Epilogue: Worth Waiting For
This day had been a long time in coming.
Starting with Zekk and Tenel Ka's indiscretion that had resulted in the Hapan heir, to the public revelation that Jacen was not Allana's father; her mother's death at Jacen's hands to Zekk's shouldering of her as his responsibility; Allana's choice in taking the Hapan crown with the intention of reform coupled with initial rejection of Ben Skywalker's proposals and finally Ben's determination to remain a part of her life; and - eventually - the key part when he convinced the Hapan Queen Mother to finally marry him.
However Zekk looked at the road they followed, this day had been a long time in coming - but one that had been inevitable. From the moment he'd suspected his daughter's feelings for the Skywalker heir, he'd known this day would come. He'd been expecting it, dreading it; loving the theory and then the reality of it.
That didn't make the waiting any easier.
Zekk paced the floor outside the infirmary, casting worried glances towards the closed door. His wife - Jaina - was seated nearby with their daughter, Tenel Ka, asleep against her shoulder and watching him. He ran a hand through silvering hair and checked his chrono again. "What's taking so long?"
Despite the fact she'd already repeated her answer to this question several times, Jaina's smile was tolerantly amused. Zekk never liked waiting. "No longer then when our children were born. These things take time."
"Can't they speed it up, I mean, they're both Jedi for Force sakes!"
"So are we," she reminded him as she pushed to her feet and stepped into his path. "That didn't help us any."
There was a muffled shriek from the other side of the closed door and Zekk blanched. Jaina slid one arm around her husband's waist. "Come and sit; hold Tenel Ka. Before you know it, you'll be holding your grandchild."
Jaina didn't correct him; this baby was related to her only through her blood tie to Ben Skywalker. Instead she helped him sit and slid their daughter into his arms. Zekk, ever the conscientious parent, turned his attention towards their youngest and cradled her carefully. Another muffled shriek could be heard and Jaina winced, recognizing the pitch. "I think she just threatened to castrate my cousin."
"Must be a common threat during the delivery."
"We never mean it," Jaina assured him with a smile, stretching out muscles that had fallen asleep with the baby's weight and were now free. Allana's next shriek made her frown and reassess her last comment. "At least, mostof us don't mean it. I can only hope - for Ben's sake - that Allana falls in that 'most' category..."
"That's it; you're doing fine Allana. Breathe, just breathe."
"You tell me to breathe one more time, and you'll be the one ne - ah!"
Allana's whole body contorted as the contraction rendered her unable to speak. Inhaling sharply, she bore down and squeezed Ben's hand in a crushing grip. The Force was no use to her; she hadn't the control to bring it to bear - and Ben was no better.
Since her contractions had begun seven hours earlier, he'd steadily gone downhill. Her usually jovial and somewhat sarcastic husband had fled to be replaced by a man careening between the fear of losing her and the exultation of becoming a parent. The contraction - which was now bare minutes from the last one - left her breathless as she struggled to relax upon its dissipation.
Ben leaned over, pressing a cool cloth to her temple. "They're close now."
"They wouldn't hurt so much if you'd let them give you something for the pain."
"And ruin your fun?"
"This is hardly my idea of fun, Allana."
She inhaled sharply. "And it's mine?"
There was a pause as another contraction hit, her belly rippling as the muscles worked to expel the baby. Ben mopped her brown again, this time adding a kiss to her temple for good measure as she lay back against the bed.
"I love you."
Allana turned her gaze his way at his soft declaration - so reminiscent of the first time he'd said those words to her - and a weary smile crossed her lips. "If you didn't, you wouldn't be here."
"Neither would you."
"You mean I wouldn't be in this situation, period."
They shared a smile and Allana could feel his inner equilibrium returning despite how imminent the birth of their child was. With her calm, came his, and a moment later his hand settled across her distended belly - and the pain of another contraction was eased. His hand twitched, but Ben didn't move it. His eyes were closed when she looked, completely in focus as he dulled the edge of the stabbing sensation and let her get her breath back. Allana pushed as she felt the stirrings of the contractions, controlling her breathing now that she could, and gripped the bed instead of Ben's hands.
She wouldn't risk breaking his concentration for anything at that moment - and she'd never loved him more - as the contraction was swiftly followed by another and then another.
The Doctor in charge of the delivery looked up at that moment, and Allana could see the crinkling of her eyes around the mask she wore. "One more good push should do it, your highness; I can see the top of the head."
Thank the Force!Allana gripped the bed, bearing down with the next wave and her body heaved to expel the small infant. A moment of silence was followed by a wail as the baby took their first breath. Ben's hold on her pain wavered and fractured with the sound, but Allana had expected it, and she collapsed back to the bed, panting.
The Doctor was making noises to the squalling infant as she finished the last details of the delivery and then looked up to the anxious parents. "A healthy baby boy, your majesties."
"A boy," Ben's wonder was but a whisper as he immediately looked down at his wife.
Her fingers locked with his and he bent, capturing her lips in a kiss before the startled medic. Despite her exhaustion, Allana returned it. Everything he was feeling was in that moment; emotions that mirrored her own. They hadn't wanted to know the sex of their baby - only that he or she wasn't twins - and the joy she felt was equally mirrored in his kiss.
It was only when she pushed against him that Ben reluctantly pulled back, breaking the kiss. His smile was for her alone. "Thank you."
"To us both," Allana told him tiredly. "He wouldn't exist without either of us."
His response was another quick, butterfly soft kiss.
Returning, the now clean infant in her grasp and her mask gone, the Doctor approached the bed with a smile. "Would you like to hold him, your highness?"
Allana held her arms out, as if to say it was a ridiculous question. The tiny infant was placed immediately within the crook of her arms - and she knew just how to hold him after having practiced on her half-siblings. Gently, she tucked the blanket away from the baby's face and caressed his soft cheek. Ice blue eyes - the trademark of the Skywalker line - stared back at her in surprised silence.
"Hello little one," she told him with a smile. "I'm your mommy - and the big guy with the red hair beside me is your daddy."
Leaning over the bed, Ben placed his head on Allana's shoulder so they could look down at their son together. His small mouth opened and he yawned. They laughed softly, Ben's hands creeping across the blankets. One slid to join hers where it cradled the newborn, the other sliding around her waist. "Did we discuss boy names?"
"I don't remember," Allana admitted, the baby's yawn having reminded her own her own fatigue. Despite the miracle in her arms, she found the last hours were catching up with her. "What do you think?"
"I think you said I could name her if she was a girl - and I said you could name him if he was a boy." A quick check proved that the nurse was correct and Ben gently brushed a kiss across her cheek. "Your call, Twitch."
She stared at him for a half second before turning her gaze back to the miracle in her arms. Her voice was sure, but soft, as she gave their son his name. "Anakin."
Ben arched his eyebrows. "Another Anakin Skywalker?"
Allana nodded, noting that the baby's eyes had closed. "Why not? He had to have done something right to have deserved children like your father and his sister. That alone is a legacy to be cherished and honored no matter what else he did."
Ben had no response to that; it wasn't an angle that anyone ever saw to the man who'd become Darth Vader.
"I just hope he has better luck than your grandfather - just like my little brother will have better luck than his namesake."
And that said it all.
The first Anakin Skywalker had fallen for reasons unknown, just as Jacen Solo had fallen into darkness due his own demons - but these, the children who bore their names and their hopes for the future were a redemption in name if nothing else... and Ben found he had no objection despite what his own father might say.
"Anakin Skywalker it is."
Sitting on the bed, they cradled their son together and were still sitting that way when Zekk and Jaina were permitted a short visit with the new family. The only difference was that Ben was now seated on the bed cradling both worn out infant and mother - and was the only one still awake.
He flashed his cousin and father-in-law a smile that was still slightly shell-shocked.
"You look as stunned as I felt when I heard about Allana." Zekk's hushed whisper was in deference to both sleeping infants - his youngest daughter and new grandson - and the new mother sleeping in Ben's arms. Allana didn't stir as Ben gently shifted her grip and let Zekk take his grandson in his arms with a silent nod.
Zekk hefted the little boy with care, and cradled him close. "He's beautiful."
"What'd you name him?"
Ben met Jaina's gaze. "Anakin."
Tears flooded her eyes - as much from the memory of her long lost little brother as from the sentimental value of having the name returned to the surname it belonged to. She nodded once, holding Tenel Ka close and turned to meet Zekk's solemn expression. Bending close, she brushed the backs of her fingers over Anakin's cheek but remained unable to speak.
Zekk, instead, stepped close to her and slid an arm around her waist as he cradled the newborn with a nod to the new father. "Anakin Skywalker, huh?"
Looking down to the sleeping infant, Zekk's lips stretched into a smile. "It's perfect."
"No," Allana mumbled sleepily, lifting her lids to look at her father and stretching her arms out for her baby. "He is. Now give me back my baby and let us get some sleep. You can start spoiling him tomorrow - Gramps."
Handing Anakin back to his father, Zekk then bent and placed a kiss on Allana's cheek as he hugged her gently. "Congratulations, kiddo."
Drawing back, he grasped one of her hands and squeezed her fingers. "I always told you the best things in life were worth waiting for."
"That and more." Her gaze drifted to Ben and their son - and a soft smile creased her lips. "Much more."