Winter of My Life   Rating: PG
Diana DeRiggs

Many thanks to Csillag for great brainstorms, and to her and Runt for being great beta readers. This story was inspired in part by "No Wonder," by Anne Sofie von Otter and Elvis Costello.

It was a beautiful late spring evening when I married Anakin Skywalker. The flowers were open and fragrant, the terrace was dewy in the warm, breezy evening. It was the most beautiful evening I've ever known.

But now it's cold ... it's winter here on Alderaan. In the Organa palace, old fashioned fires are ablaze in massive fireplaces. But no matter how close I get to the flames, I feel chilled and sad inside ... and I know it has nothing to do with the temperature of the room.

My daughter lies asleep in the cradle, at long last. She cries and yells, and it is impossible to comfort her. I am exhausted from her demands, but I can't sleep. I keep telling my handmaiden that it's the cold and the dampness of the palace ... but she's not fooled. She knows that I, like my baby, can't be comforted. I believe I will never be able to sleep again.

It's still dark, and I see the flames flickering in the antique mirror across the big room. I steal a glance at it, daring to look at my face. I wonder how I look now: scared? Angry? Or simply bone-tired?

I'm surprised at my reflection ... when I was very young, they once called me "the Rose of Naboo" for the rosy flush of my complexion ... my cheeks are so pale now! I expected the redness of tears in my eyes, but not the knowing look that stares back at me. What does the girl in the reflection know? What lessons does she want me to learn?

What good are lessons now? What's done is done, and I've left him. That night not so long ago, I bundled up to resemble a woman who was naturally fat, not enormously pregnant. I didn't dare look back, even though I knew he wasn't in the house. Obi-wan had warned me not to waver, that I couldn't afford to lose my resolve.

Officially, Anakin has now been declared dead, but I know he isn't. I am not strong in the Force, but I can feel him, and he's not dead. I'd know, Obi-wan would know. Thus this urgency -- I need to escape with my children, who are born in his absence. For the good of the galaxy, I can't chance him knowing there are two: a boy, whom he knows about -- and a girl.

I sat alone in the old-fashioned carriage that took me beyond the spaceport, in an unlicensed area for starships. So many years ago when I was a new Queen, my starship returned from Coruscant to a besieged planet. In those days, my pilot landed in the swamps near the Gungan kingdoms. That same pilot, now old but still capable and loyal, was waiting for me at the end of the bouncy ride.

Obi-wan chose this method of transport because animals don't give off an ionization trail, which can be used to track me. The kaadu walk and grunt lightly, and the carriage rocks in a comforting manor. Even though I'm gripped with terror, I found myself lulled rhythmically to sleep ...

He is walking quickly down the street toward me, but he doesn't slow his gait. There is no greeting, no gladness to see me. He trots right past me, not acknowledging me at all. It's impossible that he wouldn't recognize me, but he doesn't, he just rushes past me. Anakin runs so fast that he splatters me as he splashes through a puddle. He just hurries by, on some errand that doesn't include me or our children ...

I've been living that nightmare for many, many days and nights now. I can't sleep, perhaps I will never sleep again. I woke up in the carriage and felt the caked mud from that dirty puddle water on my high-button boots ...

We hid in Dagobah, where my children were born. Master Yoda was there and he told me he could ensure that Anakin would not feel the birth through the Force. This is why I had to go to that uncharted, primitive, swampy planet, and trust in the Jedi who brought me there to care for me and my son and daughter.

By then, the Jedi are in hiding, too. There is a secret few know: Anakin has taken the Sith name Darth Vader and he hunts down and executes Jedi by the score.

Anakin and I have been married not even two standard years -- still the summer of our marriage! This can't be happening. How did I misjudge this murderer? How did I end up having his children, all alone? Why am I still alive?

Master Yoda and Obi-wan told me that this is the will of the Force. They were sympathetic, understanding I am not trained, so cannot understand, especially through my growing hysteria. They asked me to be strong, to imagine my children growing in a world where the Jedi are reviled, and those strong in the Force would be killed. There would be no tradition or knowledge of the gifts they carry, or the promise of hope for anyone. Their only hope is to be hidden.

I cannot believe I brought children into such a world! But they are here now, and I have to do what's best for them, and for the galaxy.

But right now in wintery Alderaan, the cold blurs my sense of right and wrong. Why did I feel it was so right to be the wife of Anakin Skywalker? Why do I feel it was so right to carry his children? Why do I feel so wrong to leave him? Dare I trust myself to make any decisions?

A fact I have to force myself to cling to: in the summer of our marriage, Anakin denied me and broke the promises we made to each other. I have to ask myself constantly, if our summer is like this, how would the autumn be? Or our winter?

These are hard lessons to learn, but I've learned them too well.

Does Anakin remember me now? Does he wonder where I've gone? Does he think I'm dead? Does he wonder about the child he knew I carried? He was with me only for the first ultrasound, when we saw a boy ... does he know about the other one?

She's with me here, and will stay on Alderaan. Her brother, the son of Anakin Skywalker, is with Obi-wan. I last saw him when Ric Olié raised the ship to take me and Leia away from Dagobah; he tilted the ship down so I could peer through the transparisteel and see Luke in Obi-wan's arms. I know where he will be taken, and I know I will never see him again.

My son will be hidden in a most curious manner -- he is being taken to Tatooine, to live with his grandmother's stepson. I had met Owen Lars just once before I married Anakin. Obi-wan will stay on Tatooine to watch over the boy. Even though Anakin swore he would never return to his home planet, if he discovers where Luke Skywalker is, Obi-wan will be there to meet my husband ...

My daughter will be high in the public eye. Bail Organa has agreed to adopt her, to raise her as the Princess of Alderaan. She will have his name and a position analogous to the one I held on Naboo. Even at this young age, she resembles me so strongly. In the future, I believe anyone who knew me would know she is my daughter.

I asked Anakin's former master, why make it so obvious? Why create a high-profile royal out of one child, and a poor boy with my husband's name out of the other? If what they say about Anakin's children being a danger to the Emperor is true, why put the babies at such risk? Obi-wan explained that Anakin is a talented and good investigator, but that he relies heavily on the Force to reveal what is hidden. It would not ever occur to him to look in plain sight for his children. In fact, they could be talking directly to him and he would never guess such a thing.

It sounds so preposterous, but I have to admit, his analysis of Anakin rings true. My love for him was hidden so deeply in me that even I didn't know it, but he found it and skillfully drew it out. But my husband can never see the obvious, especially not the pain I feel at his rejection.

Leia will be groomed for politics and diplomacy, in case her father's legacy needs to be confronted in a public arena, or in the power vacuum that would surely result if he fell. In contrast, Luke would live Anakin's life as a poor boy on a dismal outer-rim planet, so that he can find compassion for his fallen father when the time comes. It all makes too much sense, and I can't resist the logic. Damn Obi-wan for being so right!

Perhaps worst of all, Yoda explained that I had done my duty. To enhance the children's survival, I would have to die shortly. As long as I am alive, Anakin can find me. He is stronger in the Force than any other Jedi who'd ever lived. The diminuitive Jedi was sad as he told me that I should not resist if the Force wills me to die ...

So ... is this the winter of my life? This is the end? Does my whole life total up to being the bearer of Anakin Skywalker's children?

How will I die?

And when I do ... will anyone wonder where this former "Rose of Naboo" has gone?

Suddenly, I know how I will die. Though I am weak in the Force, I am given a vision: I will die giving birth to another child soon. I am weak from birthing Leia and Luke; I grow weaker from my inability to sleep and from the stresses of these past months. All of my remaining strength will be spend on carrying the baby who grows in me now.

I will give life, and I will die in the effort. My daughter will fulfill a promise to the man who protects Anakin's children, and be the means through which my other children will be made safe from their father. There will be no need to wonder where I've gone, then.

In the winter of my life, I am used by the Force and consigned to a dismal fate. It is a secret no one will know.

I will name her Winter ...

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