“Luke,” Leia says, and he looks up from his careful preparation of their two cups of hot chocolate with an expression that Leia knows means he’s onto her. She hesitates, but then plows forward before she can prove him right in his split second assessment, which is probably something along the lines of Leia’s about to say something she’ll regret. “I need to ask you a question.”
Questions, Leia has come to know, are very rarely simple, weightless things. They carry things with them, heavy or not, things that you don’t even recognize are being carried until the bag spills open and its contents scatter across the floor.
Leia twists her wedding ring around her finger and looks her brother in the eye, because she refuses to prove his intuition right; she won’t regret this question, baggage or no.
Luke taps his finger against the larger of the two mugs, the one he appropriated from Han’s collection years and years ago that reads Intergalactic Smashball Championships and has at least two chips along the rim. The kitchen’s lighting is dim, turned down as any sane individual might manage their kitchen lights at such a late hour, and it throws soft shadows behind Luke’s frumpy figure; his hair is a mop like always, perhaps a bit in need of a cut, and his clothes are soft things that Leia’s certain she hasn’t seen him wear anywhere but their apartment for a while now.
She wants to say that her ability to pick up on these things is because she’s a mother now, or something equally as oft-repeated and filled with air (Fey’lya went out of his way to bring this line of thought up at a council meeting the other day, and Leia would be lying if she didn’t admit that she’s still seething a little), but truth be told Leia’s pretty sure she’s had the uncanny ability to know the smallest of Luke things from the moment they met in that dull grey cell.
Privately, she makes a face at the Force and concedes a point to it in their longstanding mostly-friendly feud.
And here it comes:
“Do you – did you ever learn,” she starts slowly, nail picking at the varnish on the wooden table, now, ring left alone, “what our – that is to say. Did you ever learn more about our background?”
Luke’s fingers still against the ceramic of the mug.
“How do you mean?”
“Because I was – just. Wondering. What his name meant.”
“What his name meant?”
She stops her picking and reaches across the table to tug her own mug towards herself.
“It was just a thought.”
He rolls his lip between his teeth and raises the chipped cup to his mouth, sighing almost imperceptibly through his nose.
“Never mind,” she says, and takes a sip of her chocolate. It warms her down to the tips of her fingers, and some of the nervous tension bunched up in her gut untwists.
Luke’s always been so terribly good at making hot chocolate.
“No, it’s – ” He scratches absently at the bridge of his nose and glances towards the living room of their apartment, to where Han is sprawled, exhausted, asleep on the couch with Jaina snuggled against his chest and Jacen curled up at his side religiously sucking his index finger. “I honestly don’t know.”
“Oh,” says Leia. “Of course. That’s – right, it makes sense.”
“If you don’t mind me asking. Is there a reason for …?”
She sighs, watches the steam from the chocolate spiral upwards under the kitchen lights. There was a time, almost four years ago now, that it was at the forefront of her mind. She’s shoved it all the way to the back by now, like she usually does, which is probably terribly bad as far as the Force is concerned, but Leia is stubborn that way. Weird how having kids always inexplicably connects her back to – this – like each new life reaches out into the depths of Leia and pulls out everything she doesn’t want to deal with. But then maybe not so weird, either. It’s a familial thing, after all. And Luke had once mentioned, casual and aimless in those early months of the Rebellion, something about Tatoo names always being given with weeks and months of forethought behind them.
Leia remembers the burning heat and her grandmother’s voice filtering through the cracked holo and inhales, deeply. “No. Not really.”
Luke frowns slightly. “And you know if there’s anything that you need to –”
“Yes, Luke,” she says, and this time a genuine smile tugs at her lips. “I’ve known I could talk to you about anything at all from the second day I knew you.”
He grins, easy as their back-and-forth, his smile a little bit lopsided and somehow even brighter for the hint of weariness it carries. “It’s easier now, that I can tell what you’re feeling. Then I don’t have to look so pathetically confused every time you do come to talk.”
“Hey,” she says, frowning. “I was not that bad.” And neither were you, she wants to add, but maybe he already knows that.
“My poor naïve self had to listen to non-stop half-hour rants about my best friend while trying to figure out your persistently blushing cheeks and try to be diplomatic about it –”
“Oh, shush, you.”
His grin widens, and he raises his mug as though saluting her. “I can at least say I got one ‘I told you so’ in there.”
“In a brilliant display of what utterly miserable timing we both have, yes.”
He glances back to the living room, and this time she follows his gaze, allows the smile to grow larger. She hates that couch, she really does – the cushions are too large and the colour goes too well with the rest of the apartment and there’s still a tiny part of her that, after years of living off stale ration bars and sleeping on hard Alliance camp cots, joins Han in not being used to the particular kind of extravagancy that means your couch is very a la mode but uncomfortable as all hells. Luke takes another sip of his chocolate and chuckles softly under his breath.
“You know, he’s the last person in the galaxy I’d have expected to be anything close to a stay-at-home dad.”
She snorts, and he looks over at her.
“Han is the antithesis of normal stay-at-home dad.”
“For one thing, he doesn’t actually stay at home –”
“You know what I mean –”
“And secondly –” She stops, frowns suddenly at the fact that she’s not quite sure what to say. “I wish we didn’t have to live on Coruscant.”
Luke’s eyebrows jump up. “Because Han can’t fulfill his true calling as a normal stay at home dad?”
Normal is such a strange word, isn’t it, and Leia can’t help but make a face at that – that feeling, that all the words she once knew as a teenager not nearly as obviously starry-eyed as Luke might have been, but more naive than she could ever imagine herself being now – they’re all different, somehow. Like every definition and meaning and set of implications she once knew has shifted and changed and permuted into something new. Words have meaning, names have meaning, emotions have more meaning than ever before – questions, Leia think. Questions carry things she didn’t think could be carried. It’s a heavy sort of thing to think about. Not difficult, per say, but – heavy.
“No, you gurf,” says Leia, just because she can say that, to Luke, without worrying about meanings. “ I just –”
“It’s okay,” says Luke quietly. (There you go, thinks Leia.) “I know what you meant.”
That was a given, she thinks with a tick of a smile, but her mouth pulls down in almost the same breath.
“I’m having another baby,” she says, and twists her fingers around her mug as a small thrill jumps through her gut (it never gets old). “And last time it was so – not – I just need to have a baby, you know?”
“And stop stressing about intergalactic politics?” Luke taps his fingers against his mug again. “That would be nice. Less crazy for everyone else, too.”
Leia purses her lips in a way that means she’s about to tell him off for teasing again, but Luke’s smile grows more serious and he continues before she can open her mouth. She thinks again of the Force and of his need for his haircut and lets her shoulders relax, just a bit. The kitchen smells like the hot chocolate they’re drinking and the empty takeout boxes left over from dinner, the little tub of baby food that Han forgot to put back in the cooling unity before falling asleep. She won’t leave it out on principle like she would have two years ago, she thinks, because she might have done just the same; they’re all falling over from exhaustion, here.
“Leia, I know you. You’d go nuts within the week if you didn’t keep yourself busy with stuff like this. You can’t leave the installation of a crib mobile to Han and Lando without worrying a thousand things are going to go wrong, let alone leave the management of New Republic affairs to someone who undoubtedly has only half of your experience.”
She sighs, drags a hand across her eyes. The pressure of her palm helps a bit, thought she’s not sure what she means it to be helping with. “I know. But not this. Not like this, where I can’t take two steps and breathe for myself and I really really want to be making a difference, not listening to stuffy bureaucrats all day.”
“Han’s rubbing off on you,” says Luke, but the grin is only half-there. “You are making a difference, Leia.”
“I know –”
“Let me finish. You are making a difference, but if you’re unhappy, then you have every right to change things.”
“It doesn’t work that way.”
“Han doesn’t agree.”
“Han is – Han. We’ve had this conversation ten times.”
“I should be flattered that my opinion is so important.” But his eyes are twinkling cheerfully, corners crinkled like he’s holding back a laugh. “In my experience – and do not tell him I said this – Han’s usually right.”
Leia raises a skeptical eyebrow.
“Well, alright,” her brother amends. “Han’s usually right about you. Better?”
“No. I’m still confused.”
Right – another word, another meaning. Do names, like words, give meaning to someone’s life? Leia wonders, sometimes. Across from her, Luke’s eyebrows have lowered very slightly, and he looks at her: appraising, in that gentle, earnest way he has. Leia lets herself raise her eyebrows at him.
Luke sighs, and taps his knuckles against the countertop. “It’s alright to be confused sometimes, Leia. It’s not unheard of in us mere mortals of the galaxy –”
“You’re so unhelpful,” she says, and doesn’t even half mean it.
“Love you too, little sister.”
“I am older.”
(Older, for example – does that carry meaning, or is it of no consequence, to them? Easy just to toss around and laugh at, use as a weapon to tease with? Leia wonders.)
“Right. That’s it; I’m collecting my wayward family and going to bed. You, as the elder, can escort yourself out.”
He matches her grin and drops a kiss on her cheek on his way out the door, into the small but still-busy hours of the Coruscant nightlife, and she can feel his deliberate blanket of comfort, offering itself to her with a small little nudge.
And Leia – Leia wonders.