Faded hues of purple, orange and red filled the sky as Leia and I entered a small tapcaf?. It was quiet, and the evening's entertainment had yet to begin. Only a few other tables were occupied, so we were seated immediately. It felt good to relax. We were on a mission for the NRI to uncover a terrorist organization. Earlier in the day, we had attempted to raid an assumed cell, only to find our contact dead and the building deserted.
Pausing at our table, a server droid waited for our order. Leia ordered two Gizer Pale Blue Ales. When our drinks arrived, the droid took our meal order and disappeared quickly. Leia wrapped her hands around her mug, took a sip and sighed. "I hadn't realized how much I missed you until I came on this mission. There has been so little time to just sit back and talk."
Her comment was painfully true. The war had kept both of us going in separate directions for so long. This mission was a mixed blessing. Mara was usually my partner, but Ben had taken sick. I was going to ask Kyp to join me, but Leia insisted that she needed to come. I have no qualms about my sister's skills yet in the back of my mind I was worried. We'd argued and I lost. She was here watching my back and it felt right.
"So what do you want to talk about?"
"Oh stars, Luke. I don't know. The past, the future. You decide."
Smiling, I shook my head. "You're letting me decide? That's a first."
"I figured it was about time my little brother got to choose."
"You're taking a big chance, sister." I looked around the room and with a conspiratorial glance, I whispered, "I could talk about something really embarrassing."
Grinning at me, she said, "I'm married to an ex-smuggler. I doubt anything you say could embarrass me."
Our meal was served before I could respond. The entertainers had begun their sound check. As soon as the droid was gone, I picked up our conversation. "Have you and Han decided where you're going to retire?"
She stared at me in disbelief. "Retire? Me? I'd go crazy."
"You deserve some rest, Leia."
"So do you." She took a bite of her nerfsteak and kept her eyes on her plate. "Han talked about Corellia. He'd like to run a small transport company. If he couldn't fly? well -..." Her voice trailed off.
I understood perfectly. Han was a lot like me. Flying was in our blood. We'll both fly until the day we die. A loud noise - the clang of a symbol - interrupted my thoughts. Both Leia and I turned our heads to the stage. The band began to play a boisterous tune that pulled several couples to their feet to dance.
The room had become quite crowded since Leia and I had arrived. A quick survey of the clientele revealed a varied array of species. I noticed that Leia's feet were moving in time to the beat of the music. Her eyes were roaming the crowd.
"Looking for a dancing partner?" I teased.
Continuing her scan of the patrons, she answered, "No, I'm looking for a Hutt. I'd swear that was the same band from Jabba's." Turning back to me, she said, "Besides, I can't dance. I didn't bring my dancing outfit." Her tone was playful.
"I wouldn't think Han would let you wear that in public."
There was a twinkle in her eye as she told me, "He doesn't. Private showings only, when he's a good boy." She leaned close to me. "And he's been a good boy a lot."
I felt my cheeks warm slightly. Before I was married, I would have turned beet red at a comment like that. Unfortunately, Leia was spurred on by the slight reaction she got from me. One of her favorite pastimes was finding new ways to make me blush.
She pushed one of the ales toward me. "Let's do a toast."
I grasped the mug. "What are we toasting?"
"My niece." Her mug clinked with mine.
I stared at her. "You have a nephew." My hand held hers, preventing her from taking another sip. "I think you've had too much."
Leia laughed. "No, I haven't. I'm talking about my future niece. The one you and Mara are going to start working on when you get back." She patted my hand. "I'll let Mara borrow my dancing outfit."
I let go of her hand and laughed. "She's got one." I took a swig of my ale, and then raised the mug to hit against Leia's. "To the future."
Smiling, she added, "To my future niece."
My danger sense had begun blaring just before our mugs exploded.
Leia's blade was lit at the same time as mine. The sniper, who had been standing in the threshold, had already begun running, so we gave chase. A burly man blocked us at the door. "You can't leave without paying."
A wild shot cracked the transparisteel and shards flew over our heads. Leia went around the man when he ducked. "Pay the man, Luke."
I reached into my pockets and pulled out a handful of credits. Dropping them into his pocket, I said, "Here. Keep the change." Then I rushed out the door.
Few people were outside. Those that were ran for cover when shots rang out. Sprinting, I caught up with Leia. Occasionally, the sniper would fire a shot at us, his shots going wild.
"What is this guy? A stormtrooper? He can't hit anything!" Leia exclaimed as she ran.
I shrugged, slowing to round a corner. "He killed our ale."
"Luke." She stopped behind me and gripped my arm, pulling me to a stop. "I've got a bad feeling about this."
Ferrocrete crumbled under another wild shot. I threw myself back against the wall, pushing Leia back with me. "You just had to say that, didn't you?"
Deactivating her saber, Leia hooked it on her belt and retrieved her blaster. After checking the power and setting it to stun, she said, "Well, it's true. Don't you feel it?"
Another shot sent ferrocrete flying in my direction. I turned my head and covered my face. "Okay, I've got a bad feeling too." I looked at her. "Happy?"
A slight smile appeared on her face. "Yes. Just like old times." With a determined expression on her face, she ran around the corner, blaster held ready. "Cover me!"
For a moment, it seemed it was twenty-five years ago and Leia was blasting open the grate of the garbage chute and shooting at the stormtroopers who were chasing us through the Death Star. "Leia! Wait." I had my blade on a moment later and caught up with her quickly. No shots came our way. The sniper slipped through a door into a large warehouse.
Together, we ducked into an alcove, keeping out of sight. The man wasn't trying to kill us - just to lead us into an ambush. Years of experience kept us from doing something that foolish. I pulled out my comlink and called for backup.
"They'll be here in about fifteen minutes," I said, putting the comlink away.
When Leia didn't respond, I glanced at her. I could feel the Force swirl around her and see her concentration. "There are ten of them. I can sense?strong determination? anticipation."
I confirmed Leia's count. Her sensing abilities had improved greatly over the last few years and I was proud of her accomplishments. Her eyes twinkling, Leia grinned at me. "I can even tell you how many women are in there."
Falling into the Force again, I felt Leia reach out, felt invisible tendrils of power stretching for the building. Her eyes half lidded, she began to speak, "Man, woman, man, man?"
Her whole body stiffened, her nails dug into my skin. She had sensed the same thing I did. A young child, a very terrified child.
"We've got to go in now, Luke," she exclaimed. "They're going to kill that child."
I grabbed her wrist as she reached for her saber. "We don't know that. Odds are?"
"Don't tell me about odds. There is no time." Her eyes were glazed with pain. "I will not let that child die, not if I can prevent it."
Preventing death. What sentient doesn't want to do that? I didn't want that child to die any more than Leia did. I knew that we would do whatever we could to save that child. The unfortunate thing was that the group inside the warehouse also knew it. That was why the child was there. Why else would we walk into such an obvious trap? "I'll go in. You wait for backup."
"Don't get overprotective with me, Luke. You need me to watch your back."
True enough, but I had to try. My worries for her had magnified in the last few minutes. I pushed them to the back of my mind. Distractions can be fatal. I cringed at the thought. Focus on the positive. We were both trained Jedi and the Force was with us. "Shall we sneak in or use the front door?"
Leia eyed the warehouse. "We could try to find the back door but that would take too much time." She glanced back at me, giving me a lopsided grin that reminded me of Han. "Let's go with the straight fight."
Her attempt to lighten the mood didn't overshadow the seriousness of what we were about to do. She knew the risks and was ready to meet them. I couldn't have asked for a better Jedi to watch my back. "Let's go."
The standoff was eerily silent. The terrorist stood in the middle of the warehouse, his arm around the neck of a young boy. The child was crying but he made no sound.
"I knew you couldn't resist the bait. You are so predictable," the terrorist said with disdain.
Leia stepped out from behind me. "We're here now. Let the boy go," she demanded with authority.
I felt a ripple of surprise from the man. Clearly, he hadn't expected to see Leia with me. Quickly composing himself, he said, "How poetic. Twins. Born together, die together."
The man backed up, dragging the child with him until he was behind some boxes. The firefight began immediately. Leia and I both delved deeply into the Force, taking its power and channeling it into our actions. Our sibling bond was strengthened and magnified as we battled for our lives. Lightsabers sizzled as blaster bolts were deflected. I could feel my sister as clearly as I could feel myself. Together we were formidable. Soon the blasters were silent. The smell of ozone burning into flesh filled the air. The sudden quiet was broken by the whimpering of the young boy.
The man still held him, but this time he was armed with a vibroblade. I took a step toward them and the man held the blade threateningly to the boy's throat. "Let him go."
The man sneered and I could feel his intent. He was going to kill the child, but fate intervened. The boy, no longer a frightened victim, fought back. He bit the arm holding him and took off running toward Leia. She turned off her blade and held her arms out for him. The terrorist was livid. With a flip of his wrist, he threw his vibroblade at the fleeing child. I immediately guided my saber to intercept the vibroblade, and sent it flying off course. Seeing that I was now weaponless, the man charged me. I called my saber back to me, slicing through the man's arm on its return. He crumpled to the ground. Extinguishing my lightsaber, I reattached it to my belt. "Captain Murdock is here."
"I know," Leia replied.
The little boy was tugging at my robe. "Thank you, Mister Jedi."
My danger sense flared to life. I couldn't use my saber without slicing into the little boy beside me. I heard Leia's saber ignite as she rushed behind me.
I felt a burning in my chest and then I was on my knees in pain. Glancing down at my body, I thought I'd find a wound but there was nothing. It didn't take long for me to realize what had happened. Leia had been shot.
"What's wrong, mister?" the little boy asked.
I could hear Captain Murdock giving orders, but I paid them no heed. I crawled to where Leia was lying. Gently, I rolled her to her back. I was horrified to see the blackened spot in the middle of her chest. She was in great pain - I could see it as well as feel it. Her eyes flickered a bit, and then opened. When she saw me, she smiled weakly. "I told you I needed to watch your back."
Tears threatened as I nodded. Her hand fumbled for mine. I grasped it tightly, and then loosened my grip. She felt so tiny and fragile, yet I knew that was far from the truth. My sister was strong - stronger than me. If anybody could survive this, it would be Leia. "Leia, we need to get you to the medcenter."
"Luke." I could barely hear her words. I leaned down closer to her. "I'm not going to the medcenter."
"You have to Leia. You need treatment."
"It wouldn't matter, Luke."
This can't be happening. Why my sister? What did I ever do to warrant the loss of my family one by one? I looked at her again. My dreams of Leia surviving shattered like glass. I could feel her slipping away - her strong, bright presence beginning to waver. It hurt like hell.
"Tell Han." She gasped. "The twins? I love..."
"I will." A tear streaked down my cheek.
Her free hand cupped my cheek, the touch soothing my weary soul. "I never meant to hurt you, Luke." Her voice was raspy, the effort exhausting her.
My hand covered hers. "You've never hurt me, Leia. I just don't want to lose you." I kissed her palm with trembling lips.
"You haven't? lost me. I'll ?always be? with you." Her eyes closed, her last breath expelled.
It felt like my heart had been ripped out. I grasped for her life force, trying to keep her here but it was too late. She was gone.
Part of me died that day. Sometimes I feel that I'm half of who I used to be. I chose not to dwell on the emptiness. Life does go on after death. The niece my sister requested arrived eighteen months later.
We named her Leia.
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