Shura climbed out of her
hired ship, relieved that the servants would take care of both the ship
and her luggage. As little as she could intellectually justify the
right of the privileged few to live in splendid comfort, she could not
but enjoy the luxury of being waited upon when she visited the Organas.
Sometimes she just found it irritating that her hosts did not appreciate how much easier their lives were than those of most other people, including their own servants. Keeiara had some idea, but Bail - Bail was just hopeless.
And her daughter, Shura thought as she headed for the bathroom, would grow up taking all this luxury for granted, too.
The bathroom down here at the hangar level was just a small affair, still it was immaculately clean, there was a shower, two toilet cubicles, a large, shining mirror and all the toiletries one could possibly wish for: shampoos, soaps, brushes, shaving utensils, towels and so on.
For a moment Shura played with the thought of having a shower. She felt grubby and sweaty, but that would have to wait. She wanted to see her daughter.
Looking at her reflection, she found that though she was still looking dishevelled and dog-tired, she was smiling.
Who’d have ever thought you would fall so madly in love with your daughter, she asked herself. She splashed some cold water on her face and ran the brush through her hair. That would just have to do for now.
In a way her reaction was silly, she had not seen her daughter for over two months and now she did not want to wait another minute before seeing her.
Shura left the bathroom and started up the ramp towards the living quarters of the palace. Keeiara and Bail would have been informed about her arrival, and Keeiara would have told Leia. Sometimes, Shura had the impression that Keeiara was jealous that Leia held such a strong affection for her other, her biological mother.
Shura couldn’t really blame her. There she was breezing into their lives every two or three months, spending a lovely time with her daughter and leaving all the hard work of raising a child, all the difficult decisions to Keeiara - and the nannies.
And, after all, she was jealous of Keeiara as well, jealous of the fact that she had Leia around all the time, saw her grow and learn from day to day. Shura experienced this progress as if it were fore-shortened. Leia grew in leaps and bounds from one visit to the next. One time she was a little toddler, proudly able to walk a few steps unassisted, the next time, she ran around like a thing possessed. At least, Leia was now old enough to remember her mother from one visit to the next.
Shura passed one of the Organas’ stiff servants, who bowed at her and said, “Ms. Guardia,” as if to remind her that within these walls she was Serena Guardia, and only Bail and Keeiara ever addressed her by her real name.
Of course, the Organas did not want to be connected in any way to the out-law Shura Talassa, formerly Admiral of the Old Republic, but now a prominent member of the Resistance. They were law-abiding citizens after all. Bail was even still a member of the Senate. He insisted that it was better to change the system from within, staying on the right side of the law all the time. As if the Senate had any influence on what Palpatine was doing these days.
Shura grimaced. She did not want to think of politics, of the Resistance or that evil bastard Palpatine now, she just wanted to see her daughter.
Leia would have grown in the last two months. She had started to learn her letters the last time Shura had been visiting. If Leia had learned enough, perhaps they could spend some time writing letters to each other.
Perhaps, in the not so distant future, Leia could send her mother letters when she was away, so that Shura would know what she was doing.
“She’s my birth-mother,” Shura heard her daughter explain not far ahead. She must be in the small reception area, just around the bend in the corridor. Shura felt her heart beat faster and quickened her pace. “My princess-mama says,” Leia continued, “that she is also my real mother, because she is always here and looks after me.”
So, Keeiara was jealous. Shura shook her head, it was not really a surprise. But, by the gods, who had thought of the silly term ‘princess-mama’? It sounded like something Bail would make up.
“Where has your birth-mother been?” a man asked.
The voice sounded familiar, but for a moment, Shura could not place it. Then she remembered and the realization hit her as if somebody had punched her in the stomach. She stumbled to a halt and had to steady herself against the wall.
No, oh no, she thought frantically, not bloody Kenobi.
Somehow, she still heard her daughter answering. “She was travelling, on business.”
Not bloody Kenobi, dear Gods, let it be anybody else but not him, Shura prayed fervently and hopelessly.
“What kind of business?” the man asked and there was no doubt about it, it was Kenobi.
“I don’t know,” Leia answered, her voice uncertain.
Gods, Shura thought, how could she have forgotten that Bail Organa was a friend of Kenobi’s? She had not exactly forgotten it, just pushed the knowledge aside. She had hoped that they were not in touch any more. After all, Kenobi, like the rest of the jedi who had survived the purges, was an out-law, persecuted by the Empire even more vindictively than those who were opposing his rule.
“Where did she travel to?” Kenobi asked now.
So much for Bail Organa being a law-abiding citizen. Sheltering fugitive jedi was a major crime these days, punishable by years of imprisonment and the confiscation of all property. Shura was surprised Bail would risk all that for that stupid idiot Kenobi. But then, Bail had been one of those people who believed in the goodness and purity of the jedi order. And, he and Kenobi had once served on General Tblisi’s staff together.
“I don’t know,” Leia said, her voice shaking.
“You really don’t know?” Kenobi sounded amused.
There was no reply from Leia. Perhaps she was just shaking her head, perhaps she spoke to softly for Shura to hear, but she heard Kenobi chuckle.
Shura pushed herself away from the wall. Whatever the man thought he was, he had no right to laugh at her daughter. He had no right to question her like this and he had no right to disturb Shura’s reunion with her daughter.
“Are you sure she has arrived?” Kenobi wanted to know.
“Yes,” this time Leia’s voice sounded firm again. “Nanny Souma told me, and mama told her.”
Shura took a deep breath. She was here to see her daughter and as for Kenobi, she would simply ignore the bastard.
She walked the few remaining yards to the bend in the corridor that marked the official beginning of the residential area of the palace, where neutral white-washed walls and shining parquet floors gave way to marble floors, wood-panelled walls and crystal chandeliers. There in the small reception area stood her daughter, staring eagerly at the spot where she knew her mother would appear.
It was not difficult to forget about Kenobi. All Shura saw now was how well and happy Leia looked. She had grown, a little. As usual she was wearing a miniature court dress and her hair was braided into a complicated fashion.
“Mama!” Leia screamed and came running into Shura’s arms.
“My sweet darling.” She lifted her daughter up and kissed her, then she held her small body, simply absorbed in smelling and feeling her daughter again.
Though she was not too absorbed to miss the expression on Kenobi’s face: shock.
Deliberately, Shura turned away from him, and holding her daughter less tightly, she kissed her again. “You look so pretty, darling. Did your mama do your hair?”
“Nanny Carla does my hair,” Leia told her, as if by not knowing this simple fact of life, her mother had shown herself as being a little stupid.
Shura smiled. “I am so happy to be back,” she told her daughter.
“I missed you, mama,” Leia said, her tone sad but also a little accusatory. “You were gone so long.”
“I missed you, too, darling,” Shura told her. “And I am sorry I was away for so long. I tried to be back earlier, but - I could not.”
Looking into her daughter’s solemn little face, Shura felt over-awed that this perfect little girl was her daughter.
Hers and Anakin’s. Anakin who was dead and buried for years now and who never had known his precious little daughter - or his son. She felt the familiar sense of failure that she had not seen her baby boy since she had left him with his foster parents on Tatooine. But if she would go to see him as well, she would have less time to see Leia, and she would not be able to stand that.
Moreover, she knew that she would not be welcome on Anakin’s brother’s farm. Nor would there be servants to look after her well-being as there were here, in the luxury of Keeiara’s and Bail’s palace.
“Mama,” Leia interrupted her thoughts, “are you sick?”
Shura smiled at her daughter, and started walking further into the palace. “No, just tired.”
“But it’s not even noon, mama,” Leia said.
“Here it is, where I have been it is already night,” Shura explained, “and it was a long journey.”
Leia frowned a little and asked, “Where have you been?”
Damn Kenobi and his prying, Shura thought. She knew sooner or later Leia would have asked the same question without the prodding by curious jedi.
“Oh, lots of places,” she told her daughter, “the last place I stayed was Brindle Space Station. It’s between the Nowat and the Riesayri sector.”
At least, Kenobi had not known who Leia was, who her parents were. He had been completely surprised and shocked to see her, to realise that she was Leia’s mother.
But it would have been too much to expect him to let her enjoy her time with her daughter. She could hear him following them.
“Shura!” Kenobi called after her.
There was no use trying to ignore him, so she stopped and turned around. “General Kenobi,” she stated. She had not seen this man for well over four years, but her hate for him was still as fresh as on the day she found out he was responsible for Anakin’s accident and death.
Kenobi stopped a few steps away from her, almost as if he was afraid she would attack him. Which considering she had both her hands full carrying her daughter was almost comical. He could probably feel her hate for him.
“Oh good gods,” Kenobi exclaimed, staring at her as if she was some creature from a nightmare. “What happened to your...”
“General Kenobi,” Shura interrupted him, “I have not seen my daughter for a long time. I am tired. I will speak with you, but not now. Now I am going to spend time with my daughter.”
She turned away and walked on. But Kenobi followed them.
“Shura,” he said, “I need to know, is she…”
Shura wheeled around and took a step towards him. “For one, don’t you ever call me that again, damn you,” she hissed at him, “we are not on first name terms. Secondly, you need to know fuck all, and thirdly, the answer is yes. Now go to hell.”
Turning around again, she made a rude gesture at Kenobi behind Leia’s back and continued down the hall.
Leia looked at her with big eyes, no doubt startled and confused by this conversation.
“I’m sorry,” Shura said and kissed her daughter.
Keeiara would be very upset if she’d known that Shura had sworn in front of Leia. Hell, even a little princess had to learn swear-words some day.
“You don’t like him,” Leia stated.
“No, I don’t like him,” Shura agreed. ‘Not like him’ was putting it mildly.
“But papa said you were friends,” Leia said.
“Did he?” Shura asked. Whatever had possessed Bail to say that, she wondered. Stopping in front of the elevator, she shifted Leia to sit on her hip and pressed the call button. Bail probably thought it would upset Leia if she knew the truth. It would lead to too many questions, open the entire can of worms that was the question of who Leia’s father was and what had happened to him.
“Why did he do that?” Leia wanted to know.
Shura stepped into the elevator and pressed the button to take them to the residential level of the palace.
“You know, sweetheart,” she said, “sometimes people say things that are not really true, because they hope that they will become true if they just wish hard enough for them.”
Bail also had probably not expected she would run into Kenobi like this. More likely he had intended to tell her of his presence and that she had to pretend to be his friend for Leia’s sake. But by the gods, she was not going to pretend to be Kenobi’s friend, not for Leia, nor for anybody else for that matter. Kenobi was the man who was responsible for the fact that Leia did not have a father - not that Bail would see it this way - and that Leia did not know that she had a brother who was growing up on the other side of the galaxy.
“Papa said also that he was a friend of my father,” Leia stated.
Shura stared at her daughter for a moment, fearing that she might have picked up that her mother was thinking of her real father. But, she reminded herself, it was only natural that Leia wanted to know about her other father. So far, she had been surprisingly easily distracted from inquiring too closely on this difficult subject.
“A friend of your father’s?” Shura echoed. That was just too much. For a moment, she felt like bursting into hysterical laughter, but the worried look on her daughter’s face stopped her. “No, I’m afraid they were not friends. They used to be, but they had a bad fight…”
Shura let the sentence trail off. She could not really tell Leia that Kenobi cut off her father’s hand and then tried to kill him. Pursuing him relentlessly to his little ship so that Anakin tried to fly away and instead flew straight into the next building. No, Shura could not tell her daughter that though Anakin survived the crash, he had spent the next six agonising months in hospital and still died of his injuries.
But, Shura thought, she had to tell Bail that if he did not want to tell his foster daughter the truth, he should keep his mouth shut and not tell outrageous lies about her parents. Next he would tell her daughter that her father had been a famous jedi knight.
The elevator stopped and the door swished open to reveal even more luxury than down in the corridor that had came from.
Leia was still looking at her with big, confused eyes.
“I am sorry, but sometimes even your parents lie to you,” Shura told her, stepping into the corridor.
“But why?” Leia wanted to know.
If only I knew, Shura thought. “I think he did not want you to worry about it.”
Leia frowned, not at all pleased with the answer.
“Shura!” Keeiara came running towards them. “I’ve got to tell you something.”
“Keeiara,” Shura was surprised just how angry she sounded. “I have already met your other guest.”
Keeiara stopped in her tracks. “I’m sorry, I wanted to warn you.”
“Warn me of what?” Shura asked. “That he’s here or that we are allegedly good friends?”
Keeiara blushed and opened her mouth to give an angry reply, but Shura cut her off. “I promise I will be civilised and not - argue with him,” she said. Nor would she argue with Keeiara, not in front of Leia who had enough confusing feelings to live with without her two mothers getting into a fight.
“I am sorry, Keeiara,” Shura continued and forced herself to smile, “I am very tired.”
Keeiara smiled back, though the strain of pretending to be happy was visible, hopefully visible only to adult eyes.
“Welcome to our home,” she said and stepped up to Shura. “It was thoughtless of me not to think of how tired you must be. Let me take Leia so you can lie down for a few hours.”
Without waiting for Shura’s reply, Keeiara lifted Leia out of her arms. “Your mother needs to rest, poppet,” Keeiara told Leia, then she turned to Shura. “Sleep well.”
Shura stood for a moment dumbstruck by the realisation just how jealous Keeiara was of her. Then Shura was angry. She wanted to grab her daughter and tell Keeiara to go to hell.
Instead Shura forced herself to smile at Leia, whose confusion was clearly visible on her face. No, Shura thought, she would not fight in front of her little girl.
“That’s right, sweetheart,” she said, “I will get some rest and then you are going to tell me all you have done since I was here last.”
She bend forward and kissed Leia on the cheek.
There were tears in Leia’s eyes, tears of disappointment, a feeling that Shura shared with her daughter. She had come all this way to be with her daughter, just to have her snatched away by this foolish woman.
“But…,” Leia started, only to be interrupted by Keeiara. “No buts, poppet, your mother needs some sleep.”
“I see you in a few hours,” Shura said, and turned away to walk to the guest room that had been her quarters on and off for the last four years.
“Mama!” Leia called after her, but Shura kept on walking.
Tears of anger and frustration rose in her eyes. Was this how it was going to be for the next decade and more? Did Keeiara not understand that she had no reason to be jealous? She had Leia all the year round. Why did she begrudge Shura the few short days she could spend with her daughter?
“Mama!” Leia wailed.
“Now, Leia, don’t make a scene,”Keeiara said sternly, “or your mother won’t want to see you at all today.”
It took all of Shura’s strength to keep walking and not run back and slap Keeiara. How could she be so petty? But if one of her mothers behaved like a spoiled child, Leia did at least deserve one who did her best to act like a responsible adult.
In front of her room, Shura made herself turn around, smile and wave at her daughter.
Once inside the room she allowed herself to cry. She felt terribly helpless and frustrated. All she wanted to do was take her daughter and leave, but she knew she could not. The Resistance was no place for a four-year-old girl and she could not dump Leia on somebody else. She could not take Leia away from all she knew, the people that were her family much more than Shura herself was. And even if she did take Leia away to somebody else, in a few years time they would be in the same situation they were in now. It also would be unfair to Keeiara who had looked after and cared for Leia all this time.
Shura sighed, and started to unbutton her grimy jacket. She was tired, very, very tired. Perhaps it was a good idea to get some sleep now. Later she would have to talk to Keeiara about Leia, she would have to tell Bail not to lie to his foster daughter about her father, and, worst of all, she would have to speak to that stupid idiot Kenobi.
She shrugged out of her jacket, letting it drop on the floor.
Talking to Kenobi was something she did not even want to think about right now.
She sat down on her bed and pulled her boots off.
It was better to think about Keeiara. There was no doubt that Keeiara loved Leia and would do anything she could to make her foster daughter’s life as carefree and happy as possible. Shura told herself that she should be grateful that her daughter had such a loving family, that she lived in luxury and was brought up as what for most little girls was a dream, a princess.
Shura lay down on the big, soft bed. She had to come to some accommodation with Keeiara. They could not start fighting over Leia.
Keeiara would probably prefer it if Shura never came to visit again. Not that Keeiara wanted her old friend dead, just out of the picture.
No, Keeiara did not wish her death, Shura thought, but she would not be particularly sad either if it happened.
Shura remembered the blaster bolts zipping past her face. Had that been only yesterday, she wondered, no, by now it was the day before yesterday. She had come very close to fulfilling Keeiara’s wish of never coming back. It was more than likely that one day or another she would get herself killed, and then Leia would need her foster family. Then there would be no more almost fights between her biological and her foster mother. Perhaps that would be better.
Gods, she must be really tired to think of her own death as being a good thing.
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