In the distance the candle in the window was a beacon of warmth and welcome to the weary travelers. Trudging through the shin-deep snow, the twenty-three year old woman rubbed her gloved hands over her face in a fruitless attempt to bring some feeling back to her frozen skin. The small rented villa still looked to be awfully far away up the sloping hill. "Let?s walk, you said. It?ll be fun, you said. It won?t be so bad, you said."
Her dark-haired, green-eyed companion reached out and patted the top of her head through the thick hood of her parka. "I?m sorry. I thought we should stretch our legs after being cramped up in the shuttle for so long. I did not realize it was this cold."
She swatted the patronizing gesture away. "Uh huh. Right."
"Really," he insisted. "I?m sorry."
"You?re just enjoying watching me suffer."
"No," he said. "It was an honest mistake. I had no idea northern Chandrila was anything like Csilla or Hoth. If I had, I never would have asked you to do this."
"Yeah, well, it?s not really your fault, I guess. I suggested we meet at the Gold Beaches on Corellia. Nice and warm. But does anyone ever listen to me? Nooooo."
He took her hand in his. "You know your father is still not completely comfortable returning there."
"I know. My point is," she grumbled, "just because this was a winter holiday back on Alderaan three decades ago doesn?t give my mother the right to freeze us to death. It just doesn?t."
"Of course not, sweetheart," he said. "But you know this will mean so much to her, to have her whole family together for a few days. It?s been too long. Let her make some new, happy memories."
She shot him a stern glare, her brown eyes flickering in indignation. "Do you have to be right all the time?"
The corners of his mouth curled up into the tiniest of smiles. "It will be good to see your brother," he said, ignoring her question completely. "And I know my mother is very excited to see you again."
With a great act of will she swallowed her anger at his tender condescension. "So, should we tell them?"
He blinked, then patted his free hand on his hip. "I have my blaster."
"Set to stun, I hope."
He paused. "It is now."
She smirked. "My father isn?t that bad!"
"I always prepare for the worst," he said with complete sincerity.
She raised her eyebrows. "You?re really scared of him, aren?t you?"
"Not usually, no. But this is entirely different."
He shrugged. "It just is."
She looked up to see they were nearly at the stout wooden door. "You still have time to turn tail and run, flyboy."
He released her hand and hefted his in the air like the pan of a scale. "Risk enraging your father," he said, matching the motion with his other hand, "or risk enraging your mother. Too easy. Let?s go inside."
She laughed heartily and knocked her knuckles on the door. "You?ll be fine. I promise."
A moment later the door swung inward to the sight of a beaming Leia Organa Solo. "Jaina! Jag! Come in, come in. You look like walking icicles."
With the flakes of snow melting into tiny droplets of water on his face and the icy wind blasting his skin and eyes, the twenty-three year old man was finding it difficult to concentrate on flying the rented airspeeder. Despite the dazzling sunlight reflecting from the sheets of white coating the ground, he finally could see their destination in the distance. "No need for a covered speeder, you said. We?ll enjoy the fresh air, you said. It won?t be so bad, you said."
The blonde young woman seated to his right slugged him in the arm. "It?s not that bad."
"If you?ll recall," he said, "I?m not the one who spent the last three weeks in Zonama?s arctic regions. I?m not acclimated to weather like this."
She shrugged. "I suppose you have a point."
"Of course I have a point."
"Quit your griping, Jedi," she laughed, "and warm yourself with the Force or something."
He flashed her a stern scowl. "You know I don?t approve of using the Force that way."
She only shook her head. "A little bit of help now and then won?t hurt anything. Better you do that than have to use it to heal the frostbite and hypothermia."
"What?" He reached up a gloved hand and began to prod his exposed nose and cheeks. "Do you think I?m getting frostbite? Where?"
She laughed and swatted his hand back down to the speeder?s controls. "You can be such an idiot sometimes."
"Oh," he said as he shifted the speeder to its repulsors and began to fly it into the docking bay at the rear of the small villa. "You were joking."
"Well, it wasn?t very funny."
"Actually, it was."
He set the speeder down smoothly alongside three others, then furrowed his brow. "I suppose I do need to improve my sense of humor."
She crossed her arms over her chest imperiously. "How many times have I said that?"
He hopped out of the airspeeder and strode quickly around to the other side. "I?ve lost count," he chuckled as he offered her his hand, which she took with a wide grin. When she hopped down to the ground next to him he wrapped his arms around her waist. "So, should we tell them?"
She batted her eyelashes. "Tell them what?"
"Tell them about how we ? Oh." He leaned down to kiss her forehead. "You were teasing me again."
She raised her face and offered her lips to him instead. "For all your wisdom, you sure are?"
He cut her off with a short, sweet kiss. "Yeah, yeah. I sure am a slow learner."
"It?s up to you," she said, abruptly returning to the sensitive subject at hand. "If it feels right, we?ll tell them. If it doesn?t, we won?t yet."
"Okay, then," he smiled, taking her hand and leading her from the docking bay toward the back door of the villa. They bounded quickly up the stone steps, and he banged his fist anxiously on the door.
"You?re shivering," she said, surprised.
"I told you," he muttered. "I?m freezing!"
Just then the door swung inward, revealing his twin sister. "Jace! Tahiri! You made it!"
After an enthusiastic round of happy greetings the family finally took their seats at the long table. The soothing aromas of the scented candles tickled Jaina?s nostrils as she sat down between Jag and Mara. Luke and Ben were across from Soontir, Syal, and Wyn Fel, while Jacen and Tahiri had places opposite she and Jag. Jaina chuckled when she realized Leia had taken the chair at the far end, putting Han closer to her ? apparently playing the odds that her father would be better behaved with Jag than Soontir. Not such a bad idea, in theory.
Leia raised her goblet of wine. "It has been thirty-two years since I lost the only family I?d ever known," she said with an undeniable tone of sorrow in her voice, "and found the beginnings of my own. These moments when we can all be together are rare for us now ? so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining us here, in memory of Solstice Day on Alderaan and as we build a bigger family for all of us."
Soontir raised his glass next. "To those we love," he said simply, "whom we miss each day."
Jaina reached beneath the table and squeezed Jag?s hand, and he squeezed back. It was difficult to believe it had been almost seven years since Chewie?s death, nearly five since Anakin?s, and similar lengths of time since the loss of Jag?s siblings. She set her glass of water down and clasped her hands in front of her on the table. She was just about to say something when her father preempted her.
"Okay, enough melodrama for one day," Han said. "Look, I know it?s tough to get us all together like this ? the fact that we haven?t been able to do it since the wedding speaks for itself. But even if it?s only once a year, I think we should keep doing this."
"I?d like that," Luke nodded from Jaina?s left, next to his sister. "I?d like that a lot."
"We all would," Syal added with a smile. "It?s a tradition we can all look forward to."
"Speaking of the wedding," Wyn Fel put in from her spot next to Jacen, "you never did tell us how you convinced Jaina to marry you so soon, Jag. I think it?s about time you confessed the truth."
"I don?t think so, Wyn," Jag chuckled. "Nice try."
"Why not, Jagged?" asked Syal with a mischievous grin. "What is there to hide?"
Jag took a long drink of wine from his goblet ? and didn?t say a word.
"You know, I?ve been wondering the same thing myself," said Mara slyly from Jaina?s side. "Tell us, Jag. Please?"
Jag sighed deeply. "I?m not going to be able to get out of this, am I?"
"No," said Wyn, Syal, Mara, Leia, Tahiri, and Jaina simultaneously.
"I?ll admit it wasn?t an original tactic," he finally said after another long drink of wine. "Sorry, Father, but I borrowed a Rebel strategy."
Soontir bolted upright in his chair. "You didn?t!"
"Why do I get the feeling," Han muttered under his breath with a scowl, "that I?ve just been insulted?"
"Not at all," Jag said smoothly. "In fact, it was your classic maneuver that finally worked. I simply offered Jaina a choice. She could marry me without a fight, or she could spend some time getting to know the indigenous flora and fauna of Dathomir until she capitulated."
Leia laughed. "You can?t be serious!"
"Oh, he?s completely serious," Jaina laughed too. "Stuncuffs, a couple of ysalamiri, and a destroyed comlink can be quite effective at putting a stark choice to a person."
"Jacen deserves part of the credit," Jag said quietly. "I don?t know if she would have listened only to me."
Jacen felt the gaze of everyone at the table fall on him ? and smiled innocently. "What?"
Luke raised his eyebrows. "Is that why you borrowed the Jade Shadow? You said it was for a rescue mission."
"It was. From a certain point of view," Jacen smirked. "I was rescuing my sister from herself."
"Right," his twin scoffed. "The only reason I needed rescuing was because you were an accomplice in my kidnapping."
"Wait a second," Mara interrupted. "You had ysalamiri on my ship?"
"Dear, I don?t think that?s the only thing they had on your ship," Luke said impishly. Mara?s eyes widened at the thought, and her face blushed a shade of red that matched her hair.
"No, sis, you did need rescuing," Jacen said. "Rescuing from your own unrealistic expectations about the future. I know you wanted a more stable career before you got married. I know you wanted to be able to offer your children more peace and stability than Mom and Dad and Uncle Luke and Aunt Mara were able to offer us. But there will never be a perfect moment. There will always be problems and difficulties. The only thing you were accomplishing by waiting was denying yourself the true happiness you have with Jag ? and denying him the true happiness he has with you. I couldn?t let you do it any longer. And I promise you, I would do the same thing again."
Jaina winked. "And I love you for it, Jace."
A murmur of approval rose from around the table, and Jacen felt Tahiri?s hand on his knee. He knew exactly the sentiment she was expressing ? Thank you for finally following your own advice.
While the others began to devour the scrumptious holiday feast, Jacen marveled at how much his life had changed in the past six months. After the end of the Yuuzhan Vong war he?d first gone to the Hapes Cluster to see his old friend Tenel Ka. As much as they still cared for each other, though, it had been apparent that the Queen Mother was not the same girl he?d known at the Jedi Academy, and there was no doubt his experiences in the war had altered him forever too. It was impossible to say what might have happened between them had the war not intervened ? but it had, and it was clear to them both that they were destined to be friends and nothing more. Then he?d spent nearly a year and a half wandering the galaxy, following the guidance of the Force and searching for the direction his young life would take next.
Eventually the lack of answers in his quest had taken him to the Unknown Regions and Zonama Sekot. There his reunion with Danni Quee likewise had shown them both that whatever spark had once existed between them was gone. The scientist would always have a special place in his heart, but she was not his soulmate. And then, in a spontaneous act he still couldn?t explain, before leaving the sentient planet Jacen had gone to see Tahiri. Neither of them had expected anything beyond a renewed friendship. Yet as the weeks had passed by and they?d worked together assisting the Yuuzhan Vong in the continuous effort to restore their heritage and rebuild their fractured society, Jacen had found himself unable to leave her side.
He and Tahiri had much in common, of course, including their special understandings of the Yuuzhan Vong and their love for his late brother Anakin. They both were Jedi who remained greatly uncertain about what the future would hold for them. And they both had felt profoundly, deeply alone. Perhaps it was that last factor more than anything that had drawn them together ? that and the aftermath of the long overdue delivery of a kiss from Anakin. Jacen couldn?t explain the feelings that fulfilling the promise from Myrkr had awakened in him, and he?d long since given up trying. All he knew was that being around Tahiri made him feel more alive than he?d felt since before Sernpidal. Her smile. Her eyes. Her laugh. The way she made him laugh too, something he didn?t do enough. The way she supported him when he had doubts and knocked some sense into him when he lost perspective. The way she never treated him like a war hero and only treated him like a colleague, a friend, and, eventually, a lover.
The way the sight of her yesterday after three weeks apart, when they?d met up at Borleias for the short trip to Chandrila, had taken his breath away.
For the first time in his life Jacen knew he finally felt how his father did for his mother, or Luke did for Mara, or Jaina did for Jag. Tahiri was his bright star of pure, accepting light in the midst of the fog and gloom that too often still seemed to chase his meditations in the Force. And he?d never been happier ? or more at peace.
"Jacen, honey," his mother?s voice interrupted his contemplations, "you?re hardly eating. Are you all right?"
He blinked and quickly stabbed a morsel of meat with his fork. "Sorry, Mom," he said. "I?m fine. Really. I was just thinking."
His father laughed robustly. "I know you like to overthink things, kid. But when it gets to the point that you forget to eat, that?s when I start to get worried."
"Sorry," Jacen said again, shoveling more food from his plate into his mouth.
"Is something bothering you, Jacen?" asked Luke with a concerned expression on his face.
"Bothering me? No, not at all," Jacen said sincerely.
"What is it, then?" Apparently his mother was not going to be placated so easily. "Are you sure you?re all right?"
Jacen swallowed his mouthful of food and laughed. "Yes, Mom. Really. I?m fine. Look, I?m eating. See?" For effect he speared another chuck of meat and gobbled it down. "We?ll talk about it later. I promise."
Jaina reached into the pocket of her slacks and took out a small box. "I know you said we weren?t exchanging gifts, Mom," she said sheepishly, "but I guess I?ve never really listened anyway."
Leia scowled. "You shouldn?t have, sweetheart."
"I know. But too bad." Jaina paced over to her mother and handed her the box. With Wyn outside entertaining young Ben with a pair of toy snowspeeders he?d received from his aunt and uncle a few minutes earlier, the adults had the sitting room to themselves. The burning logs in the fireplace and the candles on the mantle cast a warm glow on their faces as Soontir strode around the chairs refilling everyone?s tumblers of Corellian whiskey. "Open it," Jaina said.
Leia untied the thin ribbon and cracked the lid. "Oh," she gasped.
Han leaned over from his chair and peered into the box. "What is it?"
"I saw it for sale in a market on Abregado-rae when I was there a few months ago," Jaina replied. "It didn?t cost me much, and I had Winter confirm it was what I suspected."
Leia lifted a thin gold chain from the box. Dangling from it, a sparkling gemstone refracted the orange hues of the fire into all the colors of the rainbow and scattered specks of light throughout the room. "It?s a prismstone from Alderaan," she told the others, who were looking on in anticipation. "I haven?t seen one of these in years."
Jaina walked over and lowered herself into Jag?s lap. He wrapped his arms around her waist and tenderly rubbed her abdomen with his hand. She leaned into him and smiled. "So you like it?"
"Of course I like it," Leia said. "This was very thoughtful of you. Thank you."
"You?re welcome," Jaina nodded.
"Jagged, wipe that silly smirk off your face," Syal said suddenly.
"What?" Jag?s arms tensed around Jaina. "I don?t know what you?re talking about, Mother," he insisted. "I was not smirking."
"Yes, you were," Syal persisted. "You?re hiding something. What is it?"
"Nothing," Jag declared. "You are imagining things."
"No, I?m not."
"Yes, you are."
"I have to agree with your mother, Jagged," said Soontir grimly as he stopped in front of them and hefted the half-empty bottle of whiskey in his hands. "I can see it in your sinister green eyes."
"Sinister?!? I am beginning to think you have both gone mad," Jag said.
"No, I don?t think they have," Mara interjected. "Why are you so uncomfortable, Jag? You?re positively radiating unease."
"Aunt Mara!" Jaina tried to spring to her feet but found herself trapped in her husband?s embrace. "You have no right to probe his mind that way."
"No, she?s not probing," Luke said calmly. "Even Ben could pick this up."
Without warning Soontir?s voice burst into Jaina?s ear. "I think you are in on the conspiracy, my dear," he said with a hint of triumph in his voice. He raised her tumbler directly in front of her face. "Is my whiskey inadequate to your refined tastes?"
"Hey," Han spat. "That?s out of line."
"So sorry, Captain Solo," Soontir winked. "I am certain I have seen your daughter drink whiskey before, and yet tonight she has not taken so much as a sip. What could be the problem, I wonder?"
"Maybe she just doesn?t want any, General Fel," Han growled. "Did you ever think of that?"
"No, Dad, it?s okay," Jaina sighed in defeat. "You?re right, Soontir. I do drink whiskey, and I?m sure yours is wonderful. But I shouldn?t have any."
Soontir raised himself up to his full height and towered over her. "And why, pray tell, is that?"
"Yes, Jaina," Mara said. "Why is that?"
Jacen had to stifle his flinch at the pain stinging his hand. Sitting next to him on the loveseat, Tahiri was squeezing it so hard trying not to laugh that she didn?t even realize she was hurting him. Obviously she?d figured it out along with Soontir and Mara. From the mischievous grins on their faces, so had Luke and Syal. Jacen?s father apparently was too busy bickering to have made the connection, though, and his mother wore a perfectly unreadable politician?s mask across her striking features.
"Because," Jaina finally said, "I?m pregnant."
Han shot to his feet. "You?re what?"
"Sit down, Han," ordered Leia with a laugh. "You heard what she said."
"That?s right, you did," Soontir glared. "If you object to your daughter bearing my son?s child, it?s a little late to say so. You had your chance at the wedding."
"You know that?s not what I meant, pal," Han snarled. "I was just a little surprised. That?s all."
"Likely story," Soontir scoffed.
Just as Jacen was poised to intercede between the belligerent Corellians, Syal spoke quietly yet firmly. "Enough, Tir. Enough."
"You too, Han," chided Leia. "Enough."
Jacen took a long drink of whiskey to suppress his chuckle at the sight of the two men?s shoulders slumping as they sat down again next to their respective wives. With the truce finally in effect, the room erupted into a series of hearty congratulations and tears of joy at the unexpected announcement. The jubilant commotion lasted for several minutes before a measure of calm was restored.
"I?m so happy for you, Jagged," smiled Syal. "And you, Jaina. You will be wonderful parents."
"You certainly will," Leia added with a knowing nod to Jag?s mother. "The tricky question is whether your child will have wonderful grandfathers as well."
"Hey," Han and Soontir exclaimed at the same time.
"Children, actually," Jag said so softly no one but Jacen heard it over the laughter at the two men?s expense.
Jacen paused a moment to let the mirth pass. "What?s that, Jag?"
"I said," Jag smiled with a tip of his head to Jacen, "children."
Leia gasped and Han blinked repeatedly. Syal?s eyes widened in shock and Soontir drained his tumbler in a single long chug. Tahiri inhaled sharply in astonishment and squeezed Jacen?s hand tightly. And most comically of all, while Luke sat smiling serenely Mara?s jaw actually hung open.
"It?s true," Jaina said. "We?re going to have twins."
Jacen read his sister?s last hidden thought in her eyes. "Jedi twins," he said in a hushed voice. "A boy and a girl."
Jaina could only nod, but Jag leaned around her shoulder and winked at Luke and Leia. "Yes. Apparently two generations were not sufficient to satisfy the Force."
Jacen shook his head in disbelief, amazed at the revelation. Through their twin bond he could feel the unmitigated joy bursting in Jaina?s soul and realized he?d never felt her happier. It was a remarkable moment ? a stunning sensation in his awareness. Jacen hoped he would be able to experience that emotion for himself someday. Maybe someday soon.
Tahiri must have picked up on his private thoughts, because she leaned into him a little and took his hand in both of hers. She let out a quiet, contented sigh and cuddled her head on his shoulder. With the others now focused on further congratulations and good-natured interrogations of the expectant couple, she tilted her face and whispered in his ear. "Another time," Tahiri said, her warm breath tickling Jacen?s neck. "Right?"
He leaned his head over and whispered back. "Yes. Definitely. This is their moment."
"Ours will come soon enough," she said.
"It will," he nodded against her cheek.
Tahiri smiled. "I love you."
Jacen smiled too. "I know."
Jaina cinched the cloth belt of the plush robe around her waist and started to pace toward the door when she heard Jag stir in the bed. "Sorry," she said quietly. "I didn?t mean to wake you."
"It?s okay," he sighed, propping up his head on his hand. "Another craving?"
"Uh huh. I want some more of that Mon Calamari devil trout. With sweetbutter and some of those Kalarba spicy peppers. Oh, and those gingerbread cookies. Those were good too."
"That combination is absolutely disgusting."
"I?m aware of that," Jaina shrugged. "But your son has strange tastes."
"Yes," she insisted. "My daughter is happy with caramel iced milk and juri fruits. Your son is the crazy one."
"I understand," Jag said with a perfectly straight face.
"Would you like me to join you?"
"Your call," Jaina said. "I just need to eat, and have something to drink. There?s no point, really, unless you?re looking for something to do. I won?t be long."
"In that case," Jag replied, his head collapsing to the pillow, "never mind. It?s the middle of the night. I have plans. Very important plans."
"I thought so," she chuckled. "Maybe I?ll see if Jace is still up."
"Good luck with that," Jag mumbled, nearly asleep again.
Jaina smiled and opened the door. Padding quietly down the hallway toward the kitchen she reflected on how wonderful the last four days on Chandrila had been. The simple time together, with the whole family finally gathered in one place again, had helped her become more relaxed than she?d been in months. Last night Soontir, Syal, and Wyn had left for Csilla, and tomorrow the rest of them were leaving too. Luke, Mara, and Ben were heading to Ossus to spend some time at the Jedi training facility, while her parents were meeting Lando and Tendra at Malastare for what no doubt would be yet another dubious financial investment. Tahiri was returning to Zonama Sekot to continue her work with the Yuuzhan Vong, and Jacen apparently had decided to track down a bizarre rumor of the sudden emergence of a Force-wielding mammalian predator stalking the forest moon of Endor.
With a wistful smile Jaina entered the kitchen and went to work preparing her revolting snack. Soon she had gobbled down the horrible concoction and chugged several glasses of shuura fruit juice in hopes of cleansing her palate. Undecided on whether the food or her hormones was making her more nauseated and reluctant to wake Jacen at this hour, she was about to head back to Jag when she decided to take more time to calm her churning gut first. The thickly padded chairs in the sitting room seemed like the perfect place to regroup.
Jaina set her empty glass on the counter and leaned against the wall. She closed her eyes and opened herself to the Force, drawing on its energy to soothe her aching muscles and calm her rebellious stomach. For once the twins ? about three months along now ? seemed content.
Maybe devouring the abhorrent victuals had worked after all.
"You can eat that way all you like once you?re out of me," she promised her unborn son. "Until then, give me a break once in a while, would you?"
For a moment Jaina actually thought she felt a tiny smirk in the Force ? but quickly convinced herself she?d imagined it. She was just tired. Yes. She?d definitely imagined it.
Still not comfortable enough to sleep, Jaina opened her eyes again and began to walk toward the sitting room. Distracted by her musings about her dietary dilemmas, she didn?t notice them at first. In fact she made it a dozen paces into the room before she did.
Because it was only then that her eyes fell on the long sofa.
Jaina tried to scream ? only to find her voice paralyzed in her throat.
And then she fainted dead away.
Jacen felt Tahiri squirm beneath him where they lay together on the sofa before she ripped her mouth from his. He lunged his lips toward hers again, but she twisted her head away.
Her eyes were wide. "Did you hear that?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Hear what?"
"It sounded like something hit the floor."
"Oh, come on," he chuckled as he raised his head to look around the room, "I think I?d know if ?"
His twin was lying unconscious in the middle of the room.
Jacen sprang up off Tahiri and rushed to his sister?s side, chastising himself for being so totally preoccupied that he hadn?t even sensed his own twin?s presence only a couple of meters away. Kneeling next to her, he placed his hand on the side of her face. "Jaina?"
An instant later Tahiri kneeled on the opposite side and took one of Jaina?s hands in both of hers. "Jaina?"
Jacen caressed his twin?s face tenderly. "Jaina, wake up."
"Uhhhh," his sister moaned without opening her eyes.
Jacen closed his eyes and surged his awareness around her. Fortunately he couldn?t detect any injuries, except that she might have a nasty bump on the back of her head for a day or two. He sent a refreshing burst of energy to her, helping Jaina clear her muddled thoughts and steady her body. Jacen opened his eyes again to see his twin?s brown eyes looking up at him in confusion.
At just that moment a crowd burst into the sitting room.
"Is everything all right?" his mother asked.
"It felt like Jaina panicked," his uncle said.
"It did," Mara nodded. "What?s going on?"
"It?s really late," Han muttered as he ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. "This better be good."
Before any other thoughts crossed Jacen?s mind, he felt a truly profound sense of relief that Tahiri had insisted they remained fully clothed on the sofa. Otherwise?
He felt the blush rising to his cheeks and smashed that thought into oblivion.
Then he realized that something had awakened the others ? so Jaina must have cried out in the Force. Was it possible? Had he really been that absorbed in?? So much so that he?d missed his twin?s mental shriek? But none of the new arrivals had their weapons. It couldn?t have distressed them too much, really, if even Mara hadn?t brought her blade. Still, how could he have?
Jaina?s voice broke the eerie silence in the sitting room. "Sorry," she said softly, rubbing the back of her head with her fingers as she hauled herself up into one of the chairs and turned to face her mother. "I should?ve controlled myself better."
"But what happened?" Leia asked, more insistently this time.
Jaina turned back to face Jacen and Tahiri ? and her eyes widened, as if she?d just now remembered what she?d seen. "I was coming in here to sit down? and I? and I saw?" ? she looked at Jacen ? "you and?" ? she looked at Tahiri ? "you and? you were? and you were?"
From behind the assembled family Jag?s voice cut off her bewildered ramblings. "They were what?"
Everyone in the room glanced over to Jag standing in the doorway.
"What?" Jag shook his head and scowled. "I may not be strong in the Force, but I have ears."
"I guess we were a bit noisy," Luke said, chagrined.
"No need to apologize," Jag nodded. "I just didn?t want to miss the party." He looked down at his reclining ? and seemingly traumatized ? wife. "You were saying?"
Jaina sat there mutely, gaping at Jacen.
"We were on the sofa," Tahiri supplied. "We were kissing."
"Uh huh. Yeah. Kissing," Jaina sputtered accusingly. "Kissing!"
Jacen took a deep breath and looked up at his parents. "It?s true."
"So? is this?" His mother clearly was at a loss for words.
"Everyone?s okay. Nobody?s hurt. There?s been kissing," his father said. "That?s all I need to know. Have a good night, everybody." He dug his knuckles into his eyes and turned to walk out the door ? only to be grabbed firmly by his wife and spun back into the room.
Leia began wringing her hands. "So, is there something we should know?"
Suddenly Jaina gasped and stared at Tahiri. "You?re not pregnant too, are you?"
"I don?t think so," Tahiri said.
"She means no," Jacen said instantly, meeting her gaze pleadingly. "No. No, she?s not."
Tahiri blinked. "Right," she added with haste. "I?m not. No, I?m not."
Leia was frowning. "But then you are?"
"Oh, it?s not like that," Tahiri said. "We?re in love."
"Huh? What?" Han clearly had been paying only partial attention. "You?re in love?"
Jacen had never felt more trapped in his entire life, even in Vergere?s custody after Myrkr. They were all staring at him ? his mother, his father, Uncle Luke, Aunt Mara, his twin ? and waiting impatiently. Jacen didn?t know what else to do, so he simply shrugged, held out his hands in penitence, and flashed the trademark Solo lopsided grin.
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