Four and one half years after "Blind Ambitions"
The President of the New Republic stepped up behind her husband, wrapping her arms around his waist. At least she tried, since it was difficult to hug so far along in a pregnancy. "You look very handsome."
Han grinned, leaning back slightly so he could feel her swollen belly. At eight months pregnant with their fourth child, it always amazed Han how his wife could manage their ever growing household, deal with politicians, and run the government. "Thank you, sweetheart," he replied, wishing he could say she looked beautiful. But now, six years after Bespin, he was still just as blind as he had been the day he'd come out of carbonite. Still, how could he complain? He had healthy, rambunctious five year old twins, three and a half year old Anakin, and in a few weeks, his third son would enter the galaxy. Leia had already picked the name Bail, in honor of her adopted father. Bail Solo - it sounded good to Han. He turned in her arms, lightly touching her face. "Your brother sure did take his sweet time deciding to propose, didn't he?"
"Well, you should understand, darling. Marriage seems to make men nervous."
"Sure, it didn't," Leia said, laughing. "It took me three years to catch you."
"No, it didn't," Han protested. "You had me all tied up the second you told me to jump into that garbage chute. Why do you think I hung around like a lovesick bantha pup?"
"Come on, pup," Leia teased. "We have a wedding to witness."
Mara Jade looked stunning in her cream wedding gown, and Leia was almost moved to tears by her handsome brother standing next to his bride. The twins, dressed up and groomed to an inch of their lives, fidgeted in their formal wear. Leia felt her husband shifting next to her, and it almost made her laugh. Han could complain about dressing up almost as much as the five year olds. Carefully, Leia projected the image of Luke and Mara into her husband's mind, allowing him to 'see' the wedding. She heard him chuckle softly, then whisper, "You're right... Luke looks plenty nervous, but Mara looks... wow."
"Hey, nerf, I didn't show you that so you could drool over Luke's wife."
"I'm not drooling!" Han replied, making a show of dapping his chin which earned him an elbow in his rib. Leia stifled a laugh, and turned her attention back to the ceremony.
So much had happened in a little over four years. The Jedi academy on Coruscant had prospered; Dathomir had become a member of the New Republic and quite of few of the warrior women had become Jedi. Off-worlders had begun settling on the planet, and marriage between off-worlders and the warriors had become commonplace.
Kyp was now sixteen, tall and handsome. In two years he would get his own Knighthood, then take on a Padawan, probably Anakin, since Jacen had already started his training with Luke, and Leia was training Jaina.
Cilghal had become a Jedi Healer. Last year, she had attempted once again to Force-heal Han's eyes, but like Damaya years before, she, too, had failed. Leia knew that up until that point Han had been clinging to the hope that one day he'd see. With Cilghal's failure, he'd given up that hope. Now Olatrella, the young Twi'lik from Tatooine, had become Cilghal's Padawan. Sometimes Leia wondered about Olatrella and the way she looked at Han with a strange mixture of admiration and sadness in her expressive face. It seemed as if she had some inside knowledge about Han that only she knew, and wouldn't disclose.
Teneniel Djo had fallen in love - with Wes Janson of all people! - and finally figured out what marriage meant. The Rogue Squadron could scarcely believe that two such opposites in personality could fall in love. Jokester Wes and somber Teneniel ... it was almost as amazing as a Princess and a smuggler. Their daughter, Tenel Ka, had been born two years ago. Wes Janson, with a Jedi wife and a Force-sensitive daughter - that was enough to keep him in line. Han told Wes it couldn't happen to a more deserving man, forcing Leia to punch him in the arm. Han frequently complained about sore arms and ribs, but Leia diplomatically pointed out that any bruises caused by a certain Princess's flying fist was always his own fault.
Leia leaned over, whispering to Han, "Massy Wennit's here."
"What? How did she get invited?" Han asked indignantly.
"She probably just crashed the wedding, knowing her."
"I heard the woman's desperate for a big comeback. Ever since her show got canceled, no one will give her the time of day," Han whispered back. Indeed, shortly after Massy had been released by the judge for CeeCee's death, she had been shunned by the same rich and famous beings whose attention she needed and craved. Recently, she had appeared on some disgusting 'reality' holoshow, and had even consumed a bowl of live prong-toed dung-roaches during the competition portion of the show. She had become the laughing stock of the galaxy.
When the ceremony concluded, Leia hugged her brother and new sister-in-law. "Welcome to our family, Mara."
Han embraced his sister-in-law, then gave her a wide grin. "I knew you'd end up part of all this, Jade. It was destiny."
"Destiny? I thought you only believed in luck, Solo," Mara shot back quickly.
"Same thing," Han replied, shrugging.
Three years later
Mara tucked her daughter in bed, then gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. Lani, now two, was a quiet, careful child. Eager to please, strong in the Force, she strongly resembled her aunt Leia - her eyes were brown, her hair an auburn shade with just a hint of red highlights. Mara was looking forward to starting her training as a Jedi. Exiting the girl's room, she went into her bedroom where Luke was meditating. Carefully, she sat her six months pregnant body down on the soft bed, trying not to disturb Luke.
It didn't work. He opened his eyes, and looked over at his huge wife. "How are you feeling?"
"That's what happens when you have twins."
"Twins must be some sort of Skywalker thing, but I thought it was only passed down through the women," Mara said with a groan.
"It is, but you don't know if twins are from your side, too," Luke pointed out. He looked thoughtful for a second, then added, "Leia should've had twins again."
Mara laughed, thinking about her sister-in-law's latest child. "You'd better not say that where she can hear you, Skywalker. I think five children are enough for anyone."
Luke smiled, thinking back to his vision of Leia, Han and their five children. Jacen and Jaina were now eight, Anakin a little over six, Bail was almost three, and the last, Pammeda, was two months. Soon, Luke and Mara's twin boys, already named Ben and Han, would be joining the family. With the exception of his brother-in-law, it was a family entirely of Force-sensitives.
Over the years, Luke had watched his sister's children, and then his own daughter, grow, interact, and learn from each other. Their family was tight knit, loving. Sure, they had arguments, just like all families. But the children were learning the meaning of forgiveness and love from each other. And from Han the children were learning something extra - the meaning of patience and coping with adversity while maintaining a good sense of humor. All the children, even little Lani, were very aware of Han's inability to see. The children seemed, at times, almost to compete with each other in order to help Han. They were very careful never to leave their toys where he might trip on them, and when the family got together to play games, they all wanted to be 'partners' with Han. Compassion. That was the word the old Twi'lek Jedi has used all those years ago. Without even trying, Han was teaching the children the true meaning of that very important word.
Luke often wondered about Olatrella, the Jedi Padawan of Cilghal. She had been a wonderful, dedicated Padawan, until last year when she suddenly left Coruscant, leaving only a datacard asking forgiveness. I can't stay here any longer. I'm sorry. Tell Han Solo I'm sorry.
The Corellian had felt badly that the young Twi'lek left her training early, and Han had assumed it was somehow his fault, that she felt guilty about her inability to heal his eyes. Although Luke said nothing, somehow he felt it went deeper than that. Luke wished he could have talked to her about the situation. Maybe he could have prevented her leaving. Sighing, Luke took his wife into his arms, resting his hand over their twins.
Ten years later
The silence in the living room was strained. Neither Han nor Leia spoke, only sipped their rapidly cooling caf across the kitchen table from each other. Finally Leia couldn't stand the silence. "Don't do this, Han."
Han leaned back, shutting his eyes. "It's my last chance, Leia. My last chance. I've been blind for nineteen years. If I don't do this, I'll still be blind when I die of old age."
"I'd rather have you blind and alive, than not have you at all."
"It could work."
Could work. That's what the doctors had told them. There was also a strong possibility Han wouldn't survive the two brain surgeries required to restore his eyesight. Possibly restore his eyesight. There was only a thirty percent chance of success, even if he didn't die. First, however, they would need to open his skull, divide the brain's two hemispheres, remove the cells in the portion of his brain that processed the visual signals from his eyes. He would have to survive that, then wait while the few cells that still functioned were cloned. Then a second surgery would repeat the process, placing the cloned cells back into his brain. Then hope and pray the cloned cells survived, and regenerated his ability to see. If he lived through the surgeries, of course. "Don't do this, Han," Leia repeated, realizing it sounded selfish. So what if she felt selfish? She wanted her husband alive, his mind intact. His eyesight didn't matter to her, it never really had. But it had mattered to Han, more than he'd admit.
Frustrated, Han stood and walked out of the kitchen, then entered the living area. Kyp and Jaina were sitting on the sofa, talking. At eighteen, Jaina had turned into a beautiful young woman, and Kyp had finally noticed her. "Hey, dad," Jaina said quietly. The tension in the house was thick, since the children had all sided with Leia. They had never known their dad any way other than blind. It was simply who he was, and they never really gave it much thought, other than making certain objects were always left in the same place, so he could easily find what he needed. The idea he could die was upsetting everyone, especially ten year old Pammeda.
"Jaina," Han said, acknowledging his eldest daughter. His kids were wonderful. He had a fantastic, loving wife. His brother-in-law had even named one of his identical twins after him. Han knew he should be happy, instead he felt increasingly frustrated with each passing year. "I thought you an' Kyp were going out dancing."
"We were," Kyp replied. "But Pammeda seemed upset, so we thought we'd hang around for a while."
Everyone was upset, and it was his fault because he wanted this last chance to see again, even if it cost him his very life. "Pam is fine. You can go out."
"I'd rather stay home," Jaina replied easily, knowing mom needed her support as well.
Throwing up his hands in defeat, Han headed toward the bedroom. It was best not to say anything, since the kids were just as likely to argue against this surgery as Leia. Surprisingly, Luke had tried to remain neutral about the subject, although Mara, Lani, and the boys were also opposed.
In the bedroom, Han flung himself down on the soft mattress. It was annoying to think he couldn't even count on Chewie's support. The Wookiee had not openly objected, but his tone had come across clearly. He didn't want Han to have the surgeries. It wasn't safe, and Chewie wanted Han alive just as much as anyone.
"Han?" Leia's soft voice said from the doorway.
He listened as she walked over, sitting down next to him, then putting her hand against his back. "I'll support any decision you make," she said, her voice resigned.
"You still don't want me to do it," Han said, his face half buried in a pillow.
"No, I don't. I understand you hate being blind. I would, too. Just because I'll support your decision, it doesn't change how I feel about this surgery. I don't want to lose you. I can't imagine my life without you. I know that I'm being totally selfish about this, but I just can't help it. I love you."
Han turned around, reaching for his wife, pulling her down into his arms. "I know," he whispered into her hair.
Hours later, Leia woke up, instantly aware that Han was awake by the sound of his breathing. She turned over, and saw that he was sitting up, his back against the headboard. "Are you feeling alright?"
"I've decided not to have the surgery."
Relief and gratitude washed through her, and she pulled herself up to sit next to him. "Thank you," she said, quietly crying against his chest.
Five years later
Mara adjusted her niece's wedding gown, then smiled at the radiant bride. "You look gorgeous, Jaina. Kyp is a lucky guy."
Beaming, Jaina turned and gave Mara a quick hug, looking over at her bridesmaids. Lani, seventeen, and fifteen year old Pammeda, were excited and thrilled to be a part of this wedding. Jacen and Anakin would also be in the wedding, while Bail, Ben and 'little' Han seated the guests.
Although, at almost fifteen, calling Luke and Mara's twins 'little' was pushing it a bit. Both boys had mops of curly, thick rust-red hair and sea-green eyes. Strangers had a difficult time telling them apart, which the boys used to their advantage, playing endless practical jokes. Mara was sincerely hoping her boys would behave today, of all days.
Bail stuck his head into the room. "Aunt Mara?"
Turning to face her nephew, she could see an expression of worry across his handsome young face. Now eighteen, he looked like a younger version of his father, down to the lopsided grin and hazel eyes. His personality was his own, however. Neither overly-serious like Jacen, nor impetuous like Anakin, Bail was both an athlete and a peacemaker. Sports were his joy, although at times it upset him when people accused him of using the Force instead of his own natural abilities. Bail was far too fair-minded to ever do that, and he often ended up competing with other Force-sensitives just so he wouldn't be judged as having an unfair advantage. Everyone that knew Bail knew he'd never cheat in anything. "Yes, Bail?"
"The twins have disappeared," he said worriedly. "I've looked everywhere, but I think they're shielding from me."
That would be just like them. Whatever they were doing, you could bet that Han was the instigator, but Ben never tried to talk reason into his twin, either. "I'll go find them," Mara said with a tired sigh. "Lani, you and Pam stay with Jaina until I get back. Your mom will be back with the flower bouquets any minute now."
"Okay, mom," Lani replied, watching her mother hurry away to find her trouble-making brothers.
"HAN? BEN? Where are you boys?" Mara yelled down the hallway. "When I find you, you're going to be..." Turning the corner, she drew back in surprise. "Olatrella?"
The Twi'lek looked up from under her cowl, a wary smile playing across her face. "Hello, Jedi Jade-Skywalker. It's been a few years."
"A few years?" Mara repeated. "It's been over sixteen years since you left. Where did you go? Why are you back?"
"I went home, to Tatooine," she replied quietly. "I could not stay here on Coruscant, seeing Han Solo on a daily basis. It was too hard for me."
"Why? It wasn't your fault, Olatrella."
"I could have cured his vision, Jedi Jade-Skywalker. I knew how years ago, but I could not do it."
"I'm afraid I don't understand," Mara said.
"My grandmother was right," she said softly. "When I was Cilghal's Padawan, I meditated and the Force showed me two futures. One future showed Han Solo still blind, but his children, and your children, grew up as wonderful, kindhearted Jedi. Everything a Jedi should be. Then the Force showed me the other future, and it was filled with darkness. In this future Han Solo could see, but the dark side had consumed your children, and Leia's. They were angry and cruel; they had no compassion for their fellow beings, they only desired power. They turned on each other, each believing the other was their enemy instead of their family. I felt so torn. I could not take the chance of restoring his vision, and destroying the future."
Mara nodded, understanding. "Then why have you come back?"
"It's time now. The children have grown, and even the youngest twins have nothing but the light side within them. Han's blindness has served its purpose. All your children are strong enough to withstand the temptation from the dark side, because they are truly kindhearted, and compassion is engrained into their very essence."
"We should find Han -"
"No," Olatrella shook her head. "I have already spoken to him, early in the morning. He requested this wait until after Jaina's wedding. He did not want anything to ruin his daughter's big day."
"Ruin it? Jaina would think her father's eyesight would be the greatest wedding gift of all. It wouldn't ruin her wedding," Mara argued.
"It's not my decision, or yours. Han wants this day to belong to Jaina and Kyp. He told me he's been blind for twenty four years, and one more day will not matter."
Mara opened her mouth to argue, but then Pammeda stuck her head around the corner, calling her name. It always amazed Mara how much Leia's daughter resembled Luke - light blonde hair and blue eyes. Why did her and Luke's daughter end up with brown hair and brown eyes? It was as though the Force decided it would pull a practical joke. Strangers would often laugh and claim there must have been a mix-up at the maternity ward. If they'd been the same age, Mara might have been inclined to agree. She turned to face her niece.
"Aunt Mara, we found the twins. They were outside, decorating Kyp's speeder."
"Decorating, or destroying?"
Pammeda giggled. "Kyp caught them. He said he was going to send Chewie after them, and they'd have to clean the paint off his landspeeder with a toothbrush."
"That's letting them off too easy. Really, it is," Mara said with a moan. "Olatrella, do you remember - " She stopped speaking when she turned back to introduce Pammeda to the Jedi Twi'lek. Olatrella had disappeared.
Later, Mara told Luke about her conversation with Olatrella, seeking his advice. "Should I tell Leia?"
"No," Luke said, shaking his head. "This is Han's choice."
"I still think Jaina would be thrilled to have her father actually be able to see her wedding," Mara argued.
"I agree, but I also see Han's point. Everyone would be paying attention to him, and not Kyp and Jaina. The wedding is going to be holo-recorded, so he can see it after Olatrella heals him."
"Do you think she can heal him? Han's been disappointed in the past."
Luke smiled. "I've always believed Han would see again. It's been a challenge for him, but he hasn't been unhappy, Mara. I just hope that he keeps his head, and doesn't try to make up for lost time by reverting back to the old, reckless Han Solo."
"Chewie won't let that happen," Mara said hopefully.
"No, he won't. And neither will I."
After escorting Jaina up the aisle, Han carefully stepped aside, feeling both joy and sadness as Kyp took his daughter's arm. He listened to the solemn exchange of vows as he and Leia held hands.
It was difficult not to think of his discussion with Olatrella. She sincerely believed that she could Force-heal his eyes. So many years, so many false hopes, now here was this unexpected opportunity. He wondered how Leia would react when he told her about Olatrella and her declaration that she could cure his blindness. After twenty four years, their lives had fallen into a comfortable, familiar pattern, just like all marriages. Regaining his eyesight would upset that balance. He was positive Leia loved him, and that had been the reason she had opposed the surgery five years ago. She didn't want him to die or become brain damaged during the risky operations. Those dangers had been a real possibility, and it had scared Han too, even if he was reluctant to admit those fears. It was the only reason she'd been able to talk him out of trying. His usual "never tell me the odds" speech had lost some of its bravado in the stark reality of knowing he had so much to lose, that he could conceivable cause his family so much pain if something went wrong. The surgery hadn't been just about him. The risks would have involved everyone he loved and cared about. The old Han, the version that only cared about looking out for himself, was long gone.
Han suspected Leia also felt a certain level of comfort from their marriage as it was, even if he knew she would never admit it, just like he would never admit aloud he was ever afraid. He needed her, not just emotionally but in a real, very duracrete way as well. Because he couldn't see, he relied on her in a hundred small ways, every day of their lives. When those small reliance's would no longer be required, there'd be no denying it would alter the fabric of their marriage. Would their marriage be able to withstand the sudden upheaval? Han felt Leia's fingers tighten around his own, and he smiled. Yes, he thought with determination. Our marriage is solid and strong. We can survive anything at all.
The wedding ceremony ended, and the long night of celebrating a new beginning for Kyp and Jaina followed.
Late, the same night.
Smiling, Leia curled her body around Han's. The day had been perfect. Her oldest daughter was now a married woman, and she suspected Jacen would soon be asking for Tenel Ka's hand, as well. She hoped Anakin would wait a few years before asking Tahiri, but he was so competitive with his older brother he just might propose first.
Leia could sense her husband's tension, and it puzzled her. "Han?"
"What's bothering you?"
"Nothin'," he replied too quickly. "Why?"
"Han," her voice changed into a warning tone. "You can't lie to me. Give it up."
She heard him give a sigh of defeat. "Okay. I'll tell you. Olatrella came by this morning, right after you left the house."
Leia sat up, frowning down at Han. "Olatrella? Here on Coruscant?"
"Yeah. She says she's allowed to Force-heal me now."
"Apparently, she took her grandmother's words to heart. Said the Force wanted me to be an example to our kids while they were growing up, so they'd become compassionate Jedi. But now they're old enough, and compassionate enough, I guess. So she wants to Force heal me."
"Why didn't she?"
"'Cuz' I told her it could wait."
"Wait?" Leia's voice notched up a bit. "Why would you tell her that?"
"It was Kyp and Jaina's big day, honey. I didn't want to have everyone congratulating me, and not them."
"Oh, Han...." Leia sighed. Whenever she thought she had her husband figured out, he would do something that surprised her, even after almost a quarter of a century of being married to him.
"She's coming back tomorrow morning." Han grinned, and tugged at Leia's hand so she would lay back down. "So ya know... this might be your last night sleepin' with the blind version of your husband. I think we should make the best of it."
The entire family sat waiting in the spacious living area, since Han and Olatrella had disappeared into the library over an hour earlier. Leia paced around the room, wringing her hands, her stomach in knots.
"Mom, you're making everyone nervous," Jacen said calmly. "Sit down."
"Dad will be okay, right?" Pammeda, the family worrywart, asked. She looked to Luke for confirmation.
"He'll be fine," Luke reassured her. "But I need you kids to remember we've tried this before, and it failed. So if it doesn't work, your dad's going to need your help to get over the disappointment."
Anakin waved his finger at Luke. "You're not allowed to have negative thoughts, Uncle Luke. Do or do not. Remember?"
The Jedi Master cringed slightly as everyone laughed, including Kyp. Jaina had insisted on being here as well, deciding that postponing her honeymoon by a few hours hardly mattered. Not when her father might finally get his sight restored. If this worked, she planned on scolding him for not going through with it yesterday, wedding or not. She knew Kyp would have been overjoyed to have Han actually see their wedding, since he had always loved Han like a father.
Chewie walked over to Leia, putting his large paw on her shoulder. *I will make certain Han behaves, Princess. Do not worry. And he will need to spend time in a flight simulator before I allow him to take the Falcon up, too. I promise to keep him safe.*
Sometimes, Leia wondered if Chewie was a Jedi in disguise. "I know you will," she said, smiling up at the Wookiee in gratitude.
"Yeah," the younger Han spoke up. "Chewie always makes us behave, too. It's not fair.... dad shouldn't have named me after Uncle Han if he didn't want me to always get into trouble."
Mara shot a look over at her husband. "See? I told you that would happen when you named him 'Han'."
When everyone laughed again, Luke threw up his hands. "Is it Pick on Luke Day, or something?"
"Han....?" Leia said quietly. Everyone's eyes turned toward the library, and the room became silent.
Olatrella stood there, her face an unreadable mask, while Han stood slightly behind her, staring over her shoulder. Then, for the first time in over twenty years, his hazel eyes gazed directly into Leia's chocolate brown ones, and he slowly broke into a huge grin, then placed his hand on top of his head.
"Sweetheart? Why didn't you warn me that my hair had gotten so gray?"