a/n: alas, the final chapter! apologies for it's tardiness, but at least we did not run into an Identity situation.
End of Visit; 6 ABY
Towards the end of their visit to Varykino, Leia arranged for a private, generally low key visit to the home of the Alderaanian carpenter whom her father had commissioned to craft the wedding gift he gave her last year – the intricately done, delicately beautiful Hydenock jewelry box with her falcon device set into it, and her mother's crown jewels nestled inside.
It was an idea she had initially toyed with, though sometimes she found herself caught between a rock an a hard place when it came to such endeavors – on one hand, she might be considered cold, and unfeeling, if she did not reach out to her people; on the other, there were some wont to call her calculating and eager for good publicity if she did go out of her way – so she weighed her options quietly, and decided to go with her heart –
- and her feelings told her, reminded her again, that she would never please every being in the Media, much less every being in the galaxy, and she set out to see him – because he'd made her something so beautiful, and she couldn't give less of a damn about being spotted as long as she felt sincere in thanking him, and making a connection.
This trip was about family, and healing from the past – was it not? The loss of Alderaan was something she still struggled to heal from, after all – and she wanted her people to know that, as much as she wanted to accept the Naberries into her inner circle, as well.
She organized the foray into the Theed suburbs for mid-day, so that the majority of people – press included – would be absorbed in their work day; it worked out well, as Pooja needed to go into the capitol to resolve some issues she could not do from home – Leia, accompanied by her father, went with her. She dropped them at the address Rouge had provided for them when Leia inquired – he had moved since Bail commissioned him – and they resolved to meet Pooja in the center of the Theed commons when they were done, so she could give them a small tour of the gardens Padmé had constructed when she was queen in an effort to encourage investment in environmental preservation.
The others – Han, Luke, and the rest – stayed back at Varykino, where Han had promised, promised, he would take the children – and Whyler, who didn't want to admit he wanted it, being a grown man, but was eager for a chance to say he'd been – out to fly in the Falcon.
Maiah had wanted to come with Pooja and Leia, but had been happily placated when Ryoo promised Leia would be back before bedtime, and Leia had added that Maiah was welcome to play with her hair when she returned, which sent the five-year-old into a frenzy of glee, and had Sola giving Leia an alarmed look – Do you have any idea what she'll do to it?!
Leia shrugged, demurred – it was just hair, and if Maiah truly destroyed some of it, Leia wasn't averse to cutting off a few more inches, no matter how awfully chagrined Rouge would be –
The Alderaanian carpenter's little bungalow near a historic stone street outside of Theed was cozy, covered in purple ivy, blessed with pear trees in the front yard – and Leia saw it, and hoped it made him feel safe, and at home – she always felt a deep, earnest desire for members of the Diaspora to have found stable places to recover, if they could.
His name was Igo Gareth, and he opened the door to them with his head already bowed, a flicker of awed wonder in his eyes when Leia kindly bid him stand up straight - and she knew that this was a simple man who, in a different world – a world that no longer existed – would never in his life have crossed paths with the royal family, and yet here stood the Princess, and the Viceroy, alone on his doorstep without crowns, or guards, or ceremony – and it spoke to the magnitude of changes that had occurred in only a handful of years.
"Your Highness, My Lord," he greeted, stepping back, bowing his head, welcoming them in – "Please, welcome to my home – I must apologize, it is simple – it doubles as my workshop, somewhat messy – " he fumbled, smiled faintly, and stopped talking, and Bail was quick and gracious to try and assuage his nerves –
"You need not apologize. Consider us an intrusion into your sanctuary – treat us no different than any other guest."
Igo Gareth laughed lightly, shaking his head, and clasping his hands –
"That is a thing I may try to do, but at which I will likely fail," he said eloquently, and Leia smiled brilliantly at him – his demeanor was so full of Alderaanian peace and courtesy, and she felt at ease with it instantly, and the more at ease she was, the easier it was for her to calm the people around her.
"We aren't here for any official business, or to stand on ceremony," she said gently. "To commiserate, really. To connect," she explained. She held out her hand gracefully. "These…tragedies have had a way of tearing down social castes, have they not?"
Igo smiled, beckoning them reverently into a sunny sitting room, where a tea decanter was simmering on a hot plate –
"Certainly, Your Highness," he agreed. "If I may be so bold - you yourself contributed to that in the most heartwarming of ways," he said thoughtfully.
Leia looked quizzical for a moment, and then laughed.
"Oh, you mean Han," she remarked.
"Had you forgotten about him, Leia?" Bail quipped wryly, giving her a look.
Leia tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear – she'd worn something as traditional to Alderaan as she could get, though because these days she kept her hair so much shorter than was traditional to her home planet, tendrils were escaping by the second.
"Not forgotten him," she said mildly. "I forget Han's not considered an equal match by some," she noted. "He lacks courtly manners, but he's got more decency than half the men I ever met in royal circles."
"Your Highness – I meant no disrespect to General Solo," Igo said quickly, his knuckles turning white as he twisted his hands – he looked at her with wide eyes. "I myself – never thought ill of him, or your marriage – "
Leia waved her hand soothingly, pursing her lips.
"I took no offense," she said honestly.
Igo's words had been positive, framed in the context of a man who had been raised on a planet that did have an established social hierarchy; he truly didn't mean anything negative about Han, he meant to celebrate Leia's very liberal disregard of caste in favor of valuing personal merit – and Leia acknowledged that, and wished more people could understand it.
"Please, sit," Igo offered. "I'd be honored – you must know, I never thought I'd see the day I would be commissioned to make something for a Princess of Alderaan," he said faintly, "much less have her in my home."
"You should hardly be surprised, after the outstanding work you produced," Bail said, taking the offered seat on a small sofa – Leia followed suit, perching next to him, and nodding.
"Igo, it was breathtaking," she said honestly. "The detail on the carvings – it's wonderful that someone remembers the native birds so clearly."
"Very cathartic, reproducing them in art," Igo murmured softly. He turned to his boiling kettle – "May I offer you some tea? It's the finest one can get in Theed – nothing like Aldera rose petal blend but, alas," he trailed off, looking earnest, and both Bail and Leia accepted his offer.
The way he poured tea, and offered fixings for it, was reminiscent, and almost ceremonial, the way one would do so in any unassuming Alderaanian village, and Leia looked around his place, smiling to herself – there were hand-made things everywhere, all decorated with things that reminiscent of Alderaan, and it was like a place of healing.
"Igo, you must sit as well – I insist," Bail said firmly, as he added honey to his tea. "I'm sure Leia feels the same."
"If there's anything I learned growing up in the courts, it's that you sit when you're offered the opportunity," she laughed – remembering long ceremonies of standing with the weight of her hair piled on her head, and high, high heels killing the arch of her foot.
Igo sat down, though he did not quite relax, and he leaned forward, a curious expression on his face.
"Your Highness, I'm honored – as I've said, beyond honored – to have you in my home, but I must say, I'm at a loss – why have you taken any interest in visiting me?" He swallowed hard. "I of course do not mean to imply you're aloof – but you must be so busy."
Leia nodded, cupping her teacup and saucer in her palm.
"It's as simple as can be," she answered. "I wanted to thank you. As we said – the jewelry box my father commissioned was…truly beautiful," she complimented. "And when I found myself spending time on Naboo, it felt right to reach out to you, and give you that thanks in person," she explained.
He bowed his head, holding his palms out.
"You're very welcome. It was my pleasure. I was delighted to be asked – I had no idea you would be so fond of it," he said, flushing.
"More than fond," Leia sighed. "Igo, you're fortunate to have settled on Naboo," she murmured. "My place is on Coruscant now, and I'm sure you know that to someone raised on Alderaan, the City Planet can be – choking," she said, grimacing a little. "Having something hand-crafted and so reflective of the natural world brightens the place up – décor on Coruscant is so harsh and technical, most of the time."
Bail nodded, sharing Leia's sentiment.
"Even the woodwork is often done in factories, so it has a certain – impersonal, over-produced quality to it – horribly manufactured," he said.
"Far be it from me to criticize others' work, but," Igo leaned forward, and in a conspiratorial voice said – "I must agree."
Leia smiled wryly, and tilted her head around, admiring his place.
"Your home is lovely," she said sincerely. "Have you found peace here on Naboo? Is there anything you want for?" she pressed. "My Aunt Rouge tells me you're a part of the Diaspora network, but if there's anything you're in dire need of…?"
He shook his head.
"No, Your Highness, not at all," he said hurriedly. "I do well here. Naboo is – very like home, in some respects," he reflected, smiling sadly. "I think, oftentimes, that I might not have survived if I hadn't settled here – but this is where I'll spend my days now," he paused. "Though I do eagerly look forward to the Haven that is planned to be on – Yavin, is it not?"
"Ah, the Haven – yes," Bail said eagerly, his eyes glinting. He leaned forward. "It's coming along nicely – when construction is done, or mostly so, we intend to begin planning events, traditional events, and gather as many people as we can – much like the Memorial Gala, but larger in scale," he explained – he and Evaan Verlaine spent so much of their time immersed with Rouge on this project, and he was passionate about it – "If all goes to plan – even if it means pushing the date back – I hope to convene the official opening of the Haven on the anniversary of the Disaster."
Igo's face lit up, and he looked between them.
"And I understand – it is to be a home, a colony of sorts – not a new Alderaan, per se, but a place where those who are still lost and looking may gather?"
"Yes," Leia said gently. She smiled sadly, her jaw stiff. "There are many who…have not found as stable a place as you have, here."
"It was never easy," Igo said thickly. "I filled this house with art to jam the empty rooms and corners, to keep my mind clear."
"You had a family lost – to the Empire?" Leia asked quietly.
He nodded, blinking sharply.
"My husband Willas," he said hoarsely. "Three children."
Bail turned his palms up, and tucked his thumbs in a silent prayer symbol, sympathetic, and Leia nodded.
"What were their names?" she asked.
"My older boys were Levat and Jax," he said, and then inclined his head respectfully, "our little girl was called Leia, after you," he explained. "We adopted her, as you were adopted. The boys were from surrogates. I was at an art convention on Chandrila when it happened."
Leia smiled at him, and Bail sat back a little, clasping his hands.
"I will make it a point to light candles for them in the Alderaanian cathedral on Coruscant," he said gruffly. "Your husband, and your children." He shook his head heavily. "It's certainly an…unbearable loss."
"Yes," agreed Igo. He looked at Leia. "Yet in our darkest hours, we had reason to go on," he said intently. "I do not know if anyone has ever told you this but I – and many others I've spoken to, in the Diaspora – looked to you when the despair reached a breaking point," he told her quietly. "I will never know what your experience was, but whatever it was, thank you for bearing it," he said, "because there were days when your strength in fighting the Empire was the only thing keeping me alive."
Leia kept his gaze for a moment, and then lifted her chin, and flicked her eyes away – she wasn't uncomfortable, just unsure of her ability to remain composed, and she smiled very lightly at her father, compressing her lips.
"That," Bail said, looking gratefully at Igo, "is a very inspiring thing to hear." He smiled wryly. "I spent so long utterly unaware of how the world was carrying on without me."
"Princess Leia never wavered," Igo said firmly. He looked at the Viceroy confidently – "She had all the grace of Queen Breha and the clout of yourself and when nothing else was unfolding well, we were proud to have her representing us."
Leia looked back at him in silent gratitude, thinking to herself – never wavered? If only you knew - but to know that someone, even if it was one person, felt she'd done her job, been their armor, been their leader, lived up to her parents' examples – then she could breathe a little easier –
- and she hoped, she hoped, that men and women like Igo, wouldn't change their minds when she revealed her bloodline to the world.
"Well, with flattery like this, I think I'll come for tea at your house more often," Leia quipped wryly, toasting Igo with her teacup.
He smiled at her easily, and seemed to relax, sitting back in his chair. He crossed his legs, and folded his hands in his lap.
"I speak for myself, but I know I speak for many others as well," he said honestly. "Any Alderaanian who disapproves of you is an outlier, Your Highness," he paused a moment, and then seemed more assertive: "Though I avoid the news these days, I felt you might need to hear that, considering some of the things said, by others."
"You're an astute man," Leia said hoarsely – gratefully.
"That you thought to visit me here only reinforces my high esteem of you," he said, and then smiled an almost joking smile: "Of course, my upbringing would preclude me ever having any disdain for any royal house of Alderaan – simply not proper."
Bail laughed –
"I think most people disdained my mother's reign," he joked wryly, and Igo looked petrified of the joke – Leia laid her hand on her father's elbow, and gave him a sharp look, rolling her eyes –
"Don't put the poor man in the position of making jokes about your mother," she chastised.
Bail grinned, and waved his hand dismissively – Igo let out a breath of relief, and then after a moment, his smile was back, though cautious.
"The Viceroy of Alderaan cracking a joke in my sunroom," he sighed. "That is a story I wish I could tell my family."
A silence fell, and Leia leaned forward.
"It's strange how intermittently that feeling hits, is it not?" she asked slowly, opening up a little. "I've found myself wishing I could tell my mother the smallest of things," she confided, hoping it made him feel a little more connected. "The brilliant colour of a new pair of shoes I bought," she said softly.
Igo nodded in agreement.
"A joke I heard in the market that Willas would have loved," he offered.
Bail cleared his throat.
"To simply call Breha when I think of her, instead of going through the constant shock of realizing she will never answer."
Again – silence fell, and Leia took a deep breath.
"Our duty to Alderaan is to persevere," she said.
"Yes," Igo agreed in a rush. "As it always has been – and Your Highness has been a constant reminder of that."
"Flattery," Leia laughed gently.
"Not flattery, if I may correct you," he said firmly. "Truth."
Leia held his gaze.
"Is there anything that would change your mind?" she quipped lightly.
"I can hardly fathom you engaging in any action that would dishonor Alderaan, or your reputation," he said honestly.
Leia tilted her head and looked at her father, and he seemed unsurprised – and Leia felt a little cleansed, for if she could at least count on Alderaan, and her people's inherent, valuable capacity for kindness, and peace, and acceptance, to stand by her – she could likely whether the firestorm that would come from everywhere, and everyone, else.
"Igo," Bail began. "Leia and I – would like to continue to patronize you, here and there – your work," he said. "We have no intention of taking advantage of you, but if we may call upon you in the future - "
"Yes, oh – please do," Igo interrupted eagerly, and then looked appalled at himself. "My Lord – I apologize."
Bail laughed good-naturedly, shrugging. He sat forward, setting down his teacup upside down, as was Alderaanian custom, to indicate they would soon be leaving.
"There is some carving work I'd like done in around the Haven," he explained, "in the place my sister and I will live, when we're there," he said.
"And I," Leia began, "would like to see more of your work around my home, if you'd oblige," she said. "My husband and I will likely move in the next year or two, and I may look to you for furnishings."
Igo looked starstruck, and overwhelmed – even as Bail and Leia were rising, and Bail was thanking him for hosting them, and apologizing for the grandiose intrusion. Igo assured them it was no trouble, none at all, and as he saw them out, Leia let herself get absorbed in the art all around his house, much of it with little price tags on it, for anyone who came looking.
Out on the porch, she stopped and admired a little bureau, with two drawers, and lovely carved handles, tiny Alderaanian tulips decorating the top of it. She splayed her fingers on the tulips.
"Igo," she ventured mildly, looking up at him, blinking in the sun. "Is there – have you ever made a cradle?" she asked.
He nodded, his hands clasped at his chest.
"Several, You Highness," he said. "Simple, but sturdy."
She smiled at him placidly, and said nothing else – and it was Bail who confirmed all of Igo's contact information before they left, while Leia stood silently at his side – until they had said their goodbyes, and fell into step together, taking a leisurely walk towards the center of Theed.
Pooja had offered to fetch them, but the walk to the garden courtyard she wanted to show them – though lengthy – was peaceful, and the fresh air was nice, and since Leia's whereabouts on Naboo were not specifically known, they were safe – and in case they weren't, Leia had a small blaster strapped inside of her boot, unbeknownst to her father.
He was silent for a long time, even until the peaks of city buildings came into view, and then he put a hand on her elbow, and stopped her, his face quizzical, and she laughed at the look on his face. He looked like he was in pain.
"Leia," he said quickly. "You asked him about a cradle."
She grinned, and shook her head, raising her shoulder a little.
"For no immediate reason," she said, hoping it didn't disappoint him.
She shook her head again.
"No, I'm not," she said. She sighed. "You and Han," she chastised gently. "Let me be, will you?" she joked good-naturedly.
Her father smiled faintly.
"Don't think I mean to pressure you," he said. "I know you're struggling with the idea."
"Yes," Leia agreed honestly. "I am. But," she said, very quietly, "I'm starting to hope there's a day when I'm not struggling."
Her father squeezed her shoulder. He beamed at her, and Leia returned the smile, taking a deep breath – and she resumed her walk into the center of Theed, with her father at her side –
The central fountain of the Ruler's Plaza, where Pooja had asked them to meet her, was a cacophony of activity – and when Leia came to sit quietly by the water, her father milling at her side, thoughtfully looking around, she was spotted by a young female who immediately recognized her.
"Princess…Leia?" she asked hesitantly, looking hopeful. "I'm…a journalism intern at the Press Academy in Theed," she explained breathlessly. She looked at Leia shyly. "I'm not trying to – harass you – so, um, off the record," she said quietly. "You really inspire me," she whispered.
Bail grinned at the student, and Leia smiled at her. She looked down at her data recorder, and saw that it was indeed, switched off, and she hesitated a moment. She looked at the girl again, and though maybe she could help her get a break in her career if –
"Do you want a quote?" Leia asked calmly.
The girl looked like she would faint, on the spot, and nearly dropped her things, scrambling to turn on her recorder, nodding fervently – her hand was shaking as she held it out –
"I'd prefer if you kept it to one or two questions," Leia said gently.
The girl nodded, and swallowed, scrambling for something –
"Well, I – well then," she said, taking a deep breath. "May I ask what you're doing on Naboo?"
Leia looked at her for a long, silent moment. She turned slightly, and glanced up at her father, and then turned back to the young intern, deciding on her answer abruptly, but with conviction –
- and she had few qualms about saying it; her father was standing next to her, and the statement was vague, open to various interpretations, but she was on the verge, in the coming months, of clarifying everything – and why not start that process transparently, in minor ways – right now?
She said –
"I am visiting family."
In the lulling afternoon hours before the hustle and bustle of dinner preparation began, Pooja found her mother and her grandmother spending quiet time in the sun. Just returned from her foray into Theed with Leia and Bail, she joined them on the riverbank, announcing her presence with only a smile, and a nod, content not to disturb the peace.
Jobal sat with her legs crossed, and a sturdy woven basket in her lap, her attention focused on separating the stems and leaves from the berries she'd gathered earlier, and Sola was next to her, stretched out on her back and enjoying the sun.
Pooja leaned back on her elbows, the third generation in a line of formidable women, and blinked up at the clear sky, remaining quiet for a considerable length of time before her mother knowingly opened one eye, turned her head, and peered at her –
"Out with it, Pooja," she coaxed wryly. "You've got something on your mind."
Pooja flushed – her mother knew her better than anyone, and she gave her an affectionately annoyed look. Jobal smiled warmly, tossing Pooja a handful of round, ripe berries for a snack.
"Did Gran-Papa speak with you?" Pooja asked, making a fabric basket with the hem of her gown and cupping the berries there in her lap.
She peeled one of the fruits lazily, diving in without engaging in small talk – after all, her mother asked it of her, and Sola had never been one for small talk.
"He's been 'speaking with me'," Sola laughed, enunciating the phrase with amusement, "since I was about ten," she joked. "I stopped listening years ago."
"Oh, Sola," admonished Jobal, clicking her tongue. She sprinkled some berry stems in Sola's face, shaking her head. "You respect your father," she ordered lightly.
"You know what I mean," Pooja said, rolling her eyes good-naturedly. "About what Leia wants?"
Sola sat up, drawing one leg up and resting her arm over it. She looked intently at her daughter, and Jobal turned her head, nodding once in simple confirmation.
"He did," she confirmed quietly. "Ryoo as well, while you were in Theed," she explained.
Pooja nodded, biting her lip apprehensively.
"Well?" she asked.
Sola pointed at Pooja and shook her finger a little.
"Well," she repeated. "What he did not tell us was how you felt on the subject, though we gave our opinions anyway," Sola said. "Out with it, Pooja. You're my little Padmé, so I'd like your perspective."
Pooja beamed at the comparison, and then sighed. She sat forward and tucked her curls behind her ears, tilting her head.
"From a purely political standpoint, I can't see any strategic benefit to her keeping it a secret," Pooja said frankly. "I hadn't really considered it until Gran-Papa brought it up to me before they arrived, but now that I do consider it," she shrugged. "He's right – and Leia's right. Even if the chances are slim that anyone obtains the information and leaks it, Leia's better off – we're all better off – if we own the story first."
Jobal smiled gently.
"I think some of the hesitation comes in regarding the story," she said thoughtfully. "We," she gestured between herself and Sola, "and your grandfather – we knew Padmé, and we knew her Anakin," she said, "and Luke can speak to Darth Vader's redemption – but the galaxy knew Vader," she continued, "and there are even gaps in what we do know about what happened, as a whole."
She paused, her hands falling still in her basket for a moment, as she thought of her husband's inner conflict.
"It's almost inevitable that the story will spiral and twist out of Leia's control, and Ruwee worries about that effect on us – and Leia and Luke," she paused, "and Padmé," she said honestly. "We want her remembered. We want her vindicated. He fears…that the honoring of her memory will turn to hatred."
Pooja nodded, uncertainty twitching in her stomach – when she'd spoken to her grandfather, and she'd given her side – firmly in Luke and Leia's camp – she'd been sure the other women in her family would support her, sure they'd feel the same way –
"I still think it's the best case scenario for Leia to break the story," Pooja said in a quit, confident voice.
Sola and Jobal shared a look.
"What did you – tell Gran-Papa?" Pooja ventured tentatively.
Sola gave her a lopsided smirk.
"Pretty much the same thing," she said frankly.
"I was merely illustrating how he feels on the subject, and why he feels that way – his opinion is valid. I understand why he feels that way," she said, giving her husband credit. "But I – Sola and I – agreed that this must be approached from the point of view of what Padmé would want," Jobal said calmly. "And Padmé was not a liar, and she advocated transparency – and what you've said is correct, it's better for Leia and Luke if people see them as honest about it, especially considering the fear and hatred that Vader inspires."
"We have to do what's best for Luke and Leia, because we have to protect them on behalf of Padmé," she said firmly.
Pooja lit up with relief.
"I was concerned it might cause a rift – and I know Ryoo was so jittery about the Vader connection – "
"Actually," Sola interjected mildly, "your sister was the most vocally in favor of giving Leia our blessing."
Pooja stopped, her eyes wide. She arched her brows, interested, and Sola nodded, a proud look crossing her face.
"Her reasoning – well, think about it," Sola explained logically. "She has young children. Indy's mature, but he's still a child – if we demand this be kept secret, Ryoo can't tell her children about it until they're old enough to keep it quiet."
Sola lifted one shoulder openly.
"As it stands now, Maiah would never keep her mouth shut – and she shouldn't be expected to, she's a little girl and she loves Princess Leia, and she's excited – so Ryoo would be forced to withhold a significant family secret from the kids."
"It's a slight bit different – they have no direct connection to Vader or Anakin or any of the players, but they'd still feel betrayed. Luke and Leia felt betrayed – we felt betrayed," Sola pointed out dryly. "Then, having kept a secret from them their whole lives, Ryoo would also have to order them to continue keeping it – and no one has control over what another person does with a secret."
"Ryoo was adamant," she said.
Jobal smiled archly.
"She was rather angry with Ruwee, I'd say," she noted. "I rarely see Ryoo butt heads with your grandfather, but she did on this."
"Oh, she planted her feet and told him point-blank, over and over – I'm not going to lie to my babies," Sola quoted. She smirked. "Threatened to call the press in Theed herself if Papa didn't give Leia his blessing," she snorted. "I was quite proud of her."
Pooja's shoulders relaxed, and she made a mental note to hug her sister extra tightly – but she knew Ryoo was fierce like that, even if she hid it, or never tapped into it. Ryoo would do anything, and submit herself to anything, for her kids, and it was a wonderful quality.
"I don't think it's going to be easy for anyone," Pooja said, with an earnest sight. "But…we'll have each other."
"Yes," Jobal said firmly, "and we will not be burdened with hiding it."
Sola nodded. She smacked her palms together matter-of-factly, and sighed, looking over her shoulder – they were far from the Hydenock trees where her little sister was laid to rest, and yet Pooja knew her mother was looking to Padmé's grave, contemplative, and admiring.
"I wish she was here," Sola said honestly, shaking her head.
She looked back, running her hand over her brow, and through her hair.
"It's a relief, isn't it?" she murmured, addressing Jobal with earnest eyes – devoid of their usual sarcasm, and biting humor. "Talking about her so openly. Remembering her," she emphasized. She moved her hands near her stomach as if trying to physically explain something. "It's like a pressure lifted, after all of these years."
Jobal nodded seriously, her face almost a mirror image of Sola's – relaxed, relieved, and justified, as if something that had been so unfair for so long was finally rectified.
"It feels right," Jobal murmured in return – final, and hopefully.
Pooja smiled, and hugged her legs to her chest, dipping her head down to rest her chin on her knees.
"If I had – any inkling that something like this would happen – a year ago," she laughed, and shook her head. "I'm so glad this went well," she said softly, and then lifted her head, earnest, her brow crinkling as if she might have been mistaken. "It went well, don't you think?"
"As well as can be expected," Sola quipped dryly.
"Sola, be fair," Jobal said honestly, again, stopping her work with the berries. "It could have gone far worse," she noted – and Sola nodded –
"You're right, Mami," she agreed gently. "I was just being me."
Her mother laughed, and Pooja leaned forward.
"Did you all really think I was dating Luke?" she asked, narrowing her eyes suspiciously.
Jobal smiled tolerantly, and Sola burst into laughter, nodding her head.
"Pooja you were – suddenly seen with him quite often, and then you were bringing him to visit us and wouldn't tell us what it was about – "
"He hadn't told me yet, either!" Pooja protested.
"Forget dating, I thought you had eloped with him," Sola retorted dramatically. "And with his last name – well, it never occurred to me that – but still, I thought – kest, another blasted Skywalker? That's worse than Ryoo's gambler!"
Pooja dissolved into giggles, clutching at her waist, and meanwhile, Sola shook her head, glancing up at the sky.
"How did it never occur to me?" she asked dryly. "Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. "To my knowledge, Skywalker is not a common name," she looked at her mother, eyes wide – "Have we been blind?"
"Blind, or not looking," Jobal said sagely. "Your father is right – what kept Luke and Leia safe, and off the radar, was not that they were hidden well; it was that no one knew to search for them."
"Hmmm," Sola sighed, thoughtful. She inclined her head. "Fair enough, yes, but all the more reason for Leia to get ahead of this – there's no longer a war going on. The galaxy has time to…investigate."
"Isn't that the truth," Pooja muttered darkly. "The word thing about peacetime is that it turns unity into mundane strife. As brutal as war is, common enemies are unifying."
She sighed, and brushed her hand on the grass.
"It's an endless cycle," she said brusquely. "There is peace, peace decays as petty, idiosyncratic differences get bogged down in bureaucracy and people's personal frustrations boil over – beings sequester themselves within their species or race or ethnicity, communication breaks down – a demagogue rises to unite the factions and make it better, demagogue turns to dictator, oppression ignites uprising – there's the inevitable defeat of the oppressor, peace reigns again – and, repeat."
Sola looked at her daughter thoughtfully.
"It's how the galaxy works," Pooja said. "No one learns. It's why history should be the cornerstone of education. And what is instead? Economics." She rubbed her hands together. "Money, money – money."
"How did you get so smart, Pooja?" Sola asked, smiling gently.
Pooja shrugged. She threw her hand out.
"The oppressor ignited my uprising," she joked.
"And so when in our future do you foresee the next demagogue rising?" Jobal asked lightly.
"Hopefully when I'm dead," Pooja lamented. She touched her forehead. "If I'm tired of fighting," she jerked her thumb at the house – "our heroes must be!"
She meant the leaders like Luke and Leia, and Sola nodded, Jobal smiling sagely next to her.
"If it's an infinite cycle," Sola challenged. "Why do you fight? Why try?"
Pooja looked incredulous.
"The fighters are the most important part of the cycle," she said. "Cycle, Mami," she repeated. "If any part of it gave up, or desisted, we'd be stuck in one part of it – do you want to be stuck in the oppressed stage?"
Sola arched her brows.
"No, I suppose I do not," she said, satisfied with Pooja's answer. "You belong on Coruscant with Leia," she said.
Pooja beamed again.
"And she and Luke belong with us," she added reciprocally.
Jobal lifted her head, and nodded, a bright smile crossing her face – and she looked between Sola and Pooja, beaming at them both; for her, that was the core of it, the very heart of the matter – her family, though eternally missing one, was healed, in a way – more complete than it had been in years – and as far as she was concerned, the scars caused by the fast could now start to fade down under the skin, where they belonged.
Before bed on their final evening at Varykino, Leia found her way to Luke's room for a low-key sort of sibling debrief concerning the visit as a whole – after all, they would be parting ways for a bit following this; Leia, returning to Coruscant with Han and Bail, and Luke forgoing a return to Coruscant in favor of a soul-searching trip back to Tatooine for a bit.
The house was settling into quiet sleepiness, and Han was in the 'fresher scrubbing off the residue of a day spent entirely outside, either playing with the kids or helping Whyler grill Nerf steaks – he was tired, and a little sunburnt, and Leia sensed that no matter how well he got along with almost everyone here, he was about ready to be back in their place – and she was sure he missed Chewie, who was currently hurtling back from Kashyyyk, and would be waiting to meet up with them back home.
Luke was just out of the 'fresher himself when Leia knocked on his door and, at his muffled, shouted bid to enter, peeked her head in to make sure she'd heard correctly before she made herself at home.
His bed was covered in a frazzled mess of holo-docs and, data chips, and other research paraphernalia, and Leia could tell he didn't move any of the items to sleep, because they all neatly aligned themselves on one side of the bed, while the other was rumpled and clearly slept in.
She smiled a little and curled up in an armchair Luke gestured her over to, while he pulled a sweatshirt on over one of his sleeveless shirts and sat on his bed amongst the scatter of items, his legs crossed in his signature, monk-like manner, and his head tilted back against the headboard.
He grinned at her wryly.
"Han's going to go slinking through the house looking for you if you've disappeared while he's in the 'fresher," Luke advised her.
She laughed, pushing her hair back and rolling her eyes.
"I left him some snacks to occupy himself," she joked, shaking her head. "Don't make him sound so neurotic," she chastised good-naturedly. "In his defense, in the past, when I disappear without warning it's not usually a good sign."
Luke inclined his head.
"True enough," he agreed. "But Han gets antsy if you're late at work," he pointed out.
"I don't like it when Han's not home at the expected time, either," Leia countered.
Luke looked solemn.
"Because when Han works late someone has likely died – there is genuine cause for concern – Han's need to be around you is – "
"Why I married him," Leia interrupted gently, arching a brow. She smiled at her brother. "As endearing as your worry for Han's sensibilities are, he'll be okay," she said wryly.
"And how are you?" he asked.
"Lovely, thank you for asking; how are you?" she returned gallantly, with a hint of amusement, and Luke laughed, his shoulders falling back easily against the headboard of his bed.
"Okay, okay – dispense with the formalities," he joked.
"You started them," Leia quipped pointedly, flicking her hand at him teasingly. She placed her elbow on the armrest of the chair and then leaned over to tap on a lamp at the bedside table, giving a little more illumination.
"You wanted to talk," Luke reminded her.
"Well, nothing serious," Leia murmured lightly, shrugging. "I just wanted to…touch base on everything, without anyone else's input – you and I as…twins, as Anakin and Padmé's legacy," she explained.
She likened it to the little personal chat they'd had before she mad her way up to Varykino, that morning on the Falcon. It was a – before and after, of sorts, given that she and Han – more specifically, she – would need to get back to Coruscant without much time to linger tomorrow.
Luke tilted his head at her, drawing up one of his legs and hanging his arm over it casually.
"Their…legacy," he said slowly. "Is that what we are?"
"It's inevitable, in a way," Leia said honestly. "When the truth is out, we'll always be associated with them, whether it's negative or positive – the same way I'm currently always compared to my father, or other Organas – children are always their parents' legacy, even if that's not the intention," she said quietly.
"I've never heard you include yourself as one of their children," Luke noted.
Leia lifted one shoulder in a soft shrug, and said nothing. She wanted to commiserate with Luke, and he was always open to such – so she switched gears, only a little –
"I've finished Shmi Skywalker's diary," she offered quietly. "I read the last couple of entries last night."
Leia sighed, and smiled faintly.
"It ended so well," she answered gingerly. She twisted some loose strands of hair around her fingers, still resting her chin in her palm. "Shmi was…none the wiser concerning Anakin's fate. She was happy, and in love, despite never seeing him again," she reflected.
"I'm going to go looking for more of her history on Tatooine," Luke confided. "It might be futile. She had to have…her own people, though – a mother, a father."
"It's unlikely they're alive, Luke," Leia said gently.
"I want to look," he said. "I want to know," he paused, and then amended his statement – "I want to know the things I am allowed to know."
Leia cocked her head.
"Allowed?" she quoted.
"Some answers simply don't exist," Luke said bluntly. "I've learned in my studies – even in my tutoring under Master Yoda – that so often, the demand for answers that are long stricken from the record, and unavailable, is only useful in driving you mad," he reflected. "In my excavations of Jedi lore and Force knowledge I…run up against impenetrable walls more often than not, and rather than rip them down, I rely on patience, and ask the Force to guide me – and what it wills me to know, I will know."
Leia brushed her hands over her eyes, and sighed.
"You have this, this quality that I envy," she said, almost to herself. She lifted her head, gesturing with her hand as if she were trying to snap her fingers, and summon the word she was looking for. "It isn't – whimsy, that sounds juvenile, it's – "
"Faith," Luke supplied simply.
"Faith," Leia agreed. She placed her hand to her chest, and cocked an eyebrow wryly. "I'm logic, and calculations – sensibility."
"Faith isn't insensible," Luke argued.
"No," Leia agreed – because she had faith in Luke, and in Han; in her father, and in her beliefs, but those were things she had tangible proof of, and some semblance of control over, in certain respects – "but faith makes me feel helpless."
Luke gave her a forgiving smile, waved his hands as if it were nothing.
"I have enough faith for the both of us; you're free to rely on mine when you need it," he said, and grinned – "I certainly rely on your logic, and ability to temper passion in favor of stability."
Leia mirrored his grin.
"Ah, so we're a balance?"
"Perhaps two vastly different, but equal representations of the best parts of Anakin and Padmé," he said slowly, "with the added influence of every other person who has ever been significant to us."
Leia's eyes glinted wryly.
"Products of our environments, with a dash of destiny?"
Luke snorted –
"And you said this conversation was going to be nothing serious."
Leia laughed, slouching down in her chair a bit. She shook her head, biting her lip, considering him for a moment.
"Well," she ventured softly, arching a brow. "Have we been successful?" she asked quietly.
She didn't meant to sound political, or impersonal, and she figured Luke knew, and understood that. She only wanted to gauge his feelings, and compare them to hers – similar to how they had back at the beginning, that early morning on the Falcon, when he'd helped ease her into what she'd committed to here.
Luke rolled his head back and forth lazily on the headboard behind him.
"I figure that depends on what we came here for, individually," he mused slowly. He lifted a hand and pressed it to his chest. "I'm happy," he said, "I feel successful. I expected more strife than we encountered and – Leia," he laughed, "most of the strife…well, frankly, was between you and Han," he snorted, almost apologetically.
"I tried to – "she fumbled, "I wanted to keep it – under wraps," she protested, a grimace crossing her face, and Luke sat forward, waving his hands.
"No, I don't care, I'm not trying to put you down," he said urgently. He smiled. "It was just unexpected. I felt like you were holding your breath about the Naberrie family, and yet aside from Ruwee – " Luke trailed off, wincing.
Leia sighed, and pressed two fingers to her temple with a pinched expression, closing her eyes a moment.
"You're right," she admitted simply. "Even I feel that way," she agreed.
"I'm glad to hear that," Luke said. "I felt a little – maybe I was too flippant; what Ruwee said to you was harsh."
Leia shrugged, hardy batting an eyelid.
"He's more than made his peace, and he was hurting," she said calmly. "I still agree with you," she went on. "I was…I don't know," she shrugged, and sighed, pausing a moment. "You know, that fatalistic part of me was assuming they'd – grit their teeth and bear us, but not want us around," she said. "I assumed we'd just be a…terrible reminder, or an unwanted burden – we'd make it impossible for them to shake off the past," she explained.
Luke hesitated a moment.
"Do you think that – maybe that was you projecting your feelings on them?" he ventured. He watched her think a little, and then tilted his head, going on quickly – "It seemed to me that you kind of felt that way about making contact with them," he elaborated softly. "Kind of like you were so resistant about coming here because it might…impede you coming to terms with the past?"
Leia ran her tongue along her bottom lip, quiet, and thoughtful. She tilted her head forward, a small smile touching her lips.
"I don't disagree with your interpretation of my feelings," she said, and Luke laughed at the diplomacy, tilting his head back and rolling his eyes.
"And?" he asked, swallowing hard, and staring at the ceiling – he thought intently focusing on her might intimidate her into playing her emotions close to the vest, and he wanted to know, really know, how she was feeling – tonight, the evening before they left Varykino, as opposed to all the time leading up.
"Ahhh, and," Leia sighed, tilting her own head back. She ran her fingers through her hair, and twisted it into her palm, holding onto it, thinking. She smiled a little. "I like them a lot, Luke," she said, her voice quiet and bright, "even love them, though that seems a little aggressive."
"Why?" Luke asked curiously. "They're family. It isn't aggressive to love family."
"There are all kinds of families," Leia said gently. "Most beings are inundated with the idea that love of a blood relative is automatic, and that other loves are learned, and crafted over time, but I've loved my family since birth," she explained – "and Han, Han's never known his father, and I think if the man showed up some day, Han would probably never love him, blood or no blood," she went on.
"I don't mean to imply I think it's unnatural to love them so quickly, I just didn't expect it," she said. "There's a lot to overcome there, for me – the Vader connection, and it just…is a lot," she said softly. "It's overwhelming. You know," she paused, "I spent a very long time not letting people get very close."
"I know," Luke agreed sagely.
Leia nodded at him, falling silent again.
"I feel successful," she decided. "I'm not entirely sure I can define what I was looking for, in coming here. I wanted to know more about Padmé, but to be honest, a lot of that curiosity could have been satisfied by my father, since he knew her so well – I didn't care about Anakin, or Vader," she sighed. "I came for you," she decided, "because you wanted this, and needed this," she bit her lip, pausing a moment, "and you thought it might help me further, in some way, and I trust you – even though sometimes it's infuriating to be humbled by your insight, when I think so highly of my own ability to handle things."
Luke flushed, and Leia rubbed the heel of her hand against her eye, yawning.
"Don't take that the wrong way, Luke," she murmured into her palm, backtracking a little. "That sounded like I was insulting your intelligence – I'm finding fault with myself, I promise," she said earnestly. "It's just that I grew up with all of these highly refined skills, and in the face of the things you handle so gracefully – " she held out her hands and rolled her eyes honestly. "I fall apart."
Luke faced her, running one hand over his knee. He held up his prosthetic hand, looked at it, and then looked through his fingers at her, his face a little red from the high praise, but a wry smile on his lips –
"I'm not always so self-righteous and wise," he said loftily.
"I didn't call you self-righteous!" Leia protested. "I don't think – "
Luke grinned, lowering his hand. He rested it on his knee again, and then sighed.
"You want to know something?" he asked.
She nodded, and he said:
"I really miss my hand," he confided.
Leia paused for a moment, her expression frozen, unsure of what the admission meant. She tilted her head just a little, her lips pursed, and Luke twitched his fingers –
"I'm almost angrier, knowing what Anakin threw away, and how different things could have been," Luke reflected in a low voice. "It was different when his background was this mystery, and his redemption was a shining event that I helped effect," he explained. "There were times here, out by our mother's grave that I…I had to bury myself in meditation to try and let go of the anger. I kept feeling this what-if ache – what if he hadn't followed Palpatine, what if Padmé had lived, what if I could have grown up here, and what if," Luke held up his hand, pointedly, again, "he'd never hurt me."
He swallowed hard.
"Either one of us."
Leia blinked, her eyes stinging.
"I don't know, Luke," she said hoarsely. Her voice shook, and she raised and lifted her shoulders helplessly. "I'd never have known my parents," she reflected. "I probably never would have met Han."
"I can't imagine you without Han," he said.
Leia smiled faintly.
"Neither can I, anymore," she whispered. She swallowed hard. "Han asked me once if I'd wished anything had gone differently, and I never know how to answer that question," she said. "I told him I can't change things, and I've stopped wishing I could, because that was killing me," she explained, "but I suppose what makes me feel guilty sometimes, now, is that if a sorceress – or some, all-powerful being – stood before me and offered to let me go back, and change history – and yet that meant I might never have what I have with Han now," she broke off, lifting her shoulders helplessly.
She ran her hand through her hair.
"I used to be so violently angry that I had no power to change things," she said quietly, "but lately I've felt almost certain that I wouldn't, if I could – and that plagues me, because Alderaan – "
"Leia," Luke interrupted quietly, his sage, blue eyes on hers gently. "That sounds an awful lot like you're afraid to completely heal because you're viewing healing as a betrayal of your people."
Leia lifted one shoulder wordlessly, giving him a pointed look.
Luke sat forward seriously.
"You can be happy with your life and where it's going without it meaning you're dismissive of the death of your planet," he said, holding out his hands flat, palm up. "Those things – your happiness, and the Emperor's mass genocide – which they blamed on your lack of cooperation, but engaged in for their own purposes – aren't even on the same scale."
"I am happy, Luke," she said earnestly. Her voice cracked softly, in a nice, easy way. "I am so happy. I think it added an unexpected dimension to my issues."
Luke smiled kindly, and Leia rubbed her knuckles softly on her cheek.
"It was good to be here," she said, licking her lips. "Peaceful," she decided. "They're such good people," she repeated Luke's oft-stated sentiment – "and every one of them is like a new element of strength to our story."
"Hmm," Luke sighed. "More good people to gather around you and reinforce you when you leak the information about Vader."
Leia sighed harshly, though the brusqueness was not directed at Luke. She drew in a deep breath.
"It won't be a leak," she said firmly. "I'll face that head on."
"Ruwee is on board?" Luke ventured quietly.
Leia tilted her head side-to-side, thoughtful.
"Ruwee is...considering it," she allowed. "He needs time, still. Two weeks is a good foundation, but it isn't any real preparation."
"You're not in any hurry," Luke said, shrugging – but caught a look in Leia's eye, and she hesitated, sighing again.
"No," she agreed slowly. "Hurry – no, that's not the right word; I am not in a hurry," she murmured. "However," she said quietly, "I'm tired of living with it in the back of my mind – I want it out there," she said. "I know how painful it's going to be. The backlash," she paused, shaking her head. "But I want it out there."
She lowered her head for a moment, and then raised it.
"I've never really asked you," she said. "Do you?"
Luke smacked one of his hands emphatically against the other, his expression earnest.
"Leia, I want to tell this story so badly, I have to bite my tongue to keep it in," he nearly burst out. "I defer to you because you're the one with the political career, and I think you know pretty damn well what you're doing when it comes to dissemination of information, and Media control – but I feel the same way you do about dark secrets: they're poisonous. And when I train new Jedi," he pressed his hands to his heart firmly, pointing to himself, "I want to them to know who I am, and where I come from, and why my knowledge is so valuable – I stared down two of the most heinous Sith the dark side ever produced, and I brought one of them back," he said. "You bet your – you bet your life I want it out there."
"Good," she said faintly, "because I'll need you by my side."
Luke nodded firmly – it was an easy promise; he wanted to tell the story of what he'd seen in those last moments on the Death Star, a narrative of choice, of redemption, of justice, and an end to a life slavery – he wanted to help the galaxy heal from Vader's terrorism in any way he could, the same way he'd helped Leia heal from Vader's personal brutality against her.
In some respects he felt as called to service as Leia – though her sense of duty had an ingrained element, considering who she was raised to be – but he knew that somewhere, in all of her desire to lead, and create a better world, she did feel a need to atone for Vader's reign, and Luke felt that, too – they were born to a greater purpose, they always had been; they could have each abandoned that purpose, but both of them had chosen it, and now they were bound to it – and he relished it like she did.
Luke slumped back against his headboard and sighed. He cocked a brow and turned and gave her a look.
"This was all very serious," he noted wryly.
Leia smiled tiredly, her eyes sparkling – things always seemed to turn serious, even if they started lightly. She leaned back, and then leaned forward, her lips pursing inquiringly.
"Luke," she softly. "You said something – about knowledge, about accepting it, knowing only what you are allowed," she said, going back to the beginning. "I wanted to ask you something – about the Force."
Luke nodded, his head perking up eagerly – there was no one he'd rather discuss the Force with than Leia, and she was rarely interested.
"Visions," she said, pronouncing the word delicately – a bit skeptically.
"Of the future?" Luke clarified.
"I don't know," she said quietly. "Maybe." She fell silent for almost a full minute, and then she rubbed her forehead. "I know Vader is dead, but I keep having nightmares about him – stealing things from me," she said vaguely. "I know he can't," she added, almost to herself. "Or," she said, lifting her head – "I had a dream," she trailed off. "Well," she faltered, unsure of what she was asking – or feeling even. "Even last year, in the Jedi Temple," she said softly. "You were there – and some of that is a blur, for me," she mumbled, "you told me – the future is always in motion."
"An adage I stole from Master Yoda," he said wryly.
Leia put a hand not to her heart, but to her abdomen, her hand hovering near her hip –
"When I feel things are prophetic, or I think I have a vision, or a warning – how do I know if it's - ?" she broke off, and there was a look of bewildered frustration on her face; this religion just wasn't for her, it was so ethereal, it didn't make sense to her, but it also gave her power, and peace sometimes – it was a burden, and a blessing.
Leia took a deep breath.
"How do I avoid dwelling on things that haven't happened?" she asked.
Luke looked at her intently for a long time.
"Is there something specific?" he asked finally – cautious, but concerned.
Leia smiled a little, but shook her head vaguely – and Luke wasn't sure if she meant there wasn't anything specific, or if she didn't want to answer. He took offense to neither option, and tried to come up with the best answer he could –
"I think anyone, even someone without Force sensitivity, would agree that living in fear of suffering that might happen in the future is no way to live," he said slowly.
Leia listened, but said nothing – easy to think that way, for anyone who had never suffered as much as she had – as much as Luke had, or Han had. They had reasons to be wary –
"The future isn't set because the future is influenced by our choices," Luke said, "and sometimes…the future we see, is actually orchestrated by our choices in response to what we think has happened – does that make sense?"
Leia gave him a glass-eyed blink.
"What?" she asked, bewildered.
He took a deep breath.
"The first vision I had – I think I told you, a little – was on Dagobah. I saw myself in a duel with Vader. I won – beheaded him – but when the mask was off, it was my face behind it," he said solemnly. "That particular vision obviously did not come true," he said.
"But?" Leia sensed his hesitation.
"Not long after that, I saw blurry scenes of you and Han in Vader's hands on Bespin," he said quietly. "I lost my composure and walked into his trap – and I didn't save either of you; the vision I had came true, in a way. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't gone," he said, "but I did not change things when I responded to it – and I was damaged in ways I wasn't ready for yet – my hand," he took a heavy breath, "Vader telling me he was my father," he said.
Leia watched him for a long time, and then she finally let out a slow breath.
"What do you think about prophetic dreams, then?" she asked. "Or rather – dreams that feel prophetic?"
"I think," Luke said softly, "you shouldn't become a prisoner of intangible what-ifs."
Leia smiled, and nodded – she took a deep breath, and let it out. It seemed sage advice – and ultimately, it seemed to be the right advice.
She was scared of what could happen to her, of what might be wrong with her, of what could happen to – any children she might have – down the road – and that fear was valid, but she needed to let herself work on not letting it cripple her, or swindle her into making decisions she was ultimately unhappy with – that would result in a cycle of misery – something she sensed Anakin Skywalker might have fallen victim to.
"Speaking of," Luke said, touching his finger to his temple wryly, pulling his father's name out of her head. "I spent hours here, seeking a conversation with him, and he runs off and hassles you."
Leia snorted lightly.
"Enlightening," she said mildly. "I hope you aren't offended if I say once is enough."
Luke inclined his head gallantly –
"I'm glad you got at least some tiny thing out of it," he said honestly – and he knew she had, even if it was nothing more than her ability to calmly refer to the person the Naberries had known as Anakin.
"I did," Leia confirmed simply, though she did not want to talk about it further.
Luke smiled and then reached up to grab his neck, kneading the backs of his shoulders lightly with his knuckles and giving an exaggerated, loud yawn.
"Feels like the visit's flown by, and lasted a year at the same time," he mused.
"Well, here's to hoping our last night here is uneventful," she quipped.
Luke yawned again, genuine this time, and cocked his head.
"What was all the commotion about last night, anyway?" he mumbled curiously, sort of aware of what she was referring to. "I heard a bunch of running around, but I figured it would be better to just stay out of it, this time," he said frankly – considering previously, everyone getting out of bed to investigate had just put the spotlight on Leia in an unfortunate way.
"Ah," Leia said, tilting her head back a little, easing in to a lighter conversation. She arched a brow. "Well," she began lightly. "Maiah snuck out of her bedroom while everyone was asleep and found her way into ours."
Luke's eyes went as wide and round as the twin suns.
"You mean – yours and Han's?" he asked, sitting up straighter.
Leia nodded slowly, tilting her head to the side. She was quiet for a moment, and then she started laughing softly.
"It was quite an ordeal for Han," she said sympathetically. "She scared him half to death – and he was alarmed that she'd think to do that," she related.
Luke made a strangled noise – like laughter, but very controlled, as if he weren't sure if it were funny or not. Leia inclined her head, mostly to assure him he could laugh.
"I couldn't remember where the twin's room was in the dark, and she was chattering away so I didn't want to carry her through the house waking everyone up," Leia explained. "So, I took her to the kitchen to get some milk, and then I took her to Jobal and Ruwee and I think she slept in their room."
Luke gave her a fascinated look.
"And how's Han?" he asked seriously.
"Still alarmed," Leia confided solemnly. "Kept asking me what was going through her head – as if I can somehow relate to a five-year-old," she snorted. "I did warn him, though, since he's so keen on the idea of children, that he ought to get used to the idea of them demanding to share the bed."
She smiled a little.
"He thought it was so strange."
"He probably wouldn't have thought it was strange if it was his kid, Leia," Luke pointed out. "It's normal for kids to crawl into bed with their parents."
"Maiah's not abnormal, she's just affectionate," Leia answered calmly. "And I think she's sad we're leaving."
"Hmm. I didn't mean to imply she had a problem," he said lightly. He looked amused. "Why wasn't your door locked?"
Leia looked appalled.
"It's impolite to lock your door when staying as a guest in someone's home," she said. "It implies distrust of the host."
Luke gave her a dry look.
"Growing up on Alderaan must have been somethin,'" he quipped – knowing that on Tatooine, failing to lock your door anywhere was a possible death sentence, if not a blatant invitation to burglars.
Leia gave him a wry look.
"It's actually a social norm of Naboo," she said primly. "I researched customs before we came."
Luke rolled his eyes.
"Diplomat," he accused.
"Farmer," Leia retorted.
He snorted, and shook his head, yawning again. He leaned back, and placed his hands behind his head, cushioning his neck as he reclined against the headboard.
"Han's keen on the idea, eh?" he ventured cautiously, looking at her intently.
Leia laced her fingers into her hair. She pressed her lips together in a slight, careful smile and nodded. A little crinkle appeared in her nose –
"Would you ever have guessed Han would want a baby?" she asked quietly.
"Sure," he said.
Leia arched her brows gently, - Why? She asked wordlessly, her voice in his head, and Luke shrugged again. He gestured his hand a little flippantly, as if it were obvious.
"Han likes to take care of things," he muttered. "The Falcon, Chewie," he ticked down fingers, "you."
Leia smiled, her head falling against the back of the armchair.
"I suppose he does," she agreed.
"What about you?" Luke asked.
Leia chewed on her lower lip lightly.
"I don't know," she said honestly. "We'll see. I don't want a baby," she paused almost pointedly, "at this moment."
"Is it a…waiting until you're married longer thing, or you don't want one at all?"
Leia was quiet, and unreadable.
"We'll see," she said finally, a small smile touching her lips – apologetic, almost.
"Do what's right for you, Sis," he said seriously.
"Yes," she agreed softly.
She closed her eyes a moment, sleepy suddenly – and yawned. Luke rubbed his eyes, and then dragged a hand through his hair – a moment later, he yawned, as well, giving her a sort of bleary glare; the damn things were contagious –
There was a knock at the door, and as Luke was looking up, it creaked open a little – it hadn't been fully shut – and the tip of a nose appeared hesitantly.
"Han," Leia identified immediately.
Luke sat forward, gave her a smug look, and started laughing – and she did, too, if only because Han had inadvertently proven Luke's point.
Han poked his whole head around the door and looked at her, narrowing his eyes a little suspiciously at the laughter.
"Figured you were in here," he muttered gruffly. His hair still looked wet, and he stepped in, one hand holding the door. "You coming to bed?"
"Is this the first place you checked?" Luke asked, before Leia could answer.
"Yeah," Han said, folding his arms. He glared at them. "What're you laughing about?"
Leia got up from the armchair.
"You," she said, wry but fond, coming to stand near him. "Yes, I'm coming to bed," she answered, softer. She touched his shoulder and smoothed her hand over his t-shirt, smiling.
Instinctively, Han put a hand over hers, and looked over her shoulder at Luke.
"G'night, kid," he said.
Luke merely rolled his eyes at them, and waved his hands in a shooing motion, ushering them away, and before she courteously shut the door, Leia turned and looked at him serenely, and before she lowered her mental walls to ensure her privacy, he heard her simple, parting words – thank you.
Bidding farewell to the Naberries and their quiet, hidden Lake Country haven was peaceful; the goodbyes were full of hope, and friendliness – inspiring in that it was so very clear that these goodbyes would by no means last forever. The bonds Luke had been so eager to create between himself, Leia, and their mother's family were being encouraged, and strengthened. They were new, and a no doubt a little apprehensive, but they were there – and the general attitude towards having a close, tight-knit relationship with each other was positive.
It was late morning when everyone gathered to see Luke, Leia, Han, and Bail off in their separate directions – Luke to Tatooine, for more of his information gathering, soul-searching, and Jedi reflections, and Leia, Han, and Bail back to Coruscant – Bail tagging along on the Falcon, this time, instead of on Luke's private ship.
The day was warm and bright – the mountains in the distance as beautiful as the lake below, and the sheer beauty offered by Naboo made Leia think nostalgically of Alderaan – and put into stark perspective how jarring it would be to return to the metallic jungle of Coruscant in the morning.
She was eager to return to work, despite the less savory aspects – she was used to those, anyway. She brushed off Han's attempt to get her to take an additional day so they could just be alone at home for a bit – nothing against him, but she did enjoy her job, and she enjoyed it enough, despite its trials and tribulations, that she started to get jittery, almost agitated, if she was away from it too long.
She appreciated the interlude she had taken to focus on this newfound family, and her tired, painful past – but she was ready, again, to start running forward, progressing, taking new steps in her life.
"If you can – if your military duties allow it – stop by again on your way back to the Core, from Tatooine," Jobal was saying earnestly to Luke, her hands on his shoulders.
She glanced over him at Leia and smiled at her knowingly.
"I know you'll be far too busy to take a hop back to see us soon, but you're welcome," she said.
Leia folded her arms lightly, nodding.
"This won't be the last time you see us, Jobal, I promise," Leia said gently – honestly. She smiled a bit wryly. "I'm generally loathe to invite anyone to Coruscant," she began, "but Han and I would be more than happy to host you if you'd like to visit us," she offered.
"I can't remember the last time we were on Coruscant," Ruwee said gruffly, rubbing his face. He arched his brows. "Hmm, Sola – was it Padmé's swearing in, at the Senate?" he asked.
Sola looked thoughtful.
"I wasn't there for that; I think I was pregnant," she said. She shrugged. "Perhaps – no, no," she corrected. She nodded back at her mother. "Mami went twice when Padmé was pregnant," she said.
"Ah, yes, of course," Ruwee waved his hand.
"The last time we went together was her swearing in," Jobal said, looking between both of them with a sage smile.
"As I said, you're welcome to visit – I'm sure Luke would be as thrilled as I would," Leia said.
Luke nodded earnestly.
"My apartment's small, but I have a spare room," he said.
"We also have a spare," Leia agreed. "Though it's likely we'll have more room in the future," she added flippantly.
Turning his head, Han's brow furrowed.
"What?" he asked gruffly. "We're moving?"
Leia smiled at him placidly, and shrugged.
"The husband's always the last to know, eh?" Whyler joked, snorting as he clapped Han on the shoulder.
Han shrugged, cocking an eyebrow – Leia hadn't mentioned anything about being dissatisfied about their apartment, and he liked it there –
"Don't give me that look," Leia said smoothly, her eyes glinting. "You're the one who wants a bigger home," she quipped.
Han gave her a narrow, searching look. He turned away from whatever conversation he'd been having with Whyler, and seemed to be at a loss.
"I like our apartment," he said, frowning.
Luke laughed at the consternated look on his face, and Sola folded her arms, leaning into her husband's side, smirking.
"Puzzle it out, Han," she said pointedly, her lips quirking up in that dry way that was so specific to her. She twitched her head very subtly at Leia. "She's implying you might need more room, someday."
"It's a big apartment," Han said.
"Not for a woman who grew up in a palace," Darred joked. He looked at Han for a moment, and then rolled his eyes, taking pity on him: "Sola and I moved out of our first place when Pooja was born," he said.
Han looked at him blankly for a moment and then the implication seemed to click into place – he tilted his head intently, stared at Darred and Sola a moment longer, and then looked over at Leia, considering her for a long time. She gave him a little look that seemed balanced, but a little acquiescing, and raised her shoulders slightly, holding up one hand and waving it gently in a placating motion.
"The operative word is someday," she said cautiously.
Han, having learned not very long ago to hold his tongue in company – only gave her a small grin, and swallowed hard, falling silent – in that moment, he found, rather than being happy about the prospect of them perhaps having a baby, he was merely happy that Leia was comfortable with the possibility.
"There's plenty of places to stay on Coruscant," Pooja spoke up. She nudged Leia wryly with her elbow. "Including my Senatorial quarters," she noted, one eyebrow going up – and Luke laughed again.
"Oh right, we've forgotten you all already have family on Coruscant," he snorted, and both Whyler and Darred laughed –
"You've been replaced, Pooja," Whyler teased smugly.
Pooja made a flicking motion with her hands at him, and, coming down the rolling hill in front of Varykino with her children, and Bail, in tow – Ryoo gave Pooja a reprimanding look.
"Don't do that in front of the kids," she said – evidently it wasn't a polite sign, in Nubian culture.
"In my defense, you hadn't appeared yet when I did it," Pooja said primly.
She tilted her head and turned to Indy, who was hopping at his mother's heels.
"Did you see my hand gesture, Indy?" she asked, to prove a point.
Indy grinned, and mimicked it.
"Fantastic," Ryoo said with a scowl, adjusting Iver on her hip – and coming to a stop behind her, Bail crouched down to place Maiah on the flat, grassy ground near the gondola docks – she'd been squirming to get out of his grasp the moment she saw everyone, and she got her footing, and hopped forward, her expression lighting up.
"Lee-Lee!" Maiah gasped, dashing over to Leia and sliding her arms around her leg tightly. She looked up at her with bright eyes. "Lee-Lee," she breathed again, the sweet, childish nickname musical in her little soprano voice – it came about after Maiah heard Bail refer to Leia as Lelila and, having misunderstood it, Maiah came up with her own version – and it stuck. "When can I come visit you?" Maiah asked hopefully.
Leia smiled. She crouched down, and swept Maiah up easily – a swift, confident motion that she'd gotten the hang of during the last week of their visit, and Maiah settled on her hip as naturally as if she'd always belonged there. She touched a neat, twisted braid running down the side of Maiah's head.
"This looks familiar," she said. "Who did your hair?" she asked knowingly.
Maiah flushed, swiveled, and pointed shyly at Bail – he'd been helping Ryoo with the kids while the adults handled getting luggage down to the docks without worrying about tripping over the little ones.
"I asked him to make it like you," she whispered. She patted the braids, too, and looked earnestly at Leia. "Do they? Look like you? Pretty?" she asked.
"She's your number one fan, Leia," Whyler snorted.
Ryoo's cheeks turned pink, and she shifted Iver on her hip again, sighing – but she'd long stopped correcting Maiah's affection for Leia – or Han and Luke, for that matter; they were used to it, and they all loved her.
Leia crinkled her nose and touched it to Maiah's, nodding.
"Yes, I used to wear my hair like that all the time," she confided seriously. "When I lived on Alderaan."
Maiah beamed and put one arm around Leia's neck, turning to show her hair to everyone primly.
"Did you do Leia's hair on Alderaan, Bail?" Sola asked, ticking up an eyebrow with interest. "That seems a menial task for the Viceroy," she noted thoughtfully.
Bail took no offense to the statement, and merely shrugged.
"Breha and I were as hands on with Leia as we could be," he said. He gave a small smile. "We went through a lot before we had her – we weren't about to hand her off to handmaidens and servants."
The look on Jobal's face was utterly satisfied, and though Ruwee looked bittersweet at the comment – he said nothing.
Maiah tugged on Leia's sleeve lightly.
"Visit?" she prompted.
"Well, we were just talkin' about that, Maiah," Han said, stepping up closer. He reached out to tickle her ribs and she squealed softly, hunching away with a smile on her face – she giggled, and Luke nodded.
"Yes, Leia was saying you're all welcome," he added, looking to Iver and Indy.
Bail cleared his throat.
"If I may – my sister and I currently live alone at the Alderaanian Embassy's residence and it is," he paused politely, "spacious, to say the least," he muttered.
"Understatement," Han snorted.
Bail gave him a glare, but looked around frankly.
"He's right, it would be more than enough to accommodate the lot of you," he said, "anytime you wish."
Ruwee stepped up to his wife and put his arm around her shoulders. He looked at Bail thoughtfully for a moment, and then nodded – he cleared his throat, inclining his head at Leia.
"I'm not sure how wise it would be to have all of us swarming around you in the middle of Coruscant before the – connection," he said delicately – "is identified." He paused, and then glanced over at Pooja, and back to Leia – "Wouldn't you two agree?" he asked. "You're our political strategists."
"Well, last week I'd have argued it hardly matters, as you can easily say you're there for me," Pooja said. She waved at Leia with a small smirk. "However, she told a journalist she was here visiting family," she reminded them.
"Which they interpreted to mean Bail, since he's here too, but if they start prying – " he trailed off.
"Who knows what conspiracy they would come up with," Bail said dryly.
Leia smiled demurely.
"Conspiracies are what we generally try to get ahead of," she said neutrally.
Ruwee nodded, clearing his throat. He looked over at Pooja for a long time again, and then at his wife – and then, for shorter beats, at both Ryoo, and Sola – and he finally settled on Leia again.
"We have had some – intent conversations on the matter of," he paused, choosing his words carefully, as the children were present, "revelation," he said simply.
Leia adjusted Maiah on her hip, and focused on Ruwee – not quite holding her breath, but tense, all the same – because here they stood, facing each other, and he knew that she would proceed with the revelation of her bloodline even if he objected, she had told him that explicitly, and yet she hoped for his blessing, for them with her –
"I told you of my concerns," Ruwee said. He smiled a bit wryly. "Naturally, the women in my family do not have any interest in my – what did you call them, Sola?" he asked pointedly
Sola cleared her throat seriously.
"Overly-cautious, curmudgeonly, self-preserving penchants for martyrdom," she quoted blithely.
"Yes," Ruwee said dryly. "Those."
He slipped his arm off of Jobal and stepped forward, approaching Leia with his hands out. Leia looked to Han, and in a quick motion – which she was surprised he identified so quickly – indicated she wanted him to take Maiah, which he did – easily.
Maiah immediately put her hand on the side of his head and twisted it into his hair, grinning with delight. Leia put out her hands to meet Ruwee's, and he clasped hers in his, taking a steadying breath.
"My girls," he said – a common way he referred to the many women in his family, "want Padmé's legacy to be associated with the defeat of the Empire, and the New Republic," he paused, looking between Luke and Leia, "and the two of you," he said quietly. "They are of the opinion that if securing that for her means associating her with the rest of it, as well – then that is that."
Ruwee swallowed hard, squeezing Leia's hands.
"They impressed upon me the importance of grieving my daughter publicly, which I was never able to do," he said softly. "And after it is all said and done, I think I'm inclined to agree. I think weathering the storm will be difficult," he said, "but," he sighed, "we've had worse."
Leia's shoulders fell, and she was awash with relief – she opened her mouth to say something, but Pooja interjected –
"Gran-Papa," she prompted, and then turned to the side, tucking curls behind her ears. "There's something else," she said fiercely, her face set confidently.
"Ah, yes," Ruwee agreed. He let go of Leia's hand, and gestured between himself and Pooja. "We'd like to be there with you, when you give the announcement," he said, stumbling over his words together – "the, reveal, ah – however you choose to do it."
Leia, at a loss for words for a moment, stared at him.
"It will – be a press…conference," she said quietly, barely hearing herself – and then she pulled her hands loose of Ruwee's loose grip, and put her arms around him in a genuine hug, closing her eyes against his shoulder.
When she felt him return the hug in a firm grip, she lifted her head, and kissed his cheek chastely, squeezing his wrists as she pulled away.
"Thank you," she said softly, hoping she conveyed how much the blessing – and the support, the offer of visible, physical support – which she had not expected – meant to her.
Ruwee nodded, stepping back.
"You are both," he said, holding out his hand to clasp Luke's shoulder, "remarkable people," he complimented. "We'll be proud to be there."
Ryoo cleared her throat quietly.
"Whyler and I are going to talk to the kids after it comes out," she said. "You needn't worry that they might spill it beforehand," she said, a small smile touching her lips.
"Nah, we trust you," Han said, looking down at Maiah. "Right?" he asked seriously, arching both brows. "You can keep secrets?"
She put her hand over her mouth and nodded, mimicking gluing her lips shut, and Han grinned.
"What secret?" Indy piped up. He looked around, his head swiveling suspiciously. "Tell us what?" he demanded.
"Where babies come from," Bail offered sternly, as if that would throw him off.
Indy gave Bail a withering look.
"I know where they come from," he retorted. He held up his hands. "I'm ten."
Bail looked flustered.
"Oh – well – yes, of course – is that – the age…?" he fumbled.
Sola tilted her head back and started laughing – unabashedly laughing, really enjoying Bail's discomfort – and Ryoo gave him a somewhat amused look, as well, shaking her head.
"You're a parent, Bail," she said, grinning. "You ought to know he's plenty old enough."
"Well, I – don't think anyone – told Leia until, she – was – I don't know, fourteen," he rambled.
Han gave Leia a curious look.
"Really?" he asked, smirking.
Leia rolled her eyes.
"I'm sure that is what Mother allowed you to think," she said, directly to her father. She gave Han a withering glance. "I was five or six when she told me," she whispered loudly.
Luke snuck a peak at the look on the Viceroy's face, and grinned, shaking his head –
"That's a little young," Whyler said gruffly. "I'm gonna stick up for the Viceroy a little here – "
"There was an intervening issue," Leia said dryly. "It came up fairly quickly when she was explaining why I didn't look like them."
"Ah," Jobal said gently.
She leaned forward and reached out to pinch her oldest daughter.
"Sola, stop laughing at the Viceroy," she admonished.
"I can't," Sola said honestly, grinning from ear to ear.
Bail gave her a gloomy, sheepish look, and sighed, shaking his head. Maiah turned to look around, and then looked directly back at Han, frowning as if she'd been left out of the conversation.
"Where do babies come from?" she asked him.
Han's expression immediately twisted into one of panic, and Ryoo gave Whyler a look. He took the cue, and stepped forward and retrieved his daughter from Han, giving her an affectionate look.
"You'll find out when you're older," he said.
Maiah gave him a pout, and put her thumb in her mouth, which Ryoo immediately removed, and stepped forward with Iver, letting him get a good look at the visitors.
"It's time to say goodbye, Iver," she coaxed. She smiled at them pleasantly – "Don't think I'm trying to rush you; it's only that I see the gondolas approaching," she noted, nodding her head over their shoulders.
Leia turned to look, and saw two of the small, delicately crafted boats on their way – they would gather the luggage, as well as the visitors, and ferry them back to the hangar down near the foothill village, and then they would be on their way – back to daily lives, and the mundane struggles of building a new galactic order.
She turned back when she heard Iver finishing up his goodbye to Luke, and she held out her hands to let him place his palms in hers.
"'Bye, Lee-Lee," he said shyly, leaning forward to hug her – and Leia hugged him back, smirking at the affectionate nickname; he'd picked it up from Maiah, and that's who she was to the children now – Lee-Lee. It was – a little strange, but heartwarming, and she liked it much more than she anticipated.
"'Bye, Han," Iver said, holding up his hand to let Han press his palm to it – he seemed to have picked up a typical male aversion to hugs, and Han gave him a gruff goodbye.
Maiah had to say her goodbyes again – smoothing Han's hair, kissing Leia's cheek, and Indy had a million things to say to all of them – he wanted to hear more from Bail about the strange Alderaanian ship phenomenon, if he could; he wanted Luke to tell him more about the Jedi, if he found things out, and he wanted to know things about Chewbacca, and Leia and Pooja's politics – his enthusiasm and intelligence was inspiring, and Leia crouched down to give him a hug goodbye with fondness – Han ruffled his hair, and Leia was sure Indy wouldn't brush it for days.
Ryoo and Whyler said their goodbyes next – likely so they could step back and hold their children out of the way while the others stepped forward.
"It's been wonderful getting to know you both," Ryoo said, touching first Leia's face, and then Luke's. "We'll keep in touch – an easier feat for the younger generation, usually," she said, smirking.
She gave Luke a hug, and then hugged Leia tightly.
"Give me a call, any time you want to talk," she said quietly, pulling back, and nodding back a little, in the direction of her kids.
Leia clasped her hands quickly, and nodded – and Whyler stepped away from his handshake with Han to extend the same courtesy to Luke and Leia, eventually fading back to stand with Ryoo.
"I don't feel like I need to say goodbyes," Pooja said, her personality sparkling as she did so anyway. "Leia – I'll be back on Coruscant a few days after you, calling you Princess again, of course," she said, with a breezy wink. "Luke – I'll see you when I see you," she added, well aware he was wont to disappear for weeks on end.
"You were so integral in helping get this together, Pooja," Leia said.
"Yeah," Luke agreed. "Without you, it would have never been as easy to start building bridges."
"Far be it from me to accept credit for the inevitable, but there's no way our families would have stayed separate forever," she said confidently. "The galaxy wouldn't have allowed it – the Force," she said, nodding respectfully at Luke, "wouldn't have."
"I like to think so," he agreed warmly.
Pooja glided over to say her goodbyes to Han, and then turned to do the same with Bail, while Sola and Darred stepped up – Sola sighed, taking Luke and Leia, and staring at them as if she were sizing them both up. She nodded to herself, as if judging them.
"You'll do," she decided, and then leaned forward and hugged them both loosely, a bright smile breaking over her almost permanently crooked, sarcastic smirk. Stepping back, she folded her arms – "You do my sister proud," she said simply. "You do me proud," she added, pressing a hand to her heart. She curled her hand into a fist, and nodded again, emphatically – "We won't let you become strangers again," she promised.
"Been a hell of a time meeting you both," Darred added, shaking hands – he leaned forward and boldly kissed Leia's cheek, and she smiled at him, taking it for what it was – acknowledgement, finally, that he could see her as a normal person, and not just a larger than life leader of an intangible Rebellion – a Princess, an untouchable mirage.
That meant more, in terms of making her feel like these people were truly going to be part of her inner circle, than anything else.
He and Sola turned to pay their respects to Han and Bail – and it was only Ruwee and Jobal left, stepping up to Leia and Luke – the two heads of Padme's family, facing her only children, lost, and then found again – and they looked content, and relieved – Ruwee Naberrie looked more at peace than Leia had seen him since they arrived.
Having said his piece – and such significant words at that – he did nothing more than reach out to hug Leia again, and press a chaste kiss to her forehead. He did the same to Luke – an equal show of affection, and in his footsteps, Jobal followed, closing her eyes and breathing them both in gratefully, holding them both a little tightly before letting them go.
She touched Luke's face, and then Leia's, and pulled her hands to her abdomen, clasping her fingers, and beaming softly at them both.
"As Sola said," she remarked. "We won't let you become strangers again – travel safely," she bid, and crinkled her eyes kindly, lowering her voice gently, "and stay part of us."
Leia and Luke clearly understood her meaning – all of them had to keep these fledgling connections alive; it wasn't merely lip service that was required, but true commitment to cultivating a family – and Leia, her defenses down, knew that she and Luke shared an equal desire to do just that.
Everything she had said to him last night had been true; these were good people, and they were her people, now – they always had been, even if they'd just come to know her.
She took a deep breath, and next to her, Ruwee took Han's hand, and shook it firmly, giving a small, wry smile.
"For what it's worth, Han, I always thought you were a fine match for Leia," he said.
Leia turned her head, brows raised, and laughed a little hoarsely – if only because she knew it was a subtle joke aimed at her father, and the look on Bail's face was priceless – a mild scowl, that he tried to hide, because he knew when it came to Ruwee, he had to tread lightly.
"Always was," he agreed, reaching over to drape his arm over Leia. "Even before she knew it," he bragged.
Leia raised her eyes to the sky.
"Oh, he's so full of it," Pooja laughed. "Take him home and put something over his mouth, Leia," she suggested.
"She can't, Bail's going back on the Falcon with them," Ryoo joked slyly.
Han shot a smug look at Bail, and the Viceroy grit his teeth – while Jobal came to his rescue.
"I think that's enough harassment," she said warmly.
She sent a sideways smile at Bail as she leaned forward, stood to her full height, and leaned forward to kiss Han's cheek.
"Lovely to meet you, Han," she said sincerely. She smiled, and looked between him and Leia kindly, settling her eyes back on Han. "Be patient with her," she advised, so quietly only Leia and Han could hear her. "Motherhood is a very hard undertaking," she said sincerely. "Be patient."
Han nodded, remaining silent, and Jobal moved on – she stood, with her husband, before Bail, and they were both quiet –
- in fact, the gathering as a whole was silent, as if they were waiting, in this final moment – with the gondolas docking, and the sun shining, and the air warm and clear – to hear the final verdict that Padmé Amidala's parents would bestow upon Bail Organa, concerning the past, and his part in it.
Ruwee Naberrie cleared his throat, and held out his hand.
"You put them back into our lives," he said firmly. "From this point on, that is what matters."
Bail took Ruwee's hand humbly, saying nothing – and nodded, executing a firm, grateful handshake. Jobal stepped forward, placed her palms on Bail's shoulders, and kissed his cheek lightly, murmuring a soft, personal word of thanks.
There was – little to be said, after such heartfelt, and sanguine parting words – Whyler and Darred helped Han load the gondolas with luggage, and after another quick round of goodbyes – more generic this time, less full of meaning – the four interlopers were settled in their quiet ferries back across the lake.
Varykino faded in the distance, and Leia turned – careful with her weight – to watch it disappear. It melted slowly into the atmosphere, into the misty clouds in the sky – and she knew that the Naberrie family still stood, and still watched, no doubt preparing to spend a few days unwinding, and, without pressure, and without houseguests to consider, decompressing and letting the entirety of the past two weeks settle, and become part of them.
She turned at Han's touch – the gentle brush of his hand against her knee – and he was leaning forward, facing her, his expression concerned, and calm – asking her if she was alright, if this had all been alright – and Leia nodded, wordless, but with a tranquil expression on her face – it was all alright: the Naberries, Varykino, her confrontation with Anakin Skywalker, the tension with Ruwee, the children – everything that had happened, and all the little parts in between – it was all alright.
Han reached into the glittery, lake, swirled his hands in it – brought his palm up and showered Leia in a sprinkle of cool water, and she bit her lip, twisting away and giving him a startled laugh, and a look of mock outrage – he looked back at her in the sun, and though he said nothing, she felt like she could read what he was thinking in his eyes, in every line of his face – that he couldn't wait to get her home, and face anything and everything that would happen next –
- and that was a sentiment she shared, with every part of her being – for rather than filling her with more doubt, or shaking the foundation of her personal peace, or driving her mad with questions about what could have been, breaking ground with the Naberries had given her the strength to face the next great hurdle in her life.
"To know what would have happened child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."
Aslan to Lucy Pevensie
[The Chronicles of Narnia; Prince Caspian]
hope you'll forgive the inclusion of that quote, but i generally use it in all of my fics at some point, and its relevant to the themes of this chapter.
well ! here we are ! only the epilogue left - thanks for sticking around, thank you SO MUCH, as always for the outpouring of feedback!
until next time!