"Mama," young Jaina Solo had been pondering all morning and the arrival of her mother for their traditional lunchtime together at home pulled her out of her reverie. "Mother," the girl corrected herself as her teachers had instructed, "why doesn't Aunt Winter have children?"
Leia stopped serving from a shared casserole for a moment the serving spoon suspended mid-air. She resumed putting food onto their plates. "Why do you ask, Jaina?"
"I was playing dolls with Jacen, and he said the boys don't carry babies only girls do." Jaina accepted the plate passed to her across the table.
"I didn't mean cuddling or anything, Mama," interjected Jacen. "I meant, boys don't get pregnant."
"Well, yeah, that's what I meant, too," said Jaina, "but Winter is a girl, and she doesn't carry a baby."
Leia thought carefully but quickly. She knew her force-sensitive children would pick up on any feelings she might have about the subject including that this was something she and Winter never discussed.
"It's a personal decision to have a baby or not," said Leia, as she cut Anakin's portion into smaller bite-sized pieces. "There are many women who decided not to have children "
"Because of the war, right, Mama?" Jaina's curiosity was nearly at full blossom, and Leia realized that her only daughter was at a point in her development when she was marking the real differences between boys and girls.
"For many, yes, the war had an effect. There are lots of reasons women have children, and there are plenty of reasons to not have children. You know, your father often told me, 'People who have children thank the gods; and those who don't have children, also thank the gods.'" Leia handed his plate to her youngest son. "Let's eat."
Anakin stared at his plate. "I don't think it's just the war. There are lots of women who had babies during the war." He was looking for just the right piece to put into his mouth. He'd always felt that the first piece was the most important putting a piece that was too salty or bready or whatever might ruin all the pieces which would come after.
"That's true, Mama ..." Jaina quickly closed her mouth, remembering that she would be admonished for talking with food in her mouth.
Leia appeared nonplussed, "Like I said, it's often a personal decision, or an accident of fate. Some women become pregnant without intending to, and some try for years, but cannot fall pregnant. You shouldn't judge your aunt for her lack of a baby." Leia tried hard to scold her daughter's curiosity in a normal manner.
"How about Mom Monthma?" Jaina remembered to swallow her mouthful before asking her next question. "She doesn't have a baby, either!"
Leia shot a stern look at her. "She did. But he died. We don't bring up such sadness to Mon Mothma she is a brave woman and she feels the loss of her child terribly."
"Oh," mumbled Jaina, confused at her mother's change of tone, as well as being a bit stunned by this latest piece of data about the ruler of the Republic.
"I certainly hope you are not asking about babies to random people, Jaina ... and this goes for all of you. It's rude and insensitive to ask personal questions. So, don't do it, do you understand?" Leia's look was serious.
"Yes, Mama," muttered the three children. Jaina quickly stuffed more food in her mouth, hiding her embarrassment so she wouldn't have to talk.
* * * * *
The lunchtime conversation had intrigued Jaina more than it dampened her curiosity. Of the women she knew, it seemed many had been pregnant in their lives, but their babies grew up and moved away, or like in Mon Mothma's case, her son died in the war. She hadn't considered before that babies can die; she knew all her grandparents had died in the war, and she knew children who were being raised by people where were not their parents. Kind of like when Winter used to look after them when they were small.
Jaina remembered those days so fondly, and had always thought of Winter as a wonderful mother. In fact, Jaina was sometimes confused about who her mother really was, back in those early days.
She was also concerned about her mother's reaction to her query about why Winter did not have a baby. The words were fine her mother often responded that way. But this time, Jaina felt her mother knew more than she was telling.
Why would Mama lie? Isn't hiding the truth a bad thing to do?
* * * * *
Having force-sensitive children was always a challenge. The type of trouble they could generate was more than ten-fold what a normal child could do, or so thought their mother.
Then again ... those without the Force to back them could cause a whole lot of trouble, too.
Leia's thoughts were on Winter the creatures whose whole identity and being was subsumed and used by normal and powerful humans. She'd often pondered how ethics could be bypassed by political need ... but also that compassion was the emotion that can override all of it.
* * * * *
Long ago, Leia's father had a loyal aide named Sheltay Retrac. This woman not only took care of the diplomatic and senatorial support required, but was also his assistant, accountant, personal bodyguard, and confidante she traveled everywhere with him and subsumed all aspects of her life to be with Organa. She had died during the Clone Wars, long before the destruction of Alderaan. It was unclear how she had died, but Bail Prestor Organa brought her remains back and had a private funeral for her, during which the will was read ... and Sheltay's son was left to the Bail in her will.
The boy was two years old when Leia was born and adopted. He was barely three when he entered the House of Organa.
No one knew for sure who the father of this boy was; some thought he was an artist, and others whispered that it might be Bail's own son. After all, it was no secret that Queen Breha was in poor health and could not carry a child to term without serous risk to her well-being; nothing, apparently, was wrong with Bail Prestor, her consort. And as Breha Organa could not birth a child, adoption was the only option to ensure succession. Perhaps this child Carter Retrac had been produced for the purpose of an legislature-approved adoption.
But Leia's arrival into the royal house relegated this boy as no longer necessary; Sheltay had been allowed to keep her son with the support of the royal house. Until, that is, Sheltay's death had orphaned the boy.
Even so, Breha and Prestor adopted Sheltay's son, even though they quickly noticed something different about the boy. From a very early age, Carter moved ... like a girl.
Bail attributed this behavior to the boy not having had a father, to living with and observing his mother; Sheltay was very girly and moved with disarming grace. Carter had the same walk and demeanor, and even spoke like his mother.
Sensitive to the loss of his mother he had never known his father, either young Carter hoarded her exquisite wardrobe, even wearing parts of Sheltay's clothing to dinner in the palace. The guardian aunts who looked after the children barely masked their horror at the young boy's almost innate desire to ... be a girl!
This was fueled by Breha's indulgence for the boy, allowing him to dress himself and hang around with the dressers and handmaidens. Carter asked them many times, "When do I get to be a girl?" He didn't seem to understand that he was a boy, and would never be a girl.
When Queen Breha fell sick again, her husband realized she must have become pregnant again; he had heard of such a thing occasionally happening upon an adoption. Bail Organa planned to speak to his wife to abort the embryo they now had two children, one recognized by the legislature as their legal heir, and Carter would be approved if anything happened to Leia. There was no reason to risk her life with this pregnancy as much as the couple would have loved a child of their genes, Prestor was unwilling to sacrifice the Queen for that possibility.
Alas, he was unable to argue this point with her; the healers' predictions were accurate, and Breha went into a coma overnight, and was not likely conscious of what was happening to her. Tragically, the coma lasted only long enough for the medics to abort the fetus in an attempt to save the Queen's life. The healers reluctantly informed Prestor of the need for a double funeral ...
The loss of a second mother in so short a time terrified Carter and he became unresponsive to rules and expectations. He simply didn't listen when he was told to put on boys' robes, and would sit and stare at Breha lying in state, as if to imprint her memory into his young mind. He clung to his sister, Leia, more than he ever had. Indeed, the royal nursery observed he behaved maternally and protectively of the infant.
Carter would whisper to Leia, asking rhetorical questions.
"Is it the fate of a mother to die, when she has a child? Doesn't it seem so? I have no mother, and Leia, you lost your mother too. And when the Queen became pregnant, she died, too! How terrible did we kill our mothers, Leia? Again, I ask ... is it the fate of women to die when they have children?
"I promise you, Leia, I will never leave you; I will never have children. And I will do everything to save you!"
The boy never wept after the funeral and became quiet, introspective, and very serious. His guardians even wondered if the death of Breha had shaken him out of his girlish behaviors, and perhaps he was ready to be a boy, "Full-time," as they said.
* * * * *
Leia learned she was pregnant; she knew Han would be thrilled. But she was terrified to be pregnant, and suddenly recalled Carter's terrors at the effect of childbirth on the life of a mother. Leia was so frightened that she ran to Winter with her fears, recognizing that only her companion might understand.
"You won't be a conventional mother," counseled Winter, rather coldly. "Your health is sound, your husband will not leave you; you have many reasons to live. And ... I will be here for you and the children."
Leia blushed with guilt, suddenly realizing that her friend would never know the pains and joys of chidlbirth. For Winter was born one day after Carter had entered Bail Organa's office in private. Carter was put into psychomed care, and never returned.
In his place, Winter Retrac had stood by Leia's side. Leia was very young when it happened, but she was not shaken by the new girl's presence she felt comfortable, as with a familiar presence. And Winter's eyes .... they were the same color and shape as Carter's. The new girl's mouth, the hard angles of her face they were all familiar to the young princess.
Since Winter and Leia had the same gender, Winter was raised directly with Leia. They slept in the same rooms, were schooled together, and Winter was trained in security to protect her younger charge. The older girl took to her tasks willingly and well, and the two children were inseparable.
Leia's aunts enthusiastically corrected the princess, who kept referring to the new girl by Carter's name. Eventually, Leia learned to separate her feelings for Winter from her former playmate's, so that they were two separate people ... sort of ...
Lacking Winter's perfect memory, Leia's own memories tended to shift and sometimes become displaced. Her confusion between Winter and Carter became part of her confusion between her memories of Breha, and the dim ones she had of her own mother. She knew they were different people, but it was hard to pull them apart, just as it was hard to really slice between Carter and Winter.
In that moment during that unstable time in Leia's life, she realized why her memories of the fair-haired boy were always mingled with those of her female companion and aide. And she felt comforted, knowing that should anything happen to her, that Carter would understand, and care for the children.
While true that only women could make babies, to care for babies did not require womanhood. Leia had wondered if Winter / Carter would ever consider adoption, and selfishly hoped she would not. For who, then, would care for Leia's children?
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