AN: Well here it is, the LAST chapter. An extra special THANK YOU to everyone who read and reviewed over the years. I honestly didn't intend to take so long to finish this fic, but you know, life gets in the way. And yes, I ended up using my OC Rianna (from my other story "My Mother") a little bit more than I intended - sometimes things go that way.
"Father and Son"
Six months later
It was a lazy winter afternoon on Naboo. Snow was falling in large flakes outside Queen Rianna's window, where she and Luke were lounging on the bed, having just been through a strenuous Force training session. The discovery that Rianna was Force-sensitive had gotten Luke to think that perhaps he and Leia could rebuild the Jedi Order someday, but for now he was just enjoying the moment, running his hand through Rianna's thick black hair, pinching her tangles, listening to her content sighs, gazing at her tan face which was still slightly flushed from the training session.
"Rianna?" he said softly.
Luke took a deep breath, calming himself before speaking. "Rianna . . . I want to marry you."
Rianna gave a small squeal as a big smile spread across her face. "Luke, are you really asking me to marry you?"
Luke gazed down at the mattress. "No, I'm not. Not yet, anyway."
Rianna rolled over to her side, staring at him in disappointment. "What do you mean?"
Luke's fingers were tracing circles into the mattress. "I will ask you. I'm just not asking you yet."
He looked back up, seeing his girlfriend sighing and glancing downward. "This is about your father, isn't it?" she muttered.
"You know that it would be nearly impossible to get him out of prison again," Rianna continued.
"Yes," said Luke, "which is why I would like to wait until he's released."
Rianna's head shot up, glaring at him. "Wait twenty years?"
"No," Luke said quickly, brushing Rianna's forehead with his real hand. "After five years, he has a chance of early release."
"There's no guarantee . . ."
"I know," Luke interrupted. "I know, but I have faith in him." He took his girlfriend's hand and stroked her knuckles with his thumb. "How about this? If he doesn't get released after five years, then we can go ahead and get married."
Rianna gave a long sigh, pushing her hand out of Luke's and reaching over to touch her boyfriend's shoulder. "Luke . . . that's still a long time. What if we no longer feel the same way by then?"
Luke reached up to his shoulder and took her hand again. "Then we can go our separate ways – but I sense that we'll still feel the same way." He brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it. "I have faith in you too."
Rianna's bright green eyes stared at him for several moments. For a second or two Luke worried that she might be considering breaking up right then and there, saving them both the trouble of waiting so long, but then a look of acceptance gradually overtook her face and she gave a small nod.
"Okay," she whispered.
Luke gave a relieved smile. "Really?"
"Really." She leaned over and gave Luke a kiss. "I can have faith too."
. . . . .
Coruscant, One year later
"Prisoner Skywalker, you have visitors."
Anakin nodded at the guard. He wasn't exactly sure why, but he was finally "Prisoner Skywalker" to the guards instead of "Prisoner Vader." Most likely his children had had something to do with that.
Leia and Han entered the cell, both looking rather nervous. After the guard's familiar "Ten minutes" and the locking of the door, the couple walked up to their father, clasping each other's hands.
"Hey Dad," Han said with his large grin. "Guess what?"
Anakin didn't get a chance to actually guess, since Leia stepped up to him and took his gloved hand. "Father . . ." she said in a voice that sounded like she was about to burst, ". . . I'm pregnant."
Anakin suddenly felt dizzy. The same two words Padme had spoken so long ago, the words that had been the beginning of the end. Death in childbirth – would he start having nightmares about his daughter suffering it as well? No . . no . . . not again, not again.
"Dad?" Han asked. "Are you all right?"
Anakin stared at his daughter's stomach which held new life. What would have happened to Padme if he hadn't been so desperate to save her? Would she have died in childbirth anyway, or was it only his actions that killed her? He would never know.
"You're worried about me," Leia said suddenly.
She touched her stomach, staring at him, making him wish he had shielded his feelings from her.
"I won't die in childbirth," she said steadily.
The same thing Padme said. The same pointless attempt at comforting him. Anakin's gaze wandered over to his son, whose eyes had suddenly widened. He sensed those unwelcome memories swirling in Han's head.
"Train yourself to let go of all your fear to lose."
Why were Yoda's words in his mind again? Those impossible to obey words that had only made everything worse. He looked into his daughter's eyes that so closely resembled Padme's, cursing that she couldn't see his face through the mask.
"It's all right," Leia said gently, putting her hand on his armored shoulder.
"Dad, please," Han said in an uncertain voice, "don't do anything stupid. Not again." He put his hands on his wife's shoulders. "See, she's fine. She's strong."
Strong. Padme was strong too, but that didn't save her in the end.
After a moment's hesitation, Leia put her hands on the sides of Anakin's helmet, closing her eyes. She gave a steady breath and Anakin could feel a calming presence in his mind, a presence he almost rejected right away. Did he have a right to be calmed down if his personal history would repeat itself?
"Be assured," she said. "Don't be afraid."
"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."
No, he couldn't be afraid. Not again. He couldn't cause more suffering.
After Leia removed her hands, he stood up and gathered his son and daughter into his arms. The guards would probably laugh at this sight, but he didn't care. As he embraced his children, his mind traveled into a possible future. He imagined his daughter crying out as she gave birth, followed by eternal silence. He imagined Han bursting into inconsolable sobs. He imagined being told his daughter was gone forever, another life destroyed for a baby's sake.
The scenes seemed to float in his head. It was possible – after all, it had happened to Padme – but it was only one possible future. There were others, right? And even if that was the future . . . what then?
He would have once asked a similar question about Padme's death. What then? He would have thought the world would cease to exist, but it didn't. He would have thought that life would be worth nothing without Padme, but somehow it was still worth something. He would have thought Padme was his entire reason for existence, yet he still existed without her.
Was that what Yoda meant?
As he pulled out of the embrace, Anakin looked down at his daughter's smile. She had Padme's smile, the smile that could grant him peace of mind no matter what mood he had previously been in.
"Congratulations, Leia," he said, nodding at the young couple.
And no nightmares haunted him that night.
. . . . .
Nine months later
"Do you really feel safe bringing your children here?" the guard outside Anakin's cell asked. "Aren't you concerned for their safety?"
"Bantha shit," said Han, cradling his baby son. "These are his grandkids."
"We wish to show the prisoner his grandchildren," said Leia, who was cradling her baby daughter. "Surely you won't deny the war heroes their request?"
The guard sighed. "No, I won't," he said, "but I don't like this."
He opened the door and the couple hurried in, not bothering to listen to his call of "ten minutes." Anakin was seated on the bench as usual, but he perked up when he sensed the coming of his children.
"You're a grandfather," Leia breathed. "Twins."
For a moment Anakin simply looked up at them, his mask vacant of expression but his emotion pouring into Leia's head. She felt relief coming from her father that she did not die in childbirth, followed by amazement that they were actually taking their babies to the prison.
"Twins," he finally repeated in his low voice.
"Yes," said Leia, "twins." She stepped up to her father, holding the baby for him to see. "This is your granddaughter, Jaina."
Han stepped up next to her, holding their son up to their father. "Your grandson, Jacen."
Anakin stiffened up against the wall. "They'll be afraid of me."
"No they won't," said Leia. "Really, they won't."
"We want 'em to get to know you now," added Han. "So they won't be scared of you later."
Anakin slowly rose, leaning forward in increments. Leia held her breath, focusing on soothing her children with the Force, silently praying that they wouldn't start crying at the sight of their grandfather. Anakin was taking off his gloves, revealing those flesh-imitating hands, moving them closer and closer to the babies' heads.
And he touched them.
Leia slowly exhaled as she realized what was happening. Her children weren't crying – they were merely looking up at their grandfather with wide baby eyes. As Anakin's hands stroked their foreheads, Leia sensed that he was acting with caution, always conscious that his hands were still made of metal. He was being as gentle as if they were his own children. His fingers slowly moved upward and brushed their tufts of downy brown hair.
Leia felt peace. Peace flowing off of her father and her children.
. . . . .
Two years later
Han couldn't stay still. He kept rising from the bench outside the senate's debate chamber only to sit back down. The speeders eternally flying past the large windows did nothing to distract him, nor did Luke and Rianna sitting on the bench next to him, Luke clasping his girlfriend's hand. Han found himself wishing they hadn't left the children at home with Chewie babysitting them. At least rambunctious toddlers would distract him better than this unchanging view.
"D'you think we're doin' the right thing?" he suddenly asked as he leaned against the window.
"What?" said Luke.
"Do you think we're doin' the right thing?" Han repeated, looking down at Luke. "You know, tryin' to get him out of prison."
"What?" said Luke. He stood up and walked next to his brother. "Han, isn't this what you've been hoping for for five years?"
"Well . . . yeah . . . but . . ." Han turned to look back out the window. "Even if he gets let out, what'll happen next? You know the galaxy isn't gonna be all forgive and forget." He pressed his hand against the glass. "And even if by some miracle they start appreciating how he killed the Emperor, he's still got that . . . thing on him. He'll be an outcast for the rest of his life no matter what."
Luke gazed out the window, his ghostly reflection merging with the outside traffic. "Yes, he will," he said solemnly.
"What?" Han exclaimed. "You weren't sp'osed to agree with me."
"Well I agree with you too," said Rianna, joining them at the window. "He won't be an accepted member of society. The galaxy still fears him and no one can do anything to change that."
"So why're we even doin' this?" Han said with a sigh that fogged up the window. "At least in prison he didn't have to be an accepted member of society. At least there he was safe."
Luke put his robotic hand on his brother's shoulder, letting Han feel the pressing grip of the metal. "Han, do you think he wants to spend the next fifteen years in that cell?" He wiped the fog from Han's sigh off the window. "I'm sure he's thought about all this a hundred times over. But you know what?" He patted Han's shoulder, bringing it a bit of pain. "He won't have to face the galaxy alone. He has us." His reflection smiled at his brother. "And if it weren't for you, he'd be dead. Even though he wanted us to let him die, I think by now he's started to appreciate what you did for him."
Han shrugged. "It just didn't seem right to let him die after he finally became the dad I remembered."
Just then they heard the rumble of crowds moving about in the senate chamber, indicating that the meeting was over. Han's stomach did a flip as the door opened and the crowds of senators began filing out. He gulped, trying to pick Leia out of the hordes of people pushing their way out. Soon the hall was full of senators going this way and that, chattering about hell-knew-what, but still there was no sign of Leia.
"I see her!" Luke finally exclaimed.
Sure enough, there she was, her blue and purple senate robes dancing around her feet and the hair buns around her ears starting to come undone as she pushed her way through the crowd. When she reached her husband, she took his hands, panting for a few seconds, then she threw her arms around him.
"We did it," she whispered.
It took Han a couple of seconds to realize what she meant. "You mean . . .?"
Leia nodded. "Tomorrow he'll be a free man."
The next thing Han knew, he was in the middle of a group hug with Leia and Luke. Even Rianna joined the hug after a few moments, but once she did, Luke seemed to remember something important, for he broke out of the hug and dropped to one knee, nearly causing a few passing senators to trip over his leg.
"Rianna," he said, taking his girlfriend's hand, "will you marry me?"
Rianna grinned, giving a short laugh. "You know I will."
Luke stood up and kissed his new fiancée, and at the same time the long married Han and Leia dissolved into their own kiss. Han knew there were probably technicalities with his father's release – the New Republic would likely still keep a close eye on him – but for the moment, all that mattered was that at this time tomorrow he would be free.
. . . .
En route to Naboo
Again Anakin was being escorted to Naboo via prison shuttle, only this time, the shuttle wouldn't be taking him back. He wasn't at all surprised to learn that his children had moved to Naboo, though he suspected that part of that decision had to do with him. They knew he would have to live with them after he got out of prison – a condition of his release – and they knew which planet he would most like to live on.
"You have some very persistent children," said one of his guards.
"I am proud of them," Anakin replied simply, leaning back in his seat.
"Though I have to say," the guard continued, playing with a piece of her hair. "killing the Emperor probably helped your chances of getting out early. Not to mention that you've caused absolutely no trouble in prison."
Anakin said nothing, instead looking out at Naboo growing larger and larger outside the shuttle.
"So, do you have any plans for the future?" the guard asked.
"No," said Anakin. "I just want to be with my children."
. . . .
Not surprisingly, as soon as Anakin and his guard started to descend the shuttle ramp, the press bombarded them. The flashes of holocameras irritated the redness in Anakin's mask and the questions coming from all directions seemed to pound in his brain.
"Lord Vader, is it true that you and the Emperor had a falling out before you killed him?"
"Lord Vader, is there any chance of getting the suit removed?"
"Lord Vader, will you be keeping the suit black or painting it another color?"
"Lord Vader, has your time in prison changed your outlook on life?"
"Lord Vader, do you think the New Republic's justice system is perhaps too lenient?"
"HEY!" a familiar deep, brash voice called. "He's not interested in your stupid questions right now!"
Han stepped up to his father, followed by Luke and Leia, though the press still crowded around them, still bombarding Anakin with questions.
"Ignore them," said Luke.
"Senator Organa Solo," a reported said to Leia, "what was your method for getting your father out of prison?"
"I have no comments," said Leia. "None of us have any comments."
Han grabbed one of Anakin's arms. "C'mon, let's get outta here."
"We have to come too," one of the guards said.
"Fine," said Han, waving his arm at the reporters, trying unsuccessfully to get them to leave. "Just don't let them follow us."
. . . .
After the guards gave Anakin and his children a briefing about how they would be constantly checking in to see how things were going and how Anakin would need one of his children to accompany him whenever he went out, he was finally able to enter Leia and Han's house, and instantly he was consumed by memories of Padme's house. The windows were large, inviting the sunlight, and there was even a view of the lake in the distance. Holos of the children covered the walls, the faces smiling down at their grandfather. Even the couches in the living room were large and inviting, covered with flowered fabric.
"Is someone home?" called Rianna's accented voice from one of the other rooms.
"Yes," Leia called back. "Tell the children that their grandfather's home.
Anakin's stomach suddenly hurt. As their parents wanted, Jaina and Jacen were used to his presence after visiting him in prison multiple times, but how would they react to him living with them?
No sooner had he thought that than Jaina and Jacen came running in, their little arms waving. Within moments they were each wrapping their arms around his legs, a sight that would no doubt be considered comical by some, but Anakin didn't care. He took off his gloves and rubbed their heads.
"Yes, Grandpa's going to be staying with us," Leia said. "We're going to take care of him."
"Yay!" Jaina cried.
Rianna entered the room, wiggling her fingers to show off her new engagement ring, but Anakin hardly noticed it. His focus was on the baby in Rianna's arms, whom she was handing to Han.
"C'mon," Han whispered to the baby. "Let's meet your grandfather." He brought the baby up to Anakin, letting him look into the child's wide eyes. Like his older siblings, he didn't cry; he only stared, as if even at this young age he could sense that his grandfather meant him no harm.
"Baby Anakin," Han said, grinning.
Anakin stroked the child's head, trying to ignore how his insides still trembled at the thought of Leia and Han actually naming their baby after him.
As if the Force was guiding them, Luke and Leia took Anakin's hands and led him over to the window, followed by Han, Rianna, and even the toddlers. They all stared out at the sun sparkling over the lake as if in a dance. Even tinted red, it was beautiful.
Anakin looked over at Han, remembering how he had found that baby so long ago. What a stubborn, impossible person he had grown up into.
And Anakin owed his life to his son's stubbornness.
"Welcome home, Dad," Han said, smiling at his father.
As he looked back at the lake, his family around him, Anakin felt a strange sort of peace. The galaxy still wouldn't trust him, most people probably wouldn't accept him, he would still need to be checked by the authorities, but none of that mattered right now. Only one thought overcame him, one thought that mattered.
He was home.
AN: Well, there it is. After four years, it's FINALLY done. I'm not sure if there will be a sequel or not – I might do SOMETHING else with this timeline, but I'm not sure what yet. In the meantime, I think I'll go finish my other story "Destiny." Hope you enjoyed reading it, cause I enjoyed writing it.