Anakin smiled broadly, "Luke! Mara! Thank you both so much, it's an honor I don't deserve."
Luke smiled and replied, "You do father. Trust me. We decided to call him Anakin, because of several things. Firstly, I want him to have a name that instills courage and bravery in him. Secondly, it is my privilege to honor the man who gave me life, and changed my life. Thirdly, it was the sound of Mara's voice calling out your name that saved my memories. I knew that I teetered on the edge of losing everything, but I didn't. The sound of her voice and your name…that name saved me."
Anakin sighed, "I still cannot thank you enough for the honor. I am so very proud." He looked down at his precious little grandson, and then looked at his daughter 'Leia? Would you like to hold your nephew?"
Leia smiled brilliantly, gently taking her tiny nephew into her arms, "Aww, come here little Ani."
Anakin, Luke and Mara all intervened hastily, "NO!"
Leia jumped and her father explained, "Not 'Ani' that's a girl's name. I loathed being called Ani. I only ever tolerated it from my mother and Padme."
Leia rolled her eyes and spoke directly to the bundle in her arms, "Don't listen to them. I'm going to be your favorite aunt and I know you'll allow me to call you whatever I wish."
Luke shook his head taking in Mara and Anakin's stern expressions and replied, "Don't count on it Aunt Leia."
Padme mopped up her face; this had been such a blissful day. She was so moved by it all, Luke getting his memory back and the birth of little Anakin. How much her family had recovered from the deep grief they had experienced. How all of their trials led them here to this precious moment...the birth of her grandson, the son of her Luke.
And he was so perfect. Weighing in a 7 pounds and 6 ounces, 21 inches long, all ten fingers and toes, his head lightly spackled with soft red hair. Mara yawned and tried to cover it with the back of her hand, but Luke caught it, "All right everyone, I think mommy needs some rest."
Anakin acted as the spokesperson of the group as Han cooed at the baby in the background, "Of course, I imagine you all need your rest. We'll come back tomorrow."
Luke replied, "I'll walk you out Father."
L'wren handed Anakin back to Mara and asked, "Is there anything you need my dear?"
Mara sighed happily staring into the face of her son, "No L'wren thank you."
Luke walked his family out of the temple feeling wonderfully euphoric and embraced them all again, 'Thank you all so much for everything. You are the most amazing family anyone could ever have. Thank you for standing by me, and Mara in my absence, it means more to me than you could ever know. For the record mother…"
He took her hand affectionately, "You were right, everything feels different now."
Padme smiled, "I knew it would be that way."
Luke bid fare well to his parents and moved quickly back to his new little family. He sat next to Mara in the bed and wrapped one arm affectionately around her shoulders, the other hand he rested on the small chest of his son and watched in marvel as it rose and fell.
Mara looked at him in awe and said, "Luke, I'm so happy you're here. It feels like a dream. For this, for him and look at him…he's perfect. After everything…he's perfect."
Luke kissed the side of her head and asked, "You were really scared weren't you? That something would be wrong with him."
Mara nodded, "I was terrified. We went through so much he and I, there was so many things that could have gone wrong."
Luke replied softly, "I know. But you protected him, you shielded him from harm. You're the reason that he's perfectly fine. Mara, I am so proud of you. Thank you sweetheart. Thank you for our son."
Mara smiled and tried to stifle another yawn. He nodded, "Okay. Give me this little guy, and you get some sleep. It's been a long day."
Mara looked down at Anakin then at her husband with trepidation "Luke-"
Luke smiled, "Afraid I'll disappear again?"
Mara narrowed her eyes at him, "That's not so far-fetched if you recall you do tend to sneak off while I am asleep. You womp-rat, remind me to beat you senseless for that by the way."
Luke took the dozing newborn out of Mara's arms and smiled, "Fine, I deserve that and you're more than welcome to after you get some sleep. Healing trance Mara, no cutting corners."
She smiled at him and said, "I wouldn't, I need to cover quickly."
Luke teased, "So we can get started on a brother or sister for Anakin? Maybe we'll try for twins next time!"
Mara didn't retort, she found herself being pulled into a deep sleep.
He slid into a plush rocker by her bed with his son cradled tightly into his arms. "Hello my little one. I'm your Daddy; I want you to know upfront that there is no pressure with the name. If you want to be a Jedi you can, if you want to be a Politician like your aunt and grandma you can do that too, you can be anything you want to be I just want you to be happy."
His son gave a little sigh, and nestled against Luke's chest. His heart melted, he looked down in the face of his perfect son, and over at the serene beautiful woman who he called his wife. How fortunate he was…he could have lost everything so easily.
How many times in the last year had his life hung in the balance? How many times had Mara's? And their sons'?
He could remember the hell he had experienced at the hands of the Emperor, both the true Emperor and his demented clone. He was grateful to be part of his family, the Skywalkers would always rise to meet the challenges of the galaxy and everyone would always turn to them to be the heroes. Would his son be privy to that responsibility? The heavy burden of a destiny to live up to...
But – he thought looking down at his sleeping child. Just maybe Anakin could have a different life, he was special the force made certain of that. There was no record of a child being born between two Jedi. Would his destiny demand that he also be a Jedi? Would he long for a normal life the way that Luke longed for adventure?
Would Anakin stare at the city lights and long for something simpler?
Luke resolved that Anakin's life would be exactly as he made it. He would be able to make his own decisions. He wouldn't be governed by the sins and destinies of others. His life wouldn't be pre-ordained.
"I want you to have everything in this world. I hope I can give it to you."
Mara hissed as she shoved herself off of the bed, "Force!"
Luke chastised, "Hey! You just gave birth go easy on yourself!"
She sent him a sharp look, "You go easy! All I've been doing for the past nine months is going easy. I'm ready to not go easy."
He smiled at her and asked suggestively, "Oh really?"
She lightly swatted at him and said, "Shut up you. All right come and help your poor invalid."
Luke rolled his eyes and sat Anakin down in the bassinet, "You were just discharged this morning Mara. You'll be flooring everyone in the sparring room in no time. But you're never gonna be in peak condition if you don't heal properly."
Mara pulled her tunic over her head, "Gods Luke you really do have that Skywalker Superiority down pat don't you?"
Luke scowled at her, "No, I'm just serious about looking out for my wife who gave birth two days ago. Which, and I could be wrong about this considering I've never done it, but I hear it is a fairly arduous task."
Mara shook her head at him, "Maybe we can arrange for you to do it next time. Luke, how is it that you can get on my nerves so badly and are still so adorable while doing it?"
Luke shrugged, "Another Skywalker trait at work I suppose."
Mara scooped Anakin out of his bassinet, "How's my handsome boy? Hungry? Why do I even ask, he certainly inherited your Skywalker appetite."
She sat in her rocker Luke had placed by the bassinet and began to nurse the baby.
Luke smiled and said, "Well, one thing is for certain we do make some great looking babies."
Mara smiled at her son's little face and agreed, "That we do. Luke, I never imagine that I could be so happy. After we married I was so thrilled and in love, but now it's like my whole perspective has changed. Now with Anakin here everything feels complete. I never even thought I wanted children...or a husband. I was content being solitary, I didn't realize what I could have."
Luke felt his own heart swell inside of him at her words. Everything had been done to keep them apart, and failed. Still they held strongly to one another, he prayed that they always would.
Mara asked teasingly, "Think he'll have your temper…or mine?"
Luke sighed, "Force willing, mine."
Mara threw a soft burp cloth at him, "Hey!"
Luke picked it up and smiled, "See what I mean?"
Mara looked at him and asked thoughtfully, "How did we get so lucky?"
Luke laughed, "Ha! I think we paid our dues sweetheart. In the last year you've spent about five months thinking I was dead, on two different occasions. That's pretty rough, not to mention the two months you spent being brutally tortured and starved, then you were poisoned with the dark side of the force, I was in a ship accident and lost my memory, and all this after I was cast into open space without the force. I think we're due some happiness."
Mara swallowed a lump in her throat, 'When you say it all like that it makes it more real. We have been through a lot in this last year. It hasn't really let up. At least we don't have to worry about Palpatine anymore."
Luke took Anakin from her and laid him over his shoulder and began to pat him softly on the back, "True, I don't think we'll ever come across another foe we can say we've both killed."
Mara fastened her tunic and replied, "Yeah hopefully we don't run across that again. Why do I feel a sense that it isn't over? That there is something else out there? I can't really place it just a sense that we haven't seen the end of this."
Luke nodded, "I do too. Something about this that isn't quite finished. But, I'm sure it will come out in time. Meanwhile let's just enjoy this little peace while we can. Force knows we have earned it. We shouldn't think of the bad times of the past year lets think of the good times...we fell in love, got married, had a baby...you know all really great things. Let's just be grateful we are here now."
Mara smiled at him holding their son in the low light of the early morning hours.
What would she have done if Luke hadn't returned? If something had happened to her baby like she feared?
What would she have done?
Could she have carried on?
Mara knew that she couldn't answer that with any kind of certainty. Live for the moment…that's what they'd talked about on their wedding night. Cherish the peace while they still could. Would she always be a cautious creature by nature? Always looking toward the horizon with a bit of hesitation and fear. She looked at her optimistic husband who was always full of hope, he was certain that they could face any danger or threat that arose. She wished the she could be like that.
But who said that she couldn't?
After all here she was a married woman, deeply in love with her husband and with a beautiful newborn son, she had a family that she loved dearly, and she didn't want for anything. Why couldn't she just consider herself lucky and move on?
She resolved to try...
What had L'wren said about the mountains? Oh that's right…'very rarely is anything worth someone great like yourself very simple, most of the time you will find it quite challenging, but take heart, you will find your way to the summit.'
Had she finally reached it? Were all the trials and heartaches finished? She knew that it wasn't over, not yet. There was still trouble on the horizon.
She looked at her husband again, her eyes filling with determination.
Like the fighters they were they would always rise to meet the challenge, and live for more moments like this one. It was wonderful moments like this that would sustain her through the darkness. It would sustain them both.
Deep in the earth was a room hidden from sight. Shira Brie lay on the table a broken woman, a half human yet she was the last hope there was. She could feel her extremities although she knew that they were gone. For a long while all she could feel was the breath coming into and leaving her lungs, her heart ceased to beat, blood ceased flowing through her broken veins.
Why wasn't she dead? Or was she? Was this hell?
Her consciousness stirred, how did she get here? Who had come to her aid?
She remembered Mara severing the majority of her extremities...she remembered lying face down in sharp gravel waiting to die. Where was her master? Where was his kriffing pseudo apprentice?
One more thing registered. Pain.
Pain like she had never felt before ripped through her.
"Where is your pain?"
She heard a mechanical voice asking…droids…they always asked stupid questions…next it would ask her what kind of pain it was.
There wasn't any kind of pain that it WASN'T!
Throbbing, stinging, burning, crushing, pinching, tearing, shooting, cramping, stabbing, sharp, pressure…it was all there and it was everywhere.
She was surprised at the rate she was clenching her teeth that they hadn't shattered into dust. Finally, she could bear no more and let out a hideous scream that echoed off of the walls of the small room.
She was turned roughly and felt a another sharp stick to her spine. The pain began to subside…she exhaled shakily.
"Where am I?" she asked, not recognizing her own ragged voice as it left her throat.
A mechanical disembodied voice answered, "You are safe Lady Sith, for now that is all you need know."
Author's Note ~ Thank you for reading Duel of the Fates I named it thus to show how Luke's life could have gone two different ways had Mara not intervened in the end.
I thank all of you sincerely who have read and reviewed this story, and a big thank you to Hazel04 for her unwavering support when I've met problems in the plot.
As you can see I've left you on a bit of a cliffhanger, the third story will be coming soon. Until then...