"Where do you want me to put this vase, Callista?"
"Hmmm... Over there, I think... Thanks, Leia!"
Leia nodded in acknowledgement, as she set the glass vase on the mantle. "It's beautiful," she observed, "Where did you get it?"
Callista walked over to the mantle beside her sister-in-law, gently picking up the vase. "We got it on our honeymoon on Chad," she said, involuntarily blushing as she flashed back to those unforgettable two weeks. She met Luke's gaze and smiled at the devilish twinkle in his eye, then watched him return to innocently unpacking their boxes. Leia couldn't help but smile as she caught the exchange between husband and wife. Even after five years of marriage, they still acted like newlyweds, and she always found it comforting to watch the way they were around each other.
"You see the etching right here?" Callista continued, turning her attention to Leia once again, as she traced the delicate pattern on the vase, "That's a line of tsaelke. They're sea creatures that live on Chad. I carved this same design on my lightsaber to always remind me of home." Leia watched as Callista suddenly grew quiet, her eyes glazing over in a faraway look.
"You really miss Chad, don't you?" Leia asked her gently, knowing exactly how her sister-in-law was feeling.
Callista nodded, allowing the wave of nostalgia to wash over her momentarily. "Yes, I do," she answered more to herself than to Leia, her husky voice barely louder than a light whisper. "But there's nothing for me there now, really. My family's all gone... They've been gone for decades now..."
The image of her father came back to her, and she winced as she remembered the pained expression on his face when she told him she was leaving to train to be a Jedi. He never could quite comprehend his daughter's calling, the mission her heart had told her she had to follow. "A Jedi must follow the call of the Force, Papa," she had told him then. He had tried to understand, but in the end, he couldn't. He let her go to follow her heart, but she had never forgotten the look in his eyes as she walked away. It had haunted her ever since.
She shook herself out of her reverie and faced Leia with a smile. "Luke is my family now, Leia. Luke, and Cray and Owen, and you and Han, and your kids... Chad is a part of my past that I'll always treasure, but my home is here now."
Leia smiled back at her, even as her own thoughts suddenly turned to sadness. Callista suddenly felt a pang of guilt for having brought up her family on Chad. "Leia... I'm so sorry..." she apologized, feeling Leia's thoughts dwell on Alderaan. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories for you..."
"No, Callista, it's all right... I'm... I'll be fine," she told her, as she patted her shoulder to reassure her. Her throaty voice betrayed the underlying melancholy she felt. Han made his way over to his wife's side, sensing her thoughts. "It's just that, when you mentioned Chad, and how you missed it..." She let out a pensive sigh, as Han affectionately rubbed her shoulders. "Every once in a while, I think about Alderaan and all the people I left behind. All the people I didn't get a chance to say good-bye to..."
She trailed into a quiet whisper, careful to disguise the slight tremble in her voice.
"It wasn't your fault, princess," Han whispered, his head gently nudging hers. He knew what she was thinking. He knew that there were times when the memories of the Death Star, and watching her world be destroyed, would overcome her with grief. "It wasn't your fault..."
"He's right, Leia," Luke said softly, sensing Leia's troubled thoughts as well.
Guilt. Remorse. Regret.
"I... I guess I've just been thinking about it a lot more lately... Ever since I got back from Falor..." she told them.
"What happened over there, anyway?" Han asked her. She had been quiet about her mission ever since she returned, and, not wanting to pry, Han had wanted to give her time to bring up the subject on her own.
"Oh, it was something Sorbin said," Leia began, recalling his stinging words about Alderaan. "He just said something about how in the end, Alderaan being weaponless didn't do a damn thing in preventing its destruction by the Death Star."
"Why, that son of a--"
"Han..." she interrupted him, placing a finger on his lips. "I... I don't know, maybe he's right in a way," she said, letting out another sigh, and pulling away from Han to walk over to the window watching her children playing their cousins. "Maybe if we had had weapons... Maybe if I hadn't provoked Tarkin... Things might have turned out differently..."
Luke approached his sister, feeling her pain. "Hey... What kind of talk is that, Leia? For as long as I've known you, you've been the biggest proponent of peace in the galaxy. It's what you've spent your entire career -- your entire life -- trying to promote... You know in your heart that what Alderaan did was really the right thing to do. What the Empire did doesn't change that, Leia. And nothing you could have done would have prevented it..."
Leia blinked back her tears, her back still turned to Luke, Han, and Callista to hide her overwhelming emotions. "They accepted the treaty," she finally managed.
"They did? Then that's good news... Right?"
"It is, Han, it is," she said, regaining her composure and turning to look at them. "Well, on the surface, anyway... To be honest, I was stunned that Sorbin even accepted my offer. After what Parsis told me... I expected them to put up a fight and force us to agree to admission. I don't know... Even though they accepted, I just... I have this feeling that we can't let our guard down."
"Leia, you say the word, and we can keep an eye on them..."
"Han, we can't... We'd be violating the treaty that they signed in good faith. The agreement precludes any sort of surveillance. If they found out--"
"Well we'd do it quietly," Han said in his customary mischievous tone, evoking a laugh out of Leia and Luke, who remembered his similar cockiness on their mission on Endor -- just before Han caught the attention of the Imperial troops.
"Quietly, huh, Han?" Luke joked, groaning at the memory.
Han chuckled in response. "Like I said, princess, you say the word, and I can have some men dispatched over there real quickly. I may be 'retired' General Solo, but I've still got some strings I could pull here and there. Lando still owes me a favor, and he could send some of his men over there in a hurry," he said with a sly smile. "And if the military types don't suit you, I could always reach back into my book of old contacts and get some former 'associates' of mine to keep their eyes open. You know how those useful those scoundrels can be."
Leia laughed as she eyed him winking at her in an attempt to make her smile. "I appreciate the offer, General, but I think we better just lay low for a while. We'll need to keep our eyes open for sure, but I don't think we need to pull in the Intelligence on this yet..."
"Well the offer still stands, princess. The minute you get a bad feeling again, you just let me know..."
"Shhh... It's okay now, sweetheart, we're here now... You can wake up..." Callista whispered to her daughter, gently shaking her awake. She spoke in soothing tones to calm her crying, rocking her as Cray tentatively opened her eyes.
"Mommy? Daddy?" she called out, coming into consciousness.
"Yes, we're right here, princess... You were having a bad dream..." Luke told her. He reached over to brush aside her hair from her dampened forehead. Gently, he caressed her the top of her head, kissing her forehead to quiet her anxieties. She was still coming out of her sleepy haze, disoriented in her new room.
"Are you all right now, honey?" Callista asked her.
"I think so, Mommy..."
"Yeah, you're fine, aren't you?" Luke said, giving her a smile. "You're probably just not used to your new room here, right?" He tickled her to produce a laugh out of her, tousling her hair affectionately as she giggled in response. "See? I knew you were feeling better..."
Luke looked at Callista, who smiled back at him, her worry starting to fade as Cray laughed. He gave her a wink. She'll be fine, Callie, he whispered through the Force. She nodded in response, hoping he was right.
"Sweetie, can you tell us about the dream?" she gently probed, trying to discern if the nightmare was indeed harmless or if it had been another vision, like the one that she and Owen had had on the ship.
Cray didn't answer right away, merely snuggling in closer to her mother. "It was the same dream again, Mommy," she finally said. "I think Owen was dreaming it too, but I got him to stop crying all by myself. Aren't you proud of me?"
"Oh yes, baby, that was very brave of you," Callista told her, as she looked at Luke, her concern reawakened upon hearing that it was indeed the recurring dream she had feared. "That was so brave of you, Cray..."
"Princess, it was the same exact dream?" Luke asked her. "You were calling out to us, but we weren't there?"
"You and Mommy were there this time... We could see you, but we couldn't get to you. We were trying to run to you, but we couldn't... Daddy, that's not going to happen is it? You and Mommy won't leave me and Owen, right?" Her eyes were welling up with tears as she bravely tried to keep them from falling.
"No, of course not," Luke whispered, kissing her once again on her forehead. "I promise, Mommy and I won't leave you. It was just a dream, princess. Just a dream..."
"Did you get any sleep at all?"
"Not much, Luke," Callista admitted. "I kept thinking about their dream." She looked up at him, her gray eyes rimmed red from fatigue. There was no mistaking the concern in her weary face.
Luke nodded, gripping the cup in his hand tightly as he thought of his children. "Me too," he whispered, staring in the direction of their room, not wanting to take his eyes away from them. "I thought it was just an ordinary nightmare this time... I knew they'd still be trying to adjust to our new place, I thought that's all it would be, but..." He sighed, setting the cup down on the counter as he leaned over and hung his head in frustration. "When she said it was the same dream..."
"I know..." Callista said softly, reading Luke's thoughts.
"Blast it," he spat out, in uncharacteristic anger. As a Jedi, he was used to keeping his emotions in check, even through the most trying of circumstances. But his children evoked emotions in him that he had never experienced before, and the thought of something troubling them ate away at him. "I may not know exactly what this is that they're having visions of, Callie, but I'll tell you this much -- I will make damn sure nothing ever happens to those children." He let out a sigh, quietly expelling the anger from his body as he summoned the Force to calm him.
"We both will, sweetheart," his wife whispered, putting her arms around him and pulling him towards her, "We both will. They'll be safe with us, we'll make sure of that."
She pulled away at the sound of the doorbell. "That must be Leia," she said. "I'll go get it."
She crossed the room to open the door. "Hi Leia."
"Good morning -- hey, what's wrong? Everything fine in here?"
Callista nodded weakly, giving her sister-in-law an unconvincing smile as she tightened the sash on her robe. "We're fine... We just had a rough night, that's all. The kids have been having nightmares lately, and we're a little worried..."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Leia replied. "Is that what you wanted to talk to me about this morning?"
"No, Leia, actually it was something else," Luke interjected waving her in the door. He made a conscious effort to push his worries aside for the moment. "We're hoping it'll be good news..." He gave Leia a slight puppy dog look, making her laugh outloud.
"All right, Luke," she managed between chuckles, "Don't keep me in suspense then!"
He paused dramatically, as Leia raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "We have something to ask you, Leia. And... there's no pressure or anything..."
"Will you spit it out already?" she teased, as he fumbled for words.
"All right, all right, don't rush me," he responded, laughing. "Leia, we know how much being an ambassador means to you... And it would be a lot to ask you to give it up, so... Please think about this carefully and don't worry about hurting our feelings at all..."
Leia eyed him with curiosity. "What is it?" she asked.
Luke gave her a smile. "What would you say," he began, keeping his eyes on her, "if we asked you to sit on the Council with us?"
Leia looked back at him with genuine surprise. "I'm... I'm not sure what to say," she stammered. "I wasn't expecting this at all," she admitted, still stunned.
Callista looked at her husband and then back at Leia. "Well, take your time, Leia, we know it's a big decision. Walking away from your ambassadorship is a lot to think about, and we would never ask you to do something you don't want to do," Callista told her.
"You guys really want me on the Council?" Leia asked them, not quite believing their request. She was honored -- more than honored. After all the obstacles she had had to overcome, the difficulties she faced in her quest to be a Jedi, Luke and Callista's offer was incredibly touching.
Luke nodded, giving his sister a smile as he sensed her thoughts. "Leia, I can't imagine us doing this without you," he reassured her, addressing the doubts she was feeling. "You were part of this from the very beginning, as my first student..."
"You mean the first one to quit on you," she playfully shot back, only half-joking. She had always regretted disappointing him like that by walking away from her training years ago, though he had never once told her that she had let him down. It was simply not in his nature.
"But you eventually came back," he reminded her. "Master Yoda was right, you know. The Force is strong in our family, and you proved that when you completed your training."
She smiled broadly in response. She knew the right thing to do now. "Luke, Callista... I'd be honored. I accept your invitation to sit on the Council, with gratitude."
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