was soft and concerned and it should have made
Leia feel better, but it didn't. His
hand was gently clasped around her upper arm but she ignored it.
Turning her head, her eyes locked across the
small room with Luke's and she looked away.
She and Luke always shared a connection.
She wasn’t in the mood to be connected to anyone.
"We need to stop
worrying about my mental health and
start worrying about how we're going to get home," she said pointedly.
Han sighed in a
way she knew should make her heart ache, but
instead irritated her more. He was
disappointed. He thought she was working
too hard, expecting too much of herself and she knew he wished she
for five seconds. She wouldn’t. They both knew that.
Across the room,
Luke didn't do anything. He sat there on the hard stone floor,
all in black and looking for all the galaxy like the stifling heat
bother him. Maybe it didn't. After all, he grew up
But he had been away for years. Surely his body was more
acclimated to the
cold of deep space than the sweltering heat of this forsaken planet on
Tatooine – the real
Tatooine, in the real universe, their universe – wasn't
this hot. Though Leia doubted it.
"You can't come
up with any explanation for this?"
she demanded, staring at Luke. She
usually was a much better diplomat
than this, but she couldn't muster the strength to bring all her
check. Not even for Luke.
His calm, on the
other hand, was unflappable. "It's the – "
She held up her hand, warding off his words. "I don't want to
hear one more thing
about the Force."
"That doesn't make it any less true."
Her glare could
have frozen ice, even in Tatooine's
The trio glanced
up as the young woman once again entered
the small room. "I've arranged
transport," she said. "We'll
have to wait for nightfall. It's not
safe during the day."
Luke replied warmly.
The young woman
regarded him warily, inclining her head in
acknowledgement. She obviously wasn’t
thrilled with this turn of events. Leia
thought in that small fact lay some great eternal truth.
The woman's hair
was shorn nearly to the skull. Leia figured with all the sand and
this planet it was the only prudent choice to be made. By the
readout lights on the dash, Leia
watched the woman's hands as she piloted the speeder over harsh
Her nails were clipped ruthlessly short, her
hands callus roughened and marred by scars.
Leia fixated on
those points because in every other respect,
she and this woman were mirror images of one another.
Leia, Luke and
Han were returning from Bakura when they
stumbled upon … something. Luke offered
a few unsatisfactory explanations
about the Force and the Multi-verse, but Leia knew he was winging
He may have had the vaguest ideas such things
could exist, but it was definitely outside his area of expertise.
They spun out of
control, their sensors fried, flying
blind. Only Han's considerable skills as
a pilot allowed them to set down in one piece.
The same couldn't be said for the Falcon. It needed extensive
repairs. How those repairs were going to be made, no
one knew. Currently the Falcon was holed
up in Mos Espa, guarded by Chewie, Artoo and Threepio.
immediately the gist – if not the specifics – of
what happened to them and the Falcon. Leia
tried to deny it. But when confronted
with her doppelganger, she had no choice but to believe.
They were no
longer in their own dimension.
into the little junk shop searching for parts,
but the Toydarian proprietor immediately ushered them out of sight and
cramped back room. Addressing both Luke
and Leia by name was enough to encourage them to humor him. It
was several hours before the other alt-Leia
appeared to inspect them. Neither the
Toydarian, Watto, nor the alt-Leia offered much information. They
didn’t have to. It was obvious enough from their manner that this
universe’s Leia needed to keep a low profile.
It was also very obvious the appearance of the three inter-dimensional
interlopers was very unwelcome.
In the backseat
of the speeder, Leia leaned closer to
Luke. His eyes were fixated on the
terrain, straining to see in the near dark.
"You know where we are?" she asked.
They traveled for hours, first on a small transport to Mos Eisley and
then by landspeeder. They skirted two
large settlements, but at the moment, they seemed to be in the middle
nowhere. "I believe we're headed to
the Lars homestead," he said quietly.
“Anchorhead was the last settlement we passed.”
Leia sat back in
her seat, taking a deep breath. A churning mass of emotions had
lived in her
heart for weeks. This side trip only
exacerbated her sense of groundlessness, of loss and confusion.
Leia took Luke's revelation in stride. They were siblings.
She relished her connection to her
brother. After so much loss, having a
sibling, a twin, grounded her in a
way nothing else could have. But that
connection came at a very great cost. It
was devastating to learn Vader was her biological father.
Thankfully her duties on Endor and to the New Republic
made it easy to push it from her mind.
Bakura was ... harder. She thought
she was handling everything so
well, but the glimpse of a swirling cape was enough to set her nerves
edge. The appearance of Vader's –
Skywalker's, whoever he was - ghost
asking for forgiveness was far more than she could bear. She shut
it out, all of it, replacing her
fear and grief with anger and aggression.
She didn't want to be a monster's daughter. She couldn't.
It was an affront to everything her parents – her real parents –fought and
Bail Organa was her father, not Darth Vader.
Leia felt unsure
of herself in a way heretofore unknown. She didn’t know who she
was. She didn’t know what she was. It
was a great
comfort, however, to know Luke was struggling with many of the same
herself to quiet, to reach out to Luke not
physically, but through the Force. It
wasn't easy. Despite Luke's assertions
that she would one day be a Jedi like him, she was very doubtful.
provided enough light that she could watch the
corners of Luke's mouth curl up in a small smile. He reached out
his hand and placed it over
hers, squeezing gently. Leia maintained
the connection through the Force. It was
a heady sensation, like the universe itself was kaleidoscoping before
As much as Leia
didn't wish to discover what this brave new
world held for her, she knew she needed to be here for Luke. She
lost an entire planet when Tarkin ordered
Alderaan’s destruction. But she wasn’t
the only one to pay great dues. Luke was
far from unscathed by the Empire. Owen
and Beru Lars were the only parents Luke knew and they too were
murdered by the Empire.
current heading, it was entirely possible she
was taking them to the Lars family homestead.
It was possible they would meet an Owen and Beru who still lived, who
had yet to be discovered and murdered by Vader.
Leia wasn't sure if the tight sensation in the pit of her stomach
to her or Luke.
slowed and eventually came to a stop near an
unassuming domed entrance that rose from the barren landscape.
Leia knew the thick stone shelter housed a
stairway leading to a larger, underground complex. Tatooine's
surface was far too harsh, especially
this far from any sizeable settlement, to allow surface
Any such structures would be scoured out of
existence by the season's first sandstorm.
alt-Leia instructed them in her
terse, biting fashion. All of Han and
Luke’s attempts to engage her in conversation during their trek were a
Han's arm as support as she hopped from the
They all watched
as alt-Leia piloted the speeder from sight,
no doubt to be parked in the safety of an underground garage.
There were several farm droids milling around. Light shone from
the doorway, providing dim
illumination. Strobe lights blinked in
the distance, marking the farm's perimeter.
"Tuskens must be
a problem, eh kid?" Han asked,
nodding toward the flashing lights.
perimeter is designed to keep them out," he agreed. "Any moisture
farmer who wanted to stay
alive more than a fortnight would need one." Luke took a deep
breath and squinted into the
dark horizon. He shook his head. "But I don't think they're
immediately put Leia on edge. "Something bad?" she asked.
His face pinched
into a bit of a grimace and he shook his
head. "Not bad," he said. "At least not for us." He
seemed to be searching for words. "But strong. Very
"You worried?" he asked under his breath.
Luke shook his
head again, looking around, scanning the
immediate area. "I don't think they
want us here," he said. "But
it's not necessarily hostile."
hostile?" Han parroted. "What
does that mean? Because I'm not necessarily keeping one hand on
Han, Leia and
Luke immediately turned to look at the speaker,
all of them shocked her approach escaped their notice. She was
standing less than five meters away, just
inside the dome’s lone doorway, her feet planted on the first
There was enough illumination from below that
they could easily make out her features.
She was an old woman, her kind face heavily lined with wrinkles.
Her white hair was pulled back from her
She looked at
Han first, her eyes traveled to the blaster in
his hand. Her gentle, yet disapproving
expression was more than sufficient reprimand for him to quickly
holster it. Her eyes then found Leia. The trio could easily
hear the sharp intake
of breath. The woman’s gaze immediately
fixated on Luke. They watched the tears
well in her eyes, ignorant as to their cause.
“I see Watto
didn’t exaggerate,” she finally said. Her voice was soft and
melodic with a hint of
an accent Leia could not place.
No one was
certain how long they stood looking at one
another, nor of how long it might have continued had they not been
interrupted. Shadows played against the
whitewashed wall behind the woman’s head before the newcomer moved into
“Nana Shmi,” the
woman said, placing her hand on the older
woman’s arm and searching her face before she turned toward Han, Leia
and Luke. Leia estimated the younger woman was between
fifty and sixty standard years in age. Her hair was dark and
short. She was thin without seeming frail. Her face seemed
unaccustomed to the scowl
that pinched her brow, as if her heart was usually much lighter.
But there was no light to be found at this
moment. Unlike Nana Shmi’s welcoming
smile, there was nothing fond in her gaze.
“You’re not supposed to be up here,” she said, trying to draw Nana Shmi
down the stairs.
Leia kept her
eyes on the two women, but she turned her face
in Luke’s direction and reached out to him through the Force. The
sense of grief she felt from him was so sharp
she grasped his arm, needing to offer physical comfort. They were
far enough from the light sources
she couldn’t easily make out his features, but she could see a single
tracing down his cheek.
Beru,” Nana Shmi said, patting Beru’s hand.
obviously unconvinced. The glare she gave Han was downright warm
comparison to the violent mixture of emotions – primarily suspicion and
pouring off her as she looked at Luke and Leia.
Her resolve strengthened, she said, “They’ll be angry, Nana Shmi.”
stopped her short, though not unkindly. “The boys are worried,”
Nana Shmi said
softly. “They’re such good boys. They only want to keep us
Nana Shmi took a
step. For a moment they wondered if Beru would try
to physically restrain her, but in the end Beru did nothing. Nana
Shmi ventured ever closer and Leia could
see she was even older than Leia initially thought - though living on
for any length of time undoubtedly prematurely aged one.
Despite the open
hostility displayed by Beru, Leia felt
nothing but welcoming warmth from Nana Shmi.
Leia knew she had never before seen this woman, but there was an
undeniable sense of recognition and familiarity. Nana Shmi held
out her hands and Leia
immediately took them, as shocked by how warm they felt as she was by
coldness of her own hands. Nana Shmi
smiled at Leia.
“We don’t have
anything to fear from these visitors,” Nana
Shmi assured Beru.
Nana Shmi turned
to Luke and her smile was blinding even as
tears streamed down her face. She
released Leia’s grasp and gently placed one weathered hand against
face. Luke allowed it, watching her with
wide, curious eyes.
There was such
wonder and grief in her expression which
echoed in her presence in the Force. “My
dear boy,” she whispered.
snapped to the man. He was standing only a few feet away, halfway
between the dome and where they stood. Beru
was nowhere to be seen. With the light
from the doorway behind him, it was nearly impossible to discern any of
features. Again, Leia was both shocked
and appalled she hadn’t noticed a stranger’s approach. She
glanced at Han and knew while she and
Luke had were distracted by Nana Shmi, Han kept his attention firmly
Leia looked back
to Nana Shmi. Her smile was gone, but she still used one
hand to grasp Leia and the other, Luke. She
and Luke continued to study one another.
head bowed as she released Luke and Leia.
“I know, Ani,” she said softly.
“I know this isn’t your boy.”
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