The Journey Home
Chapter 4
by indie

***
 
Leia watches the two Jedi masters across the room.  Bail is talking to Nonaé, her decoy, but Leia can feel his attention on her.  He doesn't approve of her interest in the Jedi, she knows that.  Leia doesn't wish to openly defy him.  He is her staunchest ally and greatest supporter, not to mention a dear family friend.  He's the closest thing she has ever had to a father. 
 
But Senator Bail Organa isn't her father. 
 
Leia watches Master Skywalker, absolutely fixated by him.  There is a certain pull to his presence, a sensation at once so natural and so unexpected she doesn't know how to define it.  The only other person with whom she has experienced a connection like that is her twin, Luke.  But their twin bond has always been so strong, so ubiquitous as to be almost transparent.  She never thought about it, never imagined she could feel that same connection to another person.  And yet, she feels that connection to this man who is at once a stranger and hauntingly familiar.
 
She realizes that Bail is no longer speaking and she looks up, meeting his gaze.  His lips are pursed together in a thin, tight line, but his eyes are kind, almost sad.  He glances at Master Skywalker and his expression hardens icily.  Deliberately, he steps in front of Leia, blocking her view of the two Jedi.  Wordlessly, Leia turns her attention back to her handmaidens and the dangers they face.  She understands that he only wishes to protect her.  She simply wishes he could understand she doesn't want to be protected.
 
“You don’t approve of Master Skywalker’s presence,” Leia says.  The handmaidens pointedly look away from her exchange with Senator Organa, giving the pair as much privacy as possible without undermining Leia’s disguise as a handmaiden.
 
Bail is quiet for a moment, considering his response.  “I feel the Council could have done us the favor of sending a more suitable protector for you.”
 
She looks up at him.  “A more suitable protector than the Jedi who slew Palpatine?”  She pauses.  “A more suitable protector than my own father?”
 
Bail’s attention snaps to her, but he takes a deep breath and regards her carefully.  “I wasn’t aware your mother informed you of your father’s true identity.”
 
“Why would you be?”  As soon as Leia says the words, she regrets them.  They are unnecessarily harsh.  Bail means well, but there are times when she feels he oversteps his bounds.  He is a dear friend, but he isn’t her father.
 
She can tell the words wound him, but he recovers quickly.  “Indeed,” he says, inclining his head.  “That is none of my business.”
 
Leia is saved from having to reply by Typho’s return.  He strides purposefully into the room.  "We've dropped out of hyperspace and are approaching Corellia," he says, addressing the Jedi Masters.
 
Master Kenobi crosses the room, addressing both Nonaé and Senator Organa.  "We should dock and disembark as soon as possible.  Once we are safe we can secure transport to Naboo." 
 
Bail confers with Nonaé and Master Kenobi looks over at Leia, winking conspiratorially before schooling his expression once again into a mask of seriousness.  Leia has to cough to cover her laugh.  Bail regards her oddly.
 
***
 
It is a surprisingly short amount of time before the ship is given permission to dock.  Several security officers lead the way, headed by Typho.  The handmaidens surround the decoy Queen and Senator Organa.  Leia is at the very back, closest to Obi-Wan and Anakin.
 
As they walk down the gangplank and across the bustling landing platform, Obi-Wan glances at Anakin.  "Do you-"
 
"I feel it too," Anakin says quickly, already moving as he says the words.  He spins, palming his lightsaber and igniting the blade, pulling Leia behind him in one smooth motion.  He deflects blaster bolts while Obi-Wan does the same.  The handmaidens and the Queen scramble for cover behind large shipping containers.  Senator Organa attempts to reach Leia, but he is pinned down by fire.
 
In unison, Obi-Wan and Anakin back up, still deflecting blaster bolts as they make their way to a doorway leading to a hallway and hopefully an escape route.  One of the attackers lobs a thermal detonator and Anakin and Obi-Wan turn, bolting, each with a hand wrapped around Leia's upper arms, pulling her along.
 
The explosion is deafening, sending debris everywhere.  Still firmly grasping Leia's arm, Anakin runs down the hallway, Obi-Wan close behind.  They make three quick corners and end up in a narrow street bustling with foot traffic and a densely packed open air market.  Obi-Wan and Anakin immediately pull up the hoods of their cloaks, wrapping them around their bodies to disguise their Jedi attire. 
 
“Well, so much for avoiding a trap,” Obi-Wan says, pulling a comlink from his belt.  He contacts Typho.
 
"We're okay," Typho reports.  "Get her out of here any way you can.  We'll worry about everyone else."
 
Anakin is already heading deeper into the crowd, farther from the landing platform.  As much as he knows it is a Jedi's responsibility to protect everyone, he is not willing to jeopardize Leia's safety by returning for the others.
 
It is several minutes before they navigate completely through the market and find a deserted alley.  Pulling back the hood of his cloak, Obi-Wan looks pointedly at Anakin's hand, still wrapped tightly around Leia's arm.  Shocked by his actions, Anakin quickly releases Leia.
 
Leia takes her time, unwrapping the indigo hood from the rest of her gown.  She picks a few bits of pulverized duracrete out of her hair.  Finally finished brushing herself off, she crosses her arms over her chest and looks at the two Jedi Masters.  "Are you taking me home?" she asks Anakin.
 
He pauses for a moment, looking at her.  "Yes," he says.
 
***
 
Anakin stares out the cockpit window, desperately trying to come up with an excuse to linger.  However, Artoo is more than capable of keeping an eye on things.  The trip to Naboo should be completely uneventful.  He is spurred to motion by the piercing shriek of an unhappy infant.
 
Sighing, he pushes himself to his feet and ventures into the ship’s main hold.  It is sparse, built for capacity rather than comfort, but it is reliable and speedy.  The hold is one big room.  There are several brightly colored blankets spread out on the metal alloy floor, littered with toys.  There is a lone door which leads to the fresher.
 
Anakin’s traveling companion is the Padawan who was present at the Council session.  Her name is Aubé.  She is human, probably close to twenty years in age.  She exudes an aura of the most serene calm Anakin has ever witnessed.
 
Aubé holds Leia who is screaming at the top of her lungs, red faced and squirming, her tiny fists angrily grabbing and pulling at anything she can reach.  Aubé holds her close, humming softly and rocking side to side, face lit by a gentle smile.  Anakin has no idea how the Padawan does it.  Leia’s screams affect him almost as profoundly as Dooku’s Force lightning.
 
“Is she sick?” he asks warily.  He has never been comfortable around infants before and knowing they are his makes him doubly nervous.
 
“No,” Aubé answers softly.  “She’s just upset.”  She pulls Leia back and coos into her angry little face.  “She’ll be fine as soon as we return her to her mama.  She’s too little to be away for so long.”
 
Anakin nods.  It makes sense.  He has to assume Aubé knows what she’s talking about.  He looks down at Luke who is laying on his stomach on the blanket, chewing industriously on a small stuffed toy.
 
“They’re twins, but they have their own distinct personalities,” Aubé says, speaking to Anakin’s thoughts.
 
He laughs mirthlessly.  Truer words have never been spoken.  While Luke is calm and easy going, content to chew on toys or practice crawling,  Leia is the polar opposite.  She is quick to anger and slow to soothe, unable to sit still for more than a few moments, constantly screaming or crying.
 
“You should hold her,” Aubé pronounces, already in the process of handing Leia to Anakin.
 
He is taken so off guard he doesn’t have time to react and before he knows it, the infant is being pressed to his chest.  He grabs at her clumsily, trying both to not drop her and not crush her.  To his eternal shock, Leia quiets immediately.  He looks down at her and she meets his gaze with her huge eyes, chewing on her fist.
 
Shocked, Anakin looks up at Aubé who simply smiles knowingly at him.  “Babies know things,” she says, sinking to her knees next to Luke.
 
Anakin stands there holding his daughter and for the moment at least, she seems content to allow it.  Mimicking Aubé’s earlier actions, Anakin rocks slowly from side to side.  He looks down at Leia and realizes she is asleep. 
 
Under the guise of rocking the baby, Anakin walks to the other side of the hold, facing away from Aubé.  It’s probably pointless.  Aubé seems to have a preternatural understanding of human nature.  Regardless, Anakin turns his back on the Padawan and stands there, staring at the wall as he holds his daughter.  He cannot believe how absolutely tiny she is.  He marvels at her perfect little fingers and toes and eyelashes and ears.  Her skin is so velvety soft and she smells so good. 
 
He is completely overwhelmed with the knowledge that she is his – his child, his flesh and blood.  Luke and Leia are his only living blood relatives in the galaxy.  Since his mother died, he has been alone.  But no more.  His children live.  His blood flows in their veins.  But it’s more than just the knowledge.  He can feel it in the Force, in the place where her tiny little heart beats against his.  This tiny little person is his legacy, his immortality.
 
And in order to protect her and her brother and her mother, he has to leave them. 
 
***
End Chapter

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