Prologue

General Baron Soontir Fel had always questioned if he'd done the right things for his children. Had their meals been nutritious, their education well-rounded? Had he taught honor, discipline? His mother had once said that parenting was full of doubts and fears; certainties and confidences. This phrase had consoled him when newborn Davin was inconsolable, all the way through to Jagged's exile. Through his many years of parenting, the aging general had learned that this phrase hid a much deeper meaning. As much discomfort as it brought him, Soontir believed thoroughly in being honest in all things, even to the man in his mirror each morning. He knew he had made mistakes, many of them he eternally regretted. Would Davin still be alive if he had not decided to wait until the next day to teach him that crazy little spiral he'd learned from Han Solo on Carida? If he'd been a little more understanding, would Cherith have stayed home rather than taking on the mission she felt would earn his respect? Even though Soontir doubted his parenting decisions over and over again, only one event had ever caused him to wonder if he'd failed utterly at parenting.

Csilla, shortly after the end of the Yuuzhan Vong War

Only a parent could understand the surge of fierce pride that roared in his heart as the lone clawcraft settled lightly as a dancer on its landing gear. With his experienced eye, Soontir saw that the fighter had been maintained in peak condition, although there seemed to be some slight modifications to the engine. Given Jagged's love interest, this was hardly surprising. Jaina Solo had an aptitude for mechanics, and the battle statistics Soontir had seen suggested some performance-boosting modifications to his son's fighter. While Jaina would hardly have been his first choice for a daughter-in-law, he couldn't deny the newfound sparkle in Jagged's eyes that testified to Jag's happiness. Jaina was truly Han's daughter, although in some respects she resembled her famous mother. The son he loved had blossomed into a man, and Jaina was the kind of woman to appreciate the man Jag became. He knew Syal entertained quiet hopes of a union, and he couldn't deny his own hopes in that regard. Those hopes were abruptly dashed with the appearance of the lone clawcraft.

Dinner that night was an uncomfortable affair. Syal and Soontir instinctively avoided the topic of Jaina Solo, but Wyn couldn't be counted on to do the same. Out of his children, Soontir knew that she was the most likely to voice her thoughts. Tonight would be no different. Wyn only tolerated half an hour of discussion on the uncle she'd never met. Her mom might care, but why talk about Uncle Wedge when there was the far more interesting topic of Jag's girlfriend?

"Jag, where's Jaina? I'd really hoped to meet her before you marry her."

"She still has her duties in rebuilding the galaxy, and wasn't able to get away."

The tense set to Jag's shoulders and his sudden interest in the vegetables he normally disliked told Soontir that there was much more to the story than Jag was letting on. He had noticed that Jag had been very quiet on the landing field, and displayed none of the jubilance that he had come to expect from warriors returned from the battlefield. At the time, he thought perhaps it was pilot-lag, as Csilla time was quite a change from where Jag had been serving. Concise and pained, Jag's answer to Wyn's query told Soontir all he needed to know. Jaina wasn't coming. Syal, clearly realizing the same thing, shot Wyn a warning look.

Wyn, feigning ignorance, continued to press the matter. "But when will she be coming? I want to meet her, and see if she'll be as good a sister as Father said she'd be."

While Syal tried to curb Wyn's exuberance, Soontir knew the damage had been done. There would be no concealing the fact that a marriage had been highly anticipated in this household, and eagerly awaited. Jag's flushed face provided eloquent evidence that he understood the full meaning of Wyn's statement. With a heavy heart, Soontir watched as Jag claimed extreme fatigue and escaped the table to his room.

"Ya know, I wonder if they broke up. I always thought she was too lively and astral for him…"

"Wynssa Fel, that is enough!" Syal was clearly distressed by her son's predicament, and was not about to tolerate someone, even someone bound by the title of sister to be obnoxious, making light of it.

As Soontir made his way to bed that night, he wondered if he could find a way to order his son back to General Antilles. That would send him back to Jaina, and serve the added purpose of strengthening Jag's position as an ambassador. Wedge had done a fine job of adding to Jag's skills in a fighter, and Soontir suspected his brother-in-law had also taught his son the ropes of sabacc. Or had it been Han and Jaina that taught him? Either way, Soontir knew that he was no longer playing Jag for credits. No, he'll need to work this out for himself. He is a grown man, capable of making his own decisions, and my interference will only serve to anger him.

Over the next several months, Soontir and Syal spent a considerable amount of time with their son, hearing his stories from the war and encouraging him to be patient. The baron understood why Jaina had refused Jag's hand, and couldn't deny that she had a point. She was a Jedi and heir to the legacy of galactic peacekeeping that came with it. She understood what Jag wanted, and wasn't going to accept his name as her own until she could offer him a future that involved more than moonlight on the bed. Jagged, having come from a very stable home, couldn't understand what her role would condemn a family to. He was dedicated to his own duty, and would not be swayed. However, when Soontir overheard their last discussion on the holocomm, he knew he'd made a mistake in keeping Jag on Csilla.

"Jaina, we've had this discussion before. I am growing tired of waiting. It's been months; surely you can get away for a week?"

"I can't, Jag, I'm so sorry." Even from just outside the door, Soontir could tell she was crying. "The Jedi are in such demand I'm being briefed on my next assignment before I've debriefed the last one. I'm not even able to debrief in person, as there isn't time for it. I want to get away, if I could I would. I just can't turn my back on the people who rely on me."

"But you can turn your back on me?"

"Jagged, you know it's not like that…"

"Really? You could have had me fooled."

"If that's really the way you feel, maybe we should end this. I can't give you what you want, I'll free you up to find someone who can." The heartbreak in her voice was thick, laced with bitterness, though the bitterness wasn't directed at his son. Her duties, perhaps? Jaina was trapped, a slave to the Solo legacy of saving the galaxy single-handedly. Jag was a slave to his own duties, duties Soontir knew he could have changed. Soontir waited with bated breath for Jag to calm down and tell Jaina they'd make it work. His breath left him with Jagged's response.

"Fine, then."

That conversation would haunt Soontir the rest of the day. It was impossible to deny that Jaina had been sobbing uncontrollably as they said their final goodbyes. Jagged had remained stoic, at least, in front of his family. As Soontir passed Jag's room en route to the 'fresher, he tried to pretend he couldn't hear his son weeping. Why won't he give Jaina time? A woman like that is well worth waiting for. Furthermore, if he truly is that upset over this whole thing, he'd be back on that comm telling Jaina just how much she meant to him. Jagged would never make that call.

When their duties tore them from each other, Soontir knew the one lesson he should have taught his son was how to follow his heart. Jagged was everything he had thought he wanted his son to become, and only too late did Soontir realize what he had thought he had wanted for his son wasn't the right thing at all.