Pemberian Canaille Skywalker jumped gracefully away from her modified A-Wing and quickly walked across the landing pad towards the graying man that waited for her, with his arms crossed over his chest.
"That was some landing," Han Solo proudly, his head shaking as to belie the amusement in his eyes. "But I bet Coruscant Control won't be very happy about it," he said "Where d'ya learn that, kid?"
"From you, my dear Uncle," she laughed before being enfolded in a crushing embrace. "It's been so long," she sighed.
"Almost a year, kid, almost a year..." The older man agreed, slipping his arm around his niece's waist and guiding her towards the main lifts. "Your old man is still in a meeting with the Council and your mom is up there," he lifted his chin to the sky, "making a new batch of cadets sweat in their cockpits."
"I know, I crossed paths with them... Gave'em something to think about too!" Pemberian laughed. "Some of those little hotshots deserved to have their minds wiped for thinking such nasty things about their instructor..."
"And that's why she wanted me to teach you..." Han said with a wry grin. "She said she'd get too distracted trying to teach you some traffic manners. It's all part of growing up Kid, As if I hadn't hated my first flight instructor too!"
Laughing, they started the slow descent into the main building of the Jedi Temple.
"What about my cousins?" Pem asked, catching her breath at last. "What are they destroying these days?"
"Besides half the hearts in the city? Boy, I think Jaina's making my hair grow gray at a double rate... She probably wants to break your record before she turns twenty-one or something..."
"I wasn't so bad!" The young woman protested half-heartedly.
"You think that because your dad is blonde and the gray doesn't show," the old smuggler mocked her. "He's much more relaxed now that you seemed to have settled down..."
"Not quite, Uncle Han..."
"Nothing, don't worry... It's just... It's still a new thing..."
"A new thing?" Han pressed gently. "The same new thing that's been going on for the last three years?"
Pem nodded. "Yeah, he wants to get married I think..."
"You think?" Han echoed, momentarily considering reaching for the 'stop' button.
"OK, OK," Pem admitted. "He did ask..."
Pem sighed, and Han knew she hadn't mentioned it to her father yet, the man she still called Pay-pa in her heart. "I just don't know if I'm ready just yet..."
"Ok, when you do decide you're ready, you just give us a fair warning, will ya, kid? Your Aunt Leia will be very pissed if you don't let her organize your wedding. Ask your mother if you don't believe me."
"What about the boys? And Uncle Chewie?" Pemberian said suddenly, changing the subject. "What are they doing these days? I saw Jacen in Corellia a couple of months ago..."
"Yeah, he's doing well there under Toa's supervision..." Han replied, picking up the lead. "He says he'll be an excellent Healer. Who would have said that, the day he was born... He said he'd be able to take a few days off to spend his birthday here with Jaina and Ben, as always. Chewie took the Falcon to Kashyyyk to bring his family here and is picking up Anakin and his Master in the way back, so we'll have an almost full crew by the end of the week. "
"And how's Ben doing?" Pem asked, visibly relaxing. "Is Ma-mere still very mad at him? She said that she wasn't but..."
"Yeah, she's trying to hide the disappointment, but you know her. I think they're just too alike, every time they try to talk to each other they turn it into a who-is-more-stubborn competition... She'll come around; they love each other too much not to. Plus, Leia says your brother has a real talent for organizing people and motivating them... Maybe it's not just another of his rebel whims. Maybe he really wasn't meant to be a Jedi after all."
The dark-haired woman sighed. Ben Skywalker, named after two of the most famous Jedi, son of the founder of the New Jedi Order, born right in the middle of the Council Chamber, did not want to become a Jedi. Maybe the Force did have a sense of humor after all.
Passing virtually unnoticed by the many visitors and residents, Jedi and non-Jedi alike, they had arrived in the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Assembled by the largest one, a young man, though clearly still in his teenage years, was teaching a group of five-olders how to sail their little flimsy boats using only the Force. The kids raced each other and cheered when they managed to sink their teacher's vessel.
"Remember that, Pem?" Han Solo smiled. "You loved to play that game with the younglings..."
"I do," Pem sighed wistfully, and then her whole demeanor lit up as she spied a familiar face across the room. "By the Force!" She exclaimed. "Is that little Auryn? I think he grew taller than you, Uncle Han!"
"Sis!" The blonde giant cheered, barging towards them and tossing his sister over his shoulder. "I told you I would be soon able to do this!"
"Put me down, Ryn, you big gundark!"
"Where, here?" He asked innocently, balancing her over the edge of the fountain.
"Ryn! Quit!" she squealed, pounding him on the back. "If you don't know it off right now I'll get Kay to convince every Art Critic in the Core that your work blows grassers!"
"Oh come on, sis, you know that it's not my work that – "
"Don't even start that again, Auryn Owen Skywalker!" a new voice called from across the crowded room. "Kay'leb might have thought it funny to announced to the Galaxy that you were leaving your promised mate for a group of Naboo-boys, but I don't!" The owner of the voice was a petite lithe blond woman, with a full pretty mouth and green eyes that snapped with annoyance. "Or maybe I will instead!"
"Fy'lo!" The brother and sister cried in unison, as Han looked on, bemused.
"When did you get in?" Auryn murmured softly as he gently lowered his sister to the ground and took the newcomer into his arms tenderly. "I thought you weren't getting in until tonight?"
"I couldn't wait to see you," she murmured softly, any traces of anger melting away as she gazed into his blue eyes. "I have a room at the Ambassador..." she leaned in for a kiss when a loud, false cough stopped them. The couple pulled away, suddenly embarrassed.
"Good to see you again, Fy'lo," Han said with a grin as he stuck his hand out for a shake. "Ryn, I think it's the younglings time to lunch."
"You're right, Uncle Han. I'll drop them with their monitor and we'll join you two at the refectory."
Han and Pem watched as the young couple gathered the younglings and cleaned up all the wet flimsy. "Are you coming, girl?"
"I'd like to go for a moment to the Fire Room," she whispered. "It's Tam's anniversary today..."
"Oh... Shavit, kid, I forgot... I'm sorry, now I understand why you mother didn't want to celebrate your homecoming today."
"It's never an easy day for her... It will never be. But I understand. You're welcome to come, if you want."
Han Solo followed his niece across the Room of a Thousand Fountains towards a more secluded one, used only by the Jedi for ceremonies that required a certain privacy. It was a simple room, big enough to contain a couple of hundreds of beings. In the middle, surging from an old fashioned metal grate, a flame that to his knowledge had never stopped to burn since Luke had lighted it some twenty years before in memory of the old Jedi.
As the young woman sat down in a meditative position, he took the opportunity to observe her at will. As she matured, she physically looked like her mother more than ever, even if from time to time and under certain lights an uncanny resemblance to Leia came apparent, something they had both probably inherited from Padmé Amidala. The eyes, though, and the rest of her, were pure Luke.
Even if she had had a less than conventional upbringing from the start, with painful experiences in her childhood that had left deep scars, and maybe because of all that, she had never lost the that joy of living that was her trademark. Just like some wide-eyed farmboy he had met in a dusty cantina more than half a life back.
He knew, from his experience as a father, how powerful and deep the bond between Force sensitive twins could be. Only several years after Jaina and Jacen had been born he came to understand how much it must have affected Leia and Luke to grow up apart from each other, and how confusing it must have been when they had been reunited, not knowing who they really were to each other. But Pem... Pem had lost much more than a few years with her twin. And so had Aubé and Luke.
For the first time in many years he found himself thinking of the pregnancies Leia had lost before Jaina and Jacen, and later Anakin, had come into their lives. Was there some meaning, some purpose to it all? Or was it all just like the kid's little flimsy boats back in the other room, some of them sailed and some of them sank, impulsed by some Force none of them really understood and that was all to it?
Pemberian Skywalker smiled, though her eyes remained closed.
Before Han's amazed eyes, the flame took the shape of a boat.
Yeah, a voice seemed to whisper in his mind, just sailing little boats...
Pem opened her blue eyes and winked at him.