of them--
“Open the cell door,” someone says outside. Strange, the voice sounds weirdly familiar.
“Yes, sir, Vader, sir!” one of the guards squeaks.
Leia’s expecting someone tall. Huge. Intimidating, maybe someone with a tattoo or a scar or an evil smirk.
She’s not expecting her father to step through, and look her over with no light of recognition in his eyes, just disgust. As if Leia--no, Hawkeye has somehow upset his plans.
No, she thinks, no, no, no--
“I’d advise you cooperate, Miss Hawkeye,” says her father--says Vader, hands tucked into his pockets, looming over her. Oh, god, no, this is--this can’t be happening, this can’t--
“Why should I?” she asks, summoning every bit of teenage defiance she has. And she’s got plenty of it in spades.
(This can’t be happening, it can’t--)
“It’d go so much smoother for the both of us,” says Vader (says Anakin Skywalker, says her father), with an ill-contained anger that Leia, with a sick feeling, recognizes, from days spent sitting in the principal’s office, seeing her father standing tall over the principal arguing for her.
Dad--Dad, it’s me. Dad, please--
“And if I don’t comply?” Leia asks, keeping her tone calm and even. “You’re going to, what, torture me? Kill me? Get on with it, then.”
“Well,” says Vader, with an easy shrug, “damn shame.” He tilts his head, says, “No, I wouldn’t kill you first. I have ways of finding out who you are behind that mask, after all. More to the point, finding out everyone you care about.”
Luke. Mom. Aunt Breha, Uncle Bail, Ahsoka, Ben, Sabé--
“I wonder,” says Vader, tone soft and calm, as if talking about the weather, “how long would it take until you’ve buried the very last one of them? Your family, your friends, everyone you’ve ever loved?” He steps forward, crouches down to meet her eyes, and smirks, and god but Leia has never hated anyone this much until now. “How long until you’ve cried over the last grave?”
“Shut the fuck up,” she snarls. “Don’t you dare--”
“I would,” says Vader (her father, her father, her own goddamn father--), with that infuriatingly calm tone. “I wouldn’t kill you first. But, oh--everyone’s got someone. It’s just a matter of finding out who.”
Dad, it’s me, it’s Leia--
“Fuck you,” says Leia, amazed at how much hatred she can spew with those two words. “Don’t you go near--don’t you dare, they did nothing to you, you want me, I’m the one that stole your drive--”
“Yeah, about that,” says Vader. “There’s one way to keep me from going near them.”
Leia's heart lurches. “Like what?” she asks.
Vader stands up, says, “Come work for me. Not Palpatine, me. I can keep your family safe, I can keep you safe and paid well. You’d be free to continue your,” and his lip curls in disgust, “nighttime activities, you’d just have to follow my orders about where to do so. What do you say, Miss Hawkeye?”
Leia looks up at her father.
She says, “It’s Hawkeye. And I say, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I ever join you.”
Vader looks at her for a moment, then turns away, walks to the cell door. He looks back, and says, sounding almost regretful as someone walks inside with a cattle prod, “I wish you’d taken that chance.”
(Here’s the thing that Leia’s learned, about growing up--you look up to your parents for your whole childhood, think they’re invincible, that they can do no wrong. You think they’re big and tall and strong and will always protect you, always.
She used to think that way.
Leia knows better, these days.
See, when you grow up, you realize that your parents aren’t invincible, aren’t perfect, are as flawed as you are. And one day you look down and realize--
“You’re not that tall,” says Leia.
Her father looks up at her, as he’s fiddling about with a StarkPhone that he bought for her mother. Something about modifying it and bypassing some of the more annoying protocols on the AI to give it a bit more personality, she’s not sure. “I’m not what?” he asks.
“You’re not the tallest person I know,” says Leia.
“Well, yeah,” says her father, “you know Chewbacca. And he’s about--seven feet tall, give or take an inch or two.”
“You used to be really tall, you know,” says Leia. “When I was six.”
Her father smiles, painfully sad. “I used to be a lot of things when you were six,” he says. A good husband, a good father, a good person, he doesn’t say, but Leia can hear it in his tone anyway. “I think ‘really tall’ is still applicable, though.”
“It is,” says Leia. “I looked up to you, you know. Because you got into law to help people.”
“And look what’s become of that,” says her father. “I’m not a lawyer and I fucked everyone over instead.”
“True,” says Leia, getting a wince out of her father. “You were huge, when I was six and when I was trapped in that cell. But now--”
“Now what?” he asks.
“You aren’t that tall anymore,” says Leia. You don’t scare me, she doesn’t say, and you broke all your promises. For a moment, she thinks he’ll miss the point, or maybe get the point but crack a bad joke instead to avoid talking about it, and she’s not in the mood for bad jokes.
Instead, her father looks up at her--up, she realizes, as though she’s the one standing tall over him this time--and says, soft and sad and so proud of her, “That’s just part of growing up, Leia.”)
The first time Anakin ever looked down at the twins in his arms, he realized: they were small enough that he could cradle them in his arms, that they could hardly do much on their own other than cry and poop a lot, that he was now Responsible for them. That he and Padmé were.
He also realized that he would bleed and sweat and fight tooth and nail to protect them.
The thing about kids, though, is this: they’re never that small forever. They grow up, and suddenly they’re much taller than you are, and you aren’t looking down at them anymore.
Anakin looks up at his spitfire of a daughter and realizes--Oh.
“You aren’t that tall anymore,” Leia says, bemused, and Anakin gets it. His own mother had seemed so tall, when he was much younger, had seemed like the glue that held the whole world together. Sometimes he thinks she was--at least she held his whole world together.
Once upon a time, Leia looked up to him as well.
Look what’s happened to that.
Anakin looks up at Leia now, standing tall over him, a bow in hand and steel in her eyes and spine, and says, “That’s just part of growing up, Leia.”)
vi. Leia stands on a rooftop, a leg up on a railing, looks out over the neighborhood, and turns up the collar on her new, apparently bulletproof vest.
She breathes in the city air, the smoke and dirt of Hell’s Kitchen seeping into her very being. She’s got a bird’s eye view up here, can see everyone who passes by and every crime that happens in her vicinity, can calculate the best route she can take to get down in record time.
She likes the one where she can swing off a flagpole and onto a fire escape best. Tricky, that one, when you’re new, but Leia’s not that new anymore.
She breathes out.
Someone lands on the rooftop, and a moment later, her brother says, “Are you brooding, Leia?”
“Not at all,” Leia says. “Just admiring the view.” And it’s an admirable view, which is why this spot happens to be one of her favorites in Hell’s Kitchen. Maybe even in the whole of New York City.
“Yeah, keep doing that, I’m just going to get a head start on patrol,” says Luke, coming up beside her and fiddling with his webshooters. She doesn’t need to see his face to know he’s grinning at her. “Then you’ll have to do the dishes.”
“Oh?” asks Leia. “Shouldn’t that be you?”
“Not if I beat you,” says Luke.
Leia scoffs. “In your dreams, fly-eater,” she says, taking her bow off her back and notching the zipline arrow, the other end already tied to a pipe just nearby.
“You wish, baby Hawkeye,” Luke shoots back. “Hope you’re ready to scrub dishes.”
“Hope you’re ready to smell Mom’s terrible soap for days,” Leia says. “On three?”
“One,” Luke counts.
“Two,” Leia says.
“Three!” they both shout, and Luke takes off running, shooting a thin line of webbing out at a building. Leia smiles, then hooks her bow on the zipline, backs up, then takes off.
And Leia Skywalker flies, a breathless whoop escaping from her throat.
One thing she’s learned about being a superhero: despite it all, despite the pain and the sorrow and the hurts and the secrets, there are moments like this, where she’s flying high above her city, breathless and laughing and free, where she knows--
--she wouldn’t trade this for anything.
I was hoping to sneak Han in but oh well. maybe next time I'll write something about Han Solo's Inept Courtship.