Leia had stored herself away in the shed along with mounds of relics that had once resided on the Falcon. She and Han had finished sorting most of it weeks ago, making more or less organized stacks around the shed outside their new home on Corellia. She’d been surprised by some of what they’d found. Half of it was junk; broken hyperdrive parts, rusty motivators, old spare parts that Han refused to get rid of. But buried under the junk, they’d found mementos of their lives back from the days when Han had just been a mercenary and Leia merely a princess without a planet. Poor Luke- who had volunteered to help clean out- had been less than amused by some of these mementos such as a few left behind from long nights late into a certain trip to Bespin . . .
Leia and Han had finished sorting the garbage from the treasures, and had packed it all away again, save for a few crates Leia almost wished she hadn’t found. She had just about forgotten them when Han had recovered them from the depths of the Falcon’s smuggling compartments (half of which had unfortunately turned into storage bins during mad dashes for room). When she saw them again, Leia had recognized and immediately known that she did not want to open those crates anytime soon. Or did she? She’d felt decidedly conflicted at the sight of the simple gray crates- the labels on the sides being the only markings to distinguish them from any other set of crates. They were smaller than the standard size but big enough to pack something small. Like holos. And Leia knew the crates to be packed full of holos. Sitting on the floor of the shed, her legs spread out before her, Leia tore her gaze from the holo sitting before her to the opened crate beside her. She glanced over the labels, reading every few as her eyes quickly skimmed across the gray tabs. She’d forgotten that there were so many and yet she couldn’t bring herself to watch a single one. She blew a sigh out her nose, removing her arm from the crate with a flop as she turned back to the one that sat in front of her. Flipping it over, she reread its label only to lose her composure. Leia threw her head back, sniffling as she wiped her face with the front of her hand, then back. Of all the junk sitting around, there couldn’t be any handkerchiefs! She wiped her hand off on the leg of her pants, hardly caring anymore.
“There you are.” Startled, Leia looked up to see her daughter approaching. Jaina didn’t smile at her but frowned with worry. “I shouldn’t have been able to sneak up on you like that.” Leia pursed her lips, shrugging. She waved a hand to motion for Jaina to sit with her and the younger woman complied, settling down to squish herself against her mother’s side so they could sit together in the middle of Leia’s mess. “I’m sorry; I’m tired today.”
“Sure you are,” Jaina smirked. But her amusement was short-lived and she sighed shortly, her gaze moving around to take in the mess her mother had surrounded herself with. “I know how you feel. This year doesn’t feel right without Jacen.” She paused. “When we were younger, he’d always wake up early, rush into my room and remind me what day it was. . . . It felt so wrong this morning, even thinking about my Life Day without him.”
Leia didn’t respond. She was torturing her lower lip between both her teeth, biding her time in the vain hope that Jaina would make some effort to change the conversation’s direction. Long ago, that would have been Jaina’s go-to reaction. Now, Leia knew she was much too mature to skid around a subject, but face it, deal with it, and get it out of the way. She leaned back to look at her daughter; it never ceased to amaze her how fast she’d grown up, changed.
Jaina caught her inspecting gaze and gave her a soft, artificial smile in return. She reached for the silent holo, took it into her own hands and studied it. “What are you watching?”
Subtly, she shook her head, such a small move Jaina almost missed it. “Actually, I’m not watching anything right now,” she quipped, indicating the unmoving holo.
Jaina’s smile returned, but this time it was genuine and comically sour.“Smart mouth. Who’s the mature one here?”
Leia managed to return a smile back, some sign of life returning to her eyes. She watched Jaina as she briefly studied the holo in her hand. At once, Jaina’s features twisted with sorrow, her brows drawing together and her mouth opening in surprise. It took her a second to recover before the corners of her mouth turned up in a gentle smile and she glanced sideways at Leia. “‘Jaya and Jasa come home’”, she read aloud. “Don’t tell me you’ve been agonizing yourself with these home holovids all day.”
Leia shrugged shortly. “Just for the past- few hours.”
“Blast, Mom!” Jaina rolled her eyes. She snuggled closer into her mom’s side. “Unless you’re going to smile, I think you should put these away.”
“Jaina, I . . . Just leave them, okay? I just want to-” She broke off.
“Dad is worried about you.”
“He told you that?”
Jaina shook her head. “Didn’t need to. He wanted my help assessing the situation and I think I’ve already come to a conclusion about what I think you should happen here.”
“Jaina, leave them! Please.”
“I don’t think you should be watching any more of these unless you’re going to watch them with happier thoughts.”
Leia sighed, letting her head fall to rest on her daughter’s shoulder. “We’ll see. Now, that can’t be the only reason you’re here. Talk to me. Have you come up with any ideas as to what you want for your Life Day?”
“Why do you always ask me that?” Jaina chortled. “You’re going to buy me something different anyway.”
“Maybe. I just need ideas.”
“You don’t need a single hint. You always ask and you always get me something completely different. But it’s always better than whatever I asked for anyway.”
“Then, just answer me and we can get this part of the process done with.”
She huffed. “Fine. But I’ve really been thinking about it this year and I think I came up with something good.”
Leia sealed her lips, raising her gaze. “Mmm. I’m listening.”
Jaina nudged her. “I’m serious! I think I came up with the un-toppable idea this time.”
“I want the one thing you never got to give me.”
Leia didn’t have to ask; somehow, she just knew. Her veins filled with fresh, freezing cold guilt. She glanced sideways at her daughter, perturbed, to say the least. She thought she’d had a response ready, but she must have seen it unfit because she opened her mouth and no words came.
From the corner of her eye, she noticed Jaina watching her, watching her expression subtly change as she weighed her words. Jaina inhaled slowly, tossing her hands into her lap. “I miss you and Dad.”
“Then, maybe you shouldn’t be moving to Csilla.”
Jaina nudged her mother with her shoulder, but when Leia looked back to her, she didn’t look upset or even disappointed. She merely shrugged, her smile becoming bitter. “You’re probably right. It’s not just that I miss you guys, though. When I was packing, I realized that I really miss the memories we didn’t get together.”
“You just figured that out?”
She shook her head. “I just figured out how much it truly bothers me. I’ve always missed it.”
“Then what’s the difference now?”
Jaina just looked at her for a moment. “I want to it to change.”
Leia’s laugh was short, more bitter than Jaina’s smile. Her gaze dropped to her lap and she began to pick at “I’m sorry. That opportunity flew away the moment I let Winter take you three.” She bit down on her lip- hard- but the thought still evoked a fresh round round of tears that Leia needed to cry out.
“Or, maybe it hasn’t.” Jaina jumped to her feet, then reached down a hand to help her mother up. “I’m willing to bet we still have time.”
All her words seemed to be failing her today, so Leia didn’t respond. She let Jaina pull her around, played along with her dialogue.
Pulling her mother away from her mess of holos, Jaina quirked her lips, all the bitterness leaving her demeanor. “I have come to believe that there is still time left in our lives for the two of us to become friends.
The mother frowned. “Is this what our relationship has come to?”
Jaina ignored her. “Mom, for my Life Day, I want to make a deal with you.”
Leia waited for more. “What?”
“Well, with my Life Day coming up-” She paused to flash Leia an amused smile as she added, “and Mother’s Day- I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It’s been bothering me lately, so I thought I’d mention it to you that I’m willing to make the effort to fix things.”
“You say that like we’re broken.
“I don’t think we’re broken. Though, I do think things could be better. Listen. Remember after Anakin died, when Mara and Uncle Luke sent Ben to the Maw? Then, we had that whole conversation about- how I finally understood-”
Leia stopped her, quickly nodding her head. She’d let Jaina believe what she had wanted. At that time, she’d been so relieved to see that her daughter had finally reached some level of understanding as to why Leia had done what she did and that it hadn’t been easy, but she knew Jaina still couldn’t truly understand it like Leia always had. “Yes, Jaina, I remember.”
“So, we understand each other. Now, I want to actually have a relationship with you, Mom. I don’t just want to be your daughter.”
Leia saw Jaina’s head still working, words still sitting on the edge of her tongue, waiting to fly off, so Leia went with it and asked, “What do you mean?”
“I mean … I told Jag that I can’t leave Corellia.”
“Yeah, he wasn’t the happiest about it, but I told him that this matters to me. You, Dad, and Allana are all that I have left. And you and Dad … I still need you guys. And, Mom, you’ve always been my mother. Of course! But I don’t want a mother.” Se rolled her lips between her teeth briefly before she finished her statement, her eyes turning glassy with coming tears. “I want a mom. I want a friend.”
Leia didn’t know what to say, how to respond. She knew exactly what Jaina meant, what she was trying to get at; but it frightened her in an odd way just because her daughter was right and they’d never had a relationship like that. Things between the two of them had always been a fine layer of ice and Leia had gotten used to slowly, cautiously tiptoeing her way around the rink. As hard as she’d ever tried, the two of them had never been close like that. Whenever she’d dared to take an actual step, things always turned back to Winter and New Alderaan and Leia didn’t want to lose her daughter over that again.
Jaina glanced around the mess of holos on the floor, her look sad but her mouth smiling. “Hey, maybe you still need me too.”
Though she knew for sure what was happening, she needed to hear it. “Just say it, Jaina.”
Jaina giggled to herself, amused by whatever she was thinking. “Sometimes, I think it would be fun to be one of those weird mother and daughter duos that do everything together. You know, they’re always going out to lunch and going shopping together.”
Leia raised a brow. “Go shopping? You?”
Jaina shrugged, turning away from Leia. She looked back at her mother over her shoulder, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Maybe the day is approaching.”
“Fine, if you want to go shopping. Just let me comm Doctor Cilghal first, alright?”
She laughed, pacing around.
“Jaina, I don’t think we’re that kind of mother and daughter pair.”
“I don’t think so, either,” she agreed, planting her hands against her hips. “I just mean to say that I want to be closer to you like that. I’m finally learning how much I appreciate you and everything you’ve done for me. And for Anakin and Jacen. I understand now like I never have before.” Her smile suddenly melted away, replaced by a genuine expression of deep empathy and an almost happy kind of sadness. What Leia read through that look was something she understood all too well. It irked her to see Jaina wear it so genuinely …
“Before, I didn’t understand. Not really. I was a teenager and an idiot. Not that there’s much difference between the two, but . . .”
Jaina stopped just as she had turned so that she was once again facing Leia. She bit down on her lip. “For the longest time, I took you and everything you sacrificed for me for granted. I’m not going to do that ever again. I get it now. I really do. You did everything you had to. I didn’t understand that even when we were talking about it, but I get it now. You- you didn’t have anyone to help you, no mother to ask for advice. It was just you and Dad and the two of you did whatever you had to do. And it’s amazing how you did that. I can’t imagine trying to grow up and figure out life without you because- even if you weren’t always right there by us, you were always there for us.”
Perhaps it wasn’t Jaina’s words so much as how she said them, how the Force rang with the sweet truth as it flowed around her, through her. Leia did not miss it. She felt it. She recognized it. And it all slowly sunk in.
“Mom. I get it now. I get it like you do. You have no idea how thankful I am that I still have you because I’m going to need you now more than I ever have.”
Leia finally found the confirmation she’d been looking for in the Force and she couldn’t help the gigantic smile she got when her gaze found her daughter again. Jaina smiled joyously, nodding.
“Jaina!” Leia gasped, taking one long step forward and flinging her arms out to embrace her child. Jaina was shaking with her bubbling laughter, but she squeezed her back, nestling her head on her mother’s shoulder. “I’m just glad that I have you here to help me out,” she told her.
“Oh, Jaina! Of course!” Jaina laughed again.
“Now, how’s that for an early Mother’s Day gift?”
Leia raised a brow. “You couldn’t wait a week?”
“Jag insisted that we wait until dinner on my Life Day, but I couldn’t help myself.”
Leia chuckled shortly. “You’ve never been very patient.”
“Are you complaining? Jacen and I came on time to make you a mother on Mother’s Day.”
“That’s right. And you made the greatest gift. And, Jaina?”
“You know that I’m always here. We’ve still got time.”