Title: A Breath of Cool Air
Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date in Calendar: 13 June 2010
Fandom: Star Wars
Word Count: 1211
Summary: Winter has always been there
Spoilers: For A New Hope and vague ones for the EU
Warnings: Brief mention of canonical torture
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD10
Disclaimer: 20th Century Fox, George Lucas, various distribution and publishing companies own the rights. Timothy Zahn created Winter. I'm only borrowing the shiny toys.
Sabé sighed in utter frustration at the latest round of 'where is Leia'. For all of her frustration, though, she could not help but admire the sneaky ingenuity of the girl. After all, how often had Padmé switched places with one of her handmaidens and run off on adventures she was not supposed to take part in?
The thought of her former mistress, the woman she had dedicated her life to, sobered and tempered her frustration as she looked at Winter. "This is a dangerous thing she does. You know this. Why do you assist her?"
Sabé knew the answer before it spilled from Winter's lips. "Because she feels trapped here, coddled and protected from experiencing life at all."
How often had Sabé and the rest of her sisters heard those sentiments from Padmé? The former Handmaiden of Naboo crouched, and looked eye to eye with her student and ward. "It will be for you to teach her caution, or, when caution fails, to reinforce her strengths, to see her through her boldness."
The perceptive girl looked into the shadows of her teacher's eyes, and slowly, solemnly nodded. Sabé then turned her eye toward finding the princess with all her considerable resources, preferably before her parents knew.
Later, that night, she saw the now properly pale and dark haired girls in one bed, whispering over Leia's adventures while Leia had pretended to be Winter, Sabé pulled back to her own room, smiles and tears mingled at the reminder of that soulful communion between Princesses and Handmaidens.
Post Battle of Yavin
Leia felt the crash of no longer leaning into her adrenaline pressing on every nerve she owned. Her head was a complete cacophony of chaos. On the one hand, they had destroyed the Death Star, taking Grand Moff Tarkin with it, but despite the enormity of that success, she could only see that this was an escalation, not a victory.
"Your Highness," came a soft voice that Leia had not actually let herself hope to hear. In the rush to brief her about Rebel activities, no one had possessed enough clearance to know just who 'Targeter' was or that it would have personal significance to the newly outlawed Senator.
"Winter!" The chaos in her head melted to the background, her fatigue was suppressed, and all Leia had a mind for was taking her faithful companion's hands in her own. The genuine excess of emotion and demonstration was shared, before both women gave up on propriety and hugged fully. Idly, Leia thought she'd been doing quite a lot of forgetting propriety this day, but she would forgive herself for now.
This was Winter, safe and sound in her arms, her all-but twin, save the beautifully pale hair and far more regal bearing. The thought of how often Winter had substituted as herself, or been mistaken as the princess made her remember Alderaan with a hitch building in her breathing on each inhalation.
"Oh, my Princess," Winter whispered, guiding the frazzled young woman toward the bed, setting with her on the edge. Leia leaned into the arms keeping her close, face turned into the robes covering a slim shoulder, and let the pain come at last. Weeping for Alderaan, crying for the necessities of war performed this very day, and just letting her mind react took all the rest of Leia's energies. She never knew just when she fell asleep, tended to quite lovingly by her faithful Handmaiden.
"You're quite stunning," Winter observed, brushing out the hair before setting to plaiting it in the style Leia had requested. It made Leia smile in the mirror, looking back at her friend.
"Quiet, or I might decide the level of dignity needed today would do better under your composure."
"Hardly. Those young men and women need to see the new symbol of the Alliance."
Leia bit at her lip. "It should be Mon Mothma, or the General. He came up with the plan that worked. Or Luke... definitely Luke. He's the Hero."
Winter smiled patiently, and Leia could hear the words already, knowing her companion. "You were raised to be in the light, not the shadows."
"Why am I the symbol?" Leia countered, to avoid that argument over being the Princess and the Senator and a Leader. She was all of those things, and knew it, but she wanted to know why so many of those young pilots looked at her in such awe.
"One is for who you are. Bail Organa's child. The second reason is what you survived. That being your capture and torture at the hands of Tarkin and Vader... no matter what you say to the contrary, everyone knows Imperial Interrogation procedures. And yet, they had to track you here rather than come without us having any warning. The third is that every civilization has a need for an avatar of its more noble wishes, and you, at such a young age, with so much potential and idealism, slot neatly into that." Winter raised a finger to silence the protest she knew was coming. "Luke will be looked up to as the naive farm-boy turned hero. That smuggler will no doubt have his own adherents," she added, smiling just a little at the way Leia flushed at thoughts of said smuggler. "The other leaders of the Alliance all have their camps, as you well know, but you? You represent the hope of true unity, as each camp agrees you are the fresh breath of air for us all."
"They expect me to be my father," Leia murmured.
Winter did not directly disagree. "It is what you, and I, trained for all our lives, yes? Think of Sabé, and her training."
Leia took a deep breath in, looking back to her own image in the mirror. Here they both were, nineteen years old, waiting to face the assembled rebel Alliance to decorate the war heroes, remember the fallen, and move forward. The absolute faith in Winter's face breathed new strength into the Princess she guarded and guided, leaving Leia calm and centered once more.
"What would I do without you?" Leia asked her Handmaiden.
Winter only smiled, leaving that answer hidden in the mischief of their youth.
It was as the award ceremony culminated with a smile from Leia at the bustling, excitable astromech that Winter breathed easier. Somehow, all her worry and fear since the capture and destruction of the Tantive IV unknotted in her stomach. Soon, 'Targeter' would be needed again. She would leave her Princess again, to serve the Alliance, working with the Bothan spies.
For now, though, she could be the one watching over Leia, being there, being a true Handmaiden, as Sabé had taught her through her childhood. It was a good thing in Winter's eyes, as she noted the definite sparks between her Princess and the two men. Leia and she were still young; a scoundrel and a boy from the Outer Rims were hardly the kind of trouble that Leia needed to be worrying about at this stage.
Fortunately, when Leia raised her eyes to the crowd, they came straight to Winter's face. It was reassurance enough that Winter could still be the one that their new symbol of hope needed.