AN: Oh...my...God...I...never...thought...I'd...finish...this. I didn't think I was CAPABLE of finishing long stories, but look, here I am. I want to send a HUGE, ENORMOUS thank you to absolutely everyone who reviewed. I probably wouldn't have gotten this far without all the wonderful reader support. THANK YOU ALL!!!
"Luke! Luke! It's happened! You're an uncle! A girl and a boy!"
Padme's frenzied voice abruptly woke Luke, who couldn't believe he had managed to fall back asleep after feeling Leia's trauma. It was as if Obi-Wan's voice had sedated him, sending him into a peaceful dream of which he remembered nothing except that his father had been present in it. The panic he felt over his sister's suffering had faded away, the Force now communicating peace from her.
"A girl and a boy?" he repeated in a dazed voice, not completely comprehending his mother's statement.
"Yes!" Padme said, nodding so rapidly that she looked like her head was about to snap off. "Come on up and see them!" She scampered up to Chewie's sleeping body. "Chewie, wake up! Come meet Leia and Han's new twins!"
Chewie woke up surprisingly fast, giving a growl of excitement as he jumped to his feet.
"Yes Chewie, they're all fine," said Padme. "Go on up and see them."
Chewie did as he was told, shaking the floor as he ran to the turbolift. Luke supposed he should be following, but his body still felt too numb to move. A twitch in his Force senses was wordlessly speaking to him, telling him that something important had occurred while he slept.
"Father was here, wasn't he?" he whispered, looking straight into his mother's brown eyes.
Padme looked quizzically at him. "Yes Luke...he was..." She took her son's hand and pulled him to his feet. "Come on, I'll tell you about it on the way."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Have you decided on their names yet?" Nia was asking when Padme and Luke entered Leia's room. The new parents were sitting on the bed, each still cradling a little bundle, while Chewie was sitting on the other bed, apparently still unnoticed.
"I think so," said Han. "Unless Leia's havin' second thoughts all of a sudden."
"All right," said Nia. "Boy's name?"
"Jacen Luke Solo," Leia said with elegance in her voice. "His middle name is to honor his uncle."
Nia grinned. "Has a good ring. How about the girl?"
Leia eyed her mother in the doorway before answering, giving a slight wink. "Jaina Amidala Solo."
Nia gave a slight laugh. "Now that's a beautiful name if I ever heard one. It's certainly well-deserved."
Leia and Han laughed with her, their faces once more turned down at their children. Han kissed his daughter's downy head while Leia gently grasped her son's tiny hand. Neither one looked like they had recovered from the initial shock of becoming parents - their eyes conveyed wonderment and thankfulness.
Padme was hesitant to interrupt this intimate scene, but there was an introduction to be had. She cleared her throat, which brought only minor attention from the couple.
"Leia, Han," she said, "Luke would like to meet his niece and nephew."
"Well what's he waiting for?" Leia chided.
Luke strode towards the bed. "For you guys to notice me," he said with a grin.
"That might've taken a while with these little guys here," said Han, glancing to the side. "Oh, hey Chewie, how long have you been there?"
Five minutes, growled Chewie. Would you like to introduce your cubs to me now?
"Well...sure buddy, just don't crush 'em." He carefully stood up and hesitantly placed Jaina in the Wookiee's arms. To everyone's surprise, Chewie handled her as if she were a delicate piece of glass, stroking her skin with the smallest of touches.
Meanwhile Leia handed Jacen to his uncle, whose eyes welled up with tears almost immediately. Padme suspected that perhaps it was more than mere emotion from becoming an uncle - it seemed more stemmed out of his senses feeling that they had nearly died.
"Hello Jacen," he murmured. "I'm your uncle Luke." He tickled the baby's belly, making him coo.
"Uncle Luke," Han repeated. "You're gonna have to get used to that title, kid."
Luke was able to pry his eyes away from the baby long enough to look up at Han. "And you're going to have to get used to the title 'Dad.' I imagine that'll be even more difficult." He snickered as Han rolled his eyes, but then he wisely decided to change the subject.
"Leia..." he said so quietly that he could barely be heard, "...Mother told me about what happened."
Leia ran her fingers through her hair. "I'd rather not think about that right now...I mean, I almost lost them..."
"But you didn't," Luke said with a smile.
The new mother reached up and stroked her son's cheek. "No...I didn't...because..." Her eyes squinted and she swallowed a sob, unable to finish her sentence.
Luke leaned over and gently placed Jacen back in his mother's arms. "I understand, Leia." He patted the baby on the head. "I'm proud of you, sister."
Padme felt herself smiling in triumph as she watched the conversation, failing to notice Chewie offering her the baby girl until he growled, Padme, would you like to hold her now?
"Oh...of course I would, Chewie." She allowed Chewie to place the small girl in her arms with only the slightest nervousness, and even that faded away once she looked into the infant's eyes.
Though she was only an hour old, Jaina stared up at her grandmother in complete wonderment, seeming to sense the reason why she was born safely. Her tiny mouth opened and closed as if trying to talk to her.
"Hello Jaina," Padme whispered, carefully placing a finger on the baby's cheek. "I'm your grandmother. Did you ever hear my voice in the womb?"
The baby's blue eyes continued to stare, blinking regularly.
"When you get older, I'll tell you my story," Padme continued. "You'll also learn about how your grandfather saved you and your brother."
Jaina made a small mewing sound, like she was telling her grandmother that she already knew about that.
Meanwhile Leia had started feeding Jacen. She was smiling at her mother getting acquainted with Jaina, but she also gestured with her head, silently telling Padme that Jaina would probably want some food too. With quite a bit of hesitation, the ambassador obeyed her daughter, placing the baby girl in her free arm.
With neither child available to hold, Padme, Luke, Han, and Chewie gathered around the window, noticing that the sun was beginning to come up, sending its glow on the slowly-awakening city, washing away the darkness, introducing a new day to the people and a new life to the family.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
As the day passed, visitors poured into the hospital, eager to meet the new babies and congratulate the parents. Sola was the first to arrive, bringing the droids with her (much to Han's dismay). She also brought two bouquets of flowers, one bearing a note saying, "It's a Girl," and the other bearing a note that said, "It's a Boy."
"They look like their grandmother," she observed, gripping her sister's shoulder.
Padme shrugged. "I'd say they look more like their parents myself."
"Master Han," 3PO was saying, "do you suppose that I could hold your infants for a moment?"
"No," Han said, his eyeballs rolling.
"Oh, but Master Han, if I were to hold them, I would perhaps understand what all the fuss is about. After all I am supposed to have a strong grip on human behavior."
"3PO, if you so much as touch my kids, I'll get you deactivated," Han said, pointing an angry finger at the droid.
"Very well, sir," said 3PO. "I shall see if Mistress Leia will oblige me instead."
Leia grinned. "Well...maybe when they're a bit older."
Meanwhile, R2 was giving excited beeps, rolling around in circles. After a little coaxing from the humans, 3PO translated his enthusiasm, saying that the astro droid wished to record this happy moment.
Han reacted far more favorably to that request.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A little bit later, Nia brought in Cre, Hella, and Senon to visit the babies, all of whom reacted with a simultaneous "awwww" sound. Each of them wanted a turn holding both the infants. It surprised everyone when the tough street girls Hella and Cre kept gushing about the children as if they were fellow mothers.
"You are adorable, yes you are, yes you are, yes you are," Cre said when she held Jaina, her high voice bordering on an obnoxious tone. She tickled the baby's stomach. "Yes yes yes, you are a sweetie."
Since Senon had already taken her turns holding both babies, she approached the new grandmother. "So Padme...were you really possessed?"
Padme gulped, her stomach performing a small flip. She wasn't prepared to explain about her experience, but she supposed Nia hadn't wanted to keep anything from her sister. "Well...I guess you might call it that."
"Weren't you scared?" asked Senon.
Padme shifted her eyes. "I don't think anyone could go through that without being scared, but mostly I felt enlightened...like my husband and I had achieved a level of intimacy neither of us knew we were capable of."
Senon's eyes widened like a schoolgirl finding out the truth about where babies come from. "It sounds really weird."
"It was weird..." affirmed Padme, "...but it was also wonderful."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Jar Jar Binks arrived around the same time as Ryoo and her family did. Both had large bouquets of flowers for the new parents, which made the hospital room look reminiscent of a plant nursery.
"Deysa comin from underwater," said Jar Jar. "Meesa gaterin dem myself."
Leia smiled as she gazed at the long-petaled flowers. "Thank you Jar Jar, they're lovely."
Jar Jar smiled back for the briefest of seconds before noticing Han. "Hannie!" he exclaimed, shuffling up to the father. "Meesa congratulatin you moi moi mucho!" He shook Han's hand with even more vigor than he had when they met. "My bettin yousa mus be moi proud dad!"
Han forced himself to grin. "Yup, I am. But it's Han."
Jar Jar gave his toothy grin. "Yousa babies loverly, Hannie."
Ryoo giggled. "You haven't changed much, have you Jar Jar?" She gently sat down on the bed next to Leia, little Padme in her lap. "Look, little Padme, see your new cousins? Someday you can play with them."
Little Padme smiled as she reached her pudgy arms out for the babies, but she couldn't get close enough to touch them.
"She's getting big," observed Leia.
"Yup," said Ryoo. "She can walk now. Savor your newborns, Leia - they grow faster than you imagine."
"Much faster," agreed Padme. "Of course, I don't think they'll grow quite as fast for you as you and Luke did for me."
Her wink that followed told everyone it was all right to laugh.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"I wish Pooja could be here," Ryoo was saying as she cradled little Jacen. Little Padme was taking a few wobbly steps next to her, holding onto the bed for support.
"We already commed her," said Leia. "She'll be returning soon to see them."
Han sighed. "So that means we gotta stay here till she can see 'em?"
Leia's attempt to answer was interrupted by a knock on the door of their room. Luke practically flew to answer it, making everyone suspicious of who it was - as well as reawakening their suspicions about Luke's relationship with the figure behind the door.
"Rianna!" Luke exclaimed.
The queen stood in the doorway, her tan face appearing to blush, yet another bouquet of flowers in her arms. "Luke...I got your message about the babies."
"Well what are you standing there for?" Luke said with a grin. "Come on in and meet them."
Rianna stepped into the room, swallowing a couple of times as she approached Han. "Well, congratulations on becoming a father, Han." She handed him the bouquet while glancing around the room. "I guess I'm not the first one to give you these, am I?"
"We've had a few of 'em," said Han.
Rianna turned towards Leia, slowly growing a smile as she watched the princess feed Jaina. "And here's the most fortunate mother in the galaxy." She pranced over to the bed. "Luke told me about what happened in his message."
Leia's eyes lowered to her daughter. "I don't fully understand it either."
Rianna gently sat down next to the mother. "Maybe you don't need to fully understand it. A lot of stuff's happened to me that I don't fully understand."
Leia slowly raised her head back up, her brown eyes meeting the queen's. "I suppose we've both had to come to terms with things involving our fathers lately..."
"Thanks to your mother," said Rianna. She leaned over to get a better look at the baby. "She's beautiful...you must be so thankful to have her and her brother safe."
Leia leaned back, a long sigh escaping her lips. "Yes...yes we are."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Luke was touring the garden outside the hospital, getting some much-appreciated fresh air. He tried to look at the multi-colored flowers and oddly-shaped trees, but no matter how exotic a plant was, it somehow always reminded him of the babies. He still wasn't sure if his feet were actually touching the ground or if his spirit was actually inside his body. Perhaps his spirit was really still in the hospital with his niece and nephew.
Suddenly he ceased walking, sensing another presence a few paces behind him - a presence that was possibly following him. Without waiting to identify the pursuer's Force signature, he snapped his body around.
"Oh...Luke..." Rianna stammered.
Luke wasn't sure whether to be angry or flattered. He put one hand on his hip, giving a half-grin to the queen. "Any particular reason why you followed me out here?"
Rianna's fingers awkwardly toyed with her shirt. "Well...I wanted to talk to you...privately."
Instead of answering, she headed towards a stone bench facing a small fountain. She settled herself down on it and gestured for Luke to sit beside her. He did so, but she still gave no answer. The slow trickling of the fountain seemed to have cast a spell on her, muting her eternally and spreading to Luke, making him more and more hesitant to speak. Her eyes seemed to be all he needed right now - conversation would add nothing.
"It was amazing..." Rianna finally murmured, jolting Luke as if he'd been awakened from a sound sleep.
"What was?" he asked in a slightly-dazed voice.
Rianna turned her head, shifting her focus to the fountain. "What happened last night...I had no idea the Force was capable of that..."
"The Force is capable of many things," said Luke, putting his real hand on her shoulder.
Rianna sighed, reaching up and putting her hand on his. "So much destruction can come from it...but also so much good..." She leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. "I suppose that's the paradox of life, isn't it?"
Luke's hand slipped back into his lap as he tried to ignore the fact that he wanted to touch her even more - a fact he had been ignoring for weeks. The weight of her head was like a soothing massage, the smell of her hair sweeter than that of the flowers around them.
All of a sudden, the queen raised her head, chilling Luke's shoulder. "I want to learn more about it," she said with a burst of excitement.
The Jedi supposed that he could use any of a thousand different ways to tell her that he would be honored to continue her lessons, but rather than use any of them, he simply nodded, his eyes brightening, a large smile stretching his lips.
He felt Rianna's fingers running down his cheek, feeling the ridges formed by his smile. "I guess that was part of my problem before," she said. "My inability to accept paradoxes."
In an attempt to convey that he wasn't only thinking about how good her touch felt, Luke said, "How do you mean?"
Rianna licked her lips, hiding them for a moment, making her mouth look like only a line. "Well for example, take this paradox." She stroked his cheek with her whole hand. "I spent so long hating you, seeing you only as a killer, but now..."
Her words faded as her face moved closer to his, an almost magnetic attraction pulling them together, finally climaxing in a kiss. Once they realized their lips had met, their arms hungrily squeezed each other, their mouths dancing, their souls touching, washing away all thought except the desire for this moment to linger into eternity.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Around the time that mid-afternoon arrived, the guests had finally departed, letting the family get some desperately-needed rest. Even Chewie opted to return to Sola's house, figuring that the couple would need some time for themselves. It wasn't long before the babies and the new parents were all fast asleep, the children in their bassinets and one parent in each bed. The four carried an image of complete exhaustion, but also of peace.
Although Padme had been up all night, she strangely didn't feel tired, perhaps because Anakin's presence had renewed her energy well enough. So she found herself quite content to watch the family sleep. She had been spending a long time watching the babies, taking in their chests rising and falling, listening to the tiny breaths emitting from their noses. It was especially hard to tell them apart in sleep, yet somehow Padme knew that the one on the left was Jaina and the one on the right was Jacen - and not merely because of the identification bracelets they wore. She wasn't sure how, but she knew it.
Soon she lost track of how long she had been staring at them. Though she had yet to tire of watching her grandchildren, she began to wonder if staring at them might wake them up, which in turn would wake Han and Leia, who were in great need of a long sleep after what they had endured last night. So she opted to force her gaze away from the infants, instead turning it towards the couple.
Leia was breathing steadily, her eyes scrunched, the covers pulled up to her shoulders, barely exposing the red flowers on her hospital gown. She reminded Padme of the very first morning after getting acquainted with her daughter, awakening to find her looking like an angel in her sleep.
Han was lying on his side, an arm outside of the blankets, his mouth slightly open, giving long, deep breaths. His sleeping form triggered memories of the disdain he expressed for being left on the sofa while Padme took his side of the bed. She grinned to think about those times which seemed so close and yet also seemed a lifetime ago.
The door slid open, Padme barely noticing the sound until she heard Luke shouting with uncharacteristic enthusiasm.
"Mother!" he called. "Rianna! She's...she and I...oh Mother...we..."
Padme whirled around to face her son. "Shhh!" she hissed, one index finger over her mouth and another pointing to the beds. She held her breath as she turned back to the parents, praying that Luke hadn't disturbed them. Han snorted and dug his head deeper into the pillow, but he didn't wake. Leia gave no reaction whatsoever.
"Sorry," Luke whispered.
Padme looked back at her son. "Any particular reason why you burst in here acting like a lovesick schoolboy?" she whispered with a large grin.
Luke rolled his eyes. "Maybe you can figure that out?"
Padme gave a whispering snicker. "We all figured you two out a while ago."
Luke's blushing face confirmed that they had all been right.
Padme wrapped her arms around her son. "I'm happy for you and Rianna, Luke."
"So am I," said a voice that seemed to be coming from the air, pulling Padme into a smile so large that her cheeks hurt. Within a second, Anakin's figure materialized in front of them, smiling as widely as Padme was. "Congratulations, Luke."
Luke shoved himself out of the embrace as soon as he heard the voice. "F-F-Father?" he stammered, his eyes growing moist.
Anakin nodded, stroking his son's cheek. "I'm proud of you, my son."
Luke's eyes were wide, scarcely blinking. "Thank you, Father." A tear leaked out of his eye, trickling down his cheek as his father gathered him into an embrace.
Padme wanted to say something, but it seemed that she was muted by the wave of reverence overtaking her. The time spent sharing a body with him would be something she would treasure for the rest of her life, no matter how strange or alien it would sound to others. For her, it had been like a mortal gaining a rare glimpse of the wisdom to be gained from the spiritual world, something usually blocked from those in physical bodies.
The bed creaking and barefoot steps jolted her senses back into the real world. She whipped her head around and saw her daughter out of bed, walking slowly towards the group, one baby in each arm, their blue eyes staring in enthrallment, causing Padme to wonder if the newborns could see Anakin.
"Leia?" said Padme. "I'm sorry, did we wake you?"
"Yes, but it's all right," replied Leia. She gave a smile wider than Padme had ever seen, but it didn't seem directed at her or Luke.
"I want to show the twins to their grandfather," she said.
For a moment Padme was overtaken by complete shock, briefly wondering if she had heard her daughter correctly. But then once she saw that Leia was indeed looking right at Anakin, she felt like she had been whisked into a glorious dream. Her entire body stilled except for her mouth, which was trembling, producing small sobs of joy. Leia could see her father. Without hatred. Without fear.
Anakin was rubbing each child on the head, like he was giving them a spiritual blessing. "They're beautiful, Leia. I sense they have great futures."
Tears were streaming down Leia's cheeks. "I...I don't know what to say..."
Anakin kissed his daughter's forehead. "You say enough just by seeing me." His face began shaking, as if he were just as taken aback as she was. "You have no idea how long I've waited for this..."
The other bed creaking briefly brought all heads to look at it, seeing that Han was awake, sitting on the edge of the bed, the covers still over his lap, his eyes bulged and his pupils tiny. He slowly rubbed each eye, as if suspecting that he was dreaming.
"Han, could you please hold Jacen?" Leia quickly asked. "My arms are getting tired."
Han stood up and walked towards Leia in slow motion, like he was under a spell. Even after he took the baby boy into his arms, his eyes refused to look at anything except the ghost in front of him.
Anakin smiled at his son-in-law. "Hello Han," he said. "Are you taking care of my daughter?"
Han was breathing noisily, looking a few seconds away from fainting.
"It's all right," continued Anakin. "I imagine this must be a big shock for someone like you." His grin grew more mischievous. "Obi-Wan told me you once called the Force a hokey religion, after all."
Han blinked rapidly, moistening his very dry eyes. "I-I...I guess...maybe I should thank you for savin' my kids and all..."
Anakin nodded. "You're welcome."
Padme patted her son-in-law's arm. "Good job, Han."
Han was still trembling, but tiny hints of a smile began to appear on his lips.
Padme stepped closer to her husband, her soul aching for more time with him. She stared at his eyes, still as beautiful as they had been when alive. "Ani..."
She needed to say nothing more for him to grab her into his warm, intangible arms and his lips to envelope hers, stopping time, sweeping her once more into his love, extinguishing all sense of strangeness. She closed her eyes, absorbing that glorious, timeless moment, not caring if everyone was watching them.
Her eyes reluctantly opened when his lips released her, though his arms still brushed her body with ghostly warmth. His face was relaxed, his smile serene, his eyes shining, as if a heavy weight had finally been lifted from his soul.
"Well done, Padme," he said.
AN: Wow...finished...sorry, this is a big deal for me - I've never finished a novel-length story before. Well, there MIGHT be a sequel coming. I have some vague ideas for one, but I won't start it until I come up with enough story material. In the meantime, I have other short stories, plus I just started a new long AU, "Father and Son." I will also soon be putting up a "behind the scenes" essay on this story at my SW website (the link is at the bottom of my profile), so keep looking for that.
Love you all! (group hug)