Summary: En route to Endor and the Second Death Star, Luke, Leia and Han are transported into a very different universe, under a different Empire, with a different Vader. Characters: The main PT & OT characters Prologue: Before the Fall "To be a God is to forsake any and all everlasting happiness" - Ancient Naboo proverb ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ "What's your favorite strategy out in the field again," her voice trailing off at the end, wishing she had not brought up the war. She once more attempted to feed the spoonful of paste to the unwilling toddler before her, and once more found her efforts frustrated when the child shut her sharp brown eyes and cried out. "Nooooo…dun want more," she cried as she scrunched up her mouth and nose. "Leia," her mother admonished, and stopped herself. What sense was there in arguing with a child. Especially with such a long day yet ahead of her. "Divide and conquer, my love," she heard from their parlor. She looked back at him helplessly and watched her husband pace the room, his son squealing in delight every time he bounced him up and down and up and down. "A tactic," her young husband corrected, "not a strategy, whereby you split your enemy's forces, defeat each weaker opponent in turn, win the battle, and wait while Senator Skywalker and her colleagues devise the strategy to win the war." Padme watched as her husband carried their son into the dining room and couldn't help but roll her eyes, which only served to further amuse her husband. "Senator Skywalker," he almost whispered, and Padme shivered knowing that he enjoyed saying those two words, once forbidden, almost as much as she enjoyed hearing him say it. "Before you admonish my insubordination, I suggest you formulate a strategy to calm our daughter down, lest she get her brother worked up. Force knows my shoulders are about to fall off." Giving up, she tapped her husband's shoulder playfully as she bent down to lift Leia up from her seat. "For what it's worth, General Skywalker, I am well versed in strategy." "Are you? Is there a strategic purpose in letting your one year old decide when her lunch is over?" "You forget I'm a diplomat, dear General. I read a crisis, know when to push forward, and when to retreat and regroup." Picking up her daughter, she followed her husband to the twins' room. "I've gathered this concept should be a familiar one to you as well." "Retreat? I've never heard of such a word!" Anakin contorted his head back at his wife in disbelief, then swept his one free arm in an exaggerated circular motion. "I submit the motion, Senator Skywalker, that we never again utter such blasphemies in front of our son." "How about this blasphemy? You're a poodoo head." She tried to keep a straight face, but started giggling as soon as she saw her husband's feigned indignation. "How dare you, Senator? Such language unbecoming of your position. I hereby move for a motion of censure." "Dada moshin," Luke eagerly agreed. His sister giggled despite her foul mood mere minutes ago, and Padme was surprised how easily her daughter settled into her crib. "And how would you censure me," Padme teased as she stroked her daughter's soft and wispy brown hair, willing her to calm down. "All will be revealed in due time, milady," Anakin whispered wickedly in a low, raspy voice, then quickly shifted back into daddy mode. "Dada needs Lukey to take his nap now. Okay, Lukey?" Anakin set the smiling child down into his crib, spaced across the room from Leia's. Luke happily settled in as well, and Anakin was glad he drew his son this afternoon; his sister was usually much more difficult to put to sleep, but for once Leia seemed to be cooperating, and Anakin was happy for his wife. They sat in the room, backs facing each other, reading to each twin their favorite story. As Padme recited for what seemed the thousandth time the tale of the princess who turned into a Bantha, she stole a quick peek at her husband, and remembered again the stories her father had told her when she was a child. She recalled especially the legend of Shiraya, the Naboo Goddess of wisdom, who had dared to fall in love with a mortal. Her beloved was Adono, a mighty warrior who served an ancient King of Naboo, the name long forgotten over the millennia. Their love was a doomed one, for Shiraya's father, the God of the Sun, disapproved of her fling with a mere mortal, so they could only meet every night, the only time they could hide from her father's watchful eye. But her father's fears proved true; her lover's fire burned so furiously for her, and in her essence transformed him until he himself became a star, shining so bright that he rivaled even her exalted father. For a time, they said, Naboo knew no night, no darkness, not until the wayward Goddess's father banished her lover far away into the stars, restoring the balance between light and dark once more. And Shiraya, mourning her lost love, vowed to disown her father for eternity, and took her place as the largest and most brilliant of Naboo's three moons. Every night she gazed out across the stars, watching over her doomed love, mourning that he would inevitably and too soon, burn out. Then after that, she would be alone, forever. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The twins were asleep, and later that afternoon Padme stroked gently her husband's soft blond hair in her hands. With a major session of the Senate to attend in the evening, they were too tired to do anything in bed but rest. Anakin had already fallen asleep, his head resting on her chest and his arms clutching her small form. Padme watched her husband sleep and thought about how peaceful he looked, how content he, no, they both were. He had returned from yet another siege in the Outer Rim, she still fought faithfully for peace in the Senate, but their lives had changed so much ever since her husband had left the Order. They had had no choice, really. It was only months after Geonosis and their secret wedding that she had found out she was pregnant with the twins. It was a matter of when, rather than if, their secret would be known to all. Despite her protests, Anakin had decided that the best course of action was to get the truth out as soon as possible. As she had predicted by the fireplace so long ago, the lies were killing him. And her as well. When Chancellor Palpatine had offered Anakin a command in the Grand Army it seemed a better consequence than either one of them had hoped for. Padme still distrusted the Chancellor and knew in her heart that Palpatine was using the war to augment his own powers, but at the same time she was so happy that her husband would retain his position and place within the Republic. She believed that Palpatine was a practical, even cynical man, and despite the fallout from the ensuing scandal following Anakin's resignation, could not help but recognized that her husband had too much potential to be relegated to the backseat of history. Nothing about their relationship or their lives had ever been ordinary. Even as children, a slave and a Queen, together they had led armies and saved a planet. A decade later, they had fallen in love even as they witnessed firsthand the galaxy around them collapsing into war and despair. Every moment she had with Anakin had felt fleeting, fateful, graced by an aura of apprehension and uncertainty towards what future they would be lucky enough to have. Padme remembered often the stories of the Naboo Gods from her childhood, tales of star crossed lovers, of the tragedy fated to befall the protagonists despite their most valiant efforts to fight their inevitable doom. She had often wondered whether she and her husband were indeed living one of those same doomed myths. Now, there was no more secrecy, no more tension. Between the twins and their respective responsibilities to the Republic, there was no time to feel anything except sheer, ordinary, exhaustion. And that was what Padme loved most of all, she mused, as she felt her husband's breath beside her. When they had their occasional moment to themselves, there was no longer that panging fear and guilt lingering around them like a shadow. There were only moments like the one now, pure contentment, pure normalcy. It felt normal when she talked to her family back in Naboo, telling them all about her husband and children. She sensed that her husband felt more at peace as well. Ironically, his relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, his former master, had seemed to improve since Anakin's resignation. She knew that Obi-Wan had argued his case in front of the Council, and for the first time in their relationship Anakin had recognized how much Obi-Wan cared for him as a person, not as just a Padawan. Now they were colleagues, equals, and fought side by side like brothers, no secrets between them. Padme sighed and wondered when they could finally end this war, and allowed herself to dream for the first time in their marriage a life away from Coruscant, from the reporters and the politics, a life of peace and simplicity back in Naboo, surrounded by everyone she loved. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ "By the time this war is over there will be no Republic left," Padme whispered to her husband. Seated past him in the pod was Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan, who replied with a subtle nod as they listened to the applause following another vote in favor of Chancellor Palpatine, who newly possessed the power to override in the sovereignty of any system "if the situation required it". Almost imperceptibly, Anakin placed his metal hand gently on her knee. "Then I will end this war. We will applaud the Chancellor one last time, he will step down, and we will have peace." Padme squeezed his hand. He was still like a child, she thought. Is, she reminded herself. He was not yet twenty-one years old, and same as her felt the weight of the Galaxy on his shoulders, with the additional pressure of already being a folk figure, a Hero With No Fear, as the holonets had already began to call him. "I hope you can bring about all that, General Skywalker. It's a tall order indeed." Padme was thankful for her alliance, friendship even, with the Senator from Alderaan. He had been one of her first allies since she had arrived in Coruscant, and had been the first to congratulate her after the Jedi scandal broke. She never felt him judge her like so many other of their colleagues. More importantly, he had instantly treated her husband with the same dignity as his closet allies in the Senate, respecting his obvious talents and respectfully turning a blind eye to those moments when Anakin's childish naiveté trickled through into their more serious discussions. "Do you really think he will step down when the war is over?" That was another change in their relationship; with everything out in the open, Padme felt more comfortable in challenging her husband on politics. She did not try to lecture him, knowing that she could never will Anakin to believe exactly as she. But she voiced her opinions, and listened to his, and found that they both continued to learn a lot from each other. "Power is a drug. Those who strive their entire lives to gain it seldom volunteer it away with no prompting." "I agree, my love. It's part of what makes us human." He examined her with his piercing blue eyes, and she remembered her very own words so many years ago on that fateful night in Tatooine. "Chancellor Palpatine is human, and he wants to win the war so badly. I do not doubt that he has made mistakes in doing so, but I do think that at the end of the day he wants the best for the Republic." "What if", Bail asked, "what is best for the Republic is for him to let go of his power? You talk to him more than any of us Senators, Anakin. What do you think he will do?" Anakin was silent for a minute. He examined the vast chambers around him, feeling the emotions around him and absorbing them. "Power counters power," he finally said. "You told me that yourself, Padme. The Jedi crave power. Every Senator here wants power. Most of you wish to sit in Chancellor's seat one day, that is the reason you are here in the first place. Perhaps, when the time comes, the Chancellor's powers will be balanced by those who want his power more than he." Bail smiled. "You taught him well, Padme." "I'm not sure if he's learning this from me." She turned to face her husband. "Do you think I crave power? Or Bail? What about Obi-Wan?" Anakin frowned. "Obi-Wan is different. So are you and Senator Organa. For what it's worth, if I had a vote, I would proudly vote for either of you to succeed Chancellor Palpaline." Despite the gravity of their setting, Padme allowed herself a smile. "So much flattery, General Skywalker. Perhaps you'll find yourself in politics one day after all." As another round of applause range through the Senate chambers, Anakin leaned away from Bail and whispered softly where only he and his wife could hear, "Maybe that's not all that far-fetched, seeing as I often find myself inside a politician." Before she could even blush, she felt Anakin springing into alertness, obviously sensing something wrong. "Bail! Padme! Hold on!" He moved and suddenly steered their pod away from the Chancellor, towards the galleries of the Senate. Half a second later, they all heard the explosions and the blasters in the distance, in the direction of… "The crèche," Padme exclaimed. With Anakin home for three days she had allowed her handmaidens a brief visit back to Naboo to visit their families. They had left Luke and Leia in the Senate nurseries, along with so many other children. "Anakin…what do you feel? What's happening?" "Droids," he said as their pod arrived at the gallery platforms. "The Separatists dare to attack the Senate," Bail said in shock as his friends leapt onto the walkway and sprinted in the direction of the attack. She had powerful lungs, and felt she could outrun any Senator, and probably all her handmaidens save Sabe. But she was no match for her warrior husband, who she could now barely make out through the panicked crowd far down the hallway. They all heard another explosion in the distance, and to her horror she saw her husband shriek and collapse onto the ground. "Noooooo," he cried in agony as she caught up to him. She saw that he was unscathed, and so were everyone around them. There was no debris, no sign of destruction in their immediate area. But what she saw scared her more than Count Dooku or any droid army that could be mustered. She saw her husbands eyes, flaring in agony, reaching for desperation and comfort, yet deathly afraid to meet her eyes. "Ani! No! Do you still feel them? Luke? Leia!" He did not reply to her, but his tears told her all she needed to know. They were both crying openly by the time she collapsed into his arms, husband and wife laid low onto the floor, unconcerned by the chaos of hundreds of panicked politicians and aides running in every direction all around them, because they knew the worst had already happened, and the worst may very well destroy them both.