EPILOGUE

Padmé walked slowly into the sitting room of the small villa in the Lake Country. The late evening glow in the sky lit the forested hills and still waters of the lake with a soft orange hue, and a warm gentle breeze wafted through the open windows. The sight inside the room was far more enchanting, though.

"Gamma's back!"

Padmé stooped over to seize Nyklas into her arms. "Yes, dear, I am."

From behind long strands of dark brown hair his indigo eyes peered into hers. "It's okay," he said. "We're here."

"I know, darling," Padmé said, and she couldn't help but smile at the earnestness in the boy's voice. Nyklas had been the only one present with her seven years ago today when Anakin had sacrificed his life to fulfill the ancient prophecy and bring balance to the Force. To this day she wondered how much the Force-sensitive child remembered about the events surrounding his grandfather's death, but she knew for certain that Nyklas always could sense when she was thinking about Anakin, whether remembering him fondly or missing him terribly. Right now it was the latter.

Nyklas clambered down to the floor and bounded over to his mother's lap.

"Nyx, what did we talk about?" asked Sarré gently.

"Umm…" The boy fidgeted with the hem of his tunic. "Not to run indoors."

"Yes, dear," Sarré said. "Thank you."

With patience like that it was no wonder, Padmé thought, that Sarré was such a highly regarded Ambassador in the Republic's diplomatic service. Supreme Chancellor Dirxon often personally dispatched her for volatile negotiations or delicate mediations. Anyone who could talk Bothans back from the brink of war was quite skilled indeed.

"Elyssé, why don't you give your grandmother a hug too," Bryon suggested. Despite his gentle demeanor at home, General Skywalker was one of the most feared instructors at the Academy. The standards to which he held his students in tactics and strategy exercises were legendary, but those who persevered left with unmatched training and an unwavering loyalty to their mentor.

"Okay," his five-year-old daughter replied. She slid from his lap and padded quickly to Padmé, and hugged her around the legs.

Padmé reached down and brushed the blonde hair away from the girl's face, and gazed warmly into her hazel eyes. Elyssé might be shy now, but like Leia at that age Padmé already could see the outgoing politician's personality beginning to emerge in her granddaughter. "Thank you, sweetheart."

Elyssé smiled, then spun around and practically leaped back into her father's lap.

Padmé turned to the two Jedi Knights sitting together on the long sofa opposite the windows. "And where's your lovely daughter this evening?"

Luke grinned. "She'll be right back."

Mara grinned too. "She's on a very important mission, you see."

Padmé laughed. Six-year-old Harmony was strong in the Force like both her parents, and despite being half the usual age was convinced she was nearly ready to become a Padawan learner. Before Padmé could ask what the "mission" was, a happy bleeping and blooping greeted her.

"I can see that, Jaytoo," Padmé said. Anakin had built and customized the black-and-gold astromech, and now Jaytoo usually flew with Mara in the Lady Vader or her X-Wing while Artoo flew with Luke. In front of his cylindrical torso the droid held up a large tray filled with eight short glasses of liquids of various colors.

Right behind the astromech came the flaxen-haired girl. "Drinks! I got the drinks!"

Padmé settled herself into one of the big plush chairs and watched Harmony deliver each glass to the appropriate person. Finally her granddaughter retrieved the last two glasses from Jaytoo's tray and headed her way.

Harmony carefully passed Padmé both glasses, climbed into her lap, and then took back one drink. "Shuura fruit juice," she said. "Your favorite."

"Thank you, sweetheart," Padmé replied with a smile, and took a sip.

Harmony smiled back, and took a sip of her shuura juice too. Over the rim of the glass her bright eyes looked up at Padmé – the left one a brilliant green like her mother's, the right one a sparkling blue like her father's.

"So," Padmé said to Nyklas, "I've seen Harmony's latest mission. What was yours?"

A short time later Padmé made her way toward the large upstairs bedroom where her younger grandchildren were being put to bed for the night. In theory.

Just as Padmé arrived the wooden door eased open, and Danaé stepped out into the corridor. The Jedi Knight had a very self-satisfied grin on her face.

Padmé smiled. "They're asleep? Really?"

Danaé nodded, and pushed the door back open a bit. "See for yourself."

Padmé peered inside the dark room. Sure enough, all four two-year-olds were sleeping soundly. The Solo twins were cuddled together on one bed in a mass of small limbs and brown hair. Three decades ago Anakin's turn away from darkness had altered the course of fate, and it had meant that when their twins were born Luke was to become a Jedi and Leia was not. Padmé knew that similar tugs and pulls of destiny were at work on her grandchildren – even though neither of their parents was a Jedi, both Jaina and Jacen would be.

On the other bed was a similar pile of two toddlers. Young Aurora's auburn hair was darker than her mother's, and her blue eyes so much like her father's were closed in slumber. Like her older sister, though, there was no doubt she was Luke's and Mara's child. Serving as her pillow, little Orion was the perfect image of his father Bryon at that age – brown hair and brown eyes, broad smile, and like his older brother clearly already on his way to a towering height. Everyone agreed that the thought of three Skywalker men that big was a daunting prospect.

From his spot along the wall between the beds, Artoo whistled softly.

"Thank you, Artoo," Padmé whispered. "We appreciate it."

Padmé leaned back into the hallway. Danaé closed the door silently, muffling the sounds with a wave of her hand.

"You know," Padmé said with a chuckle, "it actually hasn't been as difficult as I expected having all four of them here at the same time."

Danaé smirked – a grin that looked more like Anakin's every day. "Nothing will ever be close to dealing with Leia, Mara, and Sarré pregnant at the same time. Nothing. That almost drove me to the dark side."

Padmé wrapped an arm around her. "Be nice. It wasn't that bad."

"Right. Sure." Danaé shook her head. "You only had to deal with it for a few weeks at a time. Not every single day like I did."

Padmé laughed. "I suppose you're right. Next time you can come hide out on Naboo with me."

Danaé laughed too, and wrapped an arm around Padmé in turn. "Mom, don't even joke about a next time. I couldn't handle it. We couldn't handle it. The galaxy couldn't handle it."

"True," Padmé said, laughing even harder. "Very, very true."

After Danaé headed downstairs to join the others, Padmé strode to the other end of the hallway and knocked softly on the closed door.

"Come in," Leia said.

Padmé stepped inside and shut the door behind her, then walked to the side of the bed. Propped up on a pile of pillows, Leia was sitting with her infant son bundled up in her arms. Han sat next to her on the edge of the bed, his arm around her and his other hand stroking her long hair. For now they both were on leave, she from her second term as Galactic Senator from Naboo and he from his post as the Admiral in command of the Navy's Sixth Fleet. Han actually had convinced Chewbacca to spend a few weeks with his family on Kashyyyk, so tonight it was just the four of them.

The baby boy opened his bright blue eyes and looked up at Padmé. He blinked a few times, then gurgled happily.

"I'm happy to see you too…" Padmé paused when she realized he still lacked a name, three weeks after his birth. She glanced at Leia.

Her daughter nodded. "We decided, finally."

"We were waiting," Han said. "To find out something."

Padmé furrowed her brow, and met his gaze.

"His name is Anakin," Han said into the silence. "Anakin Solo."

"He will be a great Jedi," Leia said. "Like his grandfather."

Padmé reached out and brushed her fingers along the infant's bald head. "It's nice to meet you, Anakin."

The boy cooed, then closed his eyes and turned his face into his mother's chest.

Padmé smiled at Leia and Han. "It's perfect."

Leia smiled back. "Thank you. I know he'll face many expectations because of his family, and his name. But it feels… right. And he'll meet them, and exceed them. I know he will."

"Yes," Padmé said. "I know he will too."

"I just hope he's as lucky in love as his namesake," Han said. "Or as I am."

Padmé squeezed his shoulder. "So do I."

Somewhere in her subconscious an idea burst through, and Padmé barely stifled her chuckle. If there was any justice in the universe the tables would be turned on young Anakin, and he would fall madly in love with a girl who was younger, light-haired, and from Tatooine. Yes, she decided, there was something very appropriate about that.

"If you won't be needing my assistance any further, Mistress Padmé," the protocol droid said, "I'll shut down for the night and recharge."

"That's fine, Threepio," she replied. "Thank you."

Her bedroom door closed, and Padmé paced slowly out onto the small balcony overlooking the lake below. The nighttime sky was clear, and the reflections of the stars sparkled in the smooth waters. The breeze was cool now, and it chilled her a bit as she leaned her elbows on the railing and gazed out into the night.

"Seven years, Ani," she said softly. "Seven years."

"I know, angel," he replied. From behind her his voice was strong and calm.

Padmé didn't turn around. Right now – at least not yet – she didn't want to know if he'd appeared tonight in the ghostly blue image he sometimes formed, or whether he was projecting only his voice. Tonight, on the date of his death, it probably was the former. But he was appearing to her less and less frequently that way lately. She assumed his power to take on the spectral form was waning, but he hadn't said and she hadn't asked. She was afraid to know the truth, because it might mean someday his voice would be gone too.

"It's all right," Anakin said. "I'm here now."

"Took you long enough."

He ignored her. "How are the children?"

"They're well."

"And the grandchildren?"

"Adorable."

"And trouble – lots of trouble."

"Yes," she said, and a little grin crossed her lips. "They are related to you, after all."

He laughed. "The Skywalker-Naberrie line joined with Solo, Jade, and Bellion blood? I pity the Jedi Council in ten or fifteen more years."

Padmé nodded knowingly. "Pity their parents now."

"Believe me, I do." Anakin's voice lost its mirth. "There's something you haven't told me."

She took a deep breath, and sighed. "Leia and Han named their baby boy tonight."

"Oh?"

"He's strong in the Force, like his older brother and sister."

"I see," Anakin said. "Then it seems our family's destiny is far from finished."

"Yes," Padmé said, gazing out wistfully over the beauty of the lake. "Five of them will be Jedi one day. Five of eight. More than half."

"And the others have their own special destinies, just like you, and Leia, and Bryon, and Sarré, and Han."

"Yes."

"So what's our little grandson's name, angel?"

"Anakin," she said. "They named him after you."

"Really?"

"Yes, Ani. Really."

He laughed again. "I guess Solo's finally learned not to say no to Leia."

Despite herself, she laughed too – for a moment. "It's quite a burden for him to carry, you know."

"I'm sure he'll carry his legacy well, just as our children have."

Padmé was about to agree when she felt his fingers tuck a loose strand of curls behind her ear.

She gasped.

Anakin chuckled in bemusement, and folded his arms around her waist.

Padmé spun in his embrace, looked up into his face, and kissed him.

His warm lips pressed into hers, and the sensation was more wonderful than she had remembered. She squeezed him tightly, and he squeezed her back and deepened the kiss.

After a long moment Padmé pulled back and gazed up into his eyes. Anakin released her from his embrace and took her hands in his. Seven long years without his touch, and the familiar grip was as gentle and reassuring as ever.

Padmé smiled. "I missed you."

Anakin smiled back. "I missed you too."

She heard the bedroom door open behind him, and somehow she knew it was Luke who would step through in another second. He would be the one to have sensed it first. She didn't have to lean around Anakin's tall frame to confirm it. She simply knew. She met Anakin's gaze again, and nodded.

Padmé didn't look back as she followed Anakin into eternity.