28. Deliverance

"A sister!" Dustil exclaimed, rushing into the room. "May I see her?" For a young man, he could still act like a kid. I nodded, holding my new daughter, Julianne, in my arms. Dustil spoke to her in incomprehensible baby talk. I smiled, utterly exhausted from labor. I wanted nothing more than to sleep. Julianne's screaming wasn't getting any less insistent.

"All right, folks, I bet she's hungry. Show's over." I ordered weakly. Dustil and the others present at the birth filed out of the room. While Julianne fed, Carth contacted his parents on the comlink. He was giddy with excitement.

"My parents are almost here." Carth put an arm around me. "How are you feeling, gorgeous?"

"Not gorgeous." I smiled. "Mostly tired, and I'm about 95 percent sure I look like hell." He kissed me gently.

"Do you need anything?" He asked anxiously.

"A nap." I sighed. Carth took Julianne from me, burped her, and put her in her crib. He sat next to me and held me for a little while. "The hug helps too." I said into his shoulder. I put my arms around him, trying weakly to hug him back.

"I'll send Dustil to go pick up my parents." He stroked my hair, as he was fond of doing. "I'm not leaving your side until you say I can."

"Stubborn as usual." I remarked.

"I'm glad to see you're still yourself." He replied.

"I love you," I wanted to hug him tighter, but I was weak and sore in weird places.

"I love you too." He kissed the top of my head, then my cheek, then my lips. I was in no state to be smitten. I thought I'd fall over.

"Stop it." I giggled. "You'll make me faint."

"That's one of the side effects." He winked and walked to the door. "Dustil? Would you get my parents from the spaceport? They don't know Iziz very well." He asked.

"I think I can say hi to people now." I said softly. I was glad Carth heard me; I didn't feel like yelling. Carth relayed the message to the front room. He sat next to me again. His support was really helping me.

"This is the most subdued I've ever seen you, Mrs. Republic." Canderous grinned.

"Go get eaten by a bantha, nerf-herder." Damn, I was still making up insults like I had been since I felt the first contraction. Canderous laughed.

"You weren't kidding about her exclamations, were you?" He asked Carth.

"Do you really think I could make that kind of stuff up?" Carth smiled and the arm that was around me tightened its grip into a half-hug.

"May I see the little one?" Jolee asked. I nodded. Julianne's crib was close by so I could still see her. "I think she has your nose, Carth." He smiled. His smile wrinkles had been deepening since I'd met him. "I'm sure the Council will have a heyday with this."

"Can we leave them out of this, just today?" I sighed good-naturedly. I knew Jolee was only kidding.

"Is she going to be a Jedi?" Bastila asked, gazing at Julianne.

"You'll have to ask her that." I replied. "And she can't exactly vocalize her opinions comprehensibly yet." Carth laughed.

"She's my sister too, you know!" Mission told Dustil defiantly. She gazed at Julianne. "No, she definitely has Ciara's nose." Julianne started wailing.

"Well, it's obvious that she's got my mouth." I grinned, holding my arms out to take my daughter. Carth lifted her out of her crib. He held her as if to burp her for a moment, but kissed her head instead, rocking her a bit and whispering to her. It was the single cutest thing I'd ever seen. By now, I'd given up on trying not to be sentimental.

"It's time to go." Dustil said quietly. "Are you coming or not?"

"I want to stay here." Mission replied, her eyes never leaving Carth. Julianne calmed a bit.

"She's a strong child." Juhani's voice was soft. "I had forgotten what the Force of such a young child feels like, but she… is different. She is very strong; it's a wonder to behold." I beamed. Carth smiled in the middle of handing Julianne to me.

"Feeling any swirling destinies around her?" I asked Jolee.

"Not yet." He winked. I held her up the way Carth had. Her skin was soft and had a distinctive scent. I kissed her head gently. I could feel the Force within her very strongly, but I didn't want to think about start training her now. It wasn't the time, if there was any time for it.

"Look at how small her hands are!" I marveled, offering her my pinky. "She's so tiny."

I had taken my entire life and stood it on its ear. It wasn't as weird as I thought it would be.

I'd never felt cold until I'd first walked on Malachor V. I couldn't remember much from it, only flashes and the feeling of freezing. I couldn't sleep the night after I'd first seen that planet, or the night after that. Malak had to give me sleeping pills so I wouldn't go completely crazy.

I sat in a warm bath, allowing my muscles to loosen and relax. I could nearly feel my muscles untying themselves as I lay there. Tomorrow I turn 38. I shuddered. I'd known Carth for nine years. It didn't seem like that long. Poor kid's almost fifty. I mused. I watched my feet turn pink slowly. I was at the height of relaxation when the door opened.

"MOM!" Julianne's voice cried. "I've been calling you for the past FIVE MINUTES!"

"I'm in the bath," I replied. "What is it?"

"You have a visitor." She said. "She says she's your friend, but I wanted to make sure. You'd better see." Carth's paranoia was either beginning to rub off on her or hereditary. I stood up and toweled myself off quickly, throwing on the set of clean clothes I'd laid out for myself.

"Did you let her in?" I asked, looking down at Julianne, whose hands were on her hips, making up for what she lacked in age with attitude.

"No," Julianne replied like I'd just asked her if she had the plague.

"Okay," I smiled and tousled her hair. "Good work; you never know who might be coming."

"Exactly!" She exclaimed joyfully and followed me to the door. I opened it.

"Remember me, Revan?" A woman in her late twenties asked. Her brown eyes looked tired, but still sparkled.

"Of course, Leia, come in!" I stepped aside. "You've met my daughter, Julianne?"

"She's a smart cookie." Leia winked at me as we all sat around the small dining table.

"How do you know each other?" Julianne asked.

"We're both Jedi." Leia began.

"But there's lots of Jedis." Julianne tilted her head. As frustrating as it could be, I loved how inquisitive she was. At least she was out of the "why" stage she'd been in when she was three.

"Leia and I both fought Sith in the Outer Rim." I explained, "which is really far away and not that interesting." I added, trying to skip the next question.

"Can I see it?"

"Maybe later, when it's safe." I smiled. "We had to go there and make sure the Sith wouldn't attack us so we'd all be safe."

"The Sith are the bad guys." Julianne said seriously. "You fought them?" Her eyes widened.

"I didn't want them to hurt your dad." I said quietly. "If they hurt him, I would have been very sad."

"If they hurt him, I'd fight them!" Julianne declared. "I'd save Dad!" The sight of Admiral Carth Onasi, decorated Republic war hero, being held captive by Sith only to be rescued by his five-year-old daughter made me grin.

"I know you would." I turned my smile to her. "But you'd have to let me help."

"Maybe a little." She smiled. She'd already caught on to the teasing exchanges and was participating. "So you fought the bad guys too? Did they hurt someone you love?" She asked Leia.

"They try to hurt lots of people." Leia replied calmly. "But, like your mom, I was afraid they'd hurt my friends. I had to make sure they wouldn't."

"Why are they bad?" Julianne asked me.

"They only want to be the best." I said, after a moment of considering how to explain the Sith to my daughter without withholding too much information. Ignorance could lead to the dark side. "If someone else is the best, they kill that person. They make people do things they don't want to do. They don't let people decide on their own."

"So if I beat one of them at Pazaak, they'd kill me?" She asked, incredulous.

"It's usually not Pazaak," I corrected, "but you have the right idea." She was speechless, trying to process what the Sith did. I wanted her to understand. I'd simplify things so she could get it, but I wasn't going to leave it at, "the Sith are bad." My daughter deserved an explanation. "Do you understand why I think the Sith are bad?" I asked. She nodded wordlessly.

"I wanted to let you know I made it home safely." Leia turned to me. None of us wanted to talk about Sith any more. "I heard you were here, and if you don't mind, I'll hang around until my pilot picks me up." She smiled.

"The good-looking one who smiles for pictures?" I asked.

"Isn't Daddy good-looking?" Julianne inquired. She was great at picking up tiny details in conversations.

"Of course he is. But other people can be good-looking too. Daddy calls both of us beautiful." I explained smiling. Julianne nodded. I looked at Leia, who had an admirable aura of patience around her.

"So he isn't the handsomest pilot in the galaxy?" Julianne asked.

"I never said that." I argued. "I think he is, but my friend doesn't think so."

"I thought you might want to meet him." Leia looked up mischievously. "There was something he told me – he used to be a Sith, used to torture Jedi." I furrowed my brow, trying to understand.

"But he's not anymore." I ventured.

"He wasn't the last time I saw him." She looked nervous. "I haven't seen him since the last time I saw you."

"How can you 'used to be Sith'?" Julianne asked. It was the question I'd been dreading for my entire life.

"Sometimes people make mistakes," I began. "They do very bad things. But if they're really sorry and they show it, I think they deserve another chance. Everyone makes mistakes."

"Not you!" Julianne smiled. I shook my head and her grin fell. I opened my mouth to explain when Carth entered the room, and Julianne ran up to him. He lifted her up. "Hey squirt." He smiled at her, then turned to me, somehow balancing a five-year-old on his hip and having a decently serious conversation simultaneously. "Do you know an Atton Rand?" He asked. I smiled in greeting and opened my mouth to say something, but I was interrupted.

"Good to see you again, Admiral." Leia stood up and saluted out of habit. "Atton's here for me. I stopped by to visit – your wife." She didn't want to call me Revan, and I was glad. I'd narrowly escaped telling Julianne everything, and I wanted to have time to find the words. Having Carth here while I explained would also help.

"I didn't let him in, but I will now." Carth nodded at her.

"You're not supposed to let strangers in." Julianne told him.

"She's a talkative little girl," Leia remarked to me.

"She gets it from her mother," Carth winked. "I can't hold you any more. Do you want to help me make sure this guy checks out?"

"Yeah!" Carth put her on the ground and she followed him as she had followed me minutes ago. Leia smoothed her hair nervously. I laughed quietly.

"You'll be fine." I winked.

"So have you decided what you're doing yet?" A man's voice demanded impatiently.

"Not so fast, mister." Julianne piped up, stepping to block his way, her hands on her hips again. I smiled.

"That's my girl." I said under my breath.

"I had to make sure you were in the right place. I have to make sure my wife isn't bringing home young Padawans for fun." Carth said, neither friendly nor hostile.

"Look, I'm just doing what I was told." Atton sounded frustrated. I wondered what he was thinking, but I couldn't tell.

"Are you my mom's friend?" Julianne asked.

"It depends on who your mom is." Atton took on slightly more patience with the girl.

"I believe you know Leia Omas?" Carth asked. Atton hesitated.

"She's here?" He asked, looking past Carth. "Leia! I thought I'd never see you again!" He ran to her, pushing past Julianne and they embraced.

"You didn't tell me he was her boyfriend." Julianne said, disgusted. She wrinkled her nose. "I wouldn't have let him in." I laughed, and stood up to hug Carth in a delayed greeting.

"I went looking for you." Atton explained quietly.

"You shouldn't have." Leia replied. "But it doesn't matter now, does it?"

"I thought you were going to have me chat with that Mandalorian idiot." I laughed heartily. "What's so funny?" Atton turned to me.

"That's Canderous to a T." I remarked. Atton nodded suspiciously.

"This whole situation is kind of creepy." He said slowly.

"It's the Force, Atton." Leia rolled her eyes. "Ciara – Revan – and I had quite a few of the same acquaintances."

"Wait just a second – " Atton began. "You're Revan?"

"You were expecting someone taller?" I grinned. Carth laughed.

"Get all visions of a graceful Revan out of your head now." Carth added. "Or else you'll be disappointed quickly."

"It doesn't add up." Atton thought hard. "I mean – you can't be. I saw Revan a couple times. She was different."

"She was." I nodded. "But she and I are the same. I've changed a lot."

"You had a kid!" Atton blurted, looking at Julianne. There was just enough resemblance.

"Great observation." Carth muttered. I hit his arm lightly.

"Look, I came to terms with everything and did all I could to set it right. You've rectified your past, haven't you?" I raised an eyebrow. Atton's face drained. "Don't be afraid, I'm not going to judge you. I'm human, just like you. We had crazy youths with crazy ideas. Sure, it took a mind-wipe for me to outgrow mine, but I'm notoriously stubborn. You don't reek of evil now, so I know you've been redeemed."

"Damn Jedi," Atton murmured.

"You haven't been training, have you?" Leia asked, concerned.

"I haven't had a Master." Atton tried.

"We'll fix that." Leia promised. "Thanks for entertaining me." She smiled.

"Are you going?" Julianne asked. "It was just getting interesting."

"I'm sure we'll be around." Atton remarked, to my surprise. "Sorry I kind of – blew up." Leia must have a lot of influence on him.

I laughed. "If I weren't used to it by now, there'd be major problems."

"Safe journey." Carth waved.

"Maybe Canderous will get his dinner party after all." I remarked.

"Is Dustil coming over?" Julianne asked. "I want to play."

"Bored already?" Carth winked.

"Well you were talking about sad things and grown-up things." Julianne explained.

"Boring stuff." Carth sympathized.

"Did that man used to be a bad guy?" Julianne asked.

"A long time ago," I replied. "He's changed. He's not bad any more."

"I could tell." She said meekly. "I felt it, that he was bad and that he was sorry about it. He liked that lady a lot too."

I shouldn't have been surprised that my daughter was so Force sensitive. "Do you feel this with others too?" I inquired.

"I feel it with you, Mommy." She stuck out her bottom lip pensively.

I took a deep breath. "It's about time I told you."

"Ciara, she's not ready." Carth said.

"She felt it." I explained and took a deep breath. "I made big mistakes, Jules." I confessed. "Big, big mistakes. Mistakes so big it hurt everyone in the galaxy." Her dark brown eyes grew wide. I hoped she didn't think I was some kind of monster. I closed my eyes quickly, took another deep breath, and continued. "But I fixed my mess. Your dad helped me. We destroyed a big space station that I used to hurt innocent people. But I still felt bad, so I went and fought Sith to make sure the galaxy was safe for my friends and your dad. I fought hard for four years, then that lady found me and told me to go home."

"You're not bad, then?" Julianne asked, still in awe.

"I hope not." I reached for her hand. "I've tried so hard to be good ever since I realized I had messed up." She walked up to me and put her arms out to hug me. I crouched down, holding her tightly. I longed to weep. I stroked her long brown hair.

"It's okay, Mommy. I know you're good now." Her voice was small, but resolute. "I can feel it." I had waited nearly ten years to believe those words.

"Thank you," I whispered, feeling the weight of all that guilt fly from my shoulders. The sign I'd been waiting for had come. I had been redeemed at last.

a n: And there you have it. Thanks so much for the (too kind) encouragement.