Leia woke to the tantalizing smell of fresh baked goods and the soothingly off-key humming of someone working in the kitchen, accompanied by the clink of dishes and the clang of pans. The sun was blazing through the windows, despite the heavy curtains drawn over them. She groaned, rolling onto her stomach and reaching for Han.
Her arm flailed out into empty space.
She blinked. Very slowly, and still blearily, she sat up. She rubbed at her eyes.
Well, one thing was certain. Han was not here. He’d have been laughing at her if he was. Her husband was always infuriatingly cheerful in the mornings. She was almost sure he did it out of spite.
But of course Han wasn’t here. He’d gone with Lando and Chewie to Kashyyyk, and she – she’d gone with Luke to Tatooine.
No wonder it was so bright.
Well, there was no point in going back to sleep now. Luke and Kitster and his family had probably been up for hours. And by the smell of it, someone was making tzai, which sounded absolutely perfect right now.
Tatooine wasn’t home for her in the way it was for Luke. And even for Luke, his sense of home was…complicated. But for Leia, who would never go home again, Tatooine – at least, this part of Tatooine – was strangely comforting.
Kitster Banai’s house was small and shabby and welcoming, the walls painted in muted shades of ochre and sandstone and umber, hung with thick patterned weavings and roughly framed sketches of plants and animals and the occasional portrait. Most of them had been done by Imer, or by Kitster himself, but a handful of the botanical sketches had been made by Anakin Skywalker.
Those were Luke’s favorites, of course. And she’d never begrudged him that, though she’d shied away from those images herself. She hadn’t wanted to see what Luke saw in them.
But things were different now.
She stretched slowly, getting all the kinks out and allowing herself a moment to soak up the sun. Luke could tell her all sorts of horror stories about the desert, about the baking hot suns, but Leia had always loved the heat. Luke had been incredulous at first, but now he only laughed.
The tzai-smell was stronger now, and Leia’s stomach rumbled. With a rueful smile she moved to the door, but she stopped short, as she always did, at the sight of the sketch on the wall across from her bed. Kitster had offered to move it, the first time she’d stayed in this room, but she’d told him to leave it.
It was a childish scribble, really, done in dusty colors and the occasional heavy stroke of black. (“We used to use flaky stones and old charcoal bits,” Kitster had told her. “If you mixed them in with a bit of oil or grease, the color would stick to anything.”) The image was the same one that children all across the galaxy drew: two child figures, standing next to a taller figure, with a house and a sun in the sky. This drawing, though, had two suns, and the figures were rather more defined than was common in children’s art. The two children were clearly distinguished, one blond and pale, the other dark-haired and brown. The mother was smiling, her left hand holding the blond boy’s right, and in her right hand she held a greyish square box. There were words under the picture, in a language Leia couldn’t read. Even Luke could only understand a few of the words.
(“It was a birthday present, for Mom,” Kitster had told her. “He made it when he was six. He said he wanted to give her the scanner, the one that would locate our transmitters, but he hadn’t finished it yet. So he drew a picture of what it would be like, when he had, and we were free.”)
Leia knew the word for mother (Amu), and the word for free (lukka). Kitster had smiled, when she told him that, and said those were the most important words.
(“Look!” she’d said to Luke, the first time she really looked at the drawing. “It’s your name!” And Luke had smiled, that soft, sad, and infinitely warm smile, and reached out to brush his fingers lightly over the faded letters. “Yes,” he’d murmured. “Luke. It means free.”)
Leia traced her own fingers over the letters now. She imagined she could feel the old dreams they held, the longing and the loss and the ache of things not done. It was an ache she knew all too well. Tatooine had the clearest night sky of any planet she’d ever visited, and last night, Alderaan’s sun had shone blue and bright in the darkness. Here, they called it Benuma, the brightest star in the constellation Amuakko, the Mother’s Heart.
She let her hand fall away from the old drawing to brush gently across her growing belly. Her stomach rumbled again, and she laughed.
“All right, all right,” she grumbled. “It’s time for breakfast, I know.”
Luke was sitting at the small kitchen table when she arrived. He gave her a knowing grin. “Good morning to you,” he said, and brought his hand to his mouth in a futile effort to hide his laughter.
Leia scowled at him. “Oh hush,” she snapped. “It’s too early to deal with your cheerfulness.”
This time Luke laughed aloud. “The suns have been up for two hours already,” he said, and Leia blinked in surprise. It was earlier than she’d thought.
“Uncle Kitster and Aunt Imer had to go in to town for supplies,” Luke was saying. He’d adopted the familial names so easily; but Luke had always longed for roots and bedrock, and she was glad for him, so glad. Someday, she might call Kitster “Uncle” too, but for now she was content.
Something clanged in the kitchen, and there was a muffled curse, but then the off-key humming resumed. Leia’s brow furrowed.
“Wait a minute,” she said slowly. “If our hosts are out, and you’re in here, who is in the kitchen?”
Luke grinned. It was that clever, self-satisfied boyish grin that always meant he was up to something. “See for yourself,” he said.
Leia eyed him dubiously. She had a bad feeling about this.
But Luke’s grin only grew, and so with a huff she turned and peeked into the kitchen.
It was a small space, warm and well-used, and she knew from experience that it always smelled of tzai. Now, there was a large pot of the stuff simmering on the stove and filling the whole house with the sweet-spicy smell that Leia was just beginning, if only to herself, to think of as home. And there were several pans of warm spiced bread cooling on the countertop, and a pot of something like a thick, rich porridge bubbling away.
An assortment of spices, a wooden spoon, and half a container of blue milk appeared to be floating in the air.
Leia stared for a moment. She decided it was far too early for this. Turning back to Luke, she said, “What are you – ”
But he was laughing behind his hand again. Leia’s eyes narrowed. She moved back into the kitchen, squinting her eyes and focusing in the way Luke had taught her. (“You don’t actually have to squint like that,” Luke had said, laughing at her, and she’d swatted his arm playfully and told him to shut up, because it helped her concentrate.)
And suddenly there was a man there. He was tall, and his shoulders stooped, and he was singing softly. His voice was warm and pleasant, even if it was off-key. And she could see through him.
“Oh,” said Leia, and the man turned around and smiled at her.
It was the kind of smile she’d hated once, because he had no right to it – lopsided and sweet and boyish, it looked perfectly at home on his face.
She still didn’t know how to think of him. Luke called him “Father,” but she wasn’t ready for that yet, and she wasn’t sure she ever would be. That name belonged to Bail Organa, and always would. But he wasn’t Vader, either. Especially not here on Tatooine. He had Luke’s blue eyes, and she saw her own mouth and chin reflected in him, and suddenly all she could think of was the child’s drawing on the wall in her room, and Luke’s name which meant “free.”
“Hello, Leia,” he said. His voice was always so warm. She hated the way he said her name, almost shyly, as if he wasn’t sure he had the right.
Her name, too, was a Tatooine word. She hadn’t asked Kitster what it meant. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
She looked from him to Luke, who’d come into the kitchen on silent feet and was standing now just beside her. “What’s all this, then?” she asked, not even sure which of them she meant to answer.
Luke shrugged easily. “Father was testing me on the family tzai recipe,” he said, laughing. “But he got distracted.”
“Your brother,” said Anakin, with a snort that didn’t quite manage to hide his obvious pride, “has mastered the art of tzai-brewing, so we decided to surprise you with a proper amakurra.”
“And that is?”
“A mother-meal,” said Anakin, turning back to the pot of porridge on the stove. “It’s – there’s a tradition, a ritual, that goes with it. A secret.”
Leia nodded. Everything on Tatooine was a secret. (“All the most important things, anyway,” Kitster had said. “What you are in secret, the masters can never take from you.”)
“Childbirth is – dangerous,” Anakin said. He was stooping now over the stove, not looking at her or Luke, but she could see the outline of the porridge pot, blue and indistinct through the glow that surrounded him. “We make the amakurra to strengthen the mother, and to protect the child. The songs are part of that. I used to make it for your mother, when she – ” He stopped, and his shoulders stiffened, and Leia remembered.
He’d told them everything, the whole story. Well, he’d told Luke, anyway. She hadn’t been able to hear it all. But Luke had told her, later.
She hadn’t understood, though, until she’d come back to Tatooine. All she really knew about the place, before, was that it was hot, and desolate, and a den of smugglers and slavers and crime lords, and that Luke had never planned to go back there again.
And then there had been Jabba’s Palace. They’d stripped her and groped her and bound her in chains, and she’d looked out into the desert and burned with rage and humiliation and the sudden, terrible new understanding of herself that came with the word slave. When the chance had come, she’d thrown her chains around Jabba’s neck and pulled them tight, felt his life fluttering and helpless in her hands and pulled, and in that moment she’d felt triumphant and vindicated and so alive. And even now, she didn’t regret it.
She’d only wanted to free herself. In those moments of desperation, she’d only been able to think of herself, and of Han, and Luke. Everything else that followed was happy accident.
(“The rebellion began as soon as word of Jabba’s death got out,” Kitster had told her, grinning. “It was the spark we’d all been waiting for. There were other Hutts, but he was the worst, and the most dangerous, and with him gone – we were done waiting.”)
She looked at Luke, and at Anakin. He’d thrown his Master down a reactor shaft, Luke said, and there’d been nothing elegant or civilized about it. He hadn’t even used the Force. It had been desperate, brute strength, and he hadn’t spared a thought for the rest of the galaxy or even his own chains. Just Luke. Her brother, who was alive and smiling now at the ghost of the man who’d saved him, and –
And there was flour dusting his hair and smudged over his nose and cheeks.
A snort of laughter escaped her, and they both turned to look at her, two blue-eyed Tatooine Skywalkers with identical confused pouts. Leia’s laughter only grew, until she was gasping for breath and giggling helplessly, propped up against the kitchen counter.
“Are you all right?” asked Luke, though he sounded more exasperated than concerned.
“You – you have a bit of flour,” she gasped, waving her hand in his general direction.
Luke’s eyes narrowed, and he turned to glare at his father.
“What?” said Anakin, with the absolute worst attempt at affronted innocence that Leia had ever seen. It did nothing to help her giggles.
Luke’s eyes turned clever, and she sensed him reaching for the sack of flour with the Force. Leia straightened instantly and scowled at them both.
“Luke Skywalker,” she said imperiously, “I know you are not about to start a food fight with a ghost.”
Anakin laughed. Luke only gave her a sheepish grin.
Leia threw up her hands in a huff. “Well, don’t let me stop you,” she said. “So long as I get my breakfast first. I’m starving, and I want my amakurra.”