So Tony Stark has to be from Alderaan, and yes, he is a weapons manufacturer, but so what, Stark Industries brings in more tax money for the Alderaanian government to spend on planting pretty flowers than any other dozen companies combined, and he's never seen good ol' King Bail, his dad's dear, dear friend, turn down the dirty money, so fuck that.
Tony's parents died in a spaceport accident when he was still at university, and maybe he went a little bit out of control with the galactic lifestyle after that, and okay maybe he's still a little bit out of control, but seriously, you wouldn't turn down an all-expenses-paid trip to the garden moon of Hesper in order to show off some incredibly nifty new droid-tech-enhanced fragmentation missiles to the Imperial top brass, would you? The Imps always have the best open bars at these things, and Twi'lek dancing girls, and it's not like there's exactly a competitive market for planetary-scale weapons right now, so why not go have fun?
Only it turns out that the Rebels have a thing going on the garden moon of Hesper, and somehow they've gotten their hands on a bunch of brand shiny new Stark Industries military gear, and the next thing Tony knows he's being held prisoner in a cave that looks like a Jawa den, with a bunch of nano-scale excavation droids stuck embedded in his torso which will burrow into his heart and kill him if he gets out of range (which is about two feet at the moment) of the interference field that his fellow prisoner jerry-rigged. And the Rebels want him to build them more weapons.
Well, fine, he's Tony Fuckin' Stark, so he builds some fuckin' awesome space armor to get him and Yin Sien the fuck out of there, only in the end he's the only one who makes it out.
Pep's kind of pissed off at him when he comes home to Aldera and announces that he's not making weapons any more, but what the fuck, she's always pissed off at him anyway, and it's not like the rest of peace-loving Alderaan - hypocrites that they are - have any right to complain.
Okay, his Imperial Overlords are also kind of pissed, but he's not exactly happy with them at the moment either - somebody let those Rebels get their hands on his weapons, and the only people who had any were Stark Industries and the Imps, and he knows he's not trafficking to the Rebels, so. Anyway Bail Organa's backing him up, and that almost makes the whole thing worth it, because you can see the pain in his Sanctimonious Majesty's face every time he has to say something nice about Tony Stark, but he's one of the few guys the Imps can't afford to just brush off, so Tony actually gets away with it, and he even manages to do a favor to Pepper and not antagonize the Imperial representatives more than absolutely necessary, and therefore doesn't end up on some prison planet somewhere, not as long as SI agrees to fulfill all of its existing contracts, and also this new one, and this one, and this one, and okay so Stark Industries is in principle not making weapons anymore, and the Empire understand your scruples, Mr. Stark, but, in reality there are practicalities, so possibly Tony is drinking again, what-the-fuck-ever, it's not like it would have made a difference anyway, and the Empire does keep the peace, screw it.
But that thing with the Stark tech in Rebel hands is still bothering him, because the Empire is one thing, but random terrorists are something else, and he starts quietly investigating, which is only to say that a mysteriously advanced red-and-gold droid that interfaces with a hyperspace-capable superfast starfighter starts showing up anywhere there's been a particularly large-scale terrorist attack and helping with the clean-up, and eventually he starts getting there before the attacks and preventing one or two, because he still hasn't figured out how high up the Imperial chain of command the weapons trafficking to rebel groups is going (and there appear to be multiple channels; it's even more riddled with corruption than he expected, and given he's Tony Stark, that's saying something,) but he's about one step ahead of them most of the time now.
And so he's on this little Lightforsaken asteroid which only justifies its existence by being a hyperspace transfer point with tons of shipping going through it, which is why he just happened to be there investigating one of the smuggling channels when a passenger liner gets blown up by a Rebel bomb, and he managed to save most of the passengers, okay, but he's only one guy in really spiffy space armor, he can't be everywhere at once, so anyway all the shipping off the base is closed while they finish checking the spacelanes for debris, which is why he is in this shitty little armpit of a bar getting shitfaced right now.
And then this woman slides in next to him, and says in a voice that's warm with sarcasm, "Tony Stark. Imagine meeting you in a place like this."
He looks at her, and then he squints at her, because there must be something wrong with the air filtration system in here, everything's a little bit blurry, and then he says, "Princess Leia?"
He wouldn't have recognized her from looking at her - she's wearing beat-up old trousers and an aged uniform jacket, and the famous hair's rolled up in a severely practical bun - but he knows her voice, and the way she moves and talks, from dozens of awful parties and receptions when they were kids.
"What are you doing here, Stark?" she asks, and curls up a lip. "Making sure your latest batch of genocidal weapons gets safely to your Imperial Masters?"
He really, really shouldn't, but hell he's drunk, and also he doesn't actually care that he shouldn't: "No, your senatorialiciousness, making sure they stay out of the hands of people like your Rebel friends who blew up that liner out there. What are you doing here? Congratulating them?" Leia's well known for being as friendly to the Rebel causes as it's politic to be at any given moment, and there's rumors she's even friendlier than that. (Also there are some adult-rated holovids that make the case that she's even friendlier than that, and Tony really doesn't need to be thinking about those right now, no matter how many times he's watched them.)
But Leia just grits her teeth and stares down at her drink. "That liner wasn't the Rebels."
And he just puts his drink down and stares at her. "They were broadcasting DEATH TO THE EMPIRE on all frequencies."
"It was a pre-existing separatist group, they've been doing the same thing since before the Clone Wars, they've just been ...becoming more active, lately. They aren't Rebel Alliance, the Alliance refuses to work with anyone who targets civilians, they oppose that kind of terrorism even more strongly than the Empire does."
"Okay. Princess. Three things. No, four things. One, do I look like I care about making hair-splitting distinctions between Rebel groups? They're probably going to reorganize again in a week anyway. Two, there's no such thing as a war that's confined strictly to military targets, and if you actually believe that you're even more naive than I thought you were. Three, if you honestly think the Alliance is sticking to military targets, you're an idiot: either an idiot for believing their propaganda, or an idiot for thinking a group that uses 'honorable warfare' tactics is ever going to get anywhere against the Empire; either way, idiot. And four," he adds, raising a finger as she draws breath to argue with him, "I came here to a) get drunk, and b) get laid, order negotiable, not to argue about politics. I can manage A) just fine on my own, so unless you'd like to assist me with B), you can fuck right off."
And she looks at him, and looks down at her delicate, princessly hands, which have some kind of dark brown machine oil under the nails and ground into the lines, and says, "I could handle getting laid tonight. Bartender, give me the whole bottle. I have a room upstairs, unless you have a better suggestion."
And fuck him, but he's not turning that one down.
She's freakier in bed than he expected - they must have gotten up to the same sort of things at the girls' boarding schools on Alderaan as at the boys' - and getting to let down her hair is exactly as sensual as every boy on Alderaan spent his early adolescence dreaming of, and she totally gets turned on by him being an asshole, which works for him, and he's thinking about asking for another go, running locks of long, sleek brown hair between his fingers, when she laughs a little and says, "You know, you're probably the least inappropriate guy I've ever slept with."
"I resent that," he says, "I am completely inappropriate for you, I'm a playboy and a scoundrel and a drunk and a weapons dealer and rumored to be a criminal."
"Join the line-up," she says. "At least you're Alderaanian. And 'of the appropriate class and station'," she adds, clearly mimicking someone she's had to listen to far too much.
Tony has a sudden, vivid, terrifying vision, and shudders. "Please tell me you're not having any thoughts involving the phrase 'Prince-Consort'."
She stares at him for a second and then laughs in his face. He thinks he should feel more hurt than he does. "You? You've got to be kidding, you're not that good in bed. The girls at school weren't exaggerating about the narcissism, were they?"
"Your Highness, they weren't exaggerating anything, as you can now personally testify," he says with a suggestive hip-wriggle, and she laughs at him again and props herself up on one elbow, hair sliding along her smooth white shoulders like water.
"What is a boy like you doing in a place like this? Are you really looking into the arms smuggling?"
"What are you really doing here?" he shoots back.
"Senatorial fact-finding mission," she says, so smoothly that it's gotta be a cover. "Coruscant's starting to get seriously worried about the Abraxian separatists, and groups like them. A lot of groups like them, springing up or reviving out of nowhere, and getting their appendages on all kinds of high-tech weaponry they shouldn't have the resources to know about, much less blow up passenger liners with." She shakes her head. "And this has nothing to do with the Rebel Alliance, no matter what you think; they keep an incredibly tight grip on whatever hardware they can get their hands on. But the Emperor's advisors have started making noises about a new round of martial law and civil liberties crackdowns to 'preserve the security of the civilian populations,' which is the last thing we need."
"Fine, you just keep on believing that it's got nothing to do with your Alliance, Princess," Tony says, but meanwhile his mind's racing. He'd been approaching this from a businessman's point of view, follow the money, assuming it was all about greed and corruption, because none of the Imperial officers he'd traced back to had any personal reasons to support the groups in question, but she's just shoved the larger political context in his face, and suddenly it's making a new picture. A terrible, terrible picture that even Tony Stark doesn't want to believe in.
"I know where the rebel groups are getting the weapons," he says, without quite meaning to.
She rolls over and sits up, slowly, carefully. The sheet slips down her chest, slowly. "Yes?" she says.
"They're being funneled directly in through Imperial agents," he says. "I've been tracing the supply lines from the other end. They're pulling them out of legitimate military purchases and then disguising the missing materiel. But I couldn't find the beginning of the trail. It's somewhere high enough up that they're entirely untouchable."
Neither of them wants to say it, but put the two ends together, and the beginning stares you in the face. "That's vile," Leia breathes, hands clenching in her lap. "Would the Emperor really fund terrorist attacks against his own people just to build political support?"
"That's politics, your highness," Tony says, "Which of us is in the Senate again?"
"You know as well as I do that the Senate has no real political power anymore," she says, and then abruptly, "Come back to Alderaan with me, I have people working on this, we can pool our resources."
Well, all right then.
Pepper hates Leia on sight. Winter hates Tony on sight - okay maybe he shouldn't have slept with her that time when they were fifteen, but the holographic memory was hot - but she and Pepper get on like a house on fire, which worries him a little. Meanwhile every week they're delving even further into the weapons-trafficking, trying to find evidence that they could go public with, stop what's going on, and both of them dashing off-planet on short notice on errands that neither of them explain or ask about, and okay yes still falling into bed together a few times. A week. And once or twice he even ends up getting dragged to royal social events as her date, which is just as terrifying as he'd imagined and he is never, ever going to look Bail Organa in the eye again --
And then Her Royal Lying Bastardness gets herself declared a rebel ringleader and Galactic Most Wanted and what the fuck, he's been sleeping with her for over a year and she didn't see fit to, oh, mention that she was apparently commanding officer of the entire Rebel Alliance or something like that, obviously he's going to have to put on the armor and go drag her somewhere where the Imps will never, ever find her, and then yell at her until she tells him how they're going to take down the Emperor together.
Which is the only reason he happens to be off-planet when Alderaan is destroyed.
He possibly takes this kind of poorly. Actually what he does is give the armor to his friend Rhodey, the former TIE pilot, and tell him to find the Rebels and join up, and then go wandering around all the worst worlds on the edges of the Empire, trying to drink himself slowly to death, because frankly he doesn't deserve to die quickly, he helped design the fucking Death Star, he knows his own work, and okay that was mostly when he was a teenager - they've been working on it for that long, what the fuck, why was he such an idiot - but he was working on the fucking reactor design six months ago without knowing (wanting to know) what it was going into, and he doesn't know whether to laugh or cry that they didn't even fucking bother to check his work, and left in that stupid deliberate puzzle-box weak point of an exhaust port that he drew in just to see if he could get away with it, and Leia knew what they were building all along, and she had to know that he'd done work on it, it's not like his fucking undergraduate thesis is fucking classified, and she never fucking said anything to him, which, okay, he's not exactly the most trustworthy person in the world, fine, so it doesn't really matter if he has another drink then.
He spends most of the next three years either on a bender or recovering from one, pretty much, and it's nothing in particular that drags him out of it - he vaguely remembers buying an entire casino a round when somebody announces that they blew up the second Death Star! Palpatine is dead! But it's not long after that when he's sitting in a rehab center that Rhodey dragged him to (again), the bacta mitts slowly bringing feeling back into his fingers after that hypothermia/frostbite incident, and he sees Leia, on the holonet, standing behind a podium, talking about the legacy of Alderaan and building something new, something shining, something just, out of the ashes of the Empire, and he'll probably never know what changed that particular day, but he thinks to himself, "Yeah. Yeah, I can do that."
Getting back control of his company's offworld assets and patents from the ex-Imperial jackals who are currently squabbling over the remains isn't difficult, but it takes just enough of his concentration that he can keep from thinking about other things, and the day of the first meeting of the new board, with Tony re-instated as CEO, he walks into the foyer of the Starks' old Coruscant mansion, which has been empty and closed off since his parents' death, and the old protocol droid Jarvis is still there to say, "Master Tony! It's wonderful to see you again," and it doesn't hurt as much as he thought it would.
He brings himself, his company, everything he has, and drops it all at Minister Leia Organa's feet like an offering, in the middle of a reception for the Alderaan Memorial Benevolent Society, and he asks what he can do with it, for her and for the Alderaan Alliance and the New Republic.
She's almost flustered. He's never seen her flustered in public before. It's a good look on her. He's going to have to do it again. "Tony! It's been so good to hear that you're getting back on your feet, it's been such a terrible time for all of us. Um--" she gestures to a man standing behind her. "Han, this is Tony Stark, an old friend of mine from Alderaan. Tony, General Han Solo."
He sure doesn't look like a general. He's obviously Corellian, and Tony's been around the fringes enough to recognize the type immediately: con man, gambler, probably smuggler, possibly part-time pirate, all-around rogue. And he's glaring daggers at Tony, and Tony hasn't even said anything to him yet.
Tony starts grinning uncontrollably. "Wow, Your Pertness," he drawls, "You weren't kidding about having a type," and she honest-to-light blushes.
This is going to be fun. And he can't remember the last time he thought that.
So, no, there's no happy-ever-after (he never even manages to finagle a threesome with Leia and her Corellian smuggler, which is a crying shame,) but it gets better. It all gets better.
Tony's always been good at building things, and there's a whole new galaxy for the building.