"Mistress Callista, if you won't be needing us any further, Artoo and I shall go wait in the ship."
Threepio and Artoo were standing tentatively by the doorway when Callista looked up from her packing. At first, Callista merely looked at them, expecting them to make a move towards the door, until it occurred to her that the two droids were probably waiting for their mistress to dismiss them. Callista smiled to herself upon her realization. Five years of living with a protocol and astromech droid, and she still forgot at times that they looked to her for their daily duties.
"Oh, of course, Threepio," she finally said, crossing the room, climbing over the myriad of boxes and bags to approach him. She patted him gratefully on the shoulder. "Thank you both. You've been miracle workers today."
As if touched by the compliment, Artoo responded in giddy whistles and tweets, while Threepio, as always, oblivious to human emotion, answered in his customary matter-of-fact manner. "Oh it was no trouble at all, madam. Artoo and I are here to be of your service, of course."
Callista nodded and gave him an amused smile. "All right. Luke and I should be there with the kids soon."
As the door slid shut behind them, Callista suddenly heard the soft pitter-patter of feet on the carpet, and a few seconds later she felt a slight tug on the sleeve of her tunic. "There's my little girl," Callista cooed. She bent down to scoop her daughter up in her arms and gave her an affectionate squeeze. "You've been awfully quiet all morning, Cailin," she remarked, tapping Cailin's nose playfully.
Callista had noticed how remarkably restrained the four year old had been since waking up. Cailin would have normally thrived in the hectic goings on of the last few hours; Callista had expected her to engage Threepio and Artoo into some sort of game, or to request everyone's attention as she sang her nursery songs. Instead she was merely content to help her parents with the packing, all the while saying very little.
"What's wrong, baby?" Callista asked her, noticing that the little girl avoided her eyes.
Cailin shrugged and slowly looked up at her mother. "Mommy," she began plaintively, "why do we have to leave Yavin?"
Callista simply looked at Cailin for a moment. She gave her a comforting smile and smoothed the stray blond ringlets that had spilled out of Cailin's once-neat ponytail. It amazed Callista sometimes, how much her daughter reminded her of Luke. Though Callista saw her own gray eyes looking back at her, Cailin had her father's face----the same radiant smile, the same dimpled chin, the same way of looking at Callista with expressive eyes.
And like Luke, Cailin could never hide anything from Callista. "You don't want to leave Yavin, sweetheart?"
Cailin nodded. "I've lived here all my life, Mommy. What's it going to be like on Cor... Cor..."
"Coruscant? Well... it's going to be a little different, Cailin," Callista told her, "but it's going to be really wonderful."
Callista smiled. It didn't surprise her that the insightful four year old would pick up on that word, even after Callista had made sure to emphasize how wonderful Coruscant would be. "Well, it won't be quite as hot there like it is here. That's one good thing, right?" She laughed, as Cailin nodded enthusiastically. "We'll get to live in one of those really tall buildings that you saw the last time we were there, and we can see Aunt Leia and Uncle Han, and Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin all the time. Doesn't that sound great?"
Cailin tilted her head as if to think about it for a moment. Callista tried not to laugh as she watched her daughter in deep thought, her forehead scrunched, lips pursed in great concentration.
"You and Daddy will be there with me and Owen, right, Mommy?"
Callista blinked back in surprise at her daughter's statement. "Of course we will, sweetheart!" she answered immediately, before Cailin could even have a chance to think otherwise. Callista watched her closely, wondering what could have brought on such a strange question.
"Daddy and I would never leave you, baby," she assured the little girl. "So you see, even though I know it must be a little scary going to a new place, we'll all be together, so it won't seem so different." She gave her another affectionate squeeze, trying to get her to smile.
But Cailin just sighed in her arms. "Mommy," she said softly, "I... I still don't feel very good about Cor... Coruscant... But I'm glad you and Daddy will be there to watch us."
Callista said nothing for a moment, still puzzled by Cailin's apprehension. It was likely the result of a child's natural reluctance to leave a familiar place, but something about what she said made Callista vaguely uneasy. She and Luke were well aware of their children's naturally strong ability in the Force, and she had learned never to take anything for granted when it came to things they did or said. Cailin especially was becoming more in tune with her instincts as she got older.
"Sweetie, what exactly is it that you're feeling about Coruscant?" Callista asked her gently, careful not to frighten the little girl. "Can you tell me what it is?"
Cailin looked at her mother, trying to focus like she had taught her. "I don't really know, Mommy..." she stammered, then sighed in frustration, sounding alarmingly like someone far older. "I just... I just wish we didn't have to leave..."
Callista held her tighter. "It's okay, baby," she whispered, stroking her hair to calm her. "We'll figure it out later, don't worry..."
Luke entered the room carrying Owen on his hip, inadvertently interrupting mother and daughter. "You girls all set? Threepio and Artoo should be waiting for us, and this little guy finally woke up, so if you're ready..."
"I guess, Daddy," Cailin replied, with less enthusiasm than Luke apparently had hoped for, and Luke gave her a mock frown as she broke away from Callista's hold and trudged over to the door.
"'I guess, Daddy'?" he echoed, playfully grabbing her from behind and tickling her into laughter.
"There's that sweet laugh of yours!" he teased. He spun her around to face him. "What's wrong, princess? You're not looking forward to the space travel?"
She giggled as he continued to tickle her. "No, Daddy," she managed between fits of giddy squeals, "I'm just going to miss Yavin, that's all."
"Oh, I see..." Luke nodded, looking up at Callista briefly, eyebrows raised in curiosity. She met his glance and shrugged slightly.
So maybe it was only that after all, Callista thought, quietly breathing a sigh of relief. Still, she couldn't help but be a bit uneasy. Cailin had sounded so worried before...
She reached over to Luke to take Owen into her arms. "Are you ready, Owen?" she asked him, and he nodded in response. "All right, everybody, let's get going, then!"
I hope that's all it is, Callista told herself. But she made a note to talk to Luke about it as soon as possible. If Cailin was sensing something, anything... They would need to find out what it was...
The tiny laser remote floating before Jaina Solo seemed to be taunting her. The fourteen year old cautiously circled the small orb as it darted about like an insect, releasing quick, random blasts. Eyes locked on the remote, she gritted her teeth, as if trying to anticipate remote's every move, no doubt dreading the next time she would feel the sting of its blasts.
Leia Organa Solo watched her daughter intently, noting the beads of perspiration that had formed on her furrowed brow and the feverish look in her eyes as she struggled to match wits with the crafty remote. For a moment, the urge to just be Jaina's mother in that instant--not her Jedi Master--overwhelmed Leia. I'm sorry, Yoda, she thought with a guilty smile, remembering Luke's stories of his unrelenting training, and of the master who never allowed him much breathing room. She and Luke, admittedly, were less demanding of their students. Leia especially never could quell the mother's instinct in her as she trained her children.
But just as she readied to approach Jaina, Jaina seemed to relax a bit. Though Leia could still hear the jumbled noise in her daughter's mind, she also felt her open up just a bit more to the Force. "That's it, you're doing great," she whispered, careful not to break Jaina's concentration. "Clear your mind, and you'll find it will feel even more natural. Try not to guess its next move. Let it reveal itself to you..."
Jaina's eyes left the remote long enough to look back at her mother with a disbelieving look. "It sounds so easy when you say it," she grumbled, returning her gaze to the remote just in time to quickly deflect a blast with her lightsaber.
Leia offered her a sympathetic smile. She who experienced similar frustrations on her own training, knew exactly what Jaina was going through. "It may seem like you'll never get it," she said, acknowledging the teenager's doubts, "but believe me, it won't always be this hard. It takes time and patience, honey, but you will get there. One step at a time."
"It couldn't be quick enough for me," Jaina quickly retorted, drawing her saber again to block another quick series of shots from the relentless remote. An errant blast struck her on the thigh, causing her to jump back with a loud yelp. She sighed, rubbing her sore leg, then raised her saber again to ready herself for the next wave of shots.
"Footwork, Jaina, remember your footwork," Leia reminded her gently. She smiled immediately, realizing she had just passed on the very same advice her sister-in-law had given her all those years ago on Nam Chorios. It occurred to her that her short time with Callista then had been enough to build her confidence--enough for her to decide a few months after returning to finally finish her training with Luke. Perhaps she could do for her daughter now what Callista had done for her.
"Your Aunt Callista once told me not to be afraid of my spirit," she offered. "She was right, Jaina. We're stronger than we know--don't be afraid of that strength. Embrace it, use it."
Jaina nodded automatically without taking her eyes off the remote, still locked in her fighter's stance. In the next instant, a flurry of shots blasted out of the remote in quick, staccato bursts, and she reacted swiftly, swinging her aqua blade to deflect the shots. "I did it!!" she cried out in triumph, as the remote shut down to end the training session. She turned to her mother and wiped away the sweat from her forehead, brushing back the dark brown strands that had fallen into her eyes in the last fervid moments.
"I told you you could do it!" Leia said, reaching over to embrace her daughter enthusiastically.
"Maybe I can even catch up to Jacen and Anakin one of these days..."
"Hey," Leia replied immediately, lifting Jaina's chin with her hand, "Don't you worry about what your brothers are doing. You all have to follow your own pace, and I don't want you comparing yourself to them. Do you understand?"
Jaina nodded in her arms. "Thanks, Mom," she said, her mouth forming a reluctant smile.
"You're welcome," Leia answered, squeezing her one more time. "I'm proud of you..."
"Hey, kiddo..." Han's roguish baritone came in from the doorway, and Leia turned to see him standing there, watching them. "Jace and Anakin are waiting for you downstairs, Jainy. You better get going..."
"Oh right," Jaina gasped, turning to her mother, "I forgot all about the holo show! Mom...?"
"Sure, go ahead," Leia nodded, releasing her from her hold. "We were just about done here anyway..."
"Don't stay out too long, I want you three back here for dinner!"
Han and Leia watched her rush out the door to meet her brothers, and they exchanged amused glances. "They grow up too fast, don't they?" Han remarked.
"They sure do," Leia sighed, still looking towards the doorway before she looked back to her husband.
Han made his way towards her and gathered her up in his arms. "I saw you two today," he told her. "You're really great with them, you know. They're going to be wonderful Jedi, like their mother."
"I never thought I'd hear that from the man who once said he didn't believe in the Force," she teased him.
"Who told you that?"
Leia gave him a mischievous smile. "Don't you know by now that Luke tells me everything?"
Han rolled his eyes. "Why am I not surprised," he muttered, the corners of his mouth nonetheless breaking out into a smile. "I can just see you two teaming up even more once they're back here again. Callista and I'll have to form a counter attack."
"Hey," Leia said, elbowing him in the ribs, then slid her arms around his waist and slinked up to him. "I'm on your team, General."
"I know," Han said. The lop-sided grin returned, and Leia laughed softly in response.
She sighed in his arms and squeezed him tightly as she lay her cheek on his chest. Once again, her thoughts returned to her children. "You know, before I started training the kids I had so many doubts about whether I'd do a good job..." She looked up at him, drawing confidence from his warm eyes. "I just want to instill in them the ideals that my father taught me. The ones that Luke and I have vowed to carry out as Jedi. As long as they learn that, I'll have done my job as their Jedi Master. And more importantly, as their mother."
"You're a remarkable woman, Mistress Solo."
She lifted her head from his chest and smiled. "Thank you," she said, reaching up on her toes to give him a kiss.
"So," Han began, clearing his throat awkwardly. Leia cocked an eyebrow and waited for him to continue. "Are you going to tell me, or do I have to pry it out of you?"
Leia felt her shoulders tense involuntarily as she met his eyes. Han always had an uncanny sense of when she needed to talk about something--sometimes he knew when she was upset even before she did.
She pulled away from him and placed her hands on her hips, her eyes fixed on the ground, looking at nothing in particular. "The Inner Council approved it," she finally said, but the lack of enthusiasm in her voice made Han purse his lips.
"I hear a 'but' coming..."
Leia cracked a small smile at his comment and slowly looked up. "But," she began reluctantly, "The real test is going to be in the Senate. Parsis scheduled a special vote later this week, and now we're going to see if this thing is really going to fly..." She shrugged wearily and looked away once again, running a regal hand through her dark hair--a rare gesture of uneasiness from her. It wasn't often that Leia would let her formidable armor crack; experience had taught her to hide her fears and doubts well, to silently bear all the expectations and obligations of the Alliance on her shoulders. "I don't really know how they're going to react, Han," she said softly.
Han moved closer to her and took her in his arms once again. "You've got the Chief of State in your corner," he commented. "And you've got the support of the Inner Council. That's a good sign, right? Do you really think this'll be met with a lot of resistance?"
"I'm not really sure," she admitted. "It's a pretty bold proposal, we all know that. Who knows how they'll react to something like this... "
After some silence, she heard him release a heavy exhale. She looked up to meet his gaze, seeing him give her an encouraging smile.
"You're doing the right thing, princess," he told her, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "Whatever happens... Just hold on to that thought."
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