Leia talks to Ben, a lot.
Most of the time he’s asleep, in and out of consciousness as a result of the medication the doctors have him on, but still she wants to let him know she’s here. She tells him stories of the past, stories before he was a thought and a presence in their lives.
Once it is the destruction of Alderaan, of the Death Star, then she switches to a less morose topic – his birth. She has one hand on his, speaking in low tones as to not wake or disturb him.
“I never knew I wanted a baby,” she confesses. It’s true; she did what she never thought she could do – she made it to the senate, established a position in Alderaan society. She once thought that a child, a family would suffer at its demanding hands. “All these years I never was around babies much, never got to see what they were all about. Living in a palace means you’re stuck seeing the same revolving doors of people, and my parents couldn’t have children, so it was just me for a long, long time.”
She pauses, kisses his hand and holds it closer to her. The heart monitor attached to him rises in alarm before then calms down at her simple touch. “Then here comes along you, nine pounds of a wish I never knew I made or wanted granted in the first place. Oh, you were a sight!”
And he was when she does dwell on him as a newborn. There wasn’t much to look at when he first arrived, Leia too dazed by the process of labor to really study her new child even when she pulled him close to her chest, but once she came back to herself she was astounded. What she does remember is crying at the feeling of it all – the pain that still lingered even after it was over, the overwhelming tide of emotions stemming from knowing that she went through it all for this little thing in her arms.
Never before had she met someone so small – ladies in the palace had never had children while she was there – and so dependent on her. And also someone so beautiful she had never encountered before; he had eyes that were that same tone of sleepy blue all newborns have. A little nose and the promise of a good deal of dark hair, mild brow and chunky cheeks, what she never knew she always wanted was all she could have hoped for.
Early on she knew he was special in the way he looked at things.
He studied the both of them with rapt attention a child as young as him should not have so soon. Ben could tell who was who based on voices, lilting tone of his mother or gentle deepness of his father, Luke’s midrange voice or Chewie’s grumbles.
Earlier on she’d keep one of his little hands in hers at all times, much like she does now. Ben went through a time when he was younger of not wanting to go without her even for a second. In the senate chamber when she did return to work, he remained bound to her chest by a loose wrap. Most of the time he slept, reassured knowing he was close to his mother without any risk of going somewhere else, but oftentimes she was rewarded by his soft noises made in sleep.
“What I do remember is the first night you were with me. I was so tired, so tired I really couldn’t see straight, but you laid right in my lap and went to sleep as if that wasn’t even an option. Your father was right there too, up against my leg, and for some reason, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to miss a single second with you. That night I didn’t sleep, just watched you rest and dream. You cried like newborns do, for whatever ulterior motives they have, and I answered in the way I could. That happened a lot.”
Leia looks at her son, watches his eyes flicker in dreaming, and sighs. “I didn’t want to keep you away from me any longer than I had to. You probably won’t want to know this, but for the first months of your life you slept bound to me. Just a little strip of cloth kept you right here, right on my heart.”
Her other hand goes to her chest, missing the weight of that little baby now more than anything. He was so small then, so slight although he ate more than a horse, and she remembers the smell of his clean clothes, of the baby powder. Part of her wishes she had had more children.
“I bet you’re wondering if Dad liked to look at you too,” Leia says. “He did. I’ve never seen him looking at anything else like he looked at you.”
Some mornings she’d wake up to Han and the baby already awake, studying each other with respective and quiet glances from Ben’s position on Leia’s chest and Han’s at her side. To Leia they seemed like much more than father and son; as time passed, bonds grew stronger than anything; they became the strongest set of best friends she’d ever known of.
Han wasn’t up early much mornings – he enjoyed his sleep when he got it for sure, having been denied it a little by way of the new baby. When the baby came he found himself wanting to get up just as the sun was to study his son.
Ben’d make a noise and Han would smile indulgently, press a knuckle to his son’s cheek in utmost affection.
Han loved greatly to look at his little boy, often backed up his looks at his son with, handsome little fellow isn’t he? He got that from me. Leia huffs out a laugh at that thought. Everything good Ben had was jokingly associated with everything good about Han.
Han accredited himself then with most of Ben’s formidable traits; his son’s boisterous laugh, peculiar stare he gave R2 and Threepio when he was old enough to recognize them as things other than shiny objects in his periphery, that was all Han’s doing. When Ben threw a tantrum when he got older, knew that he was unable to get his ways sometimes, it became, that’s all from your side of the family.
“Why do I tell you all this, well? I want you to know you were always loved. Snoke fed you so much about how we didn’t appreciate you and that was why he came for you, to save you from us. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about how much I loved you. I wake up every morning and go to bed at night thinking about how much I love you; when you’ve been through a lot like I have, sometimes, that’s all you’ve got to reassure you that this life is worth living.
“It was a different kind of love I didn’t reserve for anyone else but you. It was a love that grew when you came into my arms for that first time, as you took your first steps in my direction squealing as you triumphed, and even as you turned your back to leave it kept on growing.”
With that he starts to wake, eyes opening slowly and struggling to focus. He finds her amidst the fog and regards her quietly. His look he gives to her is almost sad, not pitying, but pleading for something she can’t quite identify. It’s been so long since he’s seen her, eighteen years is what he counts when he’s able to think that far back, and he knows he’s hurt her. For all the love she’s given him he’s terrified he can’t reciprocate it, won’t know how.
The only answer she knows will be fitting for what he’s got to ask, Leia stands again and kisses the top of her son’s head. There was a time before when this was the other way around, she didn’t have to go to lengths literally due to how tiny he once was.
Mother and son share their glances, blinking without words shared for several minutes until Ben is the first to speak. “Talk,” is what he requests of his mother despite many other things. She startles at the deepness of his voice, so different from the mild tones he had as a younger boy. “Talk to me. Anything, please.”
Leia blinks at her child and tries to find a way to continue. “I don’t think you know quite how your father and I met,” Leia finally obliges with the most run-of-the-mill story she’s given people in the past. “He shows up at my family’s palace needing to rescue me from a bunch of things I don’t have time to explain to you right now, and we just… went from there. And by ‘went from there,’ I mean taking down a disastrous regime, restoring the galaxy to what I call an almost peace, and starting a new life, together.”
Ben’s looking at her almost incredulously for just how quick the bond formed between his parents. There’s no other way for her to explain it; it just happened, something so fast and heady she couldn’t find any other explanation for its power.
“A lot of things happened before you came along,” she continues. There really was; when they were on Endor, one thing led to another and she and Han were without Luke and in a situation back at the camp. Needless to say, nine months and three days after what she later dubbed among friends and associates as the “String Tent Incident,” she was delivering Ben herself on some planet whose name she wouldn’t dare know how to pronounce.
“What is there to tell you about you haven’t already gotten from me? Well, there was that time I fired off a blaster while seven months pregnant with you. You’re almost thirty and your father never stopped giving me grief about that one. What was I supposed to do, let that bantha keep ripping up the wing of the Falcon?”
For the first time in all too long, a smile plays at the corners of Ben’s mouth. Leia can’t help but smirk too. It was funny to her at the time, having to hold onto Chewie’s arm for dear life so she could lean out far enough to graze it with the blaster she stole from her brother seconds earlier. Han was making noises not unlike a fire alarm somewhere behind her at the sight of his wife – Leia feels incredulous when she dwells on that, they were married once – wielding his unborn child and a weapon.
“There is one I haven’t told you about yet. When you were born, and it really started happening just after you were a few weeks old, I started noticing Luke wouldn’t put you down even for a second. Whenever he came over to see you, you were with him every second. If he had to do something with one hand he did it, balanced you in the crook of his arm. I asked him once why he kept toting you around when you didn’t mind being left alone in your playpen. He told me this: ‘This is the first baby I’ve ever held and I don’t know how to stop.’” She laughs a little, eyes crinkling at their corners at the thought of her brother not knowing how to not put down a baby.
“He loves you, maybe the most out of all of us,” she finishes saying. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him love someone quite like he does you. In you he’s got a nephew but most importantly another best friend. You’d say in that little voice you had for a long time, I love you, and then he’d say I love you more. And it was true. Always has been, and always will be. I don’t want you to get it into your head that what he did, going away from it all, was because he was angry with you. He was angry with himself, for a long, long time. And that was the only way he saw fit to deal with it.”
Ben’s sobered greatly by all his mother’s had to tell him. He can remember just bits of his time with his uncle – what the Supreme Leader had for him worked to do away with most of the pleasantries of his life in the light – and now, knowing a good deal of the background, he starts to understand again. Now more than ever does he want to start mending the cracks in the bridge he and his uncle used to frequent often.
“I don’t know if he’ll want to have anything to do with me anymore, Mom,” Ben admits sadly. He can’t stop thinking about that, can’t stop running that scenario through his head over and over until it makes him want to yell. “I can’t imagine anyone who’d want to look me in the eye after what’s happened.”
“I’m sitting right here, aren’t I?” she rebuts and he supposes she’s right, but only out of a maternal need he supposes. Something in the way she looks at him tells him otherwise; he knows that look, an all-seeing sort of glance she gave him when he tried to do something he knew in his heart was what others wanted but was contradictory to what he really was as a person. That happened often, being who he was as a little boy.
“It’s hard to know what Luke’s thinking sometimes, if that’s any help,” she offers and he hardly softens. “After it was all said and done, we were gone from Endor, he became a tougher nut to crack. I worked with him for a long time, trying to get him to open up after what he’d gone through with our father.”
She pauses to think of a way to word what she has to say next. “You always thought his cybernetic hand was some sort of toy. No reason to tell a three-year-old the truth when we envied him for not knowing it. We kept you out of the loop for a reason. Vader – Anakin – took it off. Medics said just past the wrist when I finally got Luke to talk to one of them about it. For a long time he would only let me look at it, touch it.” Leia stops talking again when she thinks about how her brother was at that point in his life.
Luke was already a person that wasn’t without a sort of dodgy nature. Having his hand taken off by his own father didn’t help that at all. After making it back to Tatooine, he was much more sensitive to loud noises. Not that he and his sister were loud people by nature, but now, knowing that the loudest noise he’d ever heard in his life was followed by one of his limbs being sheared off, he began to flinch violently at even a door shutting the wrong way. Leia walked on glass around him as a result. He apologized profusely any chance he got but she knew.
“There were a lot of nights he and I spent up and talking about when it happened,” she continues without fault. “I listened to him tell me…abhorrent things that plagued him after it was over. I heard about dreams no one living should ever have. Monstrous things, being suspended high up like he was and having much more than a hand lopped off by enemies of the Empire. I started to wonder why it was that he was so prone to thinking about things like this. Then I remembered – he had come so close to someone he should have been hidden from for his entire life. An entity so powerful he had to be hurried away from it from birth, myself included.”
Ben is still listening raptly when she stops talking rather abruptly. He watches a storm cloud go over his mother’s features, troubling them with something he can’t identify for the life of him. Just as soon as it’s encroaching it’s backing off, and she shakes her head as if to shoo it away.
“What did you think about him?” Ben asks. “About my grandfather, I mean. I know you didn’t know all that much about him than what you had to find out later.”
“Did I love him, is that what you’re curious about?” Leia corrects and Ben’s forehead creases a little. While that’s not what he meant to get at it wouldn’t bother him at all to know whether or not his mother had any connection to the most tyrannical figure the galaxy had encountered in eons. Part of him has thought for a long time that she had no choice but to recognize him as her father, but something else has also offered that she would probably would not want to be associated with his memory and what he once was.
“I love him like you love one of those great-great-great-great uncles your father has no doubt told you about,” she explains strangely. Ben understands that extent just a little. Someone you have no problem with seeing, they’ve never wronged you personally that you know of or have any memory of (despite the obvious fact that a father never got to raise his daughter in the way he wanted to for so, so long but the galaxy obviously would have no part of).
But they’ve never had a lot to do with you for their own reasons – they were too far away, the travel was too much of a hassle to even try to make and better yet, explaining to the people in your lives why you want to see them would be too hard or too painful to even begin discussing. So they manage for now, Ben will suppose, manage it the only way they know how.
“It’s like that, and always will be. We do what we can, and we make do with the rest,” Leia says and Ben nods dutifully to his mother. She’s never lied to him ever, and there’s no reason for her to begin now. “That being said, there’s someone waiting out there for you.” The door at the front of the room opens slowly, almost like the person opening it is beginning to have second thoughts about the choice they have made.
And Luke walks in.