I love Darth Vader—ever since I saw him first walk onto the screen in A New Hope he has become my all-time favorite character. I also love Leia. She’s a badass princess of the galaxy who helps the Rebels win against the Empire, before going on to become a General in her own right and commanding the Resistance against the First Order. Despite being father and daughter, however, the two don’t have all that many interactions on screen. I always found this unfortunate, as getting to explore Leia’s relationship with her father could very well have been interesting and compelling. After all, Vader has done far worse to Leia than he ever did to Luke, and therefore reconciling these two characters seems a much harder task.
Thankfully, fanfiction is here to save the day.
A Family of Trees Wanting To Be Haunted by Duck_Life is a one shot spanning the course of years. It starts shortly after Ben is born, and ends not too soon after Ben murders his father. Told from Leia’s point of view, the fic is about all her different interactions with Anakin’s ghost as he tries to apologize for everything that he’s done to her and comfort her through these harder times.
Despite Anakin’s attempts, though, he’s too late, and Leia very rightfully doesn’t reciprocate the feelings. She still holds him responsible for everything he’s done, and though Anakin tries to claim that it was Vader who was responsible and that he wasn’t himself, she sees right through it. Anakin very clearly believes himself and Vader to be two different people, but Leia doesn’t put up with that and reminds him that he is Vader and that he made those choices for himself. Leia also takes issue with the fact Anakin stole from her everything and everyone she loved—he held her back as Alderaan was destroyed, tortured Han, and now her own son is off following in Vader’s footsteps, eventually culminating in Han’s murder. Then, to make matters worse, the only person Leia gets to keep around with her as a constant for the past thirty years is the ghost of the man responsible.
She doesn’t know if it’s a This was my fault “I’m sorry” or an I’m sorry for your loss “I’m sorry.” She doesn’t want to ask. Knowing Anakin believes it’s his fault will only make it harder for her to blame herself, and right now blaming herself is the only thing keeping her from completely giving out on the floor.
“I just…” she says, and holds a hand fast over her mouth because he doesn’t get to see her cry. When she was six years old and she broke her arm falling off a bantha, then he could have seen her cry. When she was thirteen and her best friend’s family was murdered by Stormtroopers, then he could have seen her cry.
But Anakin Skywalker gave that up, so he doesn’t get it back now.
“I want to see Han,” she says. “You’re dead. He’s dead. Show me Han. I want to see Han.” She is calm, she is okay. She is the General and she is making her demands.
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“Well then how the hell does it work?” she says, lashing out finally. “Why do I get you for thirty years and I can’t even see him again even for one second? Do I not deserve that? I just… just one goddamn second.”
“I’m sorry,” he says again, and he’s crying and she can’t believe it. She’s not even crying. “Of course you deserve it. Leia,” he says to her, “you deserve so much.”
And no, she still won’t cry in front of her father, not even when he’s standing here weeping for her own dead husband like he even knew Han. “Where was this concern when I was watching Alderaan burn?” she asks.
“I was…” he says, generations of regrets pushing down on him. “I was gone.”
“You were right there,” she says, and here she is lashing out again because he was right there. “You have always been right there. All of this surrounds you.” Of course she remembers Alderaan was all Tarkin, but he was there. He has told her that her mother died of her own will and not because of him but he was there letting her choke on her words. Ben made his own choices but her father was still there at the core of them. “It has always been you, you have always been right there in the center of it and this is all your fault.”
Unlike most stories I like to read where enemies become friends, Leia never truly forgives Anakin for all his past deeds in this. Anakin might want to be there to comfort his daughter, but since he’s the source of all the badness, Leia still dislikes him. At the same time, though, Leia is lonely, and Anakin’s presence is a comfort in that regard—through their conversations, he tells her all about Padmé and why he couldn’t stop Ben from leaving to join Snoke—Ben worships Vader, not Anakin, and won’t listen to Anakin’s calls.
The fic is a short introspection on what a relationship between Anakin and Leia would be like. Leia’s character is very well written, and as much as I would like to see her fully reconcile her differences with Anakin, holding him responsible for the things he did is just as important. The two gain a father-daughter relationship, but that relationship is only possible since Leia has no one else in her life. You can check the story out here on AO3.