Disclaimer: I don't own any of these people, by the way.
Summary: Anakin Skywalker returns to visit his grandchildren and ask a favor of his son and daughter, a favor that answers the greatest question they have about their past.
The funny man was very tall. He was probably taller than Papa. But he was different than Papa. I could touch Papa, and I couldn't touch the funny man. Every time I tried, my hand fell right through him.
Jaina thinks he's a ghost.
Maybe he is, but I don't really care. He tells us funny stories. He smiles at us a lot, but he smiles like Uncle Luke. When my papa smiles, his eyes sparkle. It's like his eyes are smiling too.
When my Uncle Luke smiles, his eyes stay quiet. Kind of like he doesnt really feel like smiling. And that's how the funny man smiles.
It's like he smiles to make us feel better.
Jaina says she wants him to smile because he wants to smile. She wants him to smile like he means it.
I want to know where he learned to tell stories. His stories are always fun and full of adventures with space ships and daring races and alien enemies. In his stories, he goes on wild treks across the universe, fighting for peace and saving his friend from certain death.
His friend always seems to get into trouble.
So we sit and listen to his stories, Anakin and Jaina and me. We love to listen to him talk. I know Winter thinks we're talking to each other with the Force. We do that sometimes too. But most of the time, we're listening to the funny man.
Whenever he comes, he tells us stories, but he always leaves before Mama gets home.
I want him to see Mama because we told him how pretty she is. We told him all about Papa and Chewbacca and Uncle Luke and Threepio and Artoo. He seemed really interested in Threepio and Artoo.
But no matter how much we ask him to stay, he always leaves before she gets home.
Jaina says he's scared of Mama.
I can understand that. Mama can be scary.
But the funny man doesn't seem like he gets scared very often.
Maybe someday he'll stay. I think he'll like my Mama.
Chapter One The Presence
The penthouse was luxurious but not overly so. If nothing else, it was functional. It had no need to be anything else since its residents were so rarely there. The Solo family was always busy running somewhere, whether to the newly reformed Senate chambers, the local playground, or on some covert military mission.
The front door slid open with a whisper, revealing a small woman with long dark hair pinned up around the crown of her head in a simple braided style. Her clothing was simple too, a plain white dress with a silver mantle that nearly dragged the floor. She radiated an aura of power and intelligence and elegance, though, in her manner of walking and in the angle at which she held her head.
Chief of State Leia Organa Solo was not a woman to anger on the Senate floor. Her skill at debate, knowledge of most planets' culture and history, and sense of justice and fairness sent most dissenters cowering to the corners of the senate chambers and discouraged arguments from breaking out in the first place.
She was the daughter of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, a Jedi of the Old Court and a Queen of Naboo. She was the adopted daughter of Baal Organa, a mighty Alderaanian Senator of the Old Republic. She was the twin sister of Luke Skywalker, the last remaining Jedi who had defeated Darth Vader. She was the wife of Han Solo, the brave general who had won many battles in the rebellion against the Empire. She was famous in every corner of the known universe, even in the systems that had refused to participate in the New Republic.
But when she walked through the sliding door to her home, she was just Leia, mother, wife, sister, and woman who loved her family.
She smiled as she stepped into the penthouse and walked toward her room. She could hear the sounds of her children playing in the other room. Undoubtedly, Winter had kept them busy all day. Leia felt a stab of guilt for having to leave her children so often, but the New Republic was young and if she did not fulfill her duties it would fall into chaos. She and Han spent as much time with them as they could.
She walked into her room and changed into a comfortable pantsuit. The last time she had gone to the children directly after returning home, Anakin had spilled juice on her robes. The stain had yet to come out.
After changing, she walked to the playroom door where she could hear laughter.
The door slid open, and she smiled at the sight of her three children playing on the floor. Jaina, the little mother, followed Jacen and Anakin around constantly, making sure they didn't hurt themselves. Jacen, the little rebel, seemed intent on making his twin sister worry. Anakin, the youngest, quietly sat on the floor, taking apart his magnet blocks and building them into greater and greater objects.
Leia stepped into the room, and she stopped.
A wave of warmth rushed over her. She had often felt the Force breathe through her in the presence of her children. Luke had told her how strong all three of them were in the Force. But this was different.
It was as though she had passed through a solid wall of emotion, as though feelings were somehow tangible. She stepped through joy and love and immense delight and amusement, all tinged with sorrow and regret and shame. Such great shame.
It took her breath away.
Of course, her children felt her presence long before she opened the door, and when they saw her, they dropped everything they were doing and lunged at her. Leia barely regained her composure before all three of them were on her, screaming in excitement.
She hugged them all close and sat down on the floor with them to listen to their adventures from the day. She traded a look with Winter who sat serenely in the corner. Her handmaiden only smiled beautifully.
Leia listened as Jacen reinterpreted their day at the park like it had been an assault on Kessel or Sullest. Of course, Jaina interrupted him every other sentence, correcting his story to make sure his retelling was as accurate as it could be. Anakin sat quietly in her lap, leaning against her chest. He was such a sweet child.
"Then we came back home," Jacen said. "And then the funny man came and talked to us."
Leia scowled as she felt the Force tremble in her chest, a quivering sensation, like a quick intake of breath and the feeling of dread. The feel of a secret on the verge of being discovered.
"The funny man?" Leia asked, fighting the chill in her spine down.
"The funny man," Jaina chimed in. "He's funny. So we call him the funny man."
"Funny man," Anakin mumbled against her shoulder.
"Where did you meet the funny man?" Leia asked.
"He came one day," Jacen shrugged and gripped his ankles with his hands, rolling back on his hindquarters. "He visits all the time."
"And he tells us stories," Jaina said.
"Funny man," Anakin murmured, nearly asleep.
Leia glanced up at Winter, who still smiled quietly. Leia hugged all her children again.
"Mama," Jacen looked up into her face, "when will Papa be home?"
"Any day now," Leia said. "Your father and Chewy should be home sometime soon."
This seemed to cheer the children immensely. Immediately, Jacen started trying to talk like a Wookie, and Jaina quickly informed him he would never be able to reproduce the sounds Chewbacca could make.
Anakin was asleep against her chest, and when she stood, he folded himself into her arms. She walked to where Winter was sitting.
"Did they wear you out?" Leia asked.
"Yes," Winter smiled, "but I loved every minute of it. They are precious."
"Who is the funny man?"
"I think he is an imaginary friend," Winter said. "They all talk about him, and they talk to him. But I've never seen him." Winter smiled. "A part of me kind of thought it was some connection between the children. They are rather unique."
"Rather," Leia smiled. She waited a moment, watching Anakin's sleeping face and quietly laughing to herself at how much he resembled his father. "Winter?"
"Did anyone come to see the children today? Did Luke come to see them while they were here?"
"Master Skywalker?" Winter shook her head. "No, he did not come by. No one has seen them this morning. Why do you ask?"
"I feel something," Leia said. "The Force is resonating with someone's presence, but I can't tell who it is. I thought it might be Luke."
"Master Skywalker did not call today, milady."
"Oh well," Leia said. "Maybe I'm imagining it. It's not as though I've been reading the Force for very long."
"You see?" Jaina's little voice suddenly spoke.
Leia looked over at her daughter, who was sitting on the floor, gazing up at a spot on the wall.
"I told you she was pretty," Jaina said.
Leia felt her insides coil with shame and sorrow, overwhelming sadness, and suddenly it was all gone. Everything. It was like she could breathe again, without knowing she had even been restrained. The heavy presence had simply vanished.
Chapter Two Home Again
Han Solo paid the taxi cruiser extra, in hopes that would soothe his worries over the amount of Wookie hair Chewbacca had shed all over the back seat of the cab. After he watched the cruiser drive away, Han took a moment and looked up into the busy Coruscant sky. Hundredsmaybe thousandsof freighters, small cruisers, and skycars shot through the air above his head. He knew that more ships flew around below him too, in the heart of the old city-planet.
He had never liked Coruscant.
It reminded him of the Imperial Navy too much.
But this was where he needed to be. This was where Leia's work was done, and this was the best place for Luke to start a school for Jedi, in the ruins of the old Jedi Temple. So wherever Luke and Leia went, Han knew he would eventually follow.
He'd figured that out years ago.
Fortunately, even though he'd had to resign his commission to marry Leia, the new government still needed some covert operations completed, and there was no one better to run a covert operation than a former smuggler.
Chewbacca leaned out the door of the penthouse building and roared at him.
"Yeah, yeah," Han said. "I'm coming."
He turned and started toward the door where Chewbacca was waiting impatiently for him. Undoubtedly the big furry oaf was eager to see the children. Chewbacca seemed to never tire of the children and their wild antics, although he didn't seem to appreciate all the times Jaina tried to braid his hair.
Once he stepped into the lift that would take them direction to the penthouse, he started feeling eager. Eager to see his children and hold them in his arms. Eager to see Leia, feel the touch of her lips and the taste of her mouth.
As much as he enjoyed the ultra-military missions, he desperately missed his family.
He often found himself wondering when he had turned into a family man.
The lift stopped, and he and Chewbacca stepped into the penthouse. The children must have been expecting him, because the moment the door opened, three child-like bullets slammed into him so hard that they nearly knocked him over, shrieking with sheer delight.
Chewbacca roared joyfully and picked all four of them up, engulfing them in a hug so monstrous Han swore he felt his ribcage popping.
"Chewy!" Han shouted. "Put us down!"
Chewbacca roared again and set him down gently, but the children did not loosen their hold. Han had Jacen under one arm, Jaina under the other, and Anakin around his neck. None of them had any idea of letting go any time soon. All of them were chattering like Corellian jays.
Movement out of the corner of his eye caused him to look up. Winter, Leia's handmaiden, was approaching with her trademark smile.
"Master Solo," she said.
Han still cringed inwardly at the polite title, but he nodded his thanks anyway.
Winter disappeared into the next room, and Han found a spot on the couch to collapse and tickle his kids until they screamed for mercy. Chewbacca sat in his own chair at the side of the living area, watching and making content noises.
"Papa?" Jacen looked up at him.
"Yeah, kiddo?" He already knew what the question would be.
"Can we make dinner for Mama?"
"Yeah! Can we?" Jaina asked.
Han smiled. Even Anakin's face was eager.
The kids cheered and rushed for the kitchen. Han laid his head back, and Chewbacca laughed at him. Han only pointed a single finger before he stood up and followed his wild brood into the kitchen.
About a year earlier after he had returned from a mission, he had gotten home and as a surprise he and the kids had made dinner for Leia. It had become something of a tradition afterward.
The kitchen was wide and open and bright. Leia didn't often cook as there were only a few recipes she could concoct without destroying the kitchen or poisoning the family. Han had been cooking for himself and Chewbacca for many years successfully (only one supposed case of food poisoning). So Han did most of the cooking when he was home. Simple things. Nothing fancy. Leia's life was fancy enough as it was.
He moved into the kitchen and smiled as he watched the kids accumulating all the ingredients to make their favorite meal, a hearty stew with lots of meat and vegetables. He watched them float onions and potatoes and carrots out of the cooling unit, settling them easily on the countertop to be chopped.
A part of him would never cease to be amazed at how he had ended up as the father of these three incredible children. Before he had gotten involved with Luke, the Force had been some vague and distant religion that old hermits and crazy traders talked about. Now it was as intimately a part of his life as Leia was. He didn't understand it, and he couldn't control it. He couldn't see the things they saw or do the things they did, but it was still a part of his life.
It amazed him how life could change.
The children clambered onto the counter to watch him chop the vegetables while they gathered pots and pans and lids and spoons from all around the kitchen. It felt like it was raining kitchen utensils.
"Jaina, sweetheart, we don't need a skillet."
"You sure, Papa?"
Jaina looked at the wall, and the skillet hung itself up neatly.
From the doorway, Chewbacca growled at them.
"Yeah, we'll put extra onions in just for you, Chewy," Han smirked.
He started chopping and smiled as the children watched his hand motions with their eyes. He had no doubt that soon they could chop the vegetables with their Force powers too.
They laughed a lot and talked about the adventures they'd had at the park that day. Han shared what he could about his mission in as simplistic detail as he could manage. They seemed to understand just fine, and he wondered if they were reading his mind.
He hoped not.
Children their age didn't need to understand what he had to do to keep the New Republic safe.
He dumped a handful of vegetables into a pot filled with boiling stock, and he noticed that Jaina's hair was shorter than it had been when he'd left. He touched her chin and turned her head.
"You got a haircut, missy."
She beamed at him. "Yep."
"I like it."
"Me too," Jaina said. "Mama liked it too."
"Me too," Jacen chimed in.
"Me three!" Anakin announced loudly, dropping a whole carrot into the pot.
Han almost fished it out and decided against it. Hopefully the carrot would dissolve at the bottom of the pot and not end up whole in someone's bowl.
"I wanted to make my hair like Mama's," Jaina piped up, giggling.
Her brothers both burst into happy laughter.
"What?" Han smiled at them.
"Mama used to have funny hair," Jacen said. "All twisty like rolls on her head!"
Han gaped at his son. "Jacen, who told you that?"
Han knew without a doubt that Leia would never have told any of the children about the ridiculous hairstyle she used to have. She was also certain that Luke wouldn't have told them either. And their children had no contact with anyone else who knew about Leia's odd hairdos. Han was at a loss as to who might have told them about it.
"The funny man," Jacen said it as though it were common knowledge.
"The funny man?" Han asked ."Who's the funny man?"
"He's funny," Jacen said.
"He comes to see us sometimes," Jaina said.
"Funny man!" Anakin exulted and dropped a whole stalk of celery in the pot.
Han no longer cared about the unchopped vegetables going into the stew. "Has your mother met the funny man?"
"No," Jaina said.
"Well," Han said, "I think your mother and I need to meet the funny man."
"Mama can meet him," Jacen said.
"But you can't," Jaina deadpanned.
"You can't see him, Papa." Jacen was very solemn.
"Uncle Luke could see him," Jaina said. "Mama could too. But you can't."
"Why not?" Han insisted.
"Because you're not a Jedi," Jacen said matter-of-factly. "And the funny man said that only Jedi could see him."
"And why is that?" Han felt his heart beat harder.
"Because," Jaina grinned, "the funny man is a Jedi too."
Chapter Three The Theory
The door slid open, its familiar hiss seeming to linger in the air longer than usual. Leia stood in the doorway for a moment, trying to allow the tension to peel off her in the comforting scents of home.
The comforting scent of stew?
Leia straightened, her heart leaping into her throat. She had learned to appreciate the scent of Han's special stew. He only made it with the children anymore as a celebration of his return.
Han was home.
Leia didn't even bother to change and walked quickly to the kitchen where she could hear the high-pitched giggles of her children, echoed by the deep, loud laughter of her husband.
She poked her head into the kitchen. She wanted to cry at the beauty of the picture in her kitchen. Han held Jaina under one arm, who was stirring the pot of stew with a spoon she manipulated using the Force. Anakin and Jacen were dropping chunks of vegetables and meat into the pot as Jaina stirred, and Han watched with a gleam in his eyes.
They were all together again. Such times were few and far between, and Leia counted them as precious.
Anakin was the first to sense her and cried out, holding his arms up and releasing his hold on a rather large hunk of onion which plopped unceremoniously into the stew and splattered both Han and Jaina (though Jaina saw it coming and shielded herself with the Force).
Leia tried not to laugh as Han stifled a bout of cursing that probably would have peeled the paint off the walls. He flashed her a withering glance as the children all flocked to her. She hugged them and quickly moved into his open arms.
He kissed her deeply as the children groaned.
"Hey," she whispered.
"Hey, yourself." He kissed her forehead. "Stew sound good to you?"
"Sounds great, Han."
A loud roar from the back room shook them all, and the children shrieked and ran toward Chewbacca who stood in the doorway, yammering on at them as though they could understand what he was saying. The Wookie scooped the children into his arms and held them tightly, carrying them into the living room and finding his chair. The three kids immediately lapsed into telling him every story they could think of while he patiently listened (and sat while Jaina tied knots in his hair).
After a raucous and entirely hilarious dinner (no event was ever boring in the Solo family), Leia and Han finally got the kids to sleep. Chewbacca moved his chair into their room.
He often watched them as they slept. Han had been unable to convince him to do otherwise.
Han and Leia sank into their bed and lay still.
"Hi," she said to him.
"Kids sure are a lot of work."
Leia laughed and snuggled against his side. "You think?"
"Yeah, I think," he said. "And we've got it rough, sweetheart. Normal kids can't float knives and vegetables around with their minds."
"Were you more worried about the knives or the vegetables?"
"The vegetables, definitely. Ani's practically crazed when it comes to carrots."
She looked up at him.
"I need to ask you something."
Leia lifted her head and settled her chin on his chest. "Yeah?"
"Have the kids told you anything aboutwellThis sounds kind of strange."
Leia smiled. "The funny man?"
Han took a deep breath. "Yeah. The funny man."
"Yes, they have."
Han popped his jaw. "And exactly what are your feelings on that?"
Leia sighed. "I thought it was an imaginary friend."
"An imaginary friend?"
"Yeah, Han. Didn't you have one of those?"
"No. Not really."
Leia laid her head on his chest. "Winter seemed to think they were talking to each other."
"I guess that's possible."
Han looked down at her. "But what?"
"I thought that it was me," Leia said. She scooted away from him and sat up on the edge of the bed. "I kept feeling something."
Han sat up beside her. "What?"
"This strong, powerfulI don't knowforce inside the house." Leia sighed. "And it wasn't like anyone had been here. Winter was with the children each time and never admitted any visitors."
"But you felt like someone had been here."
"I felt like someone was here, Han. Not that they had left. Like there was someonea presencein the house."
Han shifted uncomfortably. "The kids seem to think that you can see him," he said slowly.
Leia thought about that for a long time. "I can definitely feel him," she said.
"No, it's a him. I'm sure of it."
Han shifted again. "Jaina said he's a Jedi."
Leia scowled. "Well, Luke told me once before that he was able to talk with Obi-Wan after he died. Maybe this is something like that. Maybe it's Obi-Wan."
"I would never have called that old hermit funny."
"Leia," Han leaned closer to her, "you really think this could be someJedi ghost?"
"It could be, Han."
"Well, fine," Han shrugged. "That's fine, I guess. It's not like we could stop them. It doesn't really matter in the end, I guess. Might be a good life skill, talking to dead people."
"I just want to know who it is."
"You get any feeling on that front?"
Leia shook her head. "He's powerful, though. And"
"Well, yeah," Han rolled his eyes. "He's dead. I'd be sad too."
"No," Leia shoved him gently. "It's more likeI don't know how to describe it. It's beyond description. It's this overwhelming feeling of sorrow. Except when he's with the children. Then he doesn't seem so sad anymore."
"I wonder who it is."
"Your guess is as good as mine, Han."
"Is Luke on a mission?"
Leia nodded. "I'll ask him when he gets home."
Han leaned against her shoulder. "Feel any sad, dead Jedi lurking around in here?"
Leia smiled. "No. Why?"
"Why do you think?"
He kissed her.
Chapter Four The Revelation
The public spaceport was busy, and a part of him really wanted to enter that way. But he knew better. So instead he flew around to the other side where the military fighters entered. He didn't like using it. It seemed far too formal to him, although as a younger man he had always been thrilled to be a part of the fleet.
He still loved it. It just no longer held the allure it used to.
Luke Skywalker guided his old X-Wing into the flight bay of the military hanger after the attendant waved him on, recognizing him as an already-registered pilot.
He set the fighter down in an assigned spot and watched as another fighter landed nearby. A young pilot leaped out and scurried down the ladder, shouting excitedly. Probably his first successful military run.
Luke remembered what that was like.
He suddenly felt very old.
A whining beep whistled and whirred through his headset, and Artoo's thoughts translated into basic text on the readout screen on his control board.
"No, Artoo," Luke said to him. "Threepio's been stationed in the Senate quarters until the conference is done. He'll be back at my place when it's all over."
He pulled his black glove tighter over his cybernetic hand and lifted his helmet off his head. He climbed out of the cockpit and descended the ladder, giving the appropriate information to the droid standing watch.
The X-Wing would be delivered to the bay beneath his apartment after it had been cleaned and checked for anything dangerous.
With a clank, R2-D2 lowered himself from the droid port on the back of the fighter. His internal motors whirred and he rolled across the floor toward him, beeping and twittering away.
Luke headed for the exit. He showed his identification, his badge, and offered his fingerprint for scanning, which the guards did with all haste.
After be was thoroughly checked over, he moved into the lift and waited patiently for it to arrive on the upper decks of the spaceport. R2-D2 was beeping noisily behind him, and Luke could only wonder what the squatty little droid was saying.
The lift doors slid open, and he stepped out.
Luke was shocked to see a gold-plated protocol droid standing near the reception area. R2 uttered a shocked robotic squeal.
The protocol droid turned and waved stiffly at them. His tinny voice echoed over the grounds.
"Master Luke! Artoo! Artoo!"
Luke had to shake his head and smile at the loyalty of droids. Undoubtedly C-3PO had heard over one of the military channels that his X-Wing was landing. A small part of Luke worried that something was wrong, but he didn't sense anything out of the ordinary.
Even as he walked toward C-3PO, Luke stretched out his senses to feel Leia and Han and the children. They all seemed fine.
He felt a jolt though as his mind connected with Leia's.
She had yet to get used to feeling his thoughts in conjunction with her own. It took her a moment to recover, and Luke impressed a sense of apology toward her, hoping that she was not in the middle of something important.
Momentarily her thoughts returned to him.
He'd interrupted at a good time. She was presently on her way home, but she needed to speak to him about something.
He sensed urgency in her thoughts.
He reached C-3PO, who greeted him in a robotic flurry of excitement. Luke was glad to see him and touched that he had come to greet them, but he was concerned about Leia.
"The senate is all abuzz," C-3PO was saying. "There is so much going on these days."
"Threepio," Luke said with a smile, "thank you for coming."
"You are welcome, Master Luke."
"Would you take Artoo back to the apartment? I need to go see Leia."
"Certainly, Master Luke."
Luke nodded and watched the two droids head off together, bantering back and forth. He wondered briefly who had decided to give droids the ability to argue.
He called for a taxi and waited until the cruiser glided up beside him, and he jumped in, giving the address of Han and Leia's penthouse.
He arrived in short order. His mind tingled as Leia tried to contact him. She was right behind him.
He stepped out of the cruiser, paid the driver, and waited patiently for the senatorial skycar to arrive. Leia stepped out of it and smiled at him. He met her halfway, and they embraced.
"Luke," she said, glad to see him.
"Leia, what's wrong?" he asked. "You seem concerned."
"Come with me." She took his arm, and they walked into the penthouse together.
She waited until they were in the lift before she began to speak.
"Luke," she said, "I think the children are talking to a Jedi."
Luke frowned momentarily. "You meana Jedi who's passed on?"
"What makes you think that?"
"Well," Leia said. "I thought it was an imaginary friend at first, but I'm picking up intense feelings from him. Whoever he is. He claims to be a Jedi, so says Jaina. Han and mine's only concern is who he is."
"That's amazing, Leia," Luke said. "For them to be able to commune with a soul that's passed on already? They're so young."
"You didn't have to learn, did you?"
"No, but I was much older," Luke said.
"I'm hoping," Leia said, "that you can see him. That's all Han and I really care about. Who he is."
The lift slid to a halt, and the door opened. The twins stepped into the penthouse, and Luke came to a sudden stop.
The presence that filled the penthouse was undeniable.
Confidence. Strength. Laughter. Passion. Light and darkness all twisted into one powerful surge of energy, all wrapped around each other until one became the other, until flesh and soul were indistinguishable. All tangled in a blanket of sadness and sorrow so deep, it seemed the very air was filled with it.
Luke could hardly breathe.
The presence was so full, so wide, it was as though the presence was the Force itself.
He had only felt a presence so strong in one other person.
"Luke?" Leia asked, her voice barely a whisper.
She couldn't sense what he did, but she could feel the shock that was coursing through him.
Luke took five mighty steps forward and stepped boldly into the children's playroom. The three Solo children sensed his approach but did not rush at him, also sensing his shock and concern.
They sat on the floor, staring at him with wide eyes.
Luke stopped in the doorway and stared at the ghostly figure standing near the children.
The man wore Jedi robes and had short hair that flew wildly around his handsome, scarred face. He was young, probably in his early to mid-thirties. He was very tall.
The Jedi smiled at him, a ghostly remembrance of the same smile a dying Sith Lord had offered him years ago.
Luke's heart hammered in his chest.
Anakin Skywalker stood in the Solo's house.
"Luke," Leia's voice was still quiet.
Luke did not break eye contact with the Jedi Master.
"Can you see him?"
Anakin's gaze left Luke and traveled to Leia, hesitating for a long time before he smiled again, that same sad and joyful smile. Then, he shrugged his shoulders, a slight curl turning up the side of his mouth.
Luke smiled back at him.
They both knew what Leia was going to ask.
"Who is it?" She confirmed what they both already knew.
Luke nodded back.
Chapter Five Father
Luke immediately felt a mingled mix of emotions from his twin sister, fear being the greatest, horror that her children had been with the former-Sith Lord unattended, and anger that he would dare to come into her house uninvited.
The teacher in Luke wanted to caution her against such powerful negative emotions, but in a dark corner of his heart, he could understand her feelings. Leia had not been present when Anakin Skywalker had returned to the Force, she had not witnessed the transformation in his voice and mannerisms, she had not been there when he died.
Luke glanced toward his father, who stood, a solemn shadow, in the corner.
You cant see him, Luke said quietly.
I dont want to see him, Leia snapped. Jaina, Jacen, An Leias voice drifted off for a moment. Ani. The three of you. Outside, now.
Mama? Jaina looked stricken.
Whats wrong? Jacen asked.
Its all right, children, the Jedi said in a kind voice. Go with your mother.
Jaina and Jacen stood up quietly and walked to their mother. Leia lifted little Anakin into her arms, and she led her children out the door.
Leia, Luke called after her.
No, Luke, she called back, not looking at him. Not yet.
The door shut behind them, leaving Luke and Anakin alone.
Luke glanced at his father. He was smiling quietly as he walked to a chair in the corner and sat down.
I probably should have knocked before entering? he said, smiling up at his son.
Probably, Luke said, finding a chair and sitting across from him. Im sorry about Leia. We havent really talked much about this.
Its all right, Anakin chuckled under his breath. Her feelings are not unfounded, Luke.
Luke nodded, and the two Jedi sat in quiet for a moment.
How are you? Luke finally asked.
How should I be?
I dont know, Luke said. Ive never been dead before.
Im more alive now than I was as a young man, Luke, Anakin said. Its the same with Obi-Wan and Yoda even.
Do you see them often?
Luke leaned forward, examining the youthful face of his father. Even now, supposedly at peace, his face bore the remains of a lifetime of hardship and sorrow.
Anakin looked up at him.
Why are you here?
Anakin flashed a dashing smile. Maybe I wanted to meet my grandchildren.
"Maybe," Luke didn't sound convinced.
"They're remarkable, you know, Luke."
"Yes, I know." Luke tilted his head. "Did you tell them who you are?"
"No," Anakin said. "They seemed content to call me the funny man, which I find ironic. Obi-Wan never appreciated my sense of humor."
"I couldnt tell them," Anakin said. "How could I tell them?"
"Father," Luke said, "they deserve to know."
"I chose not to tell them, Luke," Anakin said. "Maybe eventually I'll tell them. But not now. Not today." He smiled again. "I probably won't come again for a while. I know Leia can sense me, but she didn't know it was me. I'll want her to calm down before I visit again."
"She hasn't forgiven me, yet."
"Again, I can understand her perspective," Anakin said. "Many people through the universe share it."
"Father," Luke reprieved softly, "you aren't that man anymore."
"No, I'm not," Anakin said. "But that doesn't mean I don't remember him."
Anakin turned his gaze toward the door, and Luke could sense a feeling of happiness from him.
"The future of the Jedi." Anakin looked deep in thought. "That's what those children are."
"If I didn't know better, I'd say Leia married a Jedi herself to have produced children so strong in the Force."
The door to the playroom suddenly slid open, and Han poked his head in. He glanced at Luke sitting in the chair, and he glanced at the empty chair next to Luke.
Luke arched his eyebrows.
"Leia said you were talking to the guy," Han said, pinning Luke with a powerful glare.
"Yes, Han," Luke said, glancing toward Anakin with a laugh in his eyes. "I'm talking to him right now."
Han blinked and looked hard at the chair, squinting as though straining his vision might help him to see what was impossible for him to see.
"Okay," Han finally said, determining that he was unable to glimpse into the afterlife. "Well." He straightened, looking as tough as he could. "I'll be in the other room if you need me."
Luke stifled a grin. "Thanks, Han."
Han nodded curtly and disappeared out the door.
Luke glanced back at Anakin, who sat with an unreadable expression on his face. It was something like amusement.
"What?" Luke asked.
"He's no Jedi, but I like him."
Luke grinned, and Anakin laughed. It was a pleasant sound, something that Luke had not really expected.
"So," Luke said after the laughter had died down, "why are you here?"
"I wanted to meet my grandchildren."
"Father," Luke said, "why are you really here?"
"Meeting my grandchildren isn't enough?"
"It could be," Luke said, "but you're not telling me something."
Anakin leaned back against the chair and sighed. It was a long sigh. Luke could almost imagine he felt the breath from it.
"It's dangerous, you know?"
"What is?" Luke narrowed his eyes.
"To be able to read me like that." Anakin looked sad suddenly. "Your mother could do it too. She could see what I was thinking even when I didn't know."
Luke stayed silent.
"I have no right to ask anything of you," Anakin said. "After all I put you throughafter all I did to you and took from youAnd you never gave up on me."
"I could feel it, Father," Luke said. "The good inside you."
Anakin looked down, and Luke was certain he could see tears on the ghostly man's face.
"Still good in me," he mumbled.
Anakin took a long, shuddering breath.
"I need a favor, Luke."
Chapter Six The Favor
"Anything," Luke leaned forward in his chair.
Anakin took another shaking breath and ran his transparent hands into his transparent hair.
"I don't know if you understand, Luke, how this works."
"How what works?"
"Communing with those who have crossed over."
Luke straightened slightly. "No. I never really understood it."
"You just did it," Anakin finished for him. "I can identify with that. The most important thing for you to understand is that for one who has passed on to return, he must have a focal point."
"A focal point?"
"We can't just wander around aimlessly, son," Anakin said. "We have to have a living person, still breathing in the Force, to focus on. It is helpful if that person is strong in the Force as well but not necessarily." Anakin leaned back in his chair. "I found the children simply by seeking them. They are truly powerful."
"I understand how you could need a focal point, Father, but what does that have to do with what you're asking of me?"
"I need you to go somewhere for me, Luke. I need you to go somewhere so I can follow you."
Luke frowned. "Naboo?"
"Your mother is buried there."
Luke took a long moment before he responded. "I knew Mother was once the Queen of Naboo, but I didn't know she was buried there."
"It was a very quiet funeral, I was told." Anakin's voice was sorrowful. "I didn't attend."
"Where is her grave, exactly?"
"I'm not sure," Anakin said. "AfterAfter I became Darth Vader, Naboo became a forbidden planet. It was the birthplace and home of Darth Sidiousthe emperor. No one dared to go there."
"The empire stationed thousands of troops there to keep the peace in case something ever happened." He shrugged. "Nothing ever did. So most of them were relegated to maintaining the Capital."
"You never went?"
"I couldn't bear it." Anakin sighed hugely. "No. I never went. ItIt hurt too much."
"WhatWhat was Mother like?"
Anakin's expression was so full of agony it hurt Luke's heart.
"I hate it," Anakin whispered, "that you must even ask that question, my son." Anakin leaned forward, his eyes fierce. "And that is why you must never fall victim to the seduction of the Dark Side, Luke. It will destroy everything you love. It will destroy everything your children love. And it will deny your grandchildren the joy they deserve."
Luke nodded, feeling tears prick his eyes.
Anakin looked back at the door, his voice shaking. "Look at your sister."
"When you want to know what your mother was like, look at your sister."
Luke smiled. "Really?"
"They are amazingly similar." Anakin said. "The same height. The same fire. The samestubborn streak that makes you crazy." Anakin folded his hands in his lap. "She was a beautiful woman. A kind woman." He smiled in a way that almost made him look like a child. "I was nine years old when I met her first. I thought she was an angel."
"I was a slave on Tatooine, Luke," Anakin said. "I had little else to think about than the stories of passing traders." Anakin lifted his head, his ghostly hair shimmering in the artificial lights. "She walked into Watto's shop. Her ship was stranded in the outskirts. I asked her if she was an angel, and she thought I wasa funny little boy." He blinked back tears. "I loved her then. I loved her long before I discovered she was a queen. I loved her after she became a senator. And even as I started my path toward the Dark Side, she was at the forefront of my mind."
"Until," Anakin said, "it wasn't about her anymore. And it was about me. I feared that she would die in childbirth, Luke. Sidious convinced me that the Dark Side could help me save her. All I could think about was how I could never survive without her. I wasn't thinking about her well-being anymore. I was thinking about mine."
"ILuke, I need to see her grave. I need to make it right. Even if she can't hear me, for my own soul. I need to move on, and this is the only way I know how."
"Please, son," Anakin stared into his face. "I've no right to ask anything of you, butwill you go? Will you go that I can follow?"
Luke wished more than ever that he could hug his father.
"Yes," he said. "I'll go."
"Thank you," Anakin said. "My son, I could never thank you enough for this."
Luke smiled back at him. "You already have, Father."
Chapter Seven The Decision
Leia sat in stern silence, her arms folded across her chest and her eyes simmering like black coals. The children were playing in the corner, but they didn't seem as jovial as usual.
Han sat backward on a chair, watching her quietly.
Leia issued a breath out her nose and stood up. She began to pace.
Han wondered if she acted like this in the Senate and almost asked her, but he bit his tongue instead. After a few years of marriage, he had learned what was appropriate to say and what wasn't (as far as his wife was concerned, at least in a general sensemost of the time).
"Mama?" Jaina suddenly spoke from the corner.
"Why don't you like the funny man?"
Leia closed her eyes, her shoulders stiffening.
"It's not that she doesn't like the funny man, sweetie," Han said. "It's just thatwell" He used to be a dark wizard type who slaughtered hundreds and thousands of innocent people from one end of the universe to the other, interrogated your mother, tortured me, and delivered your uncle into the hands of a maniacal emperor bent on turning him into a twisted monster capable of unspeakable evil. "It's complicated, sweetie."
Leia turned and knelt in front of her daughter. "Jaina," she said, "the funny manthe funny manI know the funny man."
"Uncle Luke called him father," Jacen piped up.
"Your Uncle Luke calls lots of people funny names," Han put in. "Master. Teacher. Et cetera."
"Those aren't funny names, Papa," Jaina corrected.
The door behind them slid open, and Luke stepped into the room. He was smiling slightly. Leia looked at him suspiciously.
"Hey, Han," Luke glanced at his brother-in-law, "would you mind making supper for all of us tonight? I'm in a real mood for that casserole you threw together the other day."
"Sure," Han hesitated, catching Luke's eye. "But I could use some help."
Immediately, the three children jumped up, leaping onto their father and begging to be allowed the privilege of cooking in the kitchen again. After all, cooking for their mother was one thing. Cooking for their uncle was a completely different matter.
Han winked surreptitiously at Luke and dragged his brood out of the room.
Luke and Leia spent a moment, merely staring at each other, seeking the best words to begin a conversation both of them had been putting off for years.
"What does he want?" Leia started off blunt.
Luke called a chair over and sat down in it. "Maybe he just wanted to see his grandchildren." He didn't miss the irony that his first inclination was to echo his father.
"Why not, Leia?" Luke looked up at her. "Why wouldn't he want to see them? You know he's not Darth Vader."
"No, Luke, I don't know."
"The Sith don't return," Luke said. "The Sith are incapable of communing with the living because they hold no stock in the Living Force. They only care about power and gaining more of it."
Leia didn't look convinced.
"I'm not ready to have this conversation, Luke."
Luke sighed and called another chair over. Leia waited for a moment before she sat down.
"You may not be ready, Leia, but it's time." Luke was firm.
Leia held very still. "He tortured me, Luke."
"He tortured Han."
"He cut off your arm, he turned you over to the emperor."
"I know, Leia."
"He's a murderer."
"He's a man," Luke said. "Yes, he was evil, but he's not anymore. He chose to return to the Force, Leia. And, yes, he gave me to the emperor, but he couldn't stand by and watch me killed. He saved me, Leia."
Leia shook her head. "I can't just forgive him."
"Luke, do you really think it's that easy?" Leia sat down again. "Just forgive him. Just forgive what he did? I don't think I can do that."
Luke thought for a moment before he spoke again. "He did have a request to make."
"He needs someone to focus on," Luke said. "He needs a person to anchor himself to. If he didn't, he could wander around wherever he wanted."
"What did he want?"
"He wants me to go to Naboo," Luke said.
"Naboo?" Leia looked disgusted. "Why? To visit the emperor's old house? Make a museum out of it?"
"He wants to see his wife's grave."
Leia fell silent.
"His wife," Luke said. "Our mother, Leia. Our real mother."
Leia shifted in the chair and chewed her lip.
Luke could sense a great deal of conflict roiling in his sister's heart. She knew she needed to forgive their father. Clinging to hatred made an inroad for the Dark Side to take over. But he had done such evil. To her. To her family. To the man she loved more than life.
How does one begin to forgive someone like that?
Luke took a steadying breath. "Leia," he said, "If nothing else, just come with us."
"Come with you."
"Yes," Luke said. "I'm going to Naboo. I think it would be best if we all went, but I can understand if youdon't want to."
"No," she murmured. "II want to, Luke. I just don't knowI don't know what to do." She shook her head. "No, I know what I have to do, what I need to do. I'm just not ready to do it yet."
"Then come," Luke said. "Andwe can see where our mother lived, Leia. It's the one question we've always wanted answered and the one we never could."
Leia stood again and moved to look out the window. "I should ask Han." She gazed down at her feet. "He needs to have a say in this, just as much as I do."
Luke nodded. Slowly, Leia stepped out of the room.
Luke sat in the silence, listening to the ventilators kicking on to cool the room. His mind was whirling with excitement.
Naboo had been forbidden so long. He had never been there, although he'd heard of it. After all, who hadn't heard of it?
He knew the emperor had called Naboo home, but he had never known his mother had come from the same world. Part of it seemed wrong somehow. But he supposed it was also wrong to demonize an entire planet because of only one of its inhabitants.
He wasn't sure how long he sat.
It didn't seem like very long, though, before Leia appeared in the doorway again. Her face was somber but not angry.
"We'll go, Luke," she said.
Luke stood. "Han's all right with it?"
"Yeah, Han's all right with it," Han poked his head through the doorway above Leia. "But only mostly because I think we'd have a mutiny on our hands if we didn't."
Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin toddled into the room and launched at their uncle. Luke caught them with a laugh and sat down again.
"Then it's settled," he said. "A family vacation."
He glanced up at Leia. She was smiling, but it didn't reach her eyes. He could read the concern and turmoil behind them. She was curious, yes, but even curiosity couldn't overpower the fury and terror she still held toward the man who had given them both life.
Luke smiled back at her and hoped earnestly that this trip could open her eyes in more way than one.
Chapter Eight The Voyage
Aside from a new cannon mount and a few other weapon and shield upgrades, the Millennium Falcon hadn't changed much in the years after the defeat of the Empire. It still looked like a piece of junk, and it could still outrun any other ship in the fleet.
Leia sat quietly in a chair in the living area at the center of the ship. Han was taking his turn at the helm, and Chewbacca was valiantly trying to beat Jacen at chess. So far, the Wookie had yet to win (although Leia wondered if his losing streak was more a testament to his love for the boy and less that Jacen was a prodigy). Jaina was sitting behind Chewbacca, braiding his hair again.
Poor Chewie, Leia thought to herself. He's a saint.
R2-D2 and C-3PO were bantering back and forth in the corner, and Luke was standing by himself against the far wall, looking out over the stars.
Leia assumed he was alone. But she had a feeling that he wasn't.
She could feel her father's presence, overwhelming and full of something akin to excitement. She glanced at Anakin, asleep in her arms and wondered if her son was anything like her father had been as a child.
For a brief moment, she wished she could see him, talk to him, as her brother and her children could. A mental image of a ghostly figure in black robes and an ominous mask halted her train of thought.
She really didnt want anything to do with him.
She could forgive him, but she wanted him to go his way and leave them alone.
The old intercom system buzzed, and Hans voice echoed over the line. Were nearing Naboo, he said. Everybody strap in.
Leia went to work immediately, gathering her children and making sure they were fastened securely in their seats. Chewbacca headed to the cockpit, and R2 and 3-PO found a place to sit.
Luke sat down in the scanning chair at the far end of the living area and watched Leia bustling around. He looked up at his fathers ghostly face. The man was smiling.
Shes very much like her mother, Anakin was saying. But Padme would say shes more like me.
Luke only smiled back at him. Anakins smile faltered for a moment, when his gaze fell on the two droids at the other end of the room.
Tell me, Luke.
Luke looked up at him again.
Where did you find that R2 unit?
Luke chuckled. I guess you could say, he found me.
My aunt and uncle bought him, Luke said, him and Threepio off some Jawas on Tatooine, and that was the first I saw of him. He was desperately searching for Obi-Wan.
Anakin laughed quietly.
And it turned out that R2 was carrying a message from Leia, Luke said, and the plans for the first Death Star.
Really, Anakin was laughing louder now. Id always wondered how she got the plans off the ship.
Why are you asking about R2, Father?
Because in my youth, I had an R2 unit who followed me around constantly.
It couldnt be the same one.
Luke leaned forward slightly.
Watto was a Toydarian. He only agreed to give them the parts they needed if they had something to bargain with. Which they didnt. So, we arranged that Id run a podrace for the parts.
A podrace? Luke scowled. I didnt know you could do that.
I was the only human who ever could. Anakin smiled again. Thats how Qui-Gon found me.
He was Obi-Wans master, Anakin said. He was a good man. And he saw more in me than I ever did. Anakin glanced out the window where Naboo was becoming larger by the second. I won the race. They fixed their ship. I went with Qui-Gon. And Padme. He looked back at R2. And Artoo. Artoo mainly stayed with Padme, until we married. Then he came on some of my missions.
The Falcon shuddered as it entered orbit.
This ship frightens me, Anakin said.
Anakin laughed with him and grinned at Jacen and Jaina who were waving at him from their seats.
Han set the Falcon down in the central city, Theed, at Lukes request. As Luke walked out on the loading ramp, he gazed at the old city before them.
Its just as I remember it, Anakin whispered beside him. Sidious didnt want anything changed. So Theed remained unchanged, maintained to look the same as it always had.
Leia walked up on Lukes other side.
Anakin sighed. I dont know.
Luke looked up at him. You dont know?
Leia was shocked. He doesnt know?
I know shes buried here, Anakin said. But I dont know where. I didnt attend the funeral.
Leia sighed enormously and walked down the ramp.
Han wasnt far behind her, leaving the children with Chewbacca. He walked up beside his wife and touched her shoulder.
So where are we going?
He doesnt know, Leia said.
Great, Han rolled his eyes. Well, lets look around.
Im going to ask someone.
Han looked at her pointedly. We dont need to ask anyone, Leia. We can find it ourselves. Were looking for a cemetery, arent we?
Leia didnt answer but looked back at the ship. Artoo? Come with me.
R2 beeped happily at her and rolled down the ramp.
Lets go find a place for you to plug in, she said.
Leia started down the road. Han looked over his shoulder at Chewbacca.
Chewie, he said, watch the kids.
Chewbacca roared gladly.
Jacen, Jaina, Anakin? Han turned around and looked at his three children. You stay with Chewie.
They all nodded solemnly.
Han jogged after his wife.
Luke started to follow, but Anakin said, Stop.
Luke turned around and looked at him. What is it?
Anakin frowned. Just wait.
Up ahead, Han shouted back at him. Luke waved him on and sat down on the loading ramp.
He had to laugh as his niece and nephews attacked him.
After a thorough tickling session, Jacen looked up at the ghostly figure who towered over all of them.
Funny man? he asked. What are you waiting for?
Does anybody even live here? Jaina asked.
Only the dead, Anakin said. When the empire fell, all the troops stationed here moved on. Since most of the population had already died off, there really isnt anyone left on the planet. Except a few natives.
A few natives? Luke asked.
Yeah, Anakin nodded.
And suddenly he was walking, his gaze hard and focused. Luke scrambled to his feet, reminded the children to stay with Chewbacca, and raced after his father.
Luke ran after him and caught up in a few moments.
I can sense him, Anakin muttered. I know hes near.
Anakin turned a corner and stopped. They were facing the large fountain near the center of Theed.
An old creature, stooped with age, sat on the edge of the trickling fountain. His face was long and shaped like a triangle with two eyes that sprouted from the top of his head. Two long ear flaps fell over his shoulders, and he wore a ratty old robe.
Luke assumed the creatures skin used to be bright but age and war had left him scarred and weathered.
What is he? Luke asked softly.
A Gungan, Anakin whispered. His name is Jar-Jar Binks.
The one you mentioned earlier? Luke asked.
The same. The expression on Anakins face was pained. He was a good friend too. And the emperor used him cruelly. Manipulated him and his good intentions.
Luke didnt ask, and Anakin didnt elaborate.
Hell know, Anakin said finally. Hell know where shes buried.
Lets go ask.
You go, Anakin whispered, his voice hoarse with emotion. I cant.
Luke nodded and moved toward the Gungan.
The old creature barely stirred as Luke sat down beside him.
The Gungan didnt answer.
I wonder if you might help me, Luke said. Im new to this planet, and I need directions.
The old Gungun sighed enormously, his shoulders slumping in exhaustion.
My name is Luke, Luke finally said. Luke Skywalker.
Finally, something caught the old creatures attention.
Skywalker? he muttered in a strange voice, squeaky and deep and old. Skywalker, yousa sayin?
Luke hesitated. Yes. My name is Luke Skywalker. I am the son of Anakin Skywalker.
The Gungan sat, his expression shocked, his eyes wide, and his little mouth hanging open.
Yousa sayin, he whispered, yousa being da son of Anakin Skywalker?
The Gungan stared at him for a long time before reaching out and touching the side of his face. Yousa lookin like your daddy, but yousa got your mamas eyes. He pointed to himself. Mesa called Jar-Jar Binks.
You know them? My parents?
Uh-huh. Jar-Jar sighed sadly. Mesa knowed them. They was good friends to Jar-Jar Binks, they was.
Luke barely noticed when his father moved up behind him, tears shining in his eyes.
Mesa knowed Ani when he was so high, Jar-Jar held out his hand a few feet over the sidewalk. Mesa was there when he was winnin his first race, and mesa was in the battle on Naboo, takin orders from the Queen Amidala. Jar-Jar nodded. Mesa was a bombad general.
Jar-Jar, Luke said, I need help.
Jar-Jar smiled, showing bright white teeth. Mesa do anything to help Anis son.
Im looking for my mothers grave.
Jar-Jars bright expression faltered, and he nodded. Padme was being a good friend to mesa. Mesa wishin yousa couldnt knowed her. Real special lady Padme was.
Do you know where shes buried?
Uh-huh, Jar-Jar nodded as he stood up. Mesa show you.
Let me call the others, Luke stood up with him and grabbed his communicator. Han? Leia?
In a moment, Hans voice sounded on the communicator. Yeah?
Come to the fountain near the center of the city, Luke said. Leia can find it. I found someone who knows where Mother is buried.
Han said something to the affirmative, and Luke put the communicator away.
Mesa was knowin, Jar-Jar said, that Padme was gonna be havin a baby. Down in mesa heart and soul, mesa always knowed it was Anis baby too. Ani loved Padme so much. Like wesa all loved him too. Jar-Jar uttered a sob as tears ran down his eye stalks. So sad!
Luke looked over at his father, who was staring at Jar-Jar with a mix of joy and sadness. He sensed his sons gaze and smiled.
Jar-Jar, Luke said. My father didnt die evil.
Jar-Jar stopped crying and looked at him.
He saved my life, Luke said. Just before he died, he turned backto the good side.
That started a whole new flood of tears, and the Gungan lunged at Luke and wrapped him in a crushing hug as he sobbed.
Oh! Mesa so happy to be hearin dat! The Gungan sobbed. Mesa always knowed he had good inside still!
Luke laughed and patted the Gungan on the back. Slowly, Jar-Jar pulled away and stopped crying when he saw Han and Leia approaching with R2.
Han, Leia! Luke waved them over. This
is Jar-Jar Binks. He was a friend of both Mother and
Father, and he knows where Mothers grave is.
Yousa, he pointed at Leia after a moment. Yousa lookin like Padme.
Luke smiled. I didnt get the chance to tell you, Jar-Jar. My mother had twins.
Jar-Jar burst into tears again and scooped them both up in a crushing hug. Leia looked scandalized, and Luke burst into laughter.
Han leaned against R2 and scratched his head.
Come on! Jar-Jar released them and started hobbling toward the center of the city. Mesa show you! Mesa show you! Follow me, okee-day?
The Gungan led them through the city, past old statues and memorials, to a large beautiful building.
Thisn be it, Jar-Jar said. Padmeher grave be near the middle. The queens and kings, they be arranged by the years of their reignin.
You wont come in? Leia asked.
No, Jar-Jar shook his head. Mesa seen it once before. And thats enough for Jar-Jar Binks.
He hugged Luke and Leia once again, waved, and hobbled down an alleyway, whistling a bright tune as he went.
Luke took his sisters hand. Are you ready?
Wait, Leia stopped him.
She looked over her shoulder as a loud roar sounded down the corridor behind them.
Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin dashed out of the hallway, racing toward their parents. Chewbacca wasnt far behind, roaring madly.
The twins and Anakin stopped short when they spotted their mother.
What are you doing? Leia asked.
The children stayed quiet, terrified.
Didnt your father tell you to stay with
Please! Jacen begged.
Anakin didnt say anything but held up his hands
Han rolled his eyes and picked up his son, who buried into his chest. Han glared at Chewbacca who roared back at him.
Leia knelt. All right, she said. But dont think you wont be punished for disobeying.
We just want to go with the funny man, Jaina said.
Luke glanced at his father, who was also scowling.
Jacen, Jaina, Anakin said sharply. And even you, little Anakin.
The three children held very still and stared at the Jedi. Leia stopped, watching her children stare into empty space.
You must never disobey your parents again, Anakin said firmly. They care about you. And you must never do anything to make them sad.
Jacen and Jaina fell very quiet and nodded.
Im sorry, Mama, Anakin said in his little voice.
Leia glanced toward the place where she knew her father was standing. I forgive you. Just dont do it again.
Leia stood up.
Are we ready now? Luke asked.
And they all moved into the mausoleum together.
Chapter Nine The Sight
The halls of the mausoleum were of polished marble, lined with columns and archways. The building seemed to be divided into different ages. They had to search for a while before they found the proper age, and from there Anakin took over, leading the way down the hall.
They entered the archives for the age of the last Supreme Chancellor, Palpatine of Naboo, and Anakin stopped in between two doorways.
To the right is the Hall of Kings, Luke said, reading the sign inscribed on the doorpost. To the left is the Hall of Queens.
Left it is, then, Leia turned and started walking.
Each former queen of Naboo had a shrine of sorts lined against the wall of the hallway, constructed of marble and ivory and precious minerals. They walked past unfamiliar names until finallyfinally, they reached the end of the hallway, where the second to last queen of Naboo rested.
Is that her? Luke whispered.
Yes, Anakin said. Thats her.
Her shrine seemed elegant in its simplicity. There were no drapes of fine linens or cords of jewels, no statues or sculptures. Only a simple holographic image of herself on the throne and a vase of flowers that would bloom forever.
The image in the hologram was youngso youngher face painted white except for her lips, her hair pulled back in a beautiful and intricate weave. She sat straight, her expression solemn but kind, her eyes gentle but fierce.
Luke looked again at the flower vase.
Draped around the neck of the vase was a charm, carved from japor ivory wood.
Look at this, Luke touched the charm. Ive never actually seen a japor snippet.
Luke looked up at his fathers sob.
Anakin Skywalker was crying.
I made it for her, Anakin said, moving past them all to kneel before the marble headstone. I made it for her. To bring her good fortune. So she wouldnt forget me. He bowed his head. If only she had forgotten me.
Luke let the japor snippet lay against the vase and he stood behind his father, gazing at the headstone.
Leia looked at the japor snippet. Han touched her shoulder and nodded toward the hologram.
You do look like her, he said.
I never wore my hair like that, Han. Her voice was trembling.
Father? Lukes voice sounded soft.
Leia blinked back tears at the sadness in Lukes voice.
She straightened and stopped at the feel of a little hand grasping her fingers. She looked down. Jacen and Jaina stared up at her with wide eyes.
Whats wrong? she asked them.
Mama, Jacen said. Why?
Mama, Jaina whispered, why is the funny man crying?
She had been blocking him out, struggling with every ounce of strength in her soul not to feel her fathers despair. But with her childrens innocent question, Leia felt her wall crumble.
And she was overwhelmed.
Shed thought her fathers pain had been overwhelming before. Shed been wrong.
Anakin Skywalkers shame and regret and sorrow crashed around her like the oceans of Mon Calamari, in so great a tidal wave it threatened to knock her senseless. She grabbed Hans arm to steady herself. He didnt ask what was wrong, and she silently thanked him for that.
Images of a past lifea life that wasnt hersflashed in Leias mind.
A desert world where the stars were brighter than diamonds.
A beautiful girlwith long dark hair and eyes brighter than the stars.
A mana Jedithe image of freedom.
Space and Coruscant and ships and battles with flaming explosions.
Leia could hardly keep breathing. The images played before her eyes so quickly she couldnt process them all.
Obi-Wan Kenobi. Young. Strong. Funny.
Palpatinethe emperorlooking like a man who was trying to help others.
Padme Amidalabeautiful, idealistic, and courageous.
And a host of others Leia had no name for.
Terror. Blind terror, watching a woman die of wounds in the Tatooine sand. Rage and fury and hate overpowering good sense and mercy in the rain of blood and limbs in a Tusken Raider camp.
Fear of loss.
Losing Padme like hed lost his mother.
Desperation, willingness to do anything to save her.
Pain. Agony. Suffering. Feeling his body consumed by the flames of Mustafar, watching Obi-Wan walk away.
I hate you!
Please, come back.
Leias knees couldnt hold her any more. She fell. Han caught her mostly, but she fell to her knees, sobbing. She couldnt keep it inside. The pain was too great. She felt her children crowding around her, holding her. She felt Han behind her, rubbing her back.
She looked up.
Luke stood, head bowed and tears running down his face.
He stood directly behind a man, kneeling on the floor, broad shoulders shaking from the sobs that Leia could finally hear.
Chapter Ten The Choice
Even bawling on the floor, Anakin Skywalker looked noble. That was the first thought that struck Leia as she stared at her long-dead father. Kneeling, he was still tall, and she was surprised at how young he looked.
She would have to ask Luke about that later.
Their father, in his ghostly form, looked little older than his children.
Leia felt Han take her hand. She looked up at him and met his concerned eyes. She offered him a weak smile and stood up.
Slowly, she moved toward Luke and toward her father.
As she approached, she could hear his voice. It was deep and full, though not the dark voice that she had come to associate with Darth Vader. It resonated through her, beautiful even in its brokenness.
Im sorry, he whispered over and over. My beloved wife, I am so sorry. He hung his head. Luke, he said, his voice shaking.
Luke knelt beside him. Yes, Father?
I am sorry for you, too.
Lukes expression told him firmly that there was nothing to forgive.
Because of me, Anakin said, you grew up without a mother. Barely without a family. All because of me.
Luke didnt answer.
And your sister, Anakins whole being seemed to collapse on itself.
Luke had noticed Leia, standing behind them, tears streaming down her face. Luke glanced at his father and then back at Leia, realizing that she could finally see. But he held his tongue and said nothing.
Ive hurt so many, he whispered. I just wanted to keep her safe. He sobbed for a moment. She was the air I breathed. My reason. My sanity. I loved her so much. But in the end, when I could have gone away with herforgotten it all and disappeared and let her be all I neededI only thought of myself. Of what I wanted.
Anakin lifted his head and stared into the holographic image of his wifes face.
Obi-Wan was with her, Anakin said. In her last moments. When you and your sister were born. Obi-Wan was with her. Anakin made a sound, like something between a sniffle and a laugh. She told him. He made the sound again. She told him the same thing you said to me, Luke.
That there was still good in me. Anakin shook his head. Still good in me. Even with her last breath, she still hadnt given up on me.
Anakin sighed again and rolled back on the balls of his feet as he stood up. He still gazed into the holographic portrait, though.
Leia hadnt moved.
Still staring ahead, Anakin spoke. I know you can see me, Leia.
Leia didnt answer.
And Im glad, Anakin said.
Slowly, he turned around and gazed at her, his eyes ghostly and powerful and overwhelming.
Leia stood her ground. She lifted her chin. I know what you would ask of me.
I would ask nothing of you, Anakin said. You owe me nothing. I owe you everything.
Dont you want me toto forgive you? Leia barely managed to keep her voice from wavering.
Anakin smiled sadly. More than anything. But I wont ask it of you. It is a difficult enough thing to forgive, but it is more difficult to forget.
Forgiving isnt forgetting
Forgiving, Leia said, is remembering that its forgiven.
Anakin nodded. Very true.
Why did you turn back?
Anakin furrowed his brow.
Its not a hard question, Leia said sternly. Why did you turn back? You already said why you turned to the dark side in the first place, but why did you turn back?
Anakin smiled. Because I remembered what it was like to love someone else other than myself.
Leia took a shaking breath.
I stood watching my son die, Anakin said, and I remembered that I loved himand that I loved his sisterand, just like that, I couldnt do it anymore. So I turned back.
Do you regret it?
Leias lip was trembling. Why did you come to my children? Why did you come into my house?
They are your children, Anakin said. I wantedI needed to see them. They are so strong in the Force. I didnt think it was possible. But it is. And they are. And, if you wish it, I will not return again.
Leia took a deep breath and glanced back at her children.
Ive hated you, she whispered, even though I knew it was wrong. I despised you.
You were well within your rights.
No, Leia shook her head. I wasnt. She turned back to him. I didnt think you could feel. I didnt think you could cry.
I cry often.
Leia glanced at the gravestone. Why here?
I did not attend her funeral, Anakin said. I never really got to say goodbye to her.
So why now?
It is the anniversary.
Of what? Leia asked. Your marriage?
No, Anakin smiled sadly. It is the anniversary of the day I killed her. It is the anniversary of the day she died. It is your birthday, my daughter and my son.
Our birthdays were changed, Leia, Luke said, as further protection. Obi-Wan told me. It was another way to keep the Emperor from finding us.
You want to remember her death? Leia asked, unfazed. You want to remember how you killed her?
No, Anakin said, tears in his eyes. And yes. I want to remember so I never forget.
Leia and Anakin stared at each other for a long time.
Luke set his hand on her shoulder, but she didnt break eye contact with Anakin. Suddenly, she stepped out of his grasp and stood closer to Anakin. She had to crane her neck back to look up into his face.
I forgive you.
Anakins eyes were filling with tears again. Im not worthy.
Leia stepped back. Who is?
She turned and gathered little Anakin in her arms.
Lets go, gang, she said.
Jacen and Jaina ran after their mother, and Han walked by her side. Chewbacca waved at them from the doorway.
Anakin stood in place, tears falling from his eyes.
Go, Luke, Anakin said. Im going to stay here for a little longer.
Luke smiled at him and walked after Leia.
As he was about to leave the room, he looked back to see his father staring into the holographic image of Padme Amidalas face.
Luke nodded and walked away.
After a vicious day of debating on the Senate floor, Leia wanted nothing else than to sit in her favorite chair and listen to music, but of course life in the Solo household was never that quiet.
She came home to her three children running like mad around the penthouse. Han was in the kitchen cooking something, and Chewbacca was chasing the kids trying to keep them from breaking everything.
Leia quietly changed clothes and went to help Han in the kitchen.
Rough day? Han asked her as she fell into place beside him.
The roughest, she said. You?
He only grunted, and Leia took that to mean he had experienced a similar kind of day at the military base.
They finished making dinner in companionable silence and set the table.
Leia called the children in, and in moments the three wild kids came running in and took their places at the table.
Chewbacca sat in his big chair. Han and Leia found their places, and they all dug in together.
So, Leia looked from Jacen to Jaina, what great adventure did you have today?
Jedi Knights shouldnt want adventures, Mama, Jacen said.
Thats what the critter says, Jaina said.
Quitter! Anakin piped.
Critter, Ani, Jaina corrected.
The critter? Han asked. That sounds ominous.
Hes a friend of the funny man, Jacen said.
He told us all about his adventures too! Jaina clapped her hands.
Wait, Han set his fork down, you kids are talking to another dead Jedi?
Yep, Jacen nodded.
And hes funnier than the funny man, Jaina said.
Really? Leia asked. How so?
He talks backward! Jacen laughed.
Quitter! Anakin leaned forward in his chair and wiggled his ears.