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began my afternoon with you (somewhere long and far away)

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i.

Even in such tiny infanthood, Obi-Wan can tell she looks like Anakin. The second child, Luke, reminds him distinctly of Padme. He has her gentle calmness and resilience. But this one, the one bundled up in his arms, Leia, she is her father through and through. She has the tuft of rich sand colored hair that he had as a child, the same rounded cheeks he had as a padawan, the same burning eyes that he right up until-.

Well, Obi Wan does not want to think about that. He does his best to push the smell of burning flesh and the sight of small bodies crumpled on marble floors out of his mind. The day has finished, and what is lost is lost. There is nothing that he can do but try and whether the night and hope for a brighter dawn.

She stirs a bit in his arms, stretches and yawns, and for the first time, Obi Wan is struck by a selfish desire. There is a part of himself that still chides him for such desires. He is a Jedi-.

He was a Jedi. There are no Jedi left in the galaxy. There is no more Jedi Order. There is a collection of survivors. There are a ragtag group that comforts itself with the word’s There is no Death; There is only the Force.

But he wants nothing more than to spirit the two of them away. He wants to somehow find Ahoska or Yoda or someone, anyone who will listen, that here is proof, proof he’ll cry, that Anakin Skywalker was not always evil. Once he did have a heart. Once he did feel love. Here are the physical manifestation of that love. Here is what he lost his mind trying to protect.

Obi-Wan, well practiced in a life of self-denial, denies himself even this most basic of instincts as soon as Breha touches the infant Leia. She twists her long fingers in Leia’s hair. She re-wraps her in crushed velvet, looks at her as if she was the rising sun in a world that had only seen endless darkness.

“Do you want to say goodbye to her, sir?” Breha asks as Leia grasps a small, stray braid that was laying across Breha’s chest.

He offers a tiny, weary smile. “I already have. Besides, there is another child who still yet needs a mother as loving as you.”

Breha lifts her head slightly. “These children already have a mother who loved them dearly, a mother who gave up her life for them and the hope they would live in a better world. They also have a kind soul who watched over them when they needed them most.”

“Of course. Of course they do.” There is no mention of their father.

“You’re a good man, Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Bail Organa, silent until now, reaches his hand out to clasp Obi-Wan’s shoulder. “Until we meet again, my friend.”

“Yes, until then.” He says quietly. Deep within him, the Force calls quietly. There will be no next time.

 

ii.

Breha sneaks into her daughter’s chambers as the sun has barely risen over the lowest mountains. There is a flurry of motion and chatter.

One chambermaid is in the midst of securing her own hair back into a pristine bun, cautiously eyeing up the knotted mess that Leia’s hair seems to find itself in every morning. There is another, further back in the room, carefully pouring out a steaming cup of strong tea to drink as she begins to prepare for the day. There is another trio of them, all with matching braids, are carefully deciding what went better with the white dress, the silver belt and no jewellery or a small golden belt and equally as delicate hoops to sit in Leia’s ears.

Leia herself sits in the midst of this chaos. Her hair is matted to her head and her eyes are barely open to even see what is going on around her, and yet in her mother’s eyes, she is as beautiful and as sharp as ever.

“Personally,” Breha waltzes over to the trio and picking up the silver belt, “I think the silver would much more accent the purity of the white. After all, this is the cleanest I’ve ever seen any of my daughter’s dresses.”

The chambermaids all nod in a synchronized performance. Buns and braids bob in equal timing as their eyes grow wide with fear of reprimand. (Leia can be, at times, a harsh mistress.)

“Good morning, Mother,” Leia’s eyes have drifted closed. “It’s good to see you.”

Breha laughs quietly to herself. “Girls, you’ve done an excellent job so far. However, I believe I can take it from here. You’ve earned yourselves a strong cup of tea and a morning off. I will see you all in time for dinner, yes?”

“Mistress, it is no trouble for us to stay.” It’s the tallest one, the one with the bun that lies low on her head. She looks much to eager to please and even more eager for an extra hour of sleep.

“That will be all girls.”

Leia does not seem to stir as the chambermaids flutter out of the room.

Breha flutters over to her (adopted) daughter. Leia’s eyes are completely open, looking at her mother eagerly in the morning.

“Today is a big day.” Leia whispers quietly. She seems uneasy, uncomfortable in her skin in a way that Breha had not seen since she was a child, a child who always seemed more concerned with justice and shooting things than sitting and gossiping with the ladies of court.

Breha lays her hands on Leia’s shoulders. “Big days often start best when one washes her face.”

It was now Leia who fluttered around the room. Under her mother’s watchful eye, she scrubbed her face clean, soap suds still left in the porcelain pot that chambermaids had filled up. She carefully stepped into her immaculate white dress and watched as her mother cinches the belt tightly around her waist, adding shape and a graceful silhouette to one of her plainest garments.

Breha then leads her to the seat next to the dresser, the one she was sitting at nearly a half an hour ago.

Breha picks up small chunks of the thick brown rope that makes itself at home on Leia’s head. She goes in section by section, carefully combing any knots out. When she finishes a section, she mists a homemade fragrance that adds a soft sheen and heavy floral fragrance to the hair.

“What is popular among the girls in court nowadays? When you get to be my age, you simply stop caring about keeping up with the trends. They change too rapidly for me to ever get on board with them. That chambermaid practically takes forever to do my hair as is.”

Leia laughs to herself, hair shaking as she does. She takes a sip of her tea and makes a face, it must have gone cold by now, and laughs again.

“Oh, Mother, please. You make the trends.” She tosses a portion of her hair over shoulder. “You wear a braid and suddenly, as if by magic, I head to a state dinner and everyone and their mother is wearing braids.”

 

It’s Breha’s turn to laugh. “That’s not true.”

“Oh yes it is. Just this morning, Jame insisted that my hair would look best in braids.”

“Is that the one who does your hair everyday? I never liked her. She always leaves too much product in your hair when she washes it. Makes you look like you don’t bathe.” Breha’s hands are already moving in the familiar pattern of two buns, one of the most traditional hairstyles of her people.

“Yes, and Mother, please. I look like a country bumpkin when you do my hair like that.” Leia takes another sip of her tea and makes another face. She seemingly forgot that it had gone cold.

“You look like a proud daughter of Alderaan when your hair is like this. And today in the Senate, you will remain a proud daughter of Alderaan. Now, let me hear that speech again.”

The sun streams into her room through the window as Leia gives her final decisive words and the final pin is placed. It highlights the caramel undertones in the buns and the fullness in her face, the fire in her eyes.

Breha beams with pride.

 

iii.

Leia is still nude as Han begins to pick at the braid that falls down her back, that follows the curves and swells of her body. He carefully plucks at the pins she uses to keep her thick hair from falling all over the place.

He makes small piles of pins as he goes along. The one that are decorative, that are bejeweled go in pile next to his hipbone. The ones that are large, clearly meant to do the job of actually holding her hair in place, go in a pile next to his bicep. The smallest ones, meant to keep the fly-aways at bay, are simply thrown upon the ground. They clang as they hit the harsh metal of the Falcon’s floorboarding.

“How do I undo this thing?” He pick the braid up at the base closest to her skull. He tries his best to examine it, weighs it in his hand, allows it fall with a resounding thump upon her back.

Leia herself shrugs and smiles. “Aren’t you supposed to be some kind of prodigy or something? I’m sure you’ll figure it out eventually.”

Han rolls his eyes and presses tiny kisses across her back.

“You know, Princess.” Kiss. “You are really horrible.” Kiss. “At this giving direction thing.” Kiss. “Like earlier tonight.” Kiss. “Oh, Han!” Kiss. “To your right.” Kiss. “No. No. No.” Kiss. “Your other right.” Kiss. “ There, there, there!”

Leia laughs. It’s a laugh that is bright and burning and warm. “You’re awful. Truly awful.”

Kiss. “But, darling, you love me?”

Han’s voice always inflects like that. Always says that it as if it is a question that is in need of constant answering. As if her marriage to him, her love for him, needs to be proven over and over and over again. Han Solo is a man in need of ever constant validation.

“Of course, I do. Now undo my braid.”

Han does, of course he does. He will always do what she says. No matter the request or the cost. Han would rope in the sun for her if he could.

He carefully untwists the long strands of hair until they are both enveloped by it. It smells of her, of desert flowers and recycled air. He tucks it behind her ear with such tenderness that she nearly weeps.

“Never cut it,” he whispers as he leans in for another kiss.

 

iv.

“Do you consider him our father, Luke?”

Luke’s hands are working with such quickness that Leia imagines that her dual braids will be finished and pinned before Luke can even answer the question.

He asked to braid her hair over dinner last night. He stays with her when Han is off doing whatever it is that Han does now. Leia never likes to spend a long time alone. In the lonesome hour, flashes of a planet long gone dance behind her eyes, and it’s a vision that scares her.

She asks him where he ever learned to braid hair, where he ever learned to braid anything at all. He is quick to remind her that he was a farm boy all his life, one familiar with the braiding of rope and the twisting of wires.

She asks him if he considers her hair to be rope or wire. They laugh. Nothing really seems to be funny.

“He gave us life. There was good in him still, even to the very end. I suppose that must count for something.” Luke uses one hand to hold up a particularly tight braid as her searches her tin for a good pin. She has very few these days. Her days of living in luxury within the palaces of Alderaan have passed away a long long time ago.

“He killed our mother.” Leia says. Her hands float to her midriff almost absent mindedly. “He killed our mother and had he had his way, he probably would have killed us too.”

Luke finds a pin that seems to be a good fit and presses it in between the plates. Leia lets out a soft yelp as the metal pin hits her head. Luke does not apologize but moves it to a spot that was seemingly perfect for her head.

“Had he wanted us dead, we’d be dead. What’s with the sudden interest? You knew him too.”

“I’m pregnant.” She blurts out, and her twin’s emotions go somewhat conflicted. There is joy and sadness and elation and buried deeply a strange sense of dread.

Luke pins her hair and does not say anything more.

 

v.

Ben loves her hair.

He grasps at it. He lifts it up and delights in the way that it falls back down with such grace. His toddler eyes practically glow with delight whenever she leaves it down.

It hurts just a tad as he pulls and prods at it, but she imagines this is what motherhood is like. She imagines that it is joy mixed with some hurt. She tries to grasp at fleeting moments from her childhood, of the pain in her mother’s eyes as she paraded around the chambers in anger. She tries to imagine the overwhelming pain her mother felt to desire to escape it rather than face it and the joys that came with raising two children.

When Ben leaves, leaves to become a Jedi Knight, she wears her hair down. She allows it to cascade over the two of them. She allows some of it to cling to him as he pulls away, as he tells her, “Mommy, I have to go. You know I have to go.”

She knows that he does. A part of her feels like she is losing her son when he does.

vi.

When Han leaves, she cuts her hair.

Well, she doesn’t cut it. She heads to the female barracks of the Resistance with a bottle of some of her oldest and strongest stuff and a tiny sharp knife.

The women are sitting around in ease with one another. They are gossiping absentmindedly about who is in love with who and who wants to leave and who wants to join and reading books and playing little games for extra rations of dessert.

When she enters, they immediately stand attention. Their hair waves with rapid movement just like her chambermaids’ did all those many years ago.

“General,” they cry out. Their bodies are unwavering.

She smiles. “No, no, just Leia tonight, I’m afraid.”

None of the girls move. She offers them the bottle. One of them, a pilot, takes a step forward to inspect the bottle.

“This is good stuff,” she announces. “Much too good to let go to waste.”

Leia laughs. “I’d hope you’d say that.”

The pilot is the one who ends up cutting her hair. After many drinks and loose lips and the mutual understanding that tomorrow, they return the roles of soldiers and leader, she grasps the knife. She carefully weighs it in her hand and nods when she finds it satisfactory. She ties up Leia’s hair with an old piece of string and makes the quick and decisive cut.

It’s a little jagged and uneven, but it serves it’s purpose.

“What’s your name?” Leia asks as she slips out, still a little drunk.

“Jessika,” the girl whispers back. “My name is Jessika.”

Leia smiles. “I’ll remember you.”

 

vi.

Rey looks nervous as she packs up the Falcon for the long trip.

Leia pats her on the back, tucks her a small piece of extra sweets, and simply tells her, “Your hair looks good like that.”

Rey seems less nervous. Leia is pleased with herself.

 

vii.

For Han’s funeral, she pins her hair up in the most elaborate fashion she can think of.

She says what she has to say. She mourns him as an icon, not as her husband. When she steps down Jessika, Poe, and Finn talk about her strength and her courage and how she inspires them. They invite her to eat with them. She takes them up on the offer but does not delight in her rations that night.

When she retires to her room, she undoes all of her pins, staking them carefully in small little piles. She combs through her hair carefully, coats in a perfume that smells like desert flowers. She looks in the mirror and wonders if she looks like her father.