Lest Ye Be Judged--star wars au

The Empire died at Endor. Darth Vader must prove his redemption by standing trial for his actions.


2. Chapter 2

"The Empire is dead. Long live the Alliance."

At the inception of the New Order, one audacious holoshill had sent a message of despair across the comm channels to those who would listen: "The Republic is dead, but I cannot bring myself to declare, 'Long live the Empire.'"

The Republic had lasted more than a thousand years and no one had been permitted to mourn its passing under the threat of their new tyrant. The Empire had stood a mere twenty-four years, but it was questionable if there was anyone who could still honestly find a reason to mourn.

The triumph was undeniable, but the victory was inexpressable because the word peace was spoken tonight for the first time as a reality rather than a delusion of grandeur.

The Alliance was no stranger to success, but 'tranquility' was almost an obscenity among the ranks. Ease in their efforts bred opportunity for ambush. Paranoia was a more acceptable word, since it kept them on the move, one step ahead of the Empire no matter the scale of their short-lived victory. They could mourn those left behind while in transit, when it didn't require the effort that kept them alive. They could not afford to leave behind their friends or their equipment, but it was a necessary evil to ensure that they would not have to leave so much behind the next time.

Instead, to compensate for the loss, they counted each breath of air as a small miracle. They could never be certain if the next daylight they saw would bring a wedge-shaped eclipse or a storm of turbolaser fire. They were hunted animals, not sure if they were growing weaker or finding new forms of strength.

Tonight, however, the strength they found had proven to be enough. Mere hours before, they had been strained to the breaking point on too many fronts to count. Those who had been watching from the ground observed a sky full of fire and those who were struggling in space doubted that the struggle on the ground had ever taken place. There had been too many lives lost to catalogue. Heroes had been proved on both sides, but the sum of the parts added up to an impossible victory.

The end result was the only thing that occupied the minds of most of the survivors.

With the demise of their dictator, liberty was no longer an impossible dream or a fool's hope. It was no longer a capital crime to believe in justice.

This seemed to strike with the same impact as a ram-ship in stages.

The first class was largely comprised of those who had been involved in the ground assault because the effects of their labors meant swift success and immediate results. They had been able to catalogue and organize their prisoners, patch their wounds, and make the arrangements for a more large-scale affair than the stunned embraces that they'd shared in the aftermath of a new sun on the horizon.

Most fell into the second class, of those who had rejoiced in the Death Star's destruction, but had been afforded no time to celebrate it until the rest of the Imperial presence in the system had been driven back or eradicated. They arrived piecemeal, the pilots arriving with weary grins and casualty reports that dampened their enthusiasm. The others took it upon themselves to raise their spirits instead.

There were, of course, those who fell into a third group. These were the ones that few dared to call pessimists or mopers, since they shared a common ground of insurmountable loss. Every soldier of the Alliance could name the squadmates or co-workers who had been caught on the wrong end of a turbolaser or had a console explode in their face. They could recite the casualties of each mission so that those who had passed on would never pass out of mind, but would not cause further torment with the psychological surprise attacks that inevitably resulted. The third group, however, consisted of those who had lost too many of those too close to them or who had lost the one most dear to them in the battle itself.

There were the compassionate few who stayed by their sides, waving away offered drinks so that they wouldn't wake up tomorrow monumentally depressed and hungover. They were the friends who had perhaps been in that same situation and provided a shoulder to sob unrestrainedly on or a lap to curl up in. They could be found in both secluded corners and the middle of the action, wherever their expertise in listening, consoling, or simply embracing was required.

Throughout the night, the three groups tended to blend together until there were few recognizable symptoms of each. Daylight found most in a drunken stupor or relieved slumber, while others grudgingly reported for work. Duty never ended, even though the war had.

The first rays of daylight that crept through the thick canopy of branches spotlighted a solitary figure on a bridge who formed a fourth group of her own.

She had obviously not looked after herself since returning to the village. She had discarded the battle fatigues, but she looked just as intense as she had when sighting in on the enemy. Rings of sweat marked exertion, but the most remarkable stain on her borrowed dress was a dark stain that spread beneath the fingertips that rested against her bandaged bicep. She clearly took no note of it, but she didn't seem to be aware that she was still alive, much less upright.

Her eyes had not closed since she had last stood in this spot. They had spent many hours narrowed as she squinted down the barrel of a blaster with a singular determination, but they narrowed now against the sting of tears that she could not afford to shed. They were rimmed in red, but focused on the shadows beyond.

She heard nothing, cared for no contact, and saw nothing but the emptiness of the forest, but she had believed in many impossibilities in her lifetime and this one was no different.

She could repeat the words "The Empire is dead," but they turned to bile in her mouth because she had somehow lost her brother along with the enemy.

She paid no heed to the man who approached cautiously from the village until he set a mug of something hot and strong-smelling on the railing next to her hand. Even then, she did not move her gaze.

"I'm not coming back," Leia protested quietly.

Her voice was hoarse, both from the effort of weeping and not using it for too many hours.

"I know," Han assured her, "but if you feel compelled to keep this vigil, I'm going to at least make sure you're able to stay awake for it."

I couldn't sleep. I don't think I'll be able to until he returns because I know my brother is not dead.

He simply has chosen not to come back to me. I don't know why, I don't know if he's all right, I don't know if I'm just being an idiot...

"Thank you."

She retrieved it, more out of courtesy than need, and took a tentative sip. It was tisane, strong and grainy, with a hint of sweetener.

He knows me too well.

"He's not dead," they said in unison, half-conscious of what the other person had said.

Then, almost in a whisper, she replied, "I know."

"I can feel it."

In her peripheral vision, he moved to sit on the railing behind her, hands planted on either side to steady himself as he twisted to follow her gaze.

"Where do you think he is?" he asked unnecessarily.

Since "alive" was not a place, she had no answer. "I don't know," she confessed. "He's in the forest..."

"Well," Han grunted, glancing pointedly at the surrounding landscape, "that narrows it down."

Her lower lip thrust forward and the edges of her mouth stretched before she could stop herself from smiling. "Nerf-herder," she said affectionately.

"Your Highnessness," he replied with a grin in his voice.

One hand reached up to clasp her shoulder and she leaned into the grip, grateful for something to anchor her to the familiar.

"Something terrible's happened," he murmured. "I need to leave you."

Her breath left her in a shuddering sigh. "Debriefing?"

"Is that what they call it? Rieekan seemed to use the words 'glorified torture' when he commed."

"That too," she agreed. "How soon?"

"As soon as I can get a shuttle," he explained. "I came here to see if you were all right..."

"And to find out what you're supposed to tell them about our missing team member?" she guessed.

She was no Jedi, but he sent out something like a telepathic blanch. "Right," he confirmed.

"He hasn't betrayed us," she insisted. "You have to make them realize..."

"I know," he protested. "I just need your help in figuring out how to make them."

I don't know if I can explain it myself and I know him better than anyone. What are you supposed to say?

"I know that he left to go head-to-head with Vader..."

"Turn him back," she corrected.

There was a sharp intake of air. "Is the kid delusional?"

"Possibly," she said, smile disappearing. "Luke had to face Vader to keep him from interfering in the mission, but his main objective was to redeem him."

"Well, that will go over well," Han snorted. "At least his heading off the enemy makes his actions for the benefit of the mission, so when he shows up, no one will have a particular desire to court-martial him. Putting Darth Dad in touch with his inner Jedi is something..."

"Inconceivable," she finished. "I know."

I still believe it.

He dismounted, then pulled the curtain of her hair away from her face to brush her cheek with a kiss. "I'd better go explain Commander Skywalker's heroism."

"You do that, General," she ordered, turning to kiss him properly. "I'll be waiting."

Her eyes followed him until he disappeared into the village proper, then turned back to the shadows to find she was no longer alone.


A gasp escaped them both as their arms entwined around each other, pulling themselves into an embrace that had waited too long.

Leia gasped at the contact, at the surge of energy that she'd forgotten to miss in his absence, and at the sudden remembrance that she was still capable of being alive. Her arms hooked around his waist as her face buried itself in his tunic, relieved to find the coarse material against her skin.

Luke's gasp, however, was the agonized intake of breath of someone who hadn't meant to reveal their suffering.

"Luke," she repeated, voice a hoarse whisper. "What..."

"It's nothing," he insisted. "Rough night..."

But she had smelled something unnatural in the fibers of his tunic. Before he could protest any further, her fingers found the fastenings for the tunic and undid them quickly, pulling the fabric away.


He stopped at the look on her face, which must have been comparable to the horrified stare that had accompanied the realization that he was the son of Vader. She certainly felt a wave of equal revulsion.

The burn patterns were irregular, as if maniacal rather than methodical torture. In places the skin had blistered; in others the blisters had ruptured. The worst were charred marks with bright red spots where the third-degree burns showed coagulated blood just below the surface.

"In the name of..." she breathed.

"'If you will not turn, you will be destroyed,'" he said quietly, pulling her hand away, but not letting go of it.

"He didn't succeed, though," she observed.

He nodded, face strangely blank. "This," he murmured, "is the price I paid to bring your brother back to you."

She wanted to do something, anything, to ease even the slightest amount of the pain that he had to be feeling, but since she had as much Force-power as a shorted-out control panel, she could only reach out with a trembling hand to touch his face, where she could be sure that he had not been burned. His cheek turned, leaning into her touch, indulging her that tactile comfort at least for the moment.

"Was it worth it?" she asked quietly.

"More than I can ever explain," he confirmed. "More than you will be able to understand."

"Help me," she requested, hand tracing downwards to rest against his heart.

He was obviously hesitant, didn't want to face the memories of last night, much less let her experience them as well, but at last he nodded. His hand reached up to cup her cheek and with that contact, half a dozen images flooded her mind.

Luke, writhing under a barrage of lightning that leapt from gnarled hands and a twisted soul as Vader watched impassively.

Vader, just as impassively, seizing the Emperor and throwing him down the reactor shaft.

Luke pulling him back from the edge of the shaft, collapsing under the weight to lay, breathless, in his father's embrace.

Luke's hands, trembling with fearful gentleness as he disengaged the mask...

She shook her head, driving the possibility of any further explanation from her mind. Misunderstanding the gesture, he drew back, a distinctly injured look on his face.

"You have to unders..."

She shook her head again. "Sorry," she said sincerely. "I wasn't prepared to realize that you were right."

His eyes drifted closed and she seemed to hear the echo of a thought on the wind.

"Tell your sister you were right..."


"There was enough good in him to do what was necessary," she explained. "For that, I am grateful."

He let out a shuddering breath, then let his mouth curve slightly in a smile.

We've just won the war. Why does it feel like we all have to learn happiness from scratch?

“Han’s in debriefing,” she said unnecessarily.

“Undoubtedly, trying to explain why you’ve been waiting for me to come back to Endor,” he guessed.

“Something like that,” she responded.

For a long moment, he was silent, his eyes focused on a point somewhere over her shoulder. Usually, this look tended to disconcert her, but there was something about the moment that gave her an unusual peace, as if calm had blanketed her mind.

“Do you trust me?” he queried.

“Always,” she said instinctively.

Automatically, the cynical part of her that had awakened in the long hours of not knowing where he was or if he was still faithful to the reason he had left her reminded that she could hardly trust him if she had no answers to these questions.

He, however, had been the one to teach her how to trust again in the long months following Alderaan. He had not changed, even if she had.

Trust was not a matter of second-guessing this time around.

“Come with me,” was his only request.

He did not dare to say a single word about the events of last night in the three hours that it took for them to reach the clearing.

It wasn't for lack of effort on her part. He asked many questions, drawing the sheepish story out of her memory with a series of heartfelt inquiries that were both teasing and concerned. She answered as best she could, endeavoring with ridiculous levity to draw a smile out of him. Usually, any mention of C-3PO in a battle setting would make him grin and shake his head, since he had at least twice as many stories as she about the fastidious protocol droid. At the very least, he would have rolled his eyes and started a new sentence with the words, "If you think that's bad..."

Instead, the entire trip was more of a one-sided conversation, verbally and emotionally. He took the account seriously, nodding at times, but on the whole treating it as a debriefing rather than an amiable story-telling.

As the sun climbed to its xenith, his hand snaked out to wrap around hers unexpectedly, the most affectionate thing he'd done since leaving the village. She shifted her hand, cradling his gently.

"How did you..." He hesitated, still not daring to look at her. "How did what I told you affect things?"

It changed everything and you left me with a crazy urge to chase after you or take a long jump off that bridge.

If Han hadn't been willing to hold me without needing to know why, I might have.

"I tried not to let it," she said instead. "Han didn't know what was going on, only that I needed to be held."

"Like the second anniversary," Luke mused.

She stared, unsure of how he had found out about that, since he'd been on the other side of the Galaxy at that point. Undoubtedly, Han had told him something about the second anniversary of Alderaan's destruction, when she had expected to celebrate the memorial alone and instead, he had arrived with the necessary supplies and the urge to help.

Well, the desire to help. He had been unable to find the Alderaanian green on such short notice, but somehow, his contacts had a bottle of hrashi. Hrashi was a strongly fermented drink that had hallucinogenic effects if consumed more than a little at a time. They'd poured one glass and taken the smallest of sips, wincing sympathetically in the hopes that the small amount wouldn't make them think that nerfs were coming through the viewport.

She remembered little of what ensued, except that it had taken four hours to get through the thirty minutes of memorial prayers and that she had spent a great deal of the time sobbing rather pathetically in the arms of a man she had sworn was nothing but a callous mercenary.

They had been at odds, barely avoiding slugging matches for a year by then, but it was the first time in a while that she had been allowed to consider him as the friend she had made on a Death Star.

In hindsight, it might have been the first indication that she had that he considered her as more than a friend.

"Pretty much," she admitted, "minus the drunken hysteria."

"Pity," he deadpanned. "The mission might have gone better if you were too drunk to care about diplomacy."

Great to hear that sense of humor, now say it as if you still have a heart in there.

You're scaring me.

You don't have to tell me everything, just tell me what I'm supposed to do to help you right now. I don't feel as if I can even find you through all the darkness that's surrounding your mind.

"I wish," he murmured at last, "that I could have stayed with you."

"Me, too," she admitted. "It was hard enough to face the battle without knowing that you were about to be killed by the father I never knew I had."

"I had no idea if I'd ever see you again," he explained, voice still flat. "I couldn't leave without explaining things to you."

"If I don't make it back, you're the only hope for the Alliance."

"Luke, don't talk that way!"

"I know," she assured him.

He rounded a tree, with her close behind, and they both stopped, breath freezing in their throats.

She could sense no malice from him, but she could feel nothing at all in the first place coming off of his mind, so she couldn’t be sure that the Imperial shuttle in the clearing wasn’t evidence of a betrayal.

Stop thinking this way. There’s a perfectly good explanation for why he’s afraid to talk about what happened to him on the Death Star.

Are you sure he’s not afraid of what he did on the Death Star?

Maybe both.

“I thought you trusted me,” he observed.

I’ve trusted you since the moment a vertically challenged stormtrooper told me “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.” Why should I stop now?

Why have I stopped now?

“I trust you,” she forced herself to say, forcing her mind to wrap around the idea and make it reality, “but you’re not giving me any explanations.”

Not about yesterday, not about where you were between the moment the Death Star evaporated and this morning, not about why you’ve brought me here.

“I had to steal one,” Luke explained into the silence. “Even walkers of skies have problems with the atmosphere.”

Her laugh surprised her, since she hadn’t been able to muster that kind of positive emotional energy since the moment Luke had stated, “He is my father.” It was something she almost thought she’d forgotten how to do.

And finally, when she looked over at his face, there was a smile there.

“Sorry,” she said genuinely, “I think I’m just another victim of Imperial reality.”

He did not speak, did not laugh with her, only sucked in a breath of remembrance and something like trepidation. She knew his sense of Imperial reality would have him clenching his right hand as he always had in the months since Bespin. It was the same reflexive motion that raised her hand to the diagonal slash of a scar beneath her cheek every time she spoke of her time on the Death Star.

The counselor that she had seen at Dodonna’s request following Alderaan had talked about “trauma-wiring,” the instinctive defenses that abuse and fear provided for the mind in order to cope with the extraordinary effects of what had been done to you. Certain responses to memory were pre-programmed to prevent further suffering.

Even before she had ever heard the name Anakin Skywalker, she had begun to turn instinctively to Luke in response to trauma. She surmised that half of her difficulties following Bespin had arisen from the fact that, on the long trip from Hoth, she had allowed Han to enter into her defensive programming. The bond to Luke had never quite been the same after that, but he had kept her just as prevalently as his first line of defense.

He knew all-too-well what she meant.

"I know," he said quietly.

Her hand traced a line across his cheekbone. “I was afraid you left your sense of humor on the Death Star.”

He nodded. “I left a lot of things there.”

“But not my brother,” she countered. “You brought him back.”

“Which is why you must trust me,” he insisted.

You’re starting to resemble my best friend again. I think that helps.

"Always," she promised.

Letting out a sigh, he released her hand and without another word, strode across the clearing to the shuttle. She followed with measure strides, forcing her breath to come steadily.

He waited at the top of the ramp, hand extended. "Your blaster?"

She stopped short. What do you think I'll need it for? What exactly do you have in there?

Her arms remained at her sides, neither reaching for her blaster nor offering it to him. "Imperial reality," she repeated quietly. "I trust you, but I need my own assurances."

His eyes closed and she could sense him summoning his strength not to argue the point. Finally, his eyes snapped open and he nodded curtly.

"Come with me," he requested.

Leia followed him silently to a cabin adjoining the cargo hold, which was a rarity on lambda-class shuttles. These were typically used for transport rather than comfort, so any quarters had to be a special modification.

Or perhaps this was the medical bay.

The door hissed open and her brain half-expected to see Lord Vader stalking towards her, hand outstretched to crush her throat.

Stop being ridiculous.

Instead, the room was dark, the only noise coming from the gentle hiss of an oxygen mask. Luke crossed the room in four strides, then murmured something she could not hear distinctly before returning to her side. Against her better judgment, she stepped into the room, allowing him to pass and bring the lights up to a dim glow.

Her eyes first sought out the mask, finding it covering thin, pale lips and a strong jawline. There was considerable scarring along the jaw and roping up across the cheekbones beneath the closed eyes. The skull was bare, but not shaven. Her eyes swept down a powerful torso and strong arms to where the right arm ended in a truncated mass of wires.

She did not, however, recognize the man until the eyes flickered open.

Even then, she only recognized them because they were the same eyes she saw every time she looked at Luke.

”He is my father.”



She stumbled back, hand scrabbling desperately for the blaster that was no longer there.


She whirled to find Luke casually placing it in his own holster.

For all his talk of trust, it had been a trap.

A shriek escaped her throat as she tackled him, hands beating at his shoulders and face as she screamed words that she couldn’t understand or explain. He didn’t respond, only pinned her and dragged her bodily from the cabin, letting the door slide shut behind them.

She pushed away, the force of her shove slamming her into the door, but it did not stop her from lunging again.

She didn’t notice that her blaster had returned to his hand before his casual betrayal erupted in a blue flash and tormented unconsciousness.


Something was wrong.

Luke had not denied it on the Home One, when she voiced her concern, had only suggested that she ask him again some other time.

On the eve of battle, with her nerves jangling and his silence a torment to them both, she followed him out of the gathering hut where they had pled their case before the Ewoks in order to ask him again sometime.

The noises of celebration faded into the mist that wound its way lazily through the trees, but she did not take time to notice, only drifted in the path of the mist until her unhesitating steps led her to her friend’s side.

On a night like this, with time to herself, she would be looking to the stars for comfort or answers, but Luke was pointedly avoiding the gaze of the durasteel watcher in the sky. He looked down into the abyss of the forest below, but not as if contemplating making an abrupt reunion with the ground. His expression suggested, instead, that he understood the darkness beyond.

Perhaps he did, more than she could explain.

The second Death Star terrified all of them, but there was something about the people on board that seemed to turn his mind into molten lava.

This was no great surprise, since she had been at Bespin and knew how fervently Lord Vader had sought after young Skywalker. Against her better judgment, she had stayed at his side in the long night following their frantic rescue of him, listening to his whimpering questions.

”Ben, why didn’t you tell me?”

She couldn’t ask what Ben Kenobi had failed to tell him that had tormented him in the night after facing down Lord Vader, but he had never mentioned it in his waking hours.

And she could not bring herself to ask him to bring the demons from his dreams into his conscious reality. She could only offer silent support in those first days of fevered torment.

Tonight, however, she could not let the silence endure. She had to draw the words from his mouth, let him give voice to his fears so that they would be left on this bridge and not be carried with him into battle.

“Luke, what’s wrong?”

His head came up as he turned to face her, but it was a long moment before his eyes cleared and focused on her.


He was regarding her as if he’d never seen her before.

No, not as if he’d never seen her before. It was as if she resembled someone that he had never before recognized.

He opened his mouth, then seemed to hesitate, but her hand went to his arm and he let out a shuddering sigh of something like relief.

“Do you remember your mother?”

She remembered too well, remembered a thousand nights of laughter and empathy that had been cut short in her third year in the Senate by a senseless attack. She remembered smiling eyes and shared confidences…

“Your real mother?” he clarified.

Her stream of consciousness stopped dead in its tracks. Long ago, she had confessed that she was a Princess by upbringing, but not by birth. It was not common knowledge on Alderaan, since Bail had legally claimed her as his heir in her naming ceremony, but at times, she knew too well that she was not his.

The mother who had died before Leia could begin to remember her voice was rarely spoken of and Luke, after her admission, had never broached the subject again.

Until tonight.

“Just a little,” she confessed. “She died when I was very young.”

“Tell me.”

The urgent pleading in his voice was unusual, especially for a man who had been competently raised by hard-working farmers. Just as she never spoke of her first mother, he rarely spoke of the fact that he was an orphan.

Facing this challenge, however, seemed to be draining him of all the protective energies that he had been given.

So, instead, she shared the protection of a smile she could barely remember and a love that was undeniable, even without proof.

”She was…”

An angel.

“Very beautiful,” she finished the thought. “Kind, but sad.”

He let out an almost inaudible sigh, slumping in a kind of relief at the meager offering.

“Luke,” she pressed gently, “tell me. What’s troubling you?”

Everything and nothing at all.

His hand covered hers, but it was trembling and provided no warmth. Neither did the haunted eyes that met hers a moment later.

“Vader’s here,” he explained, “now, on this moon.”

Her instinct was to shy away, as if his knowledge gave him a connection to the Dark Lord himself. As soon as she had quashed this impulse, a nervous panic set in.

All was lost before they had even joined the battle.

“How do you know?” she queried, forcing her voice to remain steady.

“I can feel his presence.”

If it had been her, that would have been half of the explanation already.

“He can feel when I’m near,” he continued. “That’s why I have to go. As long as I stay, I’m endangering the group and our mission.”

It was a rehearsed speech, not to her, but in order to convince himself that he wasn’t completely insane for thinking this way.

It did nothing to convince her, though.

“I have to face him.”


She hadn’t meant to voice the question, but her incredulity could not restrain it. Once again, he was looking anywhere but at her.

“Because he is my father.”

And just like that, with five words, the other half of the explanation fell into place. The six months of nightmares and daytime tremors, the reason why he had spent so much time attuning himself to the Force…

All was stated in those five words, but they only brought more questions.

She half-wanted to draw away, to keep herself illogically as far away from the son of Vader as she could get, but logic took over in time for her to refrain from committing that crime.

He was the son of Skywalker and somehow, Skywalker had become Vader. That was the extent of his legacy, nothing more.

“Your father…” she repeated, the words turning to ash in her mouth.

“There’s more,” he pressed on, stalwart in this madness. “It won’t be easy for you to hear, but you must. If I don’t come back, you’re the only hope for the Alliance.”

This time, she did jerk away, pushing to her feet as her cheeks flamed with frustration. “Luke,” she snapped, “don’t talk that way.”

She was commanding him to be silent a mere five minutes after resolving to talk this out with him.

“You have a power…”

Vader’s power.

“…That I don’t understand and could never have.”


He was on his feet now as well. “You’re wrong, Leia.”

He was rarely this audacious, but when he believed strongly enough in something, it would manifest itself.

“You have that power, too.”

Her breath stopped altogether.

“In time, you’ll learn to use it as I have.”

To earn more pain and suffering.

His gaze kept drifting, as if he could not bear to look at her. What is so troubling about the idea that I can share this sort of burden with you?

“The Force is strong in my family,” he said, almost in a whisper. “My father has it, I have it, and…”

He locked gazes with her and the intensity would have terrified her, but there was something strangely comforting in the earnestness of that stare.

“My sister has it.”

Her lips parted to respond a full second before she realized that she had no quick retort to that statement. The statement, the implication of her parentage, should have brought bile to the back of her throat instead of words, but instead, her mind forgot the fact that their father was her enemy and locked in on one thought.

My brother.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “It’s you, Leia.”

A dozen images of the involuntary comforts that they had offered each other by instinct rather than request, of the holo where Han had sworn they’d learned how to smile from each other, of the way that his voice had called her back to Bespin rose to her mind.

It was the only logical explanation.

“I know,” she confessed. “Somehow, I’ve always known.”

He nodded. “Then, you know why I must confront him.”


She stepped in, leaning against his arm with her hand. “Luke, run away,” she pleaded. “Far away. If he can feel your presence, then leave this place.”

Even if he has to come after me instead.

“I wish I could go with you.”


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