Luke gestured to his sister.
"What is it?" she asked quietly, leaving Han to recite a tale of questionable heroics to a receptive audience.
"There's someone ... you should meet," he said cryptically.
He nodded to the hut's interior. She gave him a quizzical look, but passed inside.
A young blonde man was seated opposite the door. He rose as she entered.
Tall, she thought (though she thought that about most men, so tiny was she). Taller than Han, she amended.He gestured for her to sit near him. She approached curiously; something about his appearance seemed ... odd, though she was unable to decide exactly what it was. At close range she could see he was attired in Jedi robes, though all in black instead of the customary rustic brown. When she sat down across from him, he seated himself and there was no longer such an extreme height difference between them.
For a full minute, he did nothing but stare at her in what she could only describe as wondrous amazement. He seemed about to speak at one point, but checked himself.
"Did you want to talk to me?" she finally prompted with her famous (or infamous?) bluntness.
He smiled sheepishly and looked away."I'm sorry," he said. His voice was husky, with a catch in it. He took a deep breath. "That's what I wanted to say to you: I am so, so sorry."
She might have responded with a pithy remark to this stranger who mysteriously appeared to apologize for some unknown slight, but she noticed then that his eyes were full of tears. So she was about to say, I'm afraid I don't understand, when he said, "I understand. You wouldn't recognize me. We've met before, but not been able to see each other. I should have recognized you, however. I should have. And, maybe I did and refused to believe it." He looked her straight in the eye.
She held his gaze for a moment, then looked away from the sad, yet somehow peaceful blue eyes, her eyes alighting on the fingers of his left hand. It was then that she saw it: the faint luminous glow that surrounded him. Her eyes snapped back up to observe him as a whole: Dark blonde hair that probably never stayed combed, sad blue eyes, tip-tilted nose like her own; no one she recognized. But he said we'd never seen each other, she reminded herself. Hesitantly, she felt from inside herself (is this using the Force? she wondered inanely), but succeeded only in receiving a vague impression similar to what she'd always gotten from Luke. Well, it obviously isn't Luke, unless I have yet another long lost brother ... but the thought was barely finished when her eyes rested on the broad, black-clad shoulders and powerful chest and she began to shake uncontrollably.
He seemed to sense this. "Even given the circumstances of our previous ... meetings," he said awkwardly, "I've always admired you. And, like I said, I should have known who you were. Certainly I knew you were capable of protecting yourself with the Force."
With an effort, she dragged her eyes up to his head, so incongruous now that she knew where they'd met. She wanted to stare at him incredulously. He did look - vaguely - something like Luke. Except he had her nose. The tip-tilted, doom-you-to-cuteness nose. She giggled softly, realized she might be getting hysterical, and firmly stifled herself. But she still could not stop shaking. Why now? she wondered. All that time he was this big scary thing that struck terror in the hearts of the strongest warriors and he never affected me like this; why now that I can see his face? The answer came to her: Because I hate you so much for what you did to me, to my mother, to my parents, to my people ... She wanted to strike him again and again, but seeing him; seeing him as he was here, she could not. All she could say was, "My parents told me that my mother died of grief for you." The accusation came out in a sob and she realized she was crying.
He looked down a moment, then said, "No."
"She didn't die of grief."
"Your mother was a strong woman, as strong as you are. You are in love. Put in the same circumstances, with two babies of your own, would you lay down and pine away?"
She could not imagine Han giving in to the Dark (could she?), but fairly tried to put herself in the position where he had been killed (which is what her parents had told her anyway). Being totally honest, she'd always wondered how her mother could have simply laid down and died, though after she'd known what had really happened to her father, the story seemed a bit more credible. Still ...
"No," she admitted.
"You'd have the responsibility for those children, if nothing else," he pointed out unnecessarily.
"I don't understand, then. What happened? My father said he was there when she died, and I can't believe he lied to me about my mother."
"I'm sure her death appeared that way on the surface. And Senator Organa was really only acquainted with your mother professionally. He wasn't really close to her." He paused for a moment, then continued, "She died to protect the both of you from me."
"I would have followed her anywhere she went. She would have been unable to hide from me. And even if she had fostered the two of you out, she would have known where you were - or at least how to find out where you were - and I would have been able to find you. The only way she could save you from me was by dying."
Confusion clouded Leia's mind. Why ...?
"Can you imagine what would happen to a child who grew up surrounded by the Dark Side?" he asked ominously. In the question, she imagined she heard an echo of the deep mechanical voice he'd used for the last twenty-five years of his life. His reasoning seemed convincing, only, if true, her mother would have had to be far stronger than she herself could ever be.
"You're saying she chose to deliberately die?"
"Yes," he said. "In effect, I killed her. The emperor was right about that, though I'm sure he thought he was lying to me at the time."
"In effect," she mimicked, "I suspect she really did die of grief for you."
"No," he insisted.
"I doubt she would have been able to go through with it otherwise."
He glanced at her, guiltily.
"Possibly," he admitted.
For a moment there was silence. Leia realized she was no longer shaking. Talking about her mother's choice had calmed her.
"Senator Organa was a good man," he said at last. "I could not have found someone better for you myself, though I never met his wife."
"They loved me," she told him. "I never even knew I was adopted until I was about nine. Then, I think they only told me so I wouldn't hear it somewhere else first." She valiantly forced her feelings to only skip along the surface; their loss - and the loss of the entire planet with them - was more than she cared to think about, ever.
"I am so sorry," he repeated. "So sorry."
With a sixth sense she was barely aware she possessed, she realized he was fading away.
"No!" she said sharply.
He looked at her sadly.
"Don't go," she whispered, and to her dismay, she burst into tears.
Male arms encircled her and held her close while she sobbed, stroking her hair. When she had exhausted herself, she looked up into her brother's face. The ghost had gone, if he had ever really been there in the first place.
"He was here," Luke reassured her, reading the thought. "He told me - or rather, showed me - the entire story, up until the time we were born. I think I can show it to you sometime, when you're up to it. They were essentially star-crossed lovers, you know."
This didn't seem to match up with what her father had just told her about her mother and she looked at her brother dubiously.
"Everything he did, he did for love of her," he explained. "But his fear of losing her led him down the Dark Side, and he ended up causing the very thing he feared the most. If it weren't so unfortunately true, it would make a fabulous story."
She smiled and gave him a hug.
"Tell me tomorrow," she said.