Epilogue – Voice of Leia Skywalker – Three years later
"All set?" Luke asks.
"Yes, let's go," I reply as I slide into the seat next to him. "I don't want to be late."
"Relax," he assures me. "We have plenty of time. Besides, who do you know that can fly faster than me?"
"Let's see," I begin as we lift off, "Dad, Han, me…"
"In your dreams, little sister," Luke interjects. "In your dreams."
I don't say anything but shake my head with a smirk as the Jedi Temple grows distant behind our speeder. Luke always was a cocky one.
"Isn't Han coming?" he asks me.
I frown as I reflect on his question and shrug. "I don't know what he's doing," she replies. "I invited him, but he said he wasn't sure he could make it," I add. "Honestly Luke, I think I must be crazy to get involved with him."
Luke grins. "Crazy? Maybe. But you two belong together," he reminds me. "I've been telling you that for years."
"I know," I reply. "Try telling Dad that," I mutter under my breath.
"Is he still upset about you and Han dating?" he asks. "He's known Han for years!"
"Yeah, well I guess that doesn't mean anything now," I sigh. "I tried to tell Han that coming tonight would go a long way to make Dad accepting him, but Han just said he wasn't an ass kisser. Can you believe he said that to me?"
"Yes, I can totally believe it," Luke replies, and I can tell he's trying not to laugh. "Relax Leia, Dad's going to be fine," he assures me. "Besides, now he has two more daughters to be overprotective about. Shmi and Jobal will take the heat off of you big time in a few more years."
"A few more years?" I moan. "Great, just …great."
Voice of Padmé Skywalker
"Come on little one, you can do it," I say encouragingly. I hold out my hands to little Jobal, who toddles over to me rather unsteadily. Her smile is enormous, showing all four of her tiny teeth. As she reaches me I pick her up and swing her upward, just the way that makes her laugh. Her blond curls bounce on her head as she giggles, looking down at me, her brown eyes twinkling.
"Good girl!" I say. "Who's a big girl?"
Jobal laughs again and wiggles in my hands. I set her down and look over to her twin, Shmi, who's taking wobbly steps towards her father. Having one year old twins keeps both Anakin and I more than busy, but I know that I've never been happier in my life than I am right now. And I know Anakin feels the very same way.
"You did it!" Ani says as he scoops Shmi up in his arms. He covers her chubby cheeks in kisses, making her giggle and pull at his hair. "Can you believe they're walking already?" Ani asks me, his eyes bright with excitement. "Only a year old today and already walking! They're both geniuses, Padmé, geniuses!"
I smile, not having the heart to tell him that many children walk at one year of age, sometimes even younger. The pride he has in our children warms my heart. With Luke and Leia weeks away from the Trials, he's had his hands full with helping them fine tune their skills. And yet, even still he has managed to spend time with our new twins. We are both enjoying our time with little Jobal and Shmi, savouring each milestone and new discovery they make as they journey through babyhood. Neither of us will ever get past the fact that we missed out on Luke and Leia's infancy and most of their childhood, nor will we ever forget the little one we lost. But Shmi and Jobal have brought a joy to our lives we've never known, and a sense of completion that has strengthened the bond between Anakin and me. It's hard to imagine him now as anything but the loving father and husband he has become; the dark lord he once was is gone forever, and I find it difficult to even remember him in that way. I know he will never forget though, and even though he's never admitted it, I know that he still has nightmares about the time he spent in the Darkness.
"Shouldn't Luke and Leia be here by now?" Anakin asks as we bring the twins into the dining room for supper. "It's not every day their little sisters have their first birthday."
"They'll be here," I assure him. "You know how they both adore the babies."
"Well can you blame them?" Anakin replies, looking down at Shmi with a smile. He plants a kiss on the back of her neck, making her giggle.
I smile. "Not at all," I reply.
Voice of Anakin Skywalker
Luke and Leia arrive just as dinner is about to be served. I listen to them trying to blame the other for their late arrival and simply smile.
"So long as you're both here, does it really matter?" Padmé speaks up finally, ever the diplomat.
Luke and Leia look at each other. "I guess not," Leia admits finally. "Even if it was his fault," she can't resist adding. Luke wisely says nothing, but shakes his head in disbelief.
"I thought Han would be joining us tonight," Padmé asks.
Leia looks up at Padmé and then shoots a quick glance my way before looking back at her mother. "I…I don't know," she replies.
"He was invited, wasn't he?" Padmé asks, looking at me. She knows I'm not happy about Leia dating Han, but doesn't seem to share my concerns.
"I don't know, was he?" I ask nonchalantly.
"Of course he was," Luke pipes up. "He's always here for birthday dinners."
"Yeah, well I don't…" Leia begins, and then stops as Han enters the room. The feelings I sense from my eldest daughter as she looks at him are not hard to read, even for someone who isn't Force sensitive. And although I know they are supposed to be together, it still isn't easy for me to accept. I suppose I will always think of Leia as my little girl, even though she's almost twenty-two years old.
"Sorry I'm late," Han says to Padmé. "Traffic was a nightmare," he adds, giving me a smile.
"It usually is this time of day," Padmé replies. "I'm glad you could make it, Han," she adds as he takes his usual seat. "We're all glad, aren't we Ani?"
"Yes, we're delighted," I reply automatically.
Han smiles and then looks at Leia briefly before returning his attention to Padmé. "Everything looks great, Padmé," he says. "Thanks again for the invitation."
"You're always welcome here, Han," Padmé replies. "You know that."
Dinner is followed by birthday cake, as well as a veritable mountain of presents. The twins seem far more interested in the wrappings however than the gifts within them. They're so precious, my little ones. All of my children are, but I'm so grateful to have the chance to raise Jobal and Shmi in a way that I couldn't with Luke and Leia. I know I will never take for granted any moment I can share with them. Life is good to me, finally, and it seems that at long last I know what peace is.
I look up at Leia, who's handing me a piece of cake with a generous dollop of ice-cream on the side. She studies me for a moment. "You okay?"
"Yes," I reply, taking the plate from her. "I'm better than okay, actually," I add.
Leia smiles, and then gives me a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for not making Han feel like an intruder," she whispers in my ear. "You're his hero you know."
I look over at the man who will undoubtedly be my son-in-law one day and nod. "I know," I reply. "He's a good man, Leia," I tell her. "This is just going to take some getting used to."
She nods. "I know that," she replies. "But we've all had to get used to a lot lately, haven't we?"
I smile as my gaze drifts to the newest members of our family, each of whose faces are now covered in ice cream. "You can say that again," I reply.
Shmi and Jobal finally settle after an inordinately long time, the extra sugar at bed time doing nothing to help calm them down after the excitement of presents. Luke and Leia have also gone to bed, and the house is quiet as I join Padmé in our bed.
"I think everyone had a nice time, don't you?" she asks as she snuggles next to me.
"Yes," I reply, putting my arm around her. "Especially the babies."
Padmé smiles, but says nothing for a moment or two. "I wish my parents could have met our children," she says finally, and I can sense her sadness. "They would have adored them."
"They would have," I agree. "My mother would have as well," I add.
She nods, and is pensive for a moment. "You know, I've come to realize that life is too short, too precious to dwell on the past," she says. "Life goes by too quickly not to live each moment to the fullest."
I nod and kiss the top of her head. "I couldn't agree more," I tell her. "Not many people are given the opportunities that I have," I comment.
Padmé looks up at me. "You mean having your injuries fixed? When you thought they were beyond repair?"
"Well, that's part of it," I reply. "Most I mean you, Padmé," I tell her.
"Me?" she asks.
"Yes," I reply, kissing the top of her head. "You. You've given my life meaning, Padmé," I tell her. "I define myself in terms of my relationship with you and the family you've given me," I explain. "Not only that, you've forgiven me more times than I can count," I go on. "And most of the time I didn't merit forgiveness. I must be the luckiest man in the universe."
Padmé says nothing for a moment, but I can sense how my words have touched her. "I thought the Jedi didn't believe in luck," she says at last, looking up at me with a smile.
I laugh. "Well, it's been my experience that the Jedi aren't always right," I tell her. "But don't tell Obi-Wan I said so," I hasten to add.
She smiles. "Not a word," she replies, snuggling down into my embrace.