Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Lucasfilm, Ltd. No money is being made and no infringement is intended.

Twilight of Guilt by Christine Anderson

Allowing herself to be happy, even for a moment, has become a guilty indulgence. Falling in love is somehow not what it should be anymore; not soaring and wonderful, not sparks and light, but something almost shameful, tinged purple-black, twilight like a bruise.

Stumbling in the dark, lost, alone, afraid she'll never know what light is, afraid the dawn will never come- She reaches for Jag as he reaches for her, and they come together the way they so often do. Hardly having to speak.

She's been afraid so long she's forgotten what fear is- forgotten there was life without it once. But he touches her, and the fear melts away. All the irony of a Rebel princess's daughter in the arms of an Imperial Baron's son- That fades, too, into Jag's kisses and the sound of his voice whispering her name.

No one has ever said her name this way before; *Jaina*. It means things she had never known before; Priceless, dear, beloved...

And it is not the Jaina Solo of the holovids he is in love with; it is not Jaina Solo, hero and daughter of heroes, not the Trickster Goddess or the Sword of the Jedi, but simply- Jaina. Jaina as she is and has always been- the truth of her, beneath it all.

Around them the world is turning in on itself; the galaxy is a black hole swallowing everything they ever thought they knew. But they hold tight to each other; they are not alone. However it ends, they will never be alone again.

Surrounded by destruction, by the dead and the dying, Jaina clings to her slender thread of hope. Friends and allies fall, but there are nights now when she doesn't wake weeping, nights when she is no longer haunted by Anakin, by Chewbacca, by Ganner, by Pellaeon's son... Nights when, instead, she wakes and she is glad- glad for once to be alive.

The guilt eats at her. How dare she? How dare she be happy when everything is going to hell, and all the people she once thought so invincible, were powerless to stop it?

She doesn't know how she dares- or even if it's daring anymore. She doesn't pretend to understand. But she smiles when Jag drops to one knee- always the gentleman, and she's learned to love that old-style Imperial courtesy- to ask her to marry him. She smiles, and finds she can't speak with her heart in her throat this way. So she nods- and Jag, reserved, cool and logical, emotionless as a Chiss winter (or so they say) lifts her into his arms and swings her around the hall.

A sound like she has never known fills the corridor then- this corridor she would not even have *been* in eight years ago, here on the Star Destroyer... And she nearly weeps when she recognizes it at last.

Stormtroopers. Laughing in pure mirth.

She *does* weep- bursts into tears, almost hysterical sobbing, in fact- later that day, when she runs into Admiral Pellaeon. He smiles and nods, and says "Congratulations" when he recognizes Baron Fel's old Academy ring on her finger.

She weeps, and waits for the explosion. Waits to hear that she has no right, no right to any of this. She waits, and she waits... until finally she realizes that it isn't coming. That Pellaeon is still smiling, smiling even though this is the last night before the last morning, the last battle... Smiling even though he has lived, as she has, through five years of pure hell...

And suddenly she gets it. He's still hurting, just the way she is- still grieving for his losses. Maybe neither of them will ever really stop; maybe none of them will. But despite it, he doesn't blame her... and in that moment, Jaina stops blaming herself, too.

"Thank you," she whispers, and embraces the old Imperial. He is clearly startled; is even more startled when she kisses his cheek. But Pellaeon is still smiling when Jag arrives. Handshakes all around, more congratulations. Promises to the Admiral that he certainly will not be forgotten when the invitations are sent out.

Jaina will never forget what he did for her on the eve of the last battle.

Jag drapes his arm around Jaina's shoulders, guides her into the briefing room. One more briefing, one final battle...

Jaina has hope, and is no longer ashamed of it.

They're going to make it.