A/N: This is it! The last chapter of this monstrosity of a story! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read, and to those who read and reviewed!
"Ben!" Luke exclaimed as he and Leia got to their feet and turned to face his mentor.
"Luke, I am so very proud of you. You saw in Anakin what Yoda and I could not see. Indeed, you will be a powerful Jedi," Obi-Wan said. He looked at Leia and the twins could see traces of guilt and regret in his eyes. "Leia, I'm so sorry that I was unable to protect you from the Emperor. If I had known what his intentions for you were, I would have stopped at nothing to rescue you."
Leia's expression was blank and Luke glanced at her uncertainly. She was much better at blocking him than he was at blocking her and he couldn't tell what she was thinking.
"Even if you didn't know what his intentions were, how could you have done it? How could you have separated me from my other half? Why, Kenobi?" Leia demanded.
"Together, the two of you burned so brightly in the Force that Yoda and I feared that the Emperor would sense you and track you down. Obviously, though, he knew where the three of you were the entire time and it was only luck that I managed to get Luke away before he could take you both. Both of you under his control would have spelt certain doom for the whole galaxy."
He shook his head in remembered shame at his failure to protect both Skywalker twins. "As I was taking Luke to Tatooine, he woke from a deep sleep crying out in pain and terror. The bond between the two of you had been forcibly broken by Palpatine. I thought...I thought that he had killed you along with your mother. That is why I erased your memories of her, Luke."
Luke gaped at Ben in shock. "You did what? So that's why I didn't know who she was when I met her, even though I could feel this connection?"
Luke tried to contain the bristling anger and resentment he suddenly felt towards his Master, knowing that it wasn't a very Jedi way to feel, but the brother side of him demanded an explanation for the hurt that Obi-Wan's actions had caused.
"You were hurting so badly, and I knew that your life was going to be harsh and difficult. I wanted to ease your pain, if only a little," Obi-Wan said.
"How could you do that, Ben?" Luke asked in an agonized whisper, echoing Leia's demand of a few moments before. "Even if she had been killed, why would you take away my memories of her, the one small thing I would have had left? And you took my mother away at the same time?"
Obi-Wan sighed heavily and dropped his eyes to the ground, seemingly unable to hold Luke's accusing gaze any longer. "Can you forgive an old man his arrogance, Luke? I always intended to tell you of them when it was safe to do so."
"Leia and I almost killed one another on the Death Star, Ben! I had to fight my father and then my sister in a lightsaber duel while Palpatine sat there laughing at the entire situation," Luke said in frustration.
"And I had to watch as the boy I loved like a son fell to Darkness, and endure the news of dozens of beings like brothers and sisters to me, dying by his hand," Obi-Wan snapped as he raised his head back up, his eyes blazing.
Luke flinched and looked away from his mentor, his jaw tightening with emotion. Obi-Wan sighed, raising one hand to pinch the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. Leia still gazed at Kenobi with a carefully bland expression.
"Luke, Leia...I am sorry, deeply sorry, for everything the two of you have had to endure. I wish things could have been different. But honestly, I don't know that I would have done anything differently. There were no right choices, and Master Yoda and I did what we thought best at the time."
"I understand," Luke murmured quietly, even though he didn't understand, not at all. But some things were better left alone. He and Leia had the future to look forward to, and Luke knew it was going to take all their strength and courage to deal with everything the galaxy would throw at them in the coming years.
He glanced over at his twin, and was again astounded at the depth of the bond, as he could tell in an instant that she reluctantly agreed with him. Luke had the feeling that Leia would have liked to let Obi-Wan know in quite a bit more detail just how irritated she was at some of the 'choices' he and Master Yoda had made.
"Will we see you again, Ben?" Luke asked, sensing that their time with Master Kenobi was almost through.
He smiled at them, and Luke couldn't help but return the expression as he felt Ben's love wash over him in the Force. However hurtful the things he had done, Luke knew that Ben did love him, and by extension, Leia as well.
"I will certainly try. It takes a lot of energy, this appearing on the mortal plane, you know, but I might be able to make the journey occasionally."
They could see his image already starting to fade away, and Luke had to swallow a knot of sadness in his throat as Obi-Wan raised a hand to wave farewell to them.
"May the Force be with you, Skywalkers."
"And with you, Obi-Wan Kenobi," Luke said softly.
His voice echoed around the small clearing that was their father's final resting place as Ben's form shimmered and disappeared completely. Luke and Leia stood there quietly for a long moment, and then he turned to her.
Luke reached his hand out to her, silently offering his support and guidance for whatever they would face. Leia smiled at him and placed her hand in his, and together, the two of them made their way towards the sound of Ewok drums.
Leia could feel the tension building in her bones as they neared the Ewok village, where all of Luke's friends would be waiting. She tried to deny that she was nervous about the reception she was going to get, but that was useless. She felt Luke's hand squeeze hers encouragingly.
They'll love you once they get to know you, I promise.
What if they don't take the time to get to know me, and just shoot me on sight? That's what I'm worried about, she responded sarcastically to his annoying idealism.
They won't, they're not like that. Besides, no one has to know you were working for the Empire. As far as they know, you just had some, uh, personal issues to work out.
Leia snorted out loud, and he threw her an embarrassed grin.
And how do you intend to explain my being here on this moon, when they all know that I blasted off Home One more than two months ago, when your fleet was still at Sullust?
Er, I'll think about that later...
There was no more time for talking then, as they rounded a corner and the raucous celebration of the Rebels was suddenly in front of them. Leia swallowed in apprehension, and unconsciously pulled on the bond with Luke. He reached back, his warm presence filling her with reassurance.
It didn't take long for them to be noticed, and in seconds, they were surrounded by Luke's other family. Wedge, Han, Mara, and Chewbacca swarmed over him, unintentionally pushing Leia back, and indeed, for several moments, she didn't even think they'd realized that someone else was with him.
Luke's back was being repeatedly pounded by Wedge and Han, Chewbacca was roaring at the top of his lungs, and Mara simply threw herself in his arms and planted a huge kiss on his mouth.
Shields...shields! Leia shouted to Luke through the Force as she could feel his instinctive reaction to that greeting from Mara.
Sorry! he sent back and somehow managed to pull his lips away from the adoring redhead's long enough to send an apologetic glance her way.
And that was when they realized that he wasn't alone, and who it was that was with him. Han sucked in a startled breath before he could stop himself; Wedge and Chewbacca stared at her warily; Mara gave her the fiercest scowl she could come up with.
Leia mentally scoffed at the Alderaanian's feeble effort to intimidate her, knowing that she herself had literally frozen people in their tracks with her own glare.
Now, Leia! If you want them to be nice, you have to be nice as well, Luke scolded.
In his arms, Mara gasped and stared at Luke in shock, having felt him communicate through the Force with this woman whom they had multiple reasons to distrust. "Luke!" she said sharply, his name a demand for an explanation.
He set her back down on the walkway and stepped over to Leia's side. Proudly, he wrapped an arm around his sister's shoulders and beamed at his friends and family.
"I have something very important to share with you," he began.
Leia noted that the redhead's already fair skin became even paler with that announcement and she couldn't resist smiling just as big as Luke was, knowing that it would stick in Mara's craw even more.
Luke's fingers unobtrusively pinched her arm, and she was hard-pressed to hold the smile. "I said, be nice," he muttered to her out of the side of his mouth. He tried to keep his own smile from turning into a grimace as she retaliated by jabbing her thumb into his side where her arm had slipped around his waist.
"Everyone, this is Leia, my twin sister," he said quickly, before things could go any further.
They all gaped at him in astonishment. Immediately, they all began talking at once, demanding more explanation.
"Luke, that's Arica Alie!" Han protested, and Leia had to turn her head away from that accusing stare, even as she cursed her own weakness in doing so.
Luke held up his free hand to forestall all the commotion. "It's a very long story, guys, and I promise, we'll let you in on all the details later. Right now, what is there to eat? I'm starved."
The tension was broken somewhat as they all laughed at Luke. His appetite had become something of a legend around the Alliance, and he blushed at the comments of 'typical Skywalker, always thinking of food!' that Han and Wedge exchanged.
The initial confrontation out of the way, Leia relaxed a little, but she still stuck quite close to Luke's side as he made his way around the small group of rebels celebrating the Empire's demise. Some of the others didn't even remember 'Arica' and so didn't blink an eye at her being introduced as Leia, although a few brows were raised at the information that she was Luke's sister.
Leia had thought they might keep that information to themselves and to Luke's small circle of friends for a while, but her brother gleefully told everyone and anyone who would listen. Thankfully, she had managed to convince him that it probably would NOT be a good idea to let anyone know right away who their father was.
'Good guys' or not, the rebels probably would have shot us both at that news, she mused to herself
"Not rebels, not anymore. We're going to be the New Republic," Luke's gently chiding voice interrupted her thoughts.
She gave him a half-hearted glare at the way he kept intruding in her head. There was a momentary lull in the many people who were clamoring to congratulate him for taking on the Emperor and Darth Vader on his own. They were standing near one of the railings of the Ewok village, gazing out at the massive trees that covered this forest moon. He moved to lean his arms on it as he stood beside her and gave her an abashed grin.
"Sorry, I can't help myself."
"I'll forgive you this time," she said with a grin. The smile slowly faded as she turned again to gaze over the horizon, her worries once more filling her with dread. She let out a long exhale, not surprised to feel Luke's arm creep around her shoulders. He immediately knew what was troubling her.
"You'll find your place here. I know you will," he said quietly.
Leia laughed softly as she shook her head. "No one could ever accuse you of being a pessimist, could they?"
"Why would I want to be a pessimist? Being an optimist is much more pleasant. Besides which, I think two in the family would be a bit much," he said with a wink at her.
She stuck her tongue out at him and gave him a mock scowl. "Wretch," she muttered.
"But you love me anyway."
She gazed at him as a serious look came over her face. "I do, Luke. I really do, and it's the oddest feeling for someone like me."
His expression matched the somberness of her own as he asked, "What do you mean, 'someone like you'?"
She dropped her eyes to the forest floor far beneath them. "The Emperor not only didn't encourage any feelings like that in his servants, he actively discouraged them. I was supposed to be heartless, emotionless, doing his will as if it were my own. Sometimes it felt like it was my own, his control over me was that great."
"But now that control is gone, Leia. And you can do whatever you want. It's a big galaxy and now you have the chance to see it. I mean, to really see it," Luke said earnestly as he squeezed her shoulders with his arm.
Leia swallowed the lump that had mysteriously appeared in her throat. Truly, this man, her brother, was an amazing being. She wondered how he had ever managed to peer past her outer defenses and see the person that she really was inside. How had he managed to do that with Darth Vader, one of the most feared men in the galaxy?
Leia realized at that moment that she wanted nothing more than to make him proud of her, to show him that his faith in her was not misplaced. She felt a warm glow in her heart and snuck a glance up at Luke, half-expecting him to have another comment from sneaking glimpses into her thoughts. It seemed he really couldn't help himself from wanting to know everything about her, but Leia couldn't blame him. She felt much the same.
To her surprise, he wasn't looking at her. Rather, his gaze was directed past her head to somewhere behind them. She was about to turn and follow his gaze when she felt a gentle nudge over their Force bond.
Look there, he sent, at the same time nodding his head in the direction he was staring.
Leia turned her head and couldn't stifle her gasp. At the edge of the village, three ghostly forms stood smiling, looking straight at Luke and Leia. She recognized Obi-Wan, and already she felt herself granting him a little forgiveness in her heart. The small creature in the middle had to be the Jedi Master Yoda. She knew him from Luke's descriptions of his time on Dagobah. But the image that captured her attention immediately was the tall man standing on the other side of Yoda.
He was handsome, his dark blond hair curling around his shoulders, his vivid blue eyes seeming to twinkle as he gazed back at them. There was a loving smile on his face, and Leia longed to be able to run across the village and throw herself into his arms.
Me, too... Luke sent, his emotions running just as high as her own.
The vision only lasted seconds before the three of them began to shimmer and fade away. Leia found herself blinking back tears and when she glanced up at Luke, saw that he was doing the same. They shared a moment of connection that was so deep, it was humbling.
Not long after that, the redhead came and dragged Luke away, saying that he needed to talk to the High Council. He threw an apologetic look over his shoulder, but Leia shook her head, dismissing his worries. The last thing she wanted was to come between her brother and his lover, but she had the feeling there would be some resentment there that would take some time to overcome.
Leia had barely taken a breath before she stiffened as she realized she was no longer alone. She turned her head to stare at the Corellian pirate who was trying to stand there nonchalantly, and failing miserably.
"Hey," he said by way of greeting.
"Solo," she acknowledged coolly.
He moved to lean his arms on the railing, the two of them standing there much as Luke and Leia had a little while ago.
"How've you been?"
She raised one brow at the inanity of the question and he had the grace to blush slightly. He coughed, and it was so odd to see such a confident man so suddenly unsure of himself.
"Yeah, sorry, stupid question," he muttered.
Leia decided to take pity on him. "Not such a stupid question, but I will admit, I have been better."
"Better than the night you spent with me?" he asked and suddenly the cocky Corellian was back.
But the question wasn't a taunt, it was a challenge, and Leia recognized it as one. She felt her cheeks flush, and was irritated with herself for letting him turn the tables on her. The intensity of his gaze unnerved her, and Leia had the feeling he wasn't going to let her get by with not answering the question.
Still, she wasn't going to let him think he could just snap his fingers either...
"That was a one-time thing, Han Solo, not destined to be repeated in this lifetime," she said sharply.
Han gave her a lopsided grin, and her stomach went all quivery, but damned if she'd let him know it.
"We'll just have to see about that, won't we, Leia..." he paused and gave her a questioning look.
She understood immediately what he was unsure about. Luke had introduced her around as 'my sister, Leia' but had never made mention of what her last name would be. Leia didn't think Luke himself was too certain of what she wanted on that count.
Incredibly, she found herself giving Solo a shy, almost-encouraging smile.
"Skywalker. My name is Leia Skywalker."
"Welcome to the good guys side, Leia Skywalker," Han said with a roguish grin that made her wonder if he counted himself as one of those good guys.
The party had gone on so late that the sun was just beginning to peak over the edge of the horizon. Leia took a moment to ponder the twists and turns her life had taken recently, as she and Solo stood quietly and watched the sunrise. His hand crept over to gently cover hers and, for probably only the second time in her life, Leia allowed someone that personal contact. How sad it was that the first instance was her own brother, and that both had happened in the same day.
She looked around as she sensed Luke's presence near to her once again. He moved to lean on the railing on her other side and looked at Leia's hand under Han's with a raised brow, but she pointedly ignored him. She saw Mara standing beside him, wrapped under his arm so close, they seemed to be one being. Mara smiled at her, a little hesitantly, but it was a smile. Leia was suddenly feeling magnanimous, so she smiled back.
Together, the four of them looked to the sunrise and the future.