The needling, persistent blare of alarms at the crack of dawn was unwelcome, but typical; both Han and Leia utilized some form of screeching, obnoxious sleep interference to jolt them awake for their days - though more often than not, Han's alarm system was the one abusively subjected to constant five minute extensions, and Leia listened to it go off intermittently while she went about her morning routine. In fact, the only reason they set two alarms was due to Leia's impeccable habit of rising either before hers, or at the first ring of it - and if she turned it off, Han would likely forget to get up - she wasn't a morning person, but she was an efficient person, and this worked. The fragmented bleating of his alarm throughout the early morning had never bothered her - and despite her tendency to respond immediately to her own wake-up call, she wasn't averse to taking one or two extensions once in a rare morning.
This morning was one of those - and rarer even, in that she was fitfully, restlessly awake when the first chimes of her alarm started to chirp, and she listened to them, for a moment, listened to them blend in with the dulcet, deeper sounds of Han's - on cue, Zozy perked up sleepily, his tail giving a sweet little wag, and he hopped up, moseying up from the foot of the bed towards Leia. Han gave a protracted groan - the same groan he gave every morning - and lazily whacked his hand at his bedside alarm, silencing it.
Leia rolled gingerly onto her side, her heart sinking, and her stomach twisting uncomfortably. She tucked her face into her pillow and reached out for her device, her fingers brushing it stiffly - she checked the date, blinked at it bitterly, and then carefully turned off the alarm - turned it off, rather than extending it, which was why the morning shifted from rare, to damn near unheard of. Shifting again, she held out her arm, and Zozy came leaping into her embrace, twirling in a circle as he tumbled over her hips and let her pull him in close.
She tucked him in to the quilts with her, and burrowed down, her eyes closed lightly, listening to Han grumble under his breath - he always did that; let the alarm wake him up, slammed it into silence, then instead of going back to sleep for the brief extension, he muttered and whined about getting up - she was fairly sure he was unaware she could hear him. It was - absurd, really; idiosyncratic - but she was so used to it, she thought nothing of it.
Moments later, when the time came for Han's alarm to protest again, he turned it off for a second time.
"Damn," he growled into the pillows.
Zozy twitched his tail happily at the sound of Han's voice, and Leia smiled tiredly as the feathers tickled her ribs. She kissed him between the ears and brushed her fingers over his short, soft hair, remaining under the covers. Next to her, Han shifted, slightly more awake, and sat up. He reached over lazily and brushed his knuckles affectionately against her shoulder, leaning over to give her a habitual kiss on the back of her neck, his lips lingering, dragging over her shoulder - and then his alarm went off again, and he went to silence it, up for good this time.
He was up after a mere three alarms; she was still down after one - it was an odd turn of events, but Han didn't think much of it, immediately - trudging blearily across the room and narrowing his eyes to avoid barreling into a bedpost or tripping over something Zozy had excavated out of the closet during the night and left in the floor. He ducked into the 'fresher and lights flickered on, faucets came to life - with her eyes closed lightly, Leia listened to him getting ready, slow and grudging - but good-natured, in a way that was all his own.
It was unlikely he would go much longer without realizing she was still in bed - and Leia spent the moments while he was shaving, and brushing his teeth, digging her teeth into the inside of her lip and wavering on whether or not she wanted to preempt his concern. She had - she had, for the most part, decided last night that she wasn't going to the office today, when she checked her calendars and felt her mood drop at the sight of the date - she had planned to feel morose, and now, upon waking - she wasn't sure she felt morose, but she did feel -
Disheartened, and even - nettled, at herself, for being taken in by a date, an arbitrary estimate - it seemed utterly foolish, but she told herself not to give a damn, because if she didn't feel like going to work - it might do her well to listen to that.
Han came out of the 'fresher, looked over at her, and laughed, an amused look crossing his face.
"Keep hittin' snooze, Sweetheart, I got your back," he teased wryly, kicking some things on the floor out of his way - she listened to him grab a shirt, listened to clothing rustle as he pulled on pants, and then she heard him go back into the 'fresher.
Han checked his jaw for nicks or shadowy spots he'd missed, and then paused, frowning. He leaned back a little, peering out into the bedroom, and stared at Leia's side of the bed, arching a brow.
"Leia," Han called absently, rubbing his eye with the heel of his hand.
He yawned, she heard it as he continued: "You gettin' up? You're gonna be late."
There was an edge of skeptical amusement in his voice, and Leia dreaded answering him for a moment - she didn't want him to worry, or get tied up in knots the way he did. She burrowed further under the covers, tucking Zozy closer and hiding from the light spilling out of the 'fresher. Zozy patiently lolled his head against her shoulder, his tongue hanging out happily. Staring up at her admiringly, his snout twitched in appreciation of all the affection.
She breathed out slowly, her lashes fluttering.
"I'm not going to work," Leia answered.
Her voice was calm, and devoid of distress, yet still there was a magnificent clattering noise, as if Han had knocked over every single item they owned, and Zozy perked up, sticking his snout up just a little to investigate.
"What?" Han asked, his voice closer - he sounded as alarmed as she expected.
For her - announcing blithely that she wasn't going to work was about as revolutionary as walking out the door naked - come to think of it, Han might be less consternated if she did that -
Then he was plucking at the covers gently, feeling for her underneath them - "Leia," he mumbled, slightly annoyed - "Come out of there - what'sa matter?" he asked.
Zozy nipped at his knuckles, content to be grasped in Leia's arms loosely as her comforting stuffed animal. He eyed Han mischievously, and sharply, when Han's hands stilled a little - still ready to pounce if Han started pawing Leia again.
"I'm not going today," Leia repeated quietly. "I don't want to."
Her lips were half-pressed against the pillows, quilts surrounding her and making her voice softer, and Han's palm slid over her forehead gingerly as he frowned. She didn't want to? That didn't sound remotely like Leia - and she didn't seem feverish, nor was her voice raw and rough with illness.
Zozy whined softly, and Leia turned her face up sleepily, her lips pursed.
"I'm alright," she soothed, reassuring Han.
Zozy whined a little softly, and Han was inclined to agree with the mooka's sentiment - he was not at all convinced. He continued to stand there uncertainly for a moment, and then nudged her knees a little, sitting down on the edge of the bed. His shoulders relaxed a little, and he tilted his head, looking at her expectantly - then thoughtfully.
"You feel okay?" he asked.
"I feel fine," she said. "I don't feel like going to work."
Han's brow furrowed. He ran his hand over her side, letting it rest on her hip. He frowned a little, and then cocked his head. He looked hesitant, and then bewildered.
"You want to tell me somethin', Leia?" he asked, a little abrupt.
She blinked warily a few times, lifting her head a bit.
He shrugged, his face softening.
"You're actin' a little off, it's...y'know, morning," he began vaguely, flexing his palm out without elaborating.
Leia swallowed hard, drawing back a little - irritated, suddenly, she shifted roughly onto her back, swallowing a sharp remark - she understood what he was trying to imply, and since she hadn't said anything, she didn't want to jump down his throat, but for a brief moment she was struck with such a helpless sense of rage that he could be so - unaffected -
"I'm not pregnant, Han," she snapped, with muted sharpness, lifting her arm to run her hand over her face and back through her loose hair - Zozy, released from her grip, turned his head to look at her, his ears drooping - sensing her mood.
She swallowed hard, and blinked, staring at her forearm for a beat. She turned back onto her side, full of contrition as suddenly as she'd been full of resentment - and with her eyes slanted down at the sheets, she picked tensely at the edge of the pillowcase, frowning, her teeth piercing her bottom lip.
"It's my due date," she murmured.
Han didn't say anything immediately, but through her lashes, she watched a guilt-ridden look strike across his face, and she sighed, tilting her head up – she hadn't wanted to make him feel bad, or as if he should have been marking dates – she hadn't been doing so herself, she had just – seen it, and remembered, and thought – well, I think I'll be sad that day, and I'll wallow in it a little.
She slid her hand into his and grasped it hard, shaking her head at him sternly, taking a deep breath. She drew his hand towards her, pressing her lips to his knuckles.
"I'm not angry with you," she whispered.
He still didn't say anything, but shifted his hand, over her ribs, and up her side, back up to her neck, and then her cheek, where he stroked her jaw line gently for a moment, light as a feather. Zozy lay down on his stomach, hunkering down close to Leia.
She rested her hand, and Han's, against his feathery hide gently. Her teeth scraped against her lip, and she took a deep breath, releasing his hand, and reaching up to rub her forehead tensely.
"I am okay," she insisted honestly. "I just, I don't," she shrugged a little, looking at him bluntly. "I want to be at home."
Han nodded, tilting his head at her intently, listening. He ignored the urge he had to apologize, because he didn't think she wanted to hear it. He reached out and touched her brow, tracing his fingers along the arch of it.
"You want company?" he asked.
He glanced over his shoulder – he could easily take the day, as well. Looking back at her, he didn't think that's what she wanted, either, and he figured he shouldn't take that personally. Leia sat up a little, turning onto her back and letting out her breath slowly. She shrugged tiredly, shaking her head, a consternated, but calm expression on her face as she reached for her hair, dragging her fingers through the tangles.
"I don't want it to be a thing," she said softly. "I don't feel…devastated, it's just," she gestured at her abdomen. "It's heavy, the day feels heavy," she scraped her lip lightly with her teeth again, and then met his eyes. "Go to work, Han," she requested, earnest and tender. "Let me…take a sick day, and it be normal and not a – five alarm, mental," she sighed shakily, "crisis."
She laughed a little huskily, and Han smiled at her, tilting his head – curious, but encouraged by how stable, and self-aware she seemed. Leia – he would argue – was always self-aware, even in the days when it had translated into outright suppression of what she needed to be feeling – but this was heartening, in a better way.
He sat up straighter, and nodded, absently reaching down to stroke Zozy's head. Delighted, Zozy sat up on his haunches, tilting his snout up to gaze at Han, grinning – insomuch as an animal could grin. Han did an excellent job of pretending to ignore Zozy's adoration.
His eyes roamed over her for a moment, and his face fell a little, thinking of the misstep he'd made – it was only that, since they'd come back from the Haven –
"Sweetheart," he began.
"Han," she interrupted gently. "It's okay."
He fell silent, swallowed hard – and accepted that. He sat with her for only a moment longer, Zozy, and comfortable silence, between them – and then he got up, kissed the crown of her head protectively, and resumed getting ready – and Leia, she laid back down, curling up again with Zozy in her arms, listening to Han take his time, go through his routine – the only small change in it was that before he left, he came back into the room, left a tray of fresh fruit and blackened toast and sparkling juice on the table next to her – leaned down to give her a parting kiss, which Zozy assumed was for him, and intercepted, licking Han square in the mouth.
Leia, in a fit of quiet laughter, sat up to make Han's task easier, squeezed his shoulder in thanks as he stepped back to go – and shot a punishing glare at Zozy – and she knew he was relieved to leave her laughing, in spiteof the underlying soreness the day inspired.
Having learned quite a bit - deliberately, or through an osmotic process associated with existing within the confines of Leia's diligently attended to political world - about optics, and management of Media interest, Han saw to it that he spent a significant amount of his day visibly at military headquarters, and even in his rarely occupied office. It was unlikely he would be going about business if something were afoot at home, thus his presence dampened any curiosities about Leia's absence - and Tavska sent a short note thanking him for it.
She's taking calls at home; cuts down on inquiry - one individual asked if this means a maternity announcement; inquiry deferred.
Han was nettled by even the mention of such an inquiry - damn, no one ever left Leia alone.
Feet up on his desk in the austere office in the Generals' corridor of headquarters, he ignored the pile of promotion panels Rieekan had given him to review - two weeks ago - in favor of staring aimlessly at the blank screen of his console and grudgingly wondering, yet again, what the hell he was doing still wearing a uniform - and what the hell else he'd do if he wasn't. For all he'd done during the Rebellion and in the grueling fights afterwards, all the talent and honor that was there - Han Solo simply was not a peace time soldier - and much as he wasn't interested in the bureaucracy or the politics, he wasn't looking for a fight or a deployment, either. He thrived in the thick of the conflict, he was skilled, reliable, and usually instrumental in strategic triumph - but back on Coruscant, he was a famous name, and a bored relic.
Rieekan was suited to this shit - he had been a good commander in the field, an excellent general, but he was a fighter by necessity, and a gentleman soldier by trade, trained for palace defense, not warfare; he did well in the aftermath, and he did his best to manage Han without managing him: to temper his boredom without putting him in situations that resulted in flared tempers and offended elites - but when it came time for Han to consider what he'd turn to without the insurgency - though it was so clearly not an insurgency anymore - he was at a loss.
It had been a blessing for Leia, to be able to turn back to diplomacy and civility after the war - Han's life had never been civil, even during his brief stint at the Academy and he didn't - he didn't know how to seek employment within the legal confines of society, not as a man who had since reformed a glittering criminal career, married a princess, decided to have children with that princess -
He figured he was a little stunted, career-wise - and it was unfamiliar for him to consider careers, anyway, thus his wariness of his situation was doubled - and today, he figured, he was thinking about it intently again because he and Leia were both sort of balancing on a precipice. They had returned from the Haven, healed, with better resolved, but conviction was not always action - and leaving her at home this morning, knowing she was dealing with some residual sadness again, left him uncertain of himself, and of her - had her decision at the Haven been premature; buoyed by the nostalgia and hope there?
He could kick himself for almost eagerly assuming she might be -
"Han, I'll be damned."
Han turned his head sharply at the interruption, as his father-in-law barreled into the room confidently, shaking his head. Han glared at him a little, and Bail grinned, folding his arms.
"When Chewbacca told me you were in your office, I thought it was joke," he snorted. "Have you gotten lost? Hit your head?"
"I work here," Han retorted.
"Hardly," Bail said bluntly, arching a brow. "You look tidy, as well - have you lost a bet?" Bail went on cheerfully.
Han sat forward, swinging his boots off the desk.
"Who let you in?" He asked loudly. "Don't I have an assistant?"
Bail smirked at him, shutting the door, and Han arched his eyebrows.
"You drunk or somethin'?" he provoked.
Bail paused, affronted.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You can beg it all you want, doesn't answer the question."
Bail took it upon himself to glare this time, looking around for a chair to drag up. He found one - unused, shoved over in a corner - and dragged it over, first resting his hands on the back of it.
"Why would you think that I am - "
"You're bein' cheeky," Han accused darkly.
Bail looked amused. He fell silent, and then came around the chair and sat down in it, sitting back easily.
"Well, when I was told you were working in your office at headquarters, I had to see it for myself," he mocked dryly, and then arched a brow.
"Yeah, that's the only reason you hunted me down," Han muttered, giving him a pointed look - at which Bail shrugged. He folded his hands in front of him and leaned forward a bit, inclining his head to concede Han's unspoken point.
"Of course I've hunted you down to ask after Leia," he said easily. "Tavksa will only politely say that she's taken a personal day." Bail scowled. "I respect that woman's unwavering loyalty to Leia's privacy, but I respect it grudgingly."
Han snorted quietly. He nodded, and leaned forward, shrugging roughly as he rested his forearms on the edge of his desk and shifted his weight.
"She jus' took a personal day 'cause she wasn't in the mood to be at work," he offered.
Bail blinked at him.
"She - what?" he asked, baffled.
Han smacked his hand lightly on the desk and pointed at the Viceroy.
"S'what I said!" he agreed. He shrugged, and then frowned a little, his shoulders dropping. "Yeah, it's uh," he waved his hand a little, wincing. "It's her due date?" he elaborated, "The day we're s'pose to have the baby."
"Ah," Bail sighed quietly, leaning back. His shoulders visibly hit heavily against the back of the chair. "Yes, I know what it means. Those dates are usually estimates," he offered, "but I understand that doesn't negate the meaning," he reflected logically. He folded his arms again. "And how are you?" he asked.
"'M fine," he said flatly. "Didn't even remember," he said bitterly. "So when she said she was stayin' home this mornin', I asked if she was pregnant."
Bail winced grimly.
"Yeah," Han grunted. "How's that for a foot in the mouth? Stuck it so far down my throat I could kick my own ass."
Bail tilted his head.
"Alarming visual," he muttered, before sitting forward again. "Was she angry?"
Han shook his head.
"Nah," he said. "She was laughin' when I left - seems okay," he said, brow furrowing, cocking his head with a frown. He didn't say much more for a moment, a muscle in his temple tightening, and speaking for him - indicating intent thought, perhaps mild stress. "It threw me off 'cause...I guess I thought she was over it," he admitted in a mutter, narrowing his eyes. "That's stupid. I know that's...fuckin' stupid."
Bail hesitated, shifting his feet, and holding up his hands.
"It's not the same for you as for her," he said, placating him fairly. "You aren't always going to say the right thing. Particularly not when you don't feel the same thing."
Han sat back.
"Yeah, but that kind of makes me a dick," he said roughly.
"I wouldn't call you that."
Bail laughed at that challenge, too. He shrugged a little, and tilted his head, and Han went on -
"'Cause, she didn't want me to stay with her, so - must have pissed her off, more'n she says - "
"Is Leia usually in the habit of telling you she's fine when she's not?"
"Uhh," Han hesitated. "Not when she's mad at me, no," he said, grinning a little smugly. He tightened his jaw after a moment, giving Bail a look. "If she thinks she's bein' weak or somethin', then yeah, you know that."
"I wouldn't take it personally," Bail said thoughtfully. "You were very reliable for her, when she was going through this last year," he said. "She may not need you for whatever she's feeling right now."
He rested his elbow on the desk and rubbed his jaw, considering Bail critically for a moment, and then he went on:
"'S just...at the Haven, she kinda - we kinda," he frowned. "She wanted to try this again, so I figured," he trailed off - he had, in a regimented way, figured that meant they were past the worst of it - not necessarily that it didn't bother her. Or - perhaps, he realized he had thought that a little bit, not in a cruel way, but because he had gotten over it.
Bail nodded, his head tilting pensively.
"Well," he offered quietly. "As I said, we take it differently," he said, gesturing vaguely between himself and Han. "To be quite honest with you, I was damn near brutally insensitive to Breha after her first miscarriage," he confided dully, "and I thought I was being caring."
He didn't elaborate, just fell silent for a moment or two, lifting his shoulders, and continuing on:
"Good for her, taking a personal day if she wants it," he said firmly. He hesitated, and then tilted his head earnestly. "There is – she was interested in trying again?" he ventured.
Han rubbed his chin. He nodded without saying anything, mostly because he wasn't sure what was appropriate to share. The logistics were certainly on his mind – because he knew what Leia had said, and how good she had professed to feel about going forward, but there was a slight sort of limbo hanging around them – was this a hurdle she hadn't anticipating, getting past the date that – in the end, had no real meaning for them at all?
He sat forward, holding his hand out.
"Y'know what's – gettin' me," he muttered tensely, "is – I can't think – I got no concept of," he put his hands down on the desk, his palms parallel, "of there bein' a baby here today," he said gruffly, "there stopped bein' one when she had the miscarriage, just," he snapped once, "stopped, in my head," he drawled slowly, and then looked up from his hands – "'cept it's still there for her," he said, blinking in disbelief. "How's that work? How's it that different for us?"
Bail's shoulders lifted, and fell once – tiredly.
"A blessing and a curse, I suppose," he answered simply.
Han stared at him a moment, and then sat back, slouching – and accepting that. It had sense to it – it was just different; that was an unknowable aspect of nature. Han sat around these days, so many months later, occasionally thinking – Leia and I, we almost had a baby – and she, she was probably thinkin' – We have a baby we never held.
"I'll see how she is when I get home," Han mumbled, mostly to himself.
Bail inclined his head supportively.
"She has plenty of us to hold down the fort here," he said briskly, straightening pointedly. "I am in fact on my way to stand in for her at a treaty meeting after I finish with you," he said, checking the chrono at his wrist.
He stood abruptly, and Han tilted his chin up, narrowing his eyes.
"Can't believe you came in here to gossip," he threw out tersely, shaking his head mockingly. "Harassin' me and Leia just like the press," he accused coolly.
"When it's family, it's not harassment," Bail joked, folding his hands into his sleeves again – he looked around Han's office, and tilted his head curiously, an amused expression on his face. Glancing back at Han, his brow furrowed intently.
"This really isn't your style at all, is it?" he asked, as if it had just truly settled, for him, how out of place Han was in a pristine corner office with – files, and uniforms, and meetings –
Han gave him a coarse look, and scoffed, shrugging. Bail gave him another thoughtful look, and saw himself out, leaving Han to lean back, stare after him a little absently – it wasn't, it sure as hell wasn't, and thinking about that gruffly for a little while longer – he got up with a mind to head down to the Falcon where he belonged, and he ducked into Rieekan's office on his way out.
There was such a strangeness to being home during the day - strangeness enhanced, Leia supposed, by her lack of physical ailment. She remained indolent for most of the morning, letting herself fade in and out of short, peaceful naps, catching up on rest and lavishing somnolent attention on Zozy. The little creature was ecstatic to have company all morning, and restrained himself even when she sat up and picked at the breakfast Han had left her, enjoying it without urgency - Zozy snuggled at her side, and for a handful of long, quiet hours, Leia hesitated to rise - she had meant it when she told Han she was okay; she was.
She felt calm, and subdued, but content - and, when she finally was up and about - brewing kaffe, donning comfortable lounge clothes - it occurred to her that she was anxiously awaiting a cascade of piercing grief that did not seem to be on her horizon. She felt grief; her sadness was there - but it was comfortable, and accepted, and throughout the morning, it never flared harshly, never manifested in tears or headaches or the wrenching, hollow pain she'd been accustomed to in the past.
Zozy trailed at her heels as she faced an unencumbered personal day, and Leia looked inside herself, tentatively relieved that she felt this well, considering the day - it was almost as if, because she anticipated it being hard for her, and allowed herself the time to be at home, and alone, and without the pressures of her office, the burden was tempered, and relieved.
She embraced the down time; she shied away from work except to handle high-profile phone calls, or answer personal messages that had minor emergencies; towards lunch, she found herself in her home study with the windows opening, letting sun stream in - her focus on her console, and all of the real estate options on it.
It was something she had mentioned to Han, an idea they had thrown around - moving. She liked their place, even loved it here - yet she had meant what she said when she told him it was where they had started, not necessarily where they should say. She and Han had been through challenges and triumphs here, and since their return from the Haven, she felt this place had some finality to it - and yet, part of her wondered if she was running away.
Her gaze lingered on a gorgeous, palatial penthouse in the conservation quarter of Coruscant - hardly a wilderness, by Alderaan standards, but a place where greenhouse rooms were standard in housing, and traffic was diverted away; the sort of place she had mentioned to him, in those tumultuous days after the miscarriage.
Zozy slept in her lap, and Leia's brow furrowed, her lips parting uncertainly - she had fleetingly wondered how she would feel today for several weeks now, and it wasn't quite as she imagined. She had been so certain of her resolve on Yavin, and now she contemplated her optimism; was it disrespectful, in some way - some how?
She still felt deep pangs of heartache sometimes, but there was an alleviation to the sorrow that time had granted her.
Caught up in her thoughts and reflections, Leia abandoned her focus on new places to live - she curled her legs up in her chair with her, running her palm lightly over Zozy's downy feathers, and on a whim, she placed a call to Jobal Naberrie on Naboo, ringing up her grandmother at their home outside of Theed - in an effort to keep in touch, to engage in some idle companionship.
"Leia," Jobal's greeting was warm, and effervescent. "This certainly brightens my day, dear - if all is well on Coruscant?" she ventured, kind brow furrowed just slightly. "It is mid-day, is it not?"
Leia laughed a little huskily, her cheeks turning a slight pink at the reaction - everyone's reaction.
"It is, and I am not dying, nor have I been possessed," she answered, preempting the concern. "It is a personal day, nothing more."
"A thing I wish many women in your position would take more of," Jobal said firmly. "I used to ask the same of Padmé, and do you know that she told me her personal days were considered to be doubly as selfish and luxurious as her male colleagues'? They deserved time off, apparently, while she was merely being weak."
Leia smiled, her shoulders relaxing fluidly.
"Democracy is rather demanding," she quipped, arching a brow. "The corollary is, men have violent break downs if they aren't coddled once in a while; women are stronger than that base instinct," she sniffed, her eyes glittering in amusement.
Jobal beamed at her.
"Both reasons why generalizations are abhorrent, I should say," she decided firmly, and Leia nodded - at the new voice, and the stilling of Leia's hand, Zozy's head popped up, and he eyed the shimmering image of Jobal's face curiously. Staring at it for a moment, he let out a curious chirp, and then hunkered back down, watching with fascination.
"He says hello," she translated. "He hasn't seen a holo this close before."
Jobal sat forward, amused. She had met Zozy in person at the Haven ceremonies - Leia and Han hadn't left him to a kennel, for as long as they were on Yavin - but she still found him adorable, and liked to look at him. Her great-grand children were smitten with the mooka, and had incessantly begged their parents for one for the past few weeks.
"He's a sweet little thing," Jobal remarked. She grinned. "Sola says he reminds her of Han."
"Is it the feathers, the ears, or the biting?" Leia asked dryly, arching a brow.
"More the way he would sit on your lap on Yavin and quietly growl at Bail," she returned, and Leia looked down at Zozy, pursing her lips and clicking her tongue at him in with mock solemnity - she was unsure why, but Zozy certainly seemed to think Bail was a suspicious character. Her father assumed Han had somehow trained Zozy to act out; Leia found it endearing, because Zozy had never hurt her father, he just seemed to think it necessary to cutely menace him.
Tilting her head back up, Leia smiled - she felt more at ease, to have Jobal to talk to; her apartment was quiet, but the quiet was nice. The slowness of this isolated day in the middle of the week was nice, and so was Jobal's gentle, matronly voice, when she inquired -
"Leia? What's on your mind?"
-so astutely, so knowingly.
Leia gave a muted smile, some of that sadness she'd been anticipating sharpening for a moment. She tucked her feet closer to her, pulling Zozy into the cradle of her arms and resting her hand lightly on his ribs.
"Well, I was," she lifted one shoulder in a resigned shrug. "I was due today. Would have been."
Jobal nodded, her eyes bright with understanding, focused on Leia through the glittering technology that allowed this conversation across the galactic miles, and she leaned forward on her arms at her respective console, reaching up to touch her fingers to her lips lightly, and then extend her hand, as if blowing a kiss to Leia in a quiet prayer.
"Heart's a little heavy, is it?" Jobal asked candidly.
Leia pursed her lips, nodding slowly.
"It is," she agreed huskily. Her eyes stung, and she blinked a few times, scraping her teeth along her lower lip anxiously. "It's – not as heavy as I expected."
Her tone went up only slightly at the end, the barest hint of a slight question – was that normal; did that seem right? She blinked, and raised her eyes to meet Jobal's more fiercely, sharing a long, silent look with her.
"I feel like…it's a day I need to take for what it is, but it hasn't set me back," she offered.
Jobal folded her hands in front of her, tilting her head.
"To take for what it is," she quoted carefully. "That's a sage way to look at it, I think," she reflected, biting her own lower lip for a moment. "It isn't required for grief to set you back, or hold you back," she continued, after a moment. "I am quietly grieving every day, for Padmé – but there are other sources of joy in my life, too," she offered.
Leia nodded, loosening her grip on Zozy. He curled up in her lap into a little ball, dozing, his ears laying back and relaxing, as was customary when he was sleepy and happy.
She was thoughtful.
"I thought I would be more upset," she whispered. "I am upset," she amended. "I was…irritable, with Han, this morning; he thought," she trailed off a moment, and sniffed, shaking her head, "he thought my staying home meant I was pregnant," she went on, "and I think it just bothered me because it gave me that nagging feeling that I failed him."
"Ah," Jobal sighed. "You don't really feel as if you've failed him," she reminded Leia.
"No," Leia agreed, "and he doesn't make me feel that way. He didn't remember. I told him I wasn't angry, but I was," she admitted softly. "I didn't want to be angry."
She had reigned that in, been soft with him – and she had no intention of lashing out later, either, now that she was understanding her feelings better.
"I am upset," Leia said again. "It isn't," she paused, her lips pursing, "acute."
"I think you feel healed, Leia," Jobal suggested honestly.
She considered that – she wasn't sure she had anything to compare it to. There were wounds in her pasts that would never truly heal; scars that ached, were rough and damaged forever – but this was, for what it was worth, something that would heal and that could be –
"Wounds have a different kind of tenderness when they heal," Jobal went on.
She smiled kindly, and Leia took a deep breath.
"I told Han I wanted to start trying again," she said in a rush. "At the Haven, I told him – and I meant it. Mean it," she asserted.
"And since you've returned?" Jobal prompted.
Leia lifted her shoulders, her lashes fluttering earnestly.
"I still feel that way," she said honestly. "I gain such a sense of peace from my meditations," she explained, her voice softening, "and Han's – inspiring," she said, a smile touching her lips.
It faded uncertainly, and she furrowed her brow.
"Is it too soon?"
Jobal looked amused, cocking her head, gazing at Leia thoughtfully. She considered it, and then straightened her head back up.
"It is what you want, when you want it," she said firmly. "There is no rule book. If you feel ready, you're ready," she soothed, smiling again. "If it gives you any perspective, I was pregnant with Sola less than two months after my first miscarriage," she said.
Jobal gave an honest shrug.
"It was right for me."
Leia nodded, looking down at Zozy – it had been longer than that, for her; half a year, give or take some weeks – more, since they returned from the Haven. She felt herself relax, a little, and compressed her lips – had she harbored some speck of uncertainty, thinking she had healed too well?
She breathed out lightly, in a rush, and reached up to brush the heel of her palm under her eyes, dealing with a few errant tears.
"It's a delicate business," she said, with a short laugh. "I said what I said to Han, and then I came home and got my contraceptive shot – which probably confused the hell out of him," she shook her head, biting her lip. "It was a habit – and the Haven was – different, than here. It's wearing off now. The shot."
"It takes a brief moment of reflection, I think, to really move forward sometimes – there's the defining decision, and then the act," she said.
Leia nodded – an apt way to put it, and she breathed out again, relieved by this whole conversation.
"I think I'm nervous," she admitted, her brow crinkling worriedly.
"Loss makes it harder to do things that ought to be routine," Jobal agreed kindly.
Leia shook her head a little.
"Not that," she said huskily – yes, to an extent; but she didn't think she was going to lose another baby – she could be proven wrong, but she had her intuitions about this, understanding the Force better, as she did now.
She swallowed hard.
"I'm nervous, about," she glanced down at Zozy, and bit her lip. "Well, for quite a bit this morning, I had my head in a pillow thinking in utter terror of what I'd be doing today if all had gone well," she confessed. "I don't know how to have a baby. Or be a mother."
Jobal's face lit up, and she laughed – in complete understanding, and remembrance of the feeling. She knew Leia wasn't expressing relief that she'd had a miscarriage – just the dawning of realization that at some point, when all did go well – it would be a whole new world.
Leia's world was the same, right now, as it had been for a year or two – and that was both sad, out of respect for what she had lost – and safe, in familiarity.
"I'll offer you some wisdom on that front, dear," Jobal said brightly, leaning in closer. "No one does."
Leia smiled warmly, her lashes trembling heavily – no tears fell, however, and she then had to restrain a brilliant smile.
The two women looked at each other, and Leia sat back, inclining her head gratefully – content. Her hands roamed over Zozy's feathers, and she felt confident in the place she was in – and she felt that her decision to stay home today, to reflect, to feel whatever she was feeling was a service to herself. She was glad of Jobal's company, glad of Han's understanding in letting her have this day without a fuss – and for the rest of it, she had call to make – and there was something else, too –
The general domesticity that existed in their lives was full of nuance, and though the novelty of a stable, so-called normal hearth, home, and marriage had settled peacefully, and gradually, there were still abstract moments of wonder - for each of them - that gave them pause; brief experiences of abject fascination at the way things had turned out. For Han, those moments were rooted in disbelief that his life had become one of material comfort, honor, legality - loyal companionship, healthy commitment, and respect - for Leia, they stemmed from the taste of freedom that she, as an heiress to an ancient crown, had never expected to cherish; they occurred when she did something as simple as running clothing through the auto-valet - or washing dishes - things that on some planets were considered traditionally feminine, but that she, as an aristocrat, would never have bothered with - the simplicity of having a husband she loved, an apartment, and a position she had fought for, rather than been anointed into - it was all so different from what either of them had imagined.
Their lives belonged to them, completely, and their relationship belonged to them - and Leia experienced one of those instances, one of those outside-looking-in moments, as she poked a fork into the cobbler she'd occupied herself with for most of the afternoon, listening to Han come in the front door and kick his boots of - this is how my life turned out; I never would have imagined, even for a second - and she knew Han thought the same thing, plenty of the time, because if she was sometimes incredulous that the hot-tempered, irreverent, selfish smuggler she'd met eight years ago was now a man who took off his shoes in the foyer and came looking for her after a day spent in the office - then he must take a step outside himself and ask how the hell he'd become a part of this miracle.
His call was gruff, curious, and Leia listened, closing her mouth over the bit of cobbler she was sampling - she was immediately dissatisfied with her product, and furrowed her brow grimly - Han had taught her how to make it, and still - how could she effortlessly negotiate the most dangerous of peace treaties, and the finer aspects of the culinary sciences completely eluded her - ?
She heard him greet Zozy in the hall when the little guy went skittering to him sleepily, awoken from one of his many adorable naps, and chirping happily. She waited, silent, until he appeared just outside the kitchen, and slowly poked his head in, looking for her.
His eyes moved over her thoughtfully as he tried to gauge her mood - she stood there, leaning casually on the counter, poking around at the dish in front of her, and her expression was unreadable for a moment, and Han gave her a lopsided smile - delighted to realize she was wearing little more than tiny, comfortable lycra shorts and a loose cotton t-shirt.
Tilting her head, Leia took another bite of the sad cobbler and Han strolled into the kitchen, slipping his jacket off and tossing it on the counter as he did. Leia bit down on her fork gently, and drew it away from her lips.
"How was your day, darling?" she asked, batting her lashes and feigning a good, wifely demeanor.
"Great," Han retorted, deadpan. "Manly."
Leia smiled, and he relaxed his serious expression, moving closer and running a hand over her back. He bunched her t-shirt in his hands a little, and leaned down, first placing a kiss to her temple, then her brow, then finally the corner of her mouth, taking a deep breath. He closed his eyes a moment, then drew back a fraction and studied her earnestly, his hand moving up and down her lower back.
"You okay?" he asked quietly. "Hmm?"
"Mmhmm," she murmured softly, nodding slowly. She pointed at the dessert with her fork. "I baked," she offered, lifting her shoulders - "Like we did on Corellia."
Han tilted his head, and Leia poked his palm with her fork, pressing it into his hand. She nodded at the cobbler.
"Try that," she requested.
Han gave her, and then the cobbler, a mildly sideways glance, but did as asked - scooping a decent amount onto the fork, and trying it obediently. He put the fork into the dish as he chewed, swallowed - expression unchanged, and then looked her dead in the eye -
"S'good, Sweetheart," he said seriously.
Leia turned, and his forearm pressed into her ribs as she did. She reached up to touch his face, affecting an admiring look for a moment, and leaned closer, rising up a little.
"Han," she began, simpering - and then arched one eyebrow sharply, and narrowed her eyes, glaring at him: "You filthy liar," she accused darkly.
He tried to look innocent, and then broke into an apologetic smirk, hanging his head contritely, and pointing down at the cobbler -
"Terrible," he said gruffly. "It's terrible, Your Highness."
"A disaster," Leia agreed, sighing. She looked down at it a little glumly.
Han grinned, and his hand slid off her hip; he reached up to brush his knuckles under her chin briefly, as if bucking her up.
"You're good at other things," he informed her. Leia laughed, and he folded his arms, leaning forward on them on the counter, mimicking her position - both of them staring at the picked over cobbler. She tilted her head at it, and Han looked over at her thoughtfully, easily remembering Corellia - the mess of baking in the kitchen, the flowers on the counter, Leia barefoot and fragile, shifting between laughter and tears -
"Well, what are we going to do with it?" Leia sighed dramatically.
"Zozy'll eat it," Han said gruffly.
He grinned, and then tilted his head, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. He cleared his throat softly, his expression growing more concerned.
"Bad day?" he asked.
She took a deep breath, and shook her head.
"Not that bad," she answered, quiet but honest. She was quiet for a moment, reflective. "Can you imagine what things would be like if we had a baby today?" she asked.
Han shook his head. He lifted his shoulders.
"No," he said honestly. He paused for a bit. "Doesn't mean...I don't want one anymore," he offered hesitantly.
"I know. Me too," she murmured quickly. She licked her lips, and looked over at him. "It was scary to get pregnant," she confided huskily, "I think...because I knew I was going to lose it. Subconsciously. In a way I couldn't identify, but understood, when it happened."
Han didn't say anything - he thought she was too pessimistic on that front; thought that she was letting certain visions and nightmares retroactively inform all of her feelings - but then again, he didn't have her power, or her insight, and he didn't know; so he said nothing. She fell silent again for a bit, and then turned, her back to the counter, her arms folded across her breasts protectively.
"I cancelled my next contraceptive shot," she confided. "This afternoon, I called Dr. Mellis," she offered slowly. "I know I...contradicted myself, coming back from Yavin, and still taking one," she trailed off.
Han shook his head, shrugged.
"Nah, not really," he said simply. "Ev'n when we decided, y'know, to start tryin' the first time, we didn't right away," he pointed out.
Leia nodded at that, and met his eyes.
"Han, I," she paused. "I meant it, on Yavin. That I'm ready to try again. That...I don't think - we'll lose another one," she said huskily. "I can almost feel - I know we won't."
She shifted her gaze, and lifted her head up, reaching up to brush at a few errant tears collecting in her eyes.
"That happened to save your life and I know - you don't like to hear me say that, I know it upsets you - but I take comfort in it."
Han did shift tensely, and his jaw tightened, but he simple nodded - scars on his arms, left from the bacta treatments he'd received for his bone marrow, ached as if they had been physically irritated, at her words.
"So," Leia whispered, unfolding her arms and reaching out to stroke his shoulder. "Are you ready?" she asked - and she didn't meant ready to try, ready to be with her through a pregnancy - was he ready, really ready, for all of it: because this whole day, her talk with Jobal, her introspection - it fleshed out what had really been binding her, and maybe him, on the edge of moving forward - this next time was going to be it; the real deal - maybe he felt that, too, even without a Force sensitivity.
Han straightened, and swallowed hard. He turned to mimic her position again, leaning back against the counter. He rubbed his jaw.
"Yeah," he said hoarsely. "Yeah, I am, but I gotta be straight with you, Sweetheart, I won't know what the hell I'm doing."
She laughed, the sound pleasant, and musical - and she leaned her head on him lightly, reaching over to squeeze his bicep.
"I spoke with Jobal today, and I told her...I think part of me needed to get past today," she confided, her voice only a little shaky. "Being at the Haven gave me faith, and strength, and purpose - but today I could...lay things to rest," she went on, her lips pursing. "Han, I forgot what it feels like to have a wound really - heal," she said, drawing on her grandmother's wise words - "because - some of the injuries in my life...will never go back to normal."
Han nodded as she spoke, a sense of relief running through him. He leaned over and nudged her shoulder with his supportively, chewing on the inside of his lip.
"'M sorry for what I said this mornin'," he said. "Got…ahead of myself."
"If I'm pregnant, or think I am, I'll tell you," she assured him mildly. "Please…I would prefer if you – don't ask me," she added.
Han nodded again – fair enough; easy enough and he still cringed a little, wishing he hadn't gone straight to that over-eager assumption this morning. He took a deep breath, and then pushed off the counter, taking two strides across the kitchen and turning to face her head on, bracing his arms behind him.
"I handed in notice to Rieekan," he told her gruffly. "'M not re-signing my commission. Six more months'n then," he drew his hand in front of him in a straight line – "done."
Leia's expression was thoughtful, but unsurprised – another thing that had been hanging in limbo in the past year, another thing –
"I have a residence I want you to look at with me," she answered, accepting his decision for a new horizon, and raising him one, as well. "It's in a quieter sector."
She paused for a beat.
"Han, they'll want to honor your service," she warned thoughtfully. "They'll want to have a retirement ceremony," she shifted her weight, her lips parted as she considered him. "You should let them."
He gave a sort of tense, noncommittal shrug – she knew it wasn't his style, and no, the idea didn't appeal to him, but if it was par for the course – then it was what it was. He reached up to rub his jaw, brushing his knuckles under his chin.
"A residence, huh?" he grunted, circling back. "One with one of them greenhouse rooms you mentioned?"
Leia's nod was slow, reflective. She tilted her head back and looked around the kitchen – and envisioned the rest of this place where they'd started; their first place together, all their own, where they'd weathered real opposition to their relationship, had defining fights – and it was beloved, but it was transitory – it was not permanent, just as the instability, and suffering, in her life – their lives – had not been permanent.
She lifted her shoulders bravely.
"We need to move – forward," she said softly. "We need to…break the last ties that are tethering us to the war, and all of the," she waved a hand gingerly, "chaos and – heartache of the aftermath, too – this apartment, your commission," she took a deep breath, "the carbon poisoning."
Her eyes glittered, and stung –
"I finally grieved for my mother, too – we aren't the people we were before the Rebellion, but we aren't the people we had to be in the Rebellion, either."
Leia compressed her lips.
"We aren't fighting, hurting, or cleaning up or – recovering, anymore, are we?" she whispered. "We're living. We're in it."
He gazed at her, amused and inspired all at once, and a slow, attractive smirk spread over his face –
"You find God today, or somethin'?" he quipped.
Leia laughed, blushing lightly, and grasped her shirt in her hands, drawing it up to cover her face, muffling quiet giggles, and Han lunged forward to catch her in an embrace, drawing her exposed, bare stomach against him and tugging the t-shirt away from her face, letting it tangle between them – lowering his lips to her ear, he nodded, his conviction strong –
"Yeah, Sweetheart, oh yeah; this is it."
The kiss he pressed to her neck, and then her lips, was intoxicating – as brazen, and victorious as she felt. Triumph in the war had been a logical fact, and a solidified, political reality for a handful of years now, but these days she felt it more deeply, on a spiritual level – that her beliefs, and her dreams, had won – and that feeling was not about fixing the past, curing the ills, or being satisfied with the traumas and devastation that had been perpetrated – but it was about unprecedented grit and endurance, and the liberty to move forward, only forward – into the bright beyond.