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Leia Organa--for 30 years, Solo; for 30 minutes, Skywalker--has never known anything but loss.

 

Only minutes old when she unknowingly experiences her first, she loses twice more within days. Of these early losses, one person she will never meet (but will name her son after him all the same), one she will lose again, and one she will meet only in sleep.

 

----

 

1.

 

She is wandering in a quiet open field, as one is want to do in dreams, when they first meet.

 

Leia finishes counting exactly nine clouds when she spots the woman some yards away--and instead of running in the other direction, her curiosity drives her toward the stranger. Perhaps the lady would like to pick some flowers with her.

 

When she gets closer Leia can see that the woman is wearing a blue velvet gown that sparkles with movement (she has a regal walk that Leia's mother often uses) and plaited hair. The stranger is exceedingly beautiful--and beyond that Leia gets the sense that this woman is important, that she is powerful. She also seems powerfully sad.

 

"Hello, princess," the woman says to her softly, a small smile on her face as she approaches Leia.

 

"Don't call me, 'princess,'" Leia irritatingly replies, the title one that she is already sick of at age six, sick of the distance it brings. She just wants to be a girl for once, not an adult with responsibilities and cold politeness. She doesn't want to be the person that grown-ups and fellow children alike keep at length, treat like a priceless vase, and never share secrets with.

 

The woman's smile grows larger as she replies, "Don't call me 'queen,'" and Leia gets the feeling this lady feels the exact same way about being put up on a shelf. So Leia smiles back.

 

"What should I call you, then?"

 

----

 

A few years go by.

 

In another dream they are sitting in the same field as before, talking about the governments of different planets, when she brings it up.

 

"What's a 'slave'?" Leia asks, having found the word the night before in her political science holobook. She mindlessly pulls at a chunk of grass, ripping a few blades out with her efforts.

 

When Leia glances up she sees a funny look come over Padmé's face. The woman then stares over Leia's shoulder and her lips curve downward--causing Leia to peek behind her to see what has now captured the woman's attention.

 

There's nothing there but empty field.

 

Leia looks back at Padmé and bites her lip, wondering if this is another one of those topics grown-ups refuse to say anything about--other than she'll "be told about it when she's older". She and Padmé have talked about so much, though, and Padmé always answers her questions. Leia looks down at the grass in her fist and frowns, wondering if all adults are the same after all.

 

"I understand if you can't tell me--" Leia starts, trying for the politeness her mother always reminds her about.

 

"No, it's fine. It's not you, Leia. I just wish I didn't have to explain it--which I wouldn't if it didn't exist. I didn't even know slavery existed until I was some years older than you are now. And the person I met was about your age."

 

Padmé pauses and stares intently at Leia for a few moments, seeming to decide whether to tell her something or not. Leia sits up straighter, hoping she looks trust-worthy enough.

 

"Have you ever heard about the planet Tatooine?"

 

----

 

She has several more of these dreams while she is young, every time waking up with an odd sense of both happiness and loss.

 

Leia once tries to tell her parents about these dreams--but she stops when she realizes she can't even picture what the woman looked like.

 

She doesn't, however, forget their conversations.

 

----

 

One sunny day her parents bring her to their private rooms, looking serious as they walk along the hallway.

 

It is then that they tell her the story of her adoption. The image of a woman in blue velvet comes to her waking mind for the first time and Leia knows instantly that she has been dreaming of her birth mother.

 

She also knows with an aching certainty that she will not have any of those dreams again.

 

----

 

Later people will say Leia inherited her political nature from her mother, that her mother taught her everything about the republic Leia will spend decades fighting for.

 

It is even later when Leia comes to the grand mausoleum on Naboo--thinking also of the woman whose grave is in space--that she realizes how many times over the statement is true.

 

She turns her infant and points to the painting on the wall.

 

"Say hello to one of your grandmothers, Ben."

 

----

 

Over Leia's shoulder, hidden from living eyes, two women smile.

 

----------------

 

2.

 

She is alone on Endor, quietly gazing at the stars, when the blue apparition first crackles into view.

 

Leia blinks, taking in the older man's unfamiliar face. She is positive she doesn't know who he is or why he's blue, but then--oh--she recognizes Luke's chin and his nose and--

 

"Get the kriff away from me," she snarls at the ghost of Anakin Skywalker, the man she's seen more than enough of in life and certainly doesn't want to see again now that he's finally, blessedly dead.

 

"Leia," he whispers, and her name in his voice is so mournful--but she doesn't care, she doesn't ever want to see him again.

 

"I don't know what right you think you have, why you think you can make amends after all you've done." She takes a deep breath, because she's suddenly shaking in anger. "You can't. I won't ever forgive you and I don't ever want to see you again."

 

"Leia, please, I--"

 

"No! You've done enough." And with that, she spins around and walks away, trying to put as much distance between them in as few seconds as possible.

 


Don't follow me, don't come back, she thinks fiercely, swiping at her eye as an errant tear falls down her face.

 

----

 

She doesn't see him again for a year (she relayed her disgust and anger to Luke and she's pretty sure he passed on the message).

 

Unfortunately for Leia--and as much as she tries to pretend otherwise--her stubbornness and persistence are legacies inherited from the man she is trying so hard to ignore.

 

----

 

She is laying back in a rocking chair and holding her newborn son in her arms, singing him an old Alderaanian lullaby, when her peace and happiness is interrupted once more.

 

"He has your eyes," Anakin tells her, materializing suddenly in front of her; there's a proud expression on his face as he looks down at Ben. This time he appears decades younger than before, looking to be hardly older than her. She recognizes him all the same (the resemblance to Luke now is uncanny).

 

"What did I say about staying away from me? From my family? I told you I didn't ever want to see you again!" She whispers angrily, careful not to startle Ben.

 

"I wanted to see him, he's my grandson."

 

"No, no he's not--he's the grandson of Bail Organa, and don't you ever forget it. Little pieces of genetic material don't make you family. You're not welcome here, don't begin to think otherwise."

 

"Leia....Leia, I'm so sorry," he says softly, his face crumbling. He looks pathetic and she can't begin to care.

 

"No, I won't accept it. I'm not going to forgive you. And I want you to stay away from my son--don't you dare pop in on him like you keep doing to me. You stay far, far away from him--or else I'll--" she leans forward and breaks off, wondering what kind of threat can possibly work on a ghost.

 

Anakin just looks at her mournfully, then down at Ben. He opens his mouth a few times, nothing coming out, and then purses his lips into a thin line.

 

"Okay. But if you ever--"

 

"No!"

 

"Okay." And with one last sad look into her eyes, he vanishes once more.

 

Leia breathes a sigh of relief, falling back into the chair again.

 

She is about to close her eyes when Ben starts to wail. She quickly rearranges him in her arms and starts humming the lullaby again.

 

"Don't be scared," she whispers to the little head of downy black hair. "I won't ever let him hurt you."

 

----

 

It is inevitable that Ben asks about his grandfather one day.

 

She is sitting in a chair next to Shara Bey, the two of them sitting in Shara's yard and watching their sons climb the Force tree...okay, well, Poe manages it. Ben's outstretched hands can barely touch the the lowest branch at this point; he's only really just jumping up and down, feebly attempting to grab the branch while his friend sits up in the tree and watches.

 

"Gimme a hand, Poe," Ben says with a huff, glaring up at the boy in question. Leia chuckles quietly and shares a smile with Shara.

 

It's a quiet, peaceful day for once--and if Leia closes her eyes she can almost pretend that she can stay in this moment forever.

 

Too soon, however, she feels her arm (which had fallen off the chair as she accidentally fell asleep) being shook vigorously by a small hand.

 

"Mom! Mom!" her son whispers hurriedly in her ear, and Leia opens her eyes to see Ben standing beside her chair, eyes wide and anxious.

 

"What? What is it?" she asks, looking at him from head to toe and wondering what body part he's hurt now. She doesn't see anything visibly damaged (although Ben's hair is full of twigs and he's got dirt on his fingers).

 

"I climbed the tree!! Well, Poe helped a little. But I got back down again all by myself!" and his face breaks out into a goofy grin, pleased beyond belief.

 

Leia breathes a sigh of relief, glad that at least he didn't fall out of the tree and break his arm. She ruffles his hair, then smooths back a few errant locks.

 

"That's great, sweetheart. Maybe now you can stay on the ground with me, though? We can sit here and--"

 

"Or maybe we can dig for worms! Poe says his grandpa taught him how to fish, we just need to find some worms." Ben looks at her excitedly and Leia tries for a weak smile, wishing that Han was here instead. Not that she minds digging in the dirt, not at all, but she just knows Ben will inevitably lose interest five minutes into the activity and race off somewhere else (probably inside, getting his dirty fingers all over the Damerons' furniture).

 

"Maybe next time, Ben. We probably should get going soon, anyway." Leia grabs for her datapad and glances at the time. She's about to open a new message when--

 

"What about my grandpa? Does he know how to fish? Why haven't I met him yet?"

 

Leia's heart skips a beat and her grip on the datapad loosens. It luckily falls into her lap and not onto the patio duracrete, but she doesn't even notice.

 

"Your grandpa? He--" and she thinks for a moment, staring at her six year old son's sweet face and wondering what on Yavin she should tell him.

 

"He died before you were born, sweetheart, I'm sorry." Leia is thinking of Bail Organa when she says this; she tells herself it isn't a lie, not really.

 

"I wish you could have met him--he and your grandmother taught me so much. I'll show you some holofilms of them later." Leia thinks of Padmé and Breha and tells herself that this isn't a lie either, not really.

 

She's about to say something else when Ben's eyes slide past her and his grin widens. She looks behind her and sees Poe coming out of the house, shovels in one hand and an empty container in the other. Shara's in the house behind her son; she gives Leia an amused smile and a 'what can I do, boys will be boys' shoulder shrug.

 

Leia turns back to Ben and sees the pleading look he's now giving her.

 

"Fine," she says to his unspoken question. Then she smiles at Ben, ruffling his hair once more. He huffs at her ministrations, but still allows her to kiss his cheek anyway. "Just don't bring them inside, okay?"

 

"Okay!"

 

Leia watches as the two boys run out into the yard--screaming and hollering about all the worms they're going to dig up--before leaning back in the chair and closing her eyes once more.

 

She pretends, for a moment, that she did nothing wrong in not telling Ben the full story. She pretends, for a moment, that she can deny the existence of her birth father.

 

----

 

"This is all your fault!" she screams at the apparition in front of her (who looks once again like an old man).

 

"I'm so sorry," he tells her, his voice so soft she can barely hear it.

 

"I don't want to hear an apology, I want you to do something about this--this--this mess you have created!" She throws up her hands with the last statement...before using them to cover her eyes. She quickly turns before he can see the tears that have crept into her eyes (she wipes them away angrily).

 

"Leia--Leia, I'm so sorry," he says again, his voice closer than before. She spins around to see him barely a few feet from her, far too close for comfort.

 

"Then do something about it!"

 

And before he can get another word in, she instantly regrets her words and starts again:

 

"Actually, no, don't. I don't want you anywhere near him. You've done enough. I never even told him about you and you still managed to screw him up!" If she wasn't so furious, she's certain tears would be streaming down her face at this very moment. It is a small comfort that he won't see her cry (but it hurts that he won't ever see her true pain, that he won't ever see how much he's hurt her).

 

Anakin stares at her, shocked into silence. He looks down at the floor for a moment before looking back into her eyes, a thoughtful expression on his face.

 

"Obi-wan. I'll send him to help. I'll--I'll have him bring Ben home."

 

And before she can say anything else, he disappears.

 

She is alone once again.

 

----------------

 

3.

 

Leia regrets stopping her Jedi training early exactly once--the night of the Jedi academy massacre. That night she crawls into her empty bed and weeps.

 


If only she'd learned, if only she hadn't been so afraid.

 

Amidst sobs she cries out to the man she doesn't want to acknowledge (the man whose footsteps her son is foolishly following) and begs--commands--him to bring her son back, to not show his face again to her until he does.

 

She is too distraught to see the blue-tinted figure that appears next to her bed, dark eyes filled with endless sorrow. She doesn't see him tentatively reach for her (only to quickly draw his arm back before his hand touches her back).

 

At the moment, Ben Solo is just as gone as Anakin Skywalker.

 

----

 

A few years post Starkiller Base, she is stunned into silence when they bring her the news that Kylo Ren is dead--along with his master. It's been a long time since she last was able to feel him for more than a few moments at a time (as he became more powerful he became more able to block her out, til one day she couldn't feel but a sliver of his Force presence), but she'd feel it if he was dead, wouldn't she?

 

She's not sure, and so as time goes on she loses more and more hope...until one day she realizes she can't keep holding onto that hope if she's to move on with her life, if she's to live rather than merely survive (a smaller part of her thinks that's what she'll be doing when she gives up hope--just surviving).

 

She mourns him quietly, like she has every other loss in her life.

 

It is exactly twelve months after the news first broke.

 

----

 

Months later, Leia is reading at her desk when a woman bursts into the room (Leia thinks that if she'd had anything on her desk lighter than a rock, it would've gone tumbling to the floor from the sudden wind tunnel).

 

"General, there's a ship specifically asking for your clearance."

 

Puzzled, she turns to the messenger, eyebrows raised. Perhaps if she stares at her hard enough, the woman will realize proper protocol (she must be new) and leave Leia alone. She's been getting a lot of good intel on the First Order lately and she doesn't want to be away from her desk when the informant dispatches new information.

 

"Ma'am, they're insistent. Said this arrival is something you'll want to approve yourself. They were talking real fast and I barely caught it but I think they said their name was Rey--"

 

Leia is up and out of her chair before she's finished her sentence, moving quickly to the doorway. Rey's been going back and forth a lot lately, giving only vague answers as to where she'll be--and Leia only definitely knows that Rey's been with Luke. Her heart soars as she thinks that perhaps he finally decided to come home.

 

It is only when she focuses for a moment, trying to hone upon the approaching ship using her rusty skills--while also walking as fast as possible toward the control center--that she realizes not only does Rey have a passenger with her, but that the passenger is definitely not her brother.

 

She freezes there in the hallway and reaches out tentatively with tendrils of the Force, just like her brother once taught her.

 

It can't be.

 

----

 

When she reaches the control center, a waiting aide immediately gestures to a particular station. Leia notices as she hurries over how eerily quiet the room is (and--Leia is grateful--nearly empty). Her heart pounds as she slips into the chair and leans forward--wondering frantically all the while who Rey could have with her, who else could have that particular Force signature (he's dead, he's dead, he's dead). She takes in a ragged deep breath and hits the button.

 

"Rey? What's going on?"

 

Leia counts five of her own heartbeats before the static gives way to Rey's voice.

 

"General, I'm asking your permission to land. Before you give it, I want to let you about a few matters that may affect your decision. You've been getting intel about the First Order from an anonymous informant lately, right?"

 

Rey pauses and Leia considers the question, trying to piece the information together with what she felt just moments ago (what she can still sense, if she just reaches out...). It feels like she's missing a crucial piece of information.

 

"Yes, but what does that have to do with landing the Falcon? Is my brother with you, Rey?" Leia asks, hoping that perhaps she just doesn't recognize his Force signature anymore.

 

"No," and Rey pauses again, seemingly uncertain. "But there is someone with me--which is the other matter I want to tell you about. He wouldn't--doesn't--want you to know this, but he's the one who's been leaking First Order information."

 

Leia stays silent, noticing vaguely that her heartbeat has accelerated to the point that she can both feel and hear her heart beating beneath her ribs. She will not allow herself to hope again--not again, she silently tells the misbehaving organ.

 

"He's been training with us--with Master Luke, with me--for the past fifteen or so months. He's not done by any means, but...he's better." Rey's voice softens. "He wanted to wait longer before he came to you, but Master Luke says it's time. He comes freely. You can decide if you want to see him now or...or I'll turn the ship around and we'll go back."

 

This time when Rey stops, Leia forces herself to ask the question that she doesn't want the answer to (but at the same time, oh, she does).

 

"But who's with you, Rey? You haven't said."

 

"...it's your son. Ben."

 

----

 

She watches as the two descend the ramp of the Falcon side by side, glancing at Rey for only a brief moment before focusing intently on the man next to her. She is immediately overwhelmed by how his Force presence (no longer hidden from her) is so familiar and yet so strange.

 

They come to stand a few feet before her, Rey stepping carefully to the side, and Leia takes a moment to look him over--this man who has caused her (and so many others, including himself) so much pain. He is in light-tan tunics and his long black hair is just as wild as she remembers...but now he towers over her, a physical reminder that the man who was once her son has grown up.

 

He abruptly falls to the ground and grabs at her ankles in a desperate manner that makes her almost lose her balance. It is another obvious reminder that he is not the boy she remembers, but a stranger that she knows very little of. She stands there, shocked, thoughts racing as her eyes dart repeatedly from the shuddering man at her feet to the woman standing a few feet away (the youthful Jedi who helped bring him back). 

 

Instinct takes over and Leia bends over slightly before moving a careful hand through his silky locks (just like she did when he was so much younger), wishing to say something but not knowing where to even start. He freezes at her touch and cranes his head back, tears running down his face and onto her boots.

 

This allows her to see his face clearly for the first time in over a decade--plump lips, a nose that she refused countless times to let him get fixed (for a second she hears, as if listening to an old holofilm, pieces of an old argument--The first thing anyone asks is how I broke my nose, Mom! and You'll grow into it eventually, Ben), a jagged pink scar running diagonally across his face that she knows the detailed origins of...and brown eyes that photos could never quite capture.

 

It is those eyes that she stares at now--searching for something (someone) that she is not sure exists in him anymore. 

 

(She won't ever know of the anguished and angry eyes from five years ago, though they were just older versions of the eyes she saw on a young child. She won't ever know of the frantic and hesitant eyes of even two years ago, eyes that helped persuade--along with a surrendered lightsaber and a bared neck--for two to take mercy and grant forgiveness instead of death.)

 

All she sees now is sorrow, regret, and resignation (he does not even hope for forgiveness, she thinks).

 

"I can't even begin--I'm so sorry--" he says through hiccups and sobs, choking on the last word--and as Leia looks into his eyes, she realizes she missed an emotion. Love.

 

Leia falls to her knees and pulls her son into an embrace.

 


Perhaps Ben Solo is still alive.

 

----------------

 

4.

 

She has always been very good at finishing things, while her brother's always been better at starting them--it is one of the ways they are a true complementary pair. So he is confused when she stops her Jedi training soon after its start; why, of all the stubborn and persistent people in the galaxy, she would choose to give up so very easily.

 

So she tells him an easy answer, not fully a lie: she's too old to do this, to start something that she should have been trained in long ago.

 

The real answer is one she quickly shoves into the back of her mind (where it belongs): she is too much like the man she wants to forget and she's afraid she'll follow in his heavy footsteps.

 

----

 

Early on after Endor, her brother had tried to persuade her to acknowledge Anakin Skywalker. First, in an overly optimistic attempt, to just talk to him--or his Force Ghost, rather. Later, just to acknowledge him as her father. It becomes a frequent argument between them, perhaps the only true disagreement they've ever had.

 

It is during one of these recurrent arguments that she reminds her brother that she had a father--and his name was Bail Organa. Luke barely manages to not roll his eyes (although she can't mistake the hurt and longing in them at the thought of a comforting father he never had). 

 

"I've lost people I cared about too, you know--"

 

And he gets right down to one reason why she's so upset about this idea, about him pressing this label onto a man who was never and will never be the father she deserved. It's probably also why she snaps--somehow the idea that he understands her so well, though they've known each other comparatively few years (as if they hadn't been separated at birth and for most of their lifetimes), just makes her even angrier about the past she could have had and the man who ruined everything.

 

"Try losing an entire planet worth of people you care about, and then get back to me," she bites at him before quickly turning on her heel and seeking solace in her room.

 

He apologizes the next morning, an apology she waves away. It's too bad she can't wave away her anger or hurt. It's too bad she can't wave away the father she never wanted.

 

----

 

It is only after history repeats itself that she recalls the words she said so many years ago. She has never regretted words more.

 

Except, perhaps, those she said right before Alderaan was destroyed.

 

----

 

Her son has finally, finally come home and still her brother persists in keeping his distance. It puzzles her exceedingly, but she still has the war to worry about and all kinds of responsibilities that cannot be so easily ignored to take a moment to drag Luke back home by his beard.

 

So she waits, something she is fairly good at it.

 

Her brother, it turns out, has become better than her at this during his self-imposed exile. So she finally caves one day, months after Ben has come home, asking Rey for a way to contact Luke--even just to talk.

 

She doesn't even let him speak before she holds the com to her mouth and begins bluntly.

 

"What's keeping you from coming back?"

 

There's a pause on the other end of the line before Luke chuckles hesitantly. She pictures him smiling and stroking his beard as he thinks through all the possible answers he can give her. He probably figures there's only one answer she'll accept, one that he inevitably can't give to her.

 

"Now? Truthfully, I've been scouting new locations...for when it's all over." The answer is lighthearted enough, but it rings true.

 

She's about to ask him exactly what he means by that when the implication hits her--oh.

 

"I'm sorry for what I said all those years ago. I didn't mean...I didn't want...never in my worst nightmares did I think that something similar would happen to you. No one should lose a whole planet of people they care about," she says softly.

 

"I know," he replies sincerely, his voice as quiet as hers. His forgiveness comes now as easily as it did years ago.

 

There is audible static over the line as they both pause for a moment, each mulling over things that can never quite be forgotten.

 

"So you'll start over?" she asks quietly, knowing the memories associated with the old academy are more painful for him that she can imagine. She'll even admit that they're more painful than her own--in terms of numbers, he's lost dozens more children than she has. They were his family just as much as Ben is hers.

 

"No. Continue."

 

Sometimes she forgets that Luke isn't the last Jedi in the galaxy anymore. She thinks upon a recent spar in the yard, of a purple blade colliding with a blue saberstaff, and Leia smiles.

 

----

 

Ben has been proclaimed a Jedi Master and Rey a Knight by the time Leia finally sees her brother in person again, a reunion over a decade in the making.

 

They're catching up in her room after the welcome home party and laughing hysterically at a bad joke about a stormtrooper and a TIE fighter when Luke offhandedly worries to her that he won't be able to find anyone willing to come to the new academy. He figures it's more than likely no one will be willing to trust him after all that's happened; certainly no one will want to hand their children over to be destroyed by an order that never learns.

 

She's more than a little tipsy from the Corellian whiskey at this point and she has begun to hate the frown that has become a default facial expression of his--so she says the first thing that comes to mind, something that she decides firmly on right on the spot:

 

"Don't worry, I'll be your first padawan."

 

It feels good to be starting something for once. It feels even better that her brother will be there with her to finish it.

 

----------------

 

5.

 

It feels like Luke just left for his new room when she falls into the dream, a dream that must've started soon after she crashed with exhaustion upon her bed.

 

"Hello, sweetheart. I'm sorry it took me so long." 

 

And she just gapes at him--because how long has she wanted this moment and never gotten it, how long has it been since she stopped thinking of him right before bed, how long has it been since she last smelled him on her pillow?

 

"You can touch me, you know. I won't disappear into a puff of smoke or something," and to demonstrate he slowly extends an arm towards her, cups her cheek. He looks exactly like she last saw him, salt-colored hair and leather jacket and that smirk that she just wants to kiss right off his face. Oh is it him.

 

"Oh Han," she says, moving to embrace him, "You brought Ben home." Now tears are falling steadily down her face and onto his jacket, her head buried in his chest.

 

"Well, I had some help."

 

As she lifts her head to look up at him, she sees his uncertain gaze analyze her before he continues, softer: "Had some help with this, too. A lot of help, in fact. Definitely wouldn't have been able to do this on my own."

 

"Do what?"

 

"Appear like this, even if in a dream. Well, he would've wanted you to see me while awake, but this is as good as we're going to get," and seeing her questioning look, he clarifies, "Anakin. Anakin helped me with this. He helped with Ben and Luke, too, but then you knew that--"

 

No, no, she definitely did not know that--any of that.

 

When she is still silent after a period, contemplating the implications of everything, he continues hesitantly: "He figured you would want to see me much more than him. And he made a trade: his ability to appear before you--or anyone, really--so I could do this, just once. They were arguing for awhile about it, I wasn't sure they were going to agree to it."

 

He chuckles softly and though she's still trying to wrap her mind around everything, she stops for a moment to just appreciate it--the fact that she can hear his laugh again, a laugh that she hasn't heard (besides countless viewings of old holofilms) for years. She didn't realize how much she missed his laugh. It's so nice.

 

She buries her head in his chest again and hugs him closer, murmuring softly, "You can't imagine how much I've missed you."

 

He laughs again and she can practically hear the smile in his voice when he says, "Did you now? I wasn't sure. Pretty sure I assumed you were glad to be rid of me."

 

She swats the back of his head playfully and then shuts her eyes, relishing the comfort of his strong arms around her. She can even smell him (something that shouldn't be possible in a dream), a combination of leather and engine oil and something that is just uniquely him. She never wants this to end.

 

"But really," and she lifts her head because his voice has changed into a serious tone, "you should give him a chance. He's not the man you knew, Leia. I kinda like him, to be honest, and I really should be running for the hills when it comes to my father-in-law. Something about death and hindsight and yadayada. It doesn't hurt that he's pretty damn good at dejarik."

 

She searches his eyes for a moment then, for what she's not sure. Then she looks back at his jacket, still trying to wrap her head around this whole thing, to try and think of clues she missed, of things left unsaid by her other family members. She settles for a neutral answer, mumbling, "According to what you've said, I don't think that's an option." 

 

And even as she's saying that, she thinks back to all the times Anakin Skywalker appeared before her after his death, all the times she yelled at him to stay away, all the times he stayed silent and accepted whatever punishment she felt fit to deliver to him. All the people he's brought back to her, if Han's to be believed (and why would he lie now, of all times?). She thinks about the time she ordered her father to stay away from her infant son and the time she ordered him to not visit her again until he'd brought teenage Ben home for good.

 

Now she won't ever see her father again. Exactly what she had always wanted.

 

She looks up at Han again, his face soft and uncertain. "I'm glad he gave me this--that he gave me you, even if this is only for a moment. I'm not looking forward to waking up and being alone again," and she chuckles, a sad counterpart to his light laugh from before.

 

"I'm sorry it's not for longer," he says. "He tried, really. They were hesitant in even allowing this much--too much of blurry lines and stuff. That and me not being Force-sensitive, because clearly that's all that matters here." He grins at her, and oh, she forgot about his grin, too. She's missed all of him so very much.

 

"I love you," she tells him, trying to fit as much as she can into those three words and knowing it's not enough. It will never be enough, not until she sees him again.

 

"I know."

 

----------------

 
+1. (+2.)

 

"It's just you and me now."

 

Leia looks down at the two downy heads, the newborns cradled in the crook of each arm. They don't appear to be looking at her, however, and one twin's eyes even appear to be drooping in exhaustion.

 

"I'm sorry I'm not the best entertainment. I'll leave that to your parents, when they get back." She smiles down at them for a moment before settling back in the chair and reclining into a more comfortable position.

 

"Somehow, in all the excitement--and with nine whole months to plan!--your parents forgot to think of names for you. I think your father was so shocked at the pregnancy news, then the news that there was going to be two of you, that all intelligent thought left his brain. Your mother...well," and here Leia leans her head conspiratorially down toward the twins, "I don't blame her. She's had a lot of responsibilities to deal with the last couple years and you two didn't make the last few months easy for her. Anyway, I shooed them both away so they can argue about names together without disturbing you sweethearts."

 

She gently thumbs through the infants' hair, smiling bemusedly. They would be born with thick heads of hair, of course; considering both sides of the twins' family, that was no surprise.

 

"I hope they come up with names soon; otherwise I'll have to resort to calling you Twin A and you Twin B. I gently suggested to your parents that they resist the urge to name you after dead family members; I think you'll both enjoy carving out your own legacies."

 

Leia thinks of her son, of all that has happened over the past seven years--of also what is to come in the next seven years--and thinks that perhaps he has managed to create his own legacy anyway.

 

"And can I tell you something I'm very glad of? I'm very happy knowing I won't have to worry about you two abandoning me--the women in our family don't run away, no matter how tough things get. We're all very strong, and I know you will be too."

 

She can feel their presences in the Force, of how strong they already are; Leia pictures them older for a moment, perhaps ten years down the line (she hopes she'll still be there to see it), sparring with lightsabers and knocking things over and driving their parents absolutely crazy. 

 

They're happy in this vision, though. They're all unbelievably happy.

 

"Besides, your mother has enough abandonment issues--both your parents do--and so do I. We'd all appreciate it if you didn't break our hearts again; I'm not sure your parents would handle it well," she says, lightly squeezing both girls closer to her chest.

 

"However, I will say that the men in our family do come back....eventually. Even if it takes some of them longer than others, even if it takes so much longer than you wanted. They come back. And they love passionately--that's another thing about them. So do we, really. The people in our family love very deeply and wildly. It's a blessing and a curse."

 

When Leia glances down at the twins, she sees that both of their eyes have drifted shut. She's lulled them to sleep with her rambling, it seems (she can just see Han smirking; sure sign you're getting older, sweetheart). A bemused grin forms as she studies them quietly, cataloguing the subtle differences between the two.

 

They're a blend of their parents (and she can already see features on one twin that a certain someone bemoaned about), and they'll probably be stronger in the Force than both.

 

Leia grins harder when she thinks of their parents, probably still arguing over names a few rooms away. It reminds her very much of a time four decades ago, of naming someone else in this family. Thank the spirits she didn't have twins (though she is happy to help out with these two).

 

"Your parents love you both so very much already. You can't even imagine just how much...your parents will do absolutely anything for you. They'll give anything to see you happy. Mine certainly did," she tells them, thinking of how she was twice blessed.

 

"I wish I could introduce you to my parents--your great-grandparents--but they all died long before even your parents were born. You'd like them. Padmé would make you think and Breha would make you smile and Bail would fight for you--believe in you even when you didn't believe in yourself....and Anakin? He'd...he'd always be there for you, even when you said and did the wrong things."

 

Leia thinks of all the times she yelled at him, of stay away from me and this is all your fault! and him just taking it all--of him staying silent and letting her express her grief and anger in the only ways she knew how. Of him staying away, of him bringing her family back to her, of him dealing away his time with her just so she could have someone she loved back...if only for a moment.

 

"I didn't get enough time with any of them...but I regret my time with your great-grandpa Anakin the most. He hurt me a lot...but I spent so much time hating him that I didn't get a chance to appreciate him before he disappeared for good."

 

She also thinks of Alderaan and torture and Han in carbonite and other things she'd rather sooner forget (even though she can't, she won't). Adding up all the good things he did for her and subtracting out all the bad should tell her what she already knows, that he can't possibly make amends for all he did in life.

 

Yet she now has a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of loss when it comes to her birth father.

 

It doesn't add up. But life doesn't work like that. Mercy and forgiveness and love don't work like that.

 

"I wish he could be here--to see this, to see you two."

 

She looks out at the stars wistfully and closes her eyes--and for a moment, she can almost hear him (Leia, with that same mournful tone as the first time). I forgive you, she thinks. Then the twins start to fuss in her arms and Leia forces her eyes open again. 

 

Suddenly in front at her, blue-tinted and smiling broader than ever, is Anakin Skywalker.

 

She looks down at the twins, awake once again, and gently turns them toward her father.

 

"Say hello to your great-grandfather, girls."

 

And Leia smiles.