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It was a night that felt like it would never end.

Well, in retrospect that wasn’t true – not for everyone. In fact, as she spun and laughed she could already tell that there would be a fair amount of Rebels – were they still Rebels now? Leia thought with a sudden thrill, could they even call themselves Rebel scum now that they’d successfully toppled the real scum they’d fought for so long – who would surely be drinking and dancing until the Endor dawn. She would be up all night too, if she weren’t so looking forward to the pleasure of waking up in a galaxy sans emperor; she would be drinking heavily too, if she weren’t determined to feel with perfect clarity every exquisite detail of this moment.

 And – well. She could feel with good enough clarity with a very reasonable amount of drinks in her system, anyway.

She felt so good, so young. Maybe it was wearing a dress rather than a uniform, maybe it was having her hair long and free, like an embrace from her former self – maybe it was even the spinning itself, the way it made everything blurry and light. Or maybe it was how wonderful it felt to be held, touched and held and in front of others, even, something that normally stressed her out but now, now – something about the fact that Han had swung her around and looked at her so adoringly – that she felt adored, that other people saw she could be adored.

Which felt terribly girlish. And silly, and frivolous. She didn’t need to be adored, she didn’t want to be, she didn’t need to seem adorable – but – she just – she felt – light. Giddy. Twenty-four.

She had the rest of her life. She was twenty-four.

“Han,” she kept saying, her hand on his cheek, smiling right into his eyes. “You look so handsome in this light. You’re so warm. You make me very happy.”

Han, who had had much more to drink than her, kept replying in turn, respectively: “I know. I know. You make me a pretty happy guy too.” (And grabbing around her ass too, but good-naturedly, more smirk than sexist entitlement, and she had to admit she didn’t mind feeling desired.)

Speaking of desire – it was pulsing in her, hot and heavy, a low thrumming that made her feel that giddy feeling even more acutely, made every look she exchanged with Han feel charged and thrilling, especially because she could feel that esire radiating off of him too – heat rolling off of him, the way he smoldered at her, grinning and licking his lips just the slightest bit. It reached a – not a climax, ah – well… a climax, why not, when as she was speaking enthusiastically to Wedge Antilles about possible strategy on Coruscant and she could feel Han’s breath against her neck, his low voice mumbling in her ear, “You wanna get out of here, sweetheart?”

She rolled her eyes a little but tilted her head back to brush against it his shoulder as a tacit confirmation of her interest. Yes, she very much wanted to get out of here with him. Another reason why she did want the night to end: so she could wake up beside him the next day.

“Don’t let me keep you,” Wedge said, putting his hands up, his expression a little sly, and she rolled her eyes again as she felt Han’s arms wrapping decisively around her waist from behind…  

And yes, she wouldn’t let Wedge Antilles keep her, but she might let her brother do so.

Her brother, her brother – a bright, glowing, dangerous revelation she hadn’t processed much yet, warm yet unpredictable as a flame. It was easy to call him her brother because in a way that’s how she’d always felt about him; it was harder to think about the genetic backstory that made them related. Much, much harder. But for once, she didn’t have a hard time procrastinating and so their blood, their blood and all its implications – that could wait until tomorrow.

But what couldn’t wait until tomorrow was Luke’s housing situation tonight, and that grabbed her attention, her do-good and worrying nature, and kept her. She could see the conflicted, faraway look on his face; she had a sense of what all he’d seen and knew his joy was dampened by that. He wouldn’t want to party all night. He must be dead tired, too, now that she considered it – had he slept at all last night? He hadn’t been with them yesterday. She’d been with them yesterday, and she’d barely slept – going from Han holding her as she wept outside to coming to bed with him in a small Ewok hut, too shaken to concern herself with appearances, letting him lay her out on the woven mat and look at her with worry and trepidation as he made love to her slow and deep, emotional sounds she didn’t know she could make croaking out of her throat at his touched. It had done its job, it had comforted her, but even so, as Han fell asleep heavily spooning her, she’d stared at the thatched wall with her skin slick with sweat and fluid and her thoughts racing, racing, racing.

All that to say, she knew what tired felt like. If she weren’t so elated she’d be mind-numbingly exhausted. Desperate for a place to lie down.

“Are you alright?” Leia asked gently, wiggling away from Han’s grasp with a one second promise. “You look faraway.”

“Is it so obvious?” Luke said with a sad-happy smile. “I’m okay. Thank you. Just – overwhelmed.”

“It’s overwhelming,” she agreed earnestly, taking his hands in hers and trying to catch his eyes to say trust me, I trust you, I still trust you no matter who you’re from.

“All the most beautiful things are, though.”

“Is the Tatooine farmboy in a bit over his head in terms of emotion or inebriation?”

“Both, I think. Don’t mind me,” Luke urged her. “Enjoy your night. Enjoy your boyfriend, eh?” he added, nodding at a figure rapidly approaching behind her – there was Han, his arms tight around her waist from behind again, his pelvis grinding ever so slightly against her, evidence of his impatience noticeable only by her and succeeding in thrilling her instantly.

Boyfriend,” Leia said amusedly, trying to maintain her typical effortless cool in spite of that thrill. “General, have you heard? You’ve been promoted to the rank of boyfriend.

“Beats royal concubine, I’ll tell you that,” Han quipped. “How’s it hanging, kid?”

“He’s got that melancholy look again,” Leia said, letting her arms rest over Han’s around her waist. “He never had that melancholy look until he became a Jedi Knight.”

“Comes with the territory,” Luke offered with another half smile.

“Sorry to hear that,” Han said, nodding solemnly with a smirk in his eyes.

“Oh, I think it looks good on him. Very serious, very worldly. He looks older, doesn’t he look older?”

“Yeah,” Han said, and she could feel his warm smile. “He does look older.”

“Think I’ll ever look as old as you?” Luke teased, and Han released her to give him a shove.

“Don’t let me worry about you,” Leia said seriously, reaching out to grab Luke’s arm. “I don’t wait to worry about either of you laser brains ever again. I’ve done enough worrying to age me decades.”

“Thought I saw a grey in all that hair,” Han drawled.

“I thought I did,” she shot back.

“I won’t let you worry, Leia,” Luke promised. “I don’t know what comes next, but I know – I won’t let you worry.”

“Good,” she said, “I’ll hold you to that. And you’re situated, yes? Are you sorted out for the night?”

“I’ll figure something out,” he assured her. “I can tell you’re itching to go. Don’t stay up on account of me.”

“You look so tired – and you’ve had a difficult day, you shouldn’t be alone at a time like this – Han, he doesn’t have anywhere to sleep.”

“I’m fine, Leia, I promise,” Luke insisted, just as Han replied, “What do you want me to do about it?”

“Figure it out for him. You’re the one who’s been communicating with them – how did you get your – ah – our…

“C’you believe that, kid? Her Highness’s blushing. ‘Our.’ All red about spending the night in the squat hut of some scoundrel.”

“I want to ensure Luke’s taken care of and I am not blushing – you should be so lucky to spend the night with me – anyway, you and Luke slept side by side long before you and I did. You, Luke, and the carcass of a tauntaun.”

“That’s true, actually. Well listen – you’ll come sleep with us, alright? There’s room.”

She was fairly certain he was half-joking, but as far as Leia was concerned, that was perfect – she felt strongly, stronger each moment, that Luke should not be left alone, that he needed them to get through the evening, maybe because she’d had her fair share of lonely, painful nights in the wake of her world being upended. Having him near felt right, very right. “That’s – an excellent solution, actually,” Leia said, nodding firmly. “I should’ve thought of that. There really is room. It’ll be like old times.”

She wasn’t sure what old times she was referring to, actually. She had slept very close to Luke in the ship’s crew cabin many times, so much that she could recognize the patterns of his breathing with her eyes closed.  There was also that one time the environmental controls on the Falcon had fritzed and the three of them had all curled up together for warmth; she remembered how it felt weirdly like when she was a child, curled up in her parents’ bed after a nightmare, that sense of squishiness and safety and warmth. Having them near, knowing the people most important to her were alright, being able to hear their heartbeats. That was what she wanted, needed, to bridge the world of tonight into tomorrow.

Luke looked a bit shocked and coughed a little. “Oh, wow. That’s alright. I don’t want to crowd you two.”

“It’s too small in there for whatever you’re thinking,” Leia assured him, which was a half truth – it wasn’t too small for the sort of slow, intense, emotional lovemaking that had occurred within there yesterday, but it was definitely too cramped for the sort of whirlwind ecstatic we-toppled-the-goddamn-emperor sex she imagined her night was rapidly hurtling towards.

“I don’t want to intrude. Seriously.”

“You’re not intruding,” Leia said. “I would tell you if you were. I wouldn’t say otherwise just to be polite about it. When you’re ready to come up for the night, you’ll stay with us.”

“You’re not intruding,” Han agreed. “Besides, we gotta keep our eyes on you. Don’t want you to go running half way across the galaxy on us again. ‘Specially now that you’re her family, huh?”

“You just promised not to let me worry about you,” Leia said, and she gave him the location of their hut before kissing his cheek. How long had it been since she did so, for luck, before they hurled themselves across that gaping emptiness on the Death Star? Five years? Could the three of them have only know each other for five years?

“See you upstairs, kid,” Han said, and then they were ascending into the sky as a pair.

“Thank you,” Leia said breathlessly when they were out of earshot. “I didn’t mean to trample upon our evening. I just worry.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. Still – amazing how if you worry about Luke you don’t gotta think about how you’re feeling.”

“I feel good. I feel fine,” she insisted. “I feel so much that I don’t even know where to begin, actually. But I know I feel very well-loved by those close to me, and that’s more than I’ve felt in a very long time, and I…”

She sort of trailed off, caught up in how he looked, tall and radiant, framed in starlight and the twinkling shadows cast by flames. Handsome, hers

He saw her looking, leaned back against the massive tree’s trunk, and smirked

“I feel that that’s exactly the type of galaxy I want to build,” Leia finished slowly, carefully, diplomatically. “One organized by common love between beings, and mutual support, and a belief that success for one is an indicator for success for us all…”

“Sounds peachy,” Han said, and he gave her a lazy, amused, desiring smile.

“I don’t want to stop fighting until everyone can find everything I’ve been able to find, in spite of everything taken from me. That sense of security, of safety through my connection to others. To people like Luke and of course to you. I’m very lucky to feel how you’ve made me feel.”

“What can I say. You’re welcome, princess.”

“I’m serious.”

“You’re drunk.”

“I’m drunk and I’m serious. I’m lucky, for you. I’m lucky to have you. I have a very good feeling, Han,” she said seriously, watching his eyes dance with amusement at her sincerity. “I have a very good feeling about tomorrow, about you.”

And maybe it was the liquor but it felt like it was less than a second before he had her up against the tree, his arms tight around her as hers were tossed around his neck, her legs hitched up around his hips with her skirt shoved up to her waist, their lips locked urgently. In the daytime, less inebriated, and less thrilled with victory, she would be a little quieter – instead, she found herself gasping audibly, even moaning as he kissed his way down her neck, sloppy and desirous and hungry.

Grinding his pelvis against where her legs came together, grinning against her ear as he sucked on its edge: “I got a real good feelin’ about you too, princess.”

“I want you,” Leia found herself gasping, her vision blurring, all flickering lights and dark foliage and breath and feeling. “I want you very badly, always, for a long time, every day I think…”

He was laughing as he tugged her underwear to her knees with one hand, thumbing at her breasts with the other. “Every day? That so?”

“I think so, yes…” she said, nodding a bit deliriously, her voice solemn as she squirmedwith pleasure. “Every day at least, if it’s possible. I wouldn’t mind.”

“Wouldn’t mind either,” he grunted as he grabbed her ass and pressed her against the bark, and she could feel his smile flush against her – how happy he seemed, how eager and silly and elated. “You’re gorgeous, fuck, you’re so damn pretty…” Grunting again, then sliding a finger into her as she gasped. “Pretty. My pretty princess. Shit.” She groaned and started to reaching for his belt, but he stopped her hand – “Leia – wait – I don’t have anythin’...”

She shut her eyes and did some quick mental math. Her cycle – Tatooine – it had been… “It’s fine,” she assured him after a dizzied moment, kissing his nose and smiling broadly. “It should be fine, I’m fine – it’s a good time.”

“Good,” he said, grinning back and brushing her hair out of her face before getting to work on his belt.

            “I’m surprised, Han,” she murmured, pressing small kisses against his jaw. “That was an easy one.”

“Yeah?” he said, his voice starting to sound strangled as she took him in her hands eagerly.

“Mhm,” she said, grinning. “No – I’ll show you a good time?”

 “Show me one, then,” he drawled, and then she was so full, and warm, and light, and flying, because he was inside her.

Later, they were cuddling idly in the hut – how strange it felt, to use the word cuddling in a sentence having anything to do with her, or Han, who both had to detangle their weapons from themselves every time they laid down – when finally, Luke crawled inside to join them, hand over his eyes. “Clothes on?” he asked, and though it seemed halfway teasing, it also seemed halfway true.

“I don’t like this,” Leia said crossly after answering in the affirmative. “You shouldn’t treat us as though we’re completely different people just because we’ve become involved. When have you ever known me to not be exceedingly careful and polite? Of course our clothes are on.”

“Evening, kid,” Han said drowsily, draped all over her and blinking blearily.

“I know you have discretion. It’s Han I’m not so sure about,” Luke assured her. “Uh – I can still… I’m sure I can find somewhere…”

“Nahhh, come over here,” Han insisted in that same sleepy voice. “Old times, like the princess said.”

“Are we going to be demoted as your best friends, Luke?” Leia asked in a hush as Luke carefully removed his shoes and jacket. “Because we’re involved?”

“‘Involved,’ ‘involved’... and you all call me old…” Han muttered.

“I’ve always thought of Han as a brother,” Luke said after a moment. Over Han’s arm, Leia could see him considering his saber, delicately placing it in one of his boots. “And you’re my sister now, so. The best of friends.”

“Always?” Leia wanted to know.

“Sure. An insufferable, smart ass big brother.”

“Hey. You wanna lose your bed?” Han demanded.

“No, no… is here okay?”

“I can go in the middle,” Leia offered, sitting up and going to scoot. Han snorted loudly, and she shot him a dirty look. “Don’t make it filthy,” she scolded.

“Had that dream once, y’know,” Han drawled easily, his voice cocky and smirking even in exhaustion. “You were in the middle that time, too.”

“Unbelievable,” Leia hissed, flushing.

“Gross, Han,” Luke added, for good measure.

“It was weird as hell, don’t worry, not like I woke up thinking hell yeah. Felt way off. Maybe the Force tryna send me a sign ‘bout the whole siblings thing, huh?”

“I’m not listening to a word you’re saying,” Leia insisted, bright red.

“Makes you wonder about that medbay kiss…”

Han!” she shrieked.

“Keep it up and she’ll see that you’re the one without a bed,” Luke noted, trying to hide his mortification.

“Alright, alright, forget I said it. How ‘bout I go in the middle, huh?”

“You and a pair of twins, captain?” Leia muttered, and Luke flushed again, even more scandalized.

“That’s general to you. And no. It’s just the widest there, and m’the tallest by far.”

“Uh-huh,” Leia said, but she let him move past her and then curled up under his arm contentedly.

She could feel Luke’s trepidation rolling off of him, his worriedness, his uncertainty about the future. It unsettled her – reminded her, really, of how much she was ignoring, putting off for future Leia, in her elation. He watched his father die, a voice in her head murmured. Another, then: He isn’t his father. He isn’t your father.

Then: Han doesn’t know he isn’t, is, your father.

She reached out across Han’s broad chest and gave Luke’s hand a quick squeeze. “Good night, you two,” she whispered in a voice she hoped was reassuring even as she felt her own resolve trickling out of her, fear about tomorrow chilling her blood. “Sleep well.”

“Enough with the mothering, Your Worship,” Han mumbled. “Give it a rest. Go to bed.”

“Sleep, Leia,” Luke urged as well, but he gave her a little smile.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” she added insistently. “I will see you tomorrow.” I will face tomorrow. I will have the most important people in my life with me, and I will confidently face tomorrow.

“That’s right,” Han mumbled, and he held her tightly under his arm, warm and safe and home. “We’ll be there.”

Chapter Text

The reality of “tomorrow” had already settled into her limbs by the time she woke up in the morning, Leia realized as she took stock of her aches, eyes still shut. Her shoulder was sore, much sorer than it was the day before, her back and neck stiff with sleeping on essentially a floor. There were other signs of reality, too, lingering in her body. For the first time in a few days she was acutely aware of the fact that her breath was sour, her hair gritty, dirt under her fingernails, her underarms icky, the place between her legs still a little sticky, the curls a little glued together. A body she lived in. It was easy when she was focusing on life and death for feeling grubby to fall away; maybe it was a good sign that she desperately wanted to brush her teeth? Like, she had time for that kind of concern?

It was the part of the morning that was still silent and cool, and after crawling out of the hut, Leia reached her arms up to meet the sky, arching her back and sighing, then bending over expansively with an exhale. It was very early, she realized, much earlier than she expected – the little village was almost silent, and morning mist still settled heavily over the small community, making it almost ghostly, or maybe magical. Very early indeend – would she ever learn how to sleep properly again?

Well, maybe it was too early for that. There was a lot of work to do before she could begin to consider sleeping properly.

Casting one last look back at the hut where Luke and Han still slept, she grabbed her pack and climbed down, headed towards a nearby stream. That sense of ghostly magic was probably exacerbated by the fact that she was wearing just a long-sleeved white shift dress, her hair still long and loose. Like sleepwalking – she sort of felt like she was sleepwalking.

Sleepwalking and list-making. Already as she moved, she ticked off agenda items in her head like she was counting spare credits: she needed to organize the troops for today, make sure everyone was adequately fed, then organize searches for any lingering Imperials. She needed to check in with High Command on Home One and talk strategy for disseminating information of last night’s victory, maybe coordinated some propaganda holos if it was needed, or else do some light speechwriting, that had always been a strength of hers – she probably had condolence letters to catch up on, as well. She had to tell Han about what she’d learned about herself. No – first she had to consult with Luke about how to tell Han about what she’d learned about herself.

It was so easy to say; she could just tick it off, as though it were just another item. As though it weren’t life changing and devastating and beyond her comprehension. Gods.

Leia sighed, approaching the bank of the creek and fishing some all-purpose soap (imagine, a time with different bottles: shampoo, conditioner, body wash!) out of her pack. She knocked off her boots, undid a rogue braid, and pulled her shift off, then waded into the cold water.

Tilting her head back. In up to her breasts. Her hair soaking, her fingers vigorously combing through her hair with the soap and foaming it up. She looked up at the sky. My sister has it. The same cold sky. He’s my father.

She felt cold and fresh and clean, scrubbing herself hard enough to sting. She took inventory of her body: the hair under her arms and on her legs, her injured shoulder, her mismatched split ends. My sister has it. He’s my father.

How could she tell someone something like that? Someone she loved, wanted to love her?

When was the last time she’d swam so leisurely, in cold water? As a child, she’d often indulged in “polar bear swims” with her eldest cousins back before they went off-world to university, earning their praise for being so feisty so eager so young. They’d help smuggle her out of her bedroom in the earliest hours of the winter morning, a gaggle of teenagers and one little kid, and they’d run eagerly in their pajamas, loose hair flying, to the dock of that glassy, crystal-clear lake behind the palace. And then: they’d stripped off all their things and gathered their courage and soared in – her cousins, doing smoothly elegant dives, Leia, doing an ecstatic cannonball. Then: wrapping themselves up in towels and racing barefooted back to the palace for hot chocolate and biscuits… You’re not afraid of anything, are you, Lelila? her cousins would ask, giving each other little grinning looks.

Not a thing! Leia had insisted, her mouth stuffed full of biscuit – she’d once done honey and butter. No scare!

No scare. Nothing scared her. Telling Han scared her; the gaping void of what her life might look like after Reconstruction scared her. Her love, her deep love, for Han and for Luke too, scared her. She’d lived a life so full of love, aching desperate adoring love, for people, for family, for food, for flowers, and it all had gone up in so many flames.

Leia was so busy contemplating that, contemplating the sky as she soaped her hair a second time, that she was totally startled to suddenly notice sound and splashing nearby. Immediately, she ducked so she was in the water up to her nose, hands splayed over her breasts, and glanced around. But oh, it was only––

“General Syndulla,” Leia greeted politely, rising up slightly and raising in greeting one hand.

“Princess!” Hera exclaimed from a few meters away, but she was busy dealing with a ball of splashing energy and couldn’t say much else. That splashing ball – her son, right, Hera had a son now, and he was laughing and screeching and relishing in the chance to make the biggest splashes possible.

Against her better judgement, she found herself swimming over, popping up closer to the pair and giving a measured smile, as though they weren’t two naked adult women bathing in a creek on a strange forest planet the day after they’d destroyed a death star. “Good morning,” she said politely, then cleared her throat and addressed the child with what she hoped was a kind, “Hi there.” Before the war, she’d often felt a bit awkward around children; after she’d joined the Rebellion full time, suddenly the premium on children went way up, and it was rare enough that she saw them that she felt a little bit of delight, which in turn made her feel embarrassed, too feminine.

“It’s cold!” the boy exclaimed happily.

“It is cold,” Leia agreed, and nodded and smiled before turning to Hera. “Are you having problems with the sonics on the Ghost?” she asked politely, beginning to braid her hair over the shoulder.

“No. This one was just especially pleased about having a bath. Outside,” she noted, smiling with a hint of eye roll. “I don’t mind. I’m assuming you’ve never had to bathe a child in a ship’s fresher?”

“I haven’t.”

“Well, maybe someday. It’s quite the logistical challenge.”

“It’s nice to have the chance for some play, amidst all this,” Leia observed kindly, watching the boy swim out a bit more, disappearing beneath the surface excitedly. “Sometimes I forget there ever was such a thing.”   

Hera laughed, surprising her. “How old are you now?”

“Do I sound very jaded?”

“You sound very old. So – exactly the same as you sounded at fifteen.”

“Hush,” Leia admonished, flushing and dipping back down to her nose.

“You’ve grown up into a really remarkable – Jacen! Don’t stray too far, I still need to wash your hair. Oh – Princess,” Hera said, interrupting herself.

“Leia, please,” she corrected automatically.

“Leia, then – I think your general is looking for you, I think that’s his voice.”

“My general?” Leia asked, skeptical. “You mean Han?”

“Isn’t that the one?” Hera asked, smiling a little and scooping Jacen into her arms to wash his hair, and sure enough she could hear a bit of a sweetheart? calling out. “He’s got a nice ship, that one. Very impressive. Very fast.”

“Yes,” Leia said, peering into the brush for Han. “He knows.”

“Leia!” Han exclaimed, coming out of the thicket and seeing her. “Oh, ah – Syndulla,” he added, clearing his throat and turning his head to avert his eyes.

“Solo,” she greeted, amused.

“So-o-o-l-o-o-o!” Jacen echoed, howling it and cracking up, and Leia watched Han’s eyes crinkle with restrained amusement.

“Sorry,” Leia said after she’d said goodbye to the duo, pulled herself out of the water, and toweled herself off with the shift before putting on her uniform. “I should’ve left a note.”

“Your comm has been going off like crazy,” Han said, handing it to her and yawning.

“I didn’t realize I left it – thank you,” she said, kissing him as she finished up her crown of braids.

“Thought you’d take a swim?”

“My hair was getting grody. Is there kaffe back at camp?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“It’s so strange to see familiar faces,” Leia confessed as she examined her comm. “It’s strange to think of life having gone on the past few years. Hera’s son has gotten older – I mean, of course he has – but it’s just – so much of war feels liminal. Like limbo.”

“Yeah,” Han said. “Was talking to Dameron last night – sure he feels similar.”

“That’s something else entirely,” Leia said. “But no less shocking, I’d imagine.”

Han grunted in agreement.

“War is out of time and place.”

“This what you think about when you get up at the crack of dawn?”

“You’re up too,” she noted.

“Your damn comm, not by choice.”

“Well I’m sure you’re eager to get to the Falcon today, if you have time. I built more hours into your day, didn’t I?”

“What do you mean, if?

“We still have work to do, General,” she noted. “Apparently quite a bit, if my comm keeps going off.”

For the rest of the walk back to camp, she dealt with those messages, finding her expectations met: they needed her to organize things, there was a meeting for her to attend at noon, she needed to do some negotiating of hostage exchanges thereafter, and there would be time for speech-writing, condolesence letters, and strategizing about tomorrow – there were also cleanup concerns about the environmental consequences of the Death Star explosion in the nearby atmosphere, she needed to solicit involvement from some high level scientists she’d known in her Senate days – there was also a need to stabilize regions that might take up arms in response to the death of the Emperor, provide guidance…

A very busy day, then. A day busy enough to not think about the real thing she had to do. The important, real, serious thing she had to do. She could drown herself in work. She could…

“I thought you said everyone was up,” Leia said, surprised, when they returned to camp to find it still silent and foggy.

“Did I say that?” Han asked, frowning and moving around towards a fire pit.

“What time is it?”

            “What time did you think it was?”

            “Maybe eight?”

            “Closer to six, sweetheart.”

“Oh gosh – I’m so sorry to have woken you so early – I’m sorry, I really thought everyone was awake by now. You said there was kaffe, so I thought...”

“There is,” Han said gruffly. “I’m makin’ it. For you.”

Leia smiled, surprised. “Really?”

“Yeah, well. Couldn’t fall back asleep, figured you could use it when you can’t either.”

“Thank you,” Leia said sincerely, sitting on a log nearby and warming up with the revived fire. “You know, you can actually be quite sweet.”

“Yeah? Don’t tell anyone,” he said cheekily, winking at her.

“I love you,” she said, smiling. “I hope you won’t get sick of me saying so. Because I don’t plan on stopping any time soon, unless you do something to provoke my ire.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he muttered, but she could tell his eyes were amused.

Han handed her a travel mug of instant kaffe, and she looked up at him: his tired eyes, his tousled hair, his strong hands that had made her kaffe so early in the morning because he thought she needed it. Leia took a deep breath.

“Is there anything I could do? To provoke your ire such that you’d stop saying that you loved me?”

“Might wanna keep your comm with you in the future so it don’t go off in my ear in the morning.”

“Would you sit down with me? There’s – there’s actually something I want to speak with you about.”

“Sure,” Han said, frowning again and taking a long sip from his mug before sitting beside her. “What’s up, sweetheart?”

“I have something – I have something a bit difficult I need to talk about with you,” she said carefully, peering around a bit to confirm they were alone. “Something that may be hard to hear.”

Han looked – stricken. His whole body had frozen up rigidly, solemn, looking at her intently. “Yeah. Alright. Go on.”

“I don’t know exactly how to begin.”

“I – just say it, alright? Out with it,” he said, then scaled back and tried to give her a lopsided smile. “C’mon, it’ll be alright.”

“I don’t exactly know if it will, is the thing.”

He ran a hand through his hair. “Leia. Listen to me, okay? We’ll uh – we’ll figure it out, alright?”

“It’s hard to even find the words, is all. And I used to speak for a living, mind you.”

“Listen, okay? Listen, listen,” he said, grabbing her free hand with his. “I’ll – support you, okay, I’ll stand by you, whatever you wanna do…” He swallowed hard. “Let’s get married, alrigt? I wanna marry you, I’ll––”

What?” Leia exclaimed, almost splashing kaffe on herself as she jerked back. “Han – what?”

“Shit, princess! I’m just trying to do right by you!”

“Do right by – I’m not pregnant, Han,” she insisted urgently, eyes widening. “Did you think I was pregnant?”

“I – shit. Fuck Leia,” Han choked out, rubbing his chin. “I – yeah? I don’t know what to think. You’re – you’re not, though, you’re not––”

“I’m not pregnant,” she assured him. “I should’ve anticipated that, that was my mistake. I’m really not pregnant, I swear.”

“Alright. Kriff. Thank Gods,” Han said, rubbing his chest. “Heart just jumped outta my body, fuck.”

“I’m not,” she insisted. “I – no, I…”

“You…? What is it, then, shit.”

She tried to strategize in her mind as fast as possible, her thoughts racing: Do you remember, what I said, about Luke being my brother? Do you remember, what Luke’s said, about Darth Vader killing his father?

Do you remember your mother?

Instead, what escaped from her mouth was, blurted and panicked: “Vader is our father.”

What?”

“Vader is our – our biological our – Luke and I – Vader…”

“No. That’s – whatshisname Skywalker, right? The Jedi – Vader killed––”

She shook her head. “Jedi figure of speech. One and the same. He’s – that’s – ah.” She stared intensely into her mug, her thoughts so fast, all of her trembling, legs threatening to spasm. “My blood. That’s. That’s my blood.”

Han was silent for a long moment. Then: “That’s what you were crying about. With Luke.”

“Pardon?”

“That’s what had you all weepy. I was – scared. Never seen you like that, not recently at least.”

“That is why I was upset, yes.”

“You were – shivering, that other night. Trembling.” He cleared his throat. “You were damn near inconsolable.”

“Well. I think you can imagine why.”

“Leia.”

“I think you can imagine why,” she snapped again urgently, her voice sounding more like a croak, so strangled, and she took several shuddering breaths to try to regain control of her voice.

Vader. Vader. Do you remember your mother? Your real mother? Do you remember what’s real? Do you think Vader’s your real father? Do you think Vader knew you were real?

Another long silence, and then:   

“I like your blood.”

Leia wiped her eyes urgently, her voice still sounding thick. “Excuse me?”

“Courses through you. So I like it,” he said simply. “And Luke too, and I like Luke too. Not in the same way of course, but what can I say. I’ve gotten pretty fond of the kid.”

“Han. I don’t think you understand. He tortured you––”

“He tortured you. His own – he tortured you.”

“It’s – quite sick, isn’t it. That sickness – that’s – inside of me. That’s who I am.”

“No, no, fuck that, that’s not right, dammit! Fuck that sonofabitch, Leia, alright? Fuck him. Glad the bastard’s gone. But just because you share some DNA – I don’t care.”

“Han, I think you may need time to process…”

“I don’t know who the hell my dad is, you know. Could be a lot worse and I wouldn’t even know.”

“It doesn’t get much worse than Vader.”

“You have a father already, Lei. He was a good man.”

“I know, but––”

“And crazy about you, from what you’ve told me.”

“I know, but I just – I feel sick, to think of it. I feel – my skin feels slimy, it’s crawling, it’s…”

“It’s the same skin I love, alright?” he said gruffly, and she blinked, taken aback. .

“That was very romantic,” Leia observed, sitting up straight.

“Leia – you can’t feel fucking – look. You gotta feel what you’re gonna feel. But you don’t deserve to feel slimy or sick. Okay? You gotta – you gotta hate him if you’re gonna, but you, you – you’re a good one, princess, I swear. You can’t hate yourself for your blood. You wouldn’t hate Luke for his.”

“It feels like my body isn’t my body anymore – it feels alien to me, perverse…” she mused.

“Well I love your body, okay? I love the hell out of it.”

“Maybe you should take some time to consider… Han, I can barely get my head around it, you don’t need to go making declarations.”

“Consider what? Huh? Consider what? I’m gonna come back in a few days say thought it over Your Worship, screw years of pining, your sperm donor’s got me too turned off to touch you? You have any idea how long I’ve wanted to get you where I’ve got you?”

“Years of pining, flyboy?” she mumbled, looking into her mug.

“I’m not gonna say it doesn’t matter because it does. But it doesn’t matter to me, alright? I’ll – I’ll be there for you, what you wanna talk about it, but don’t you think for a second something like this would matter to me.”

“You’re too good. You’re too good for me.”

“Please,” Han snorted.

“I’m – you’re good, and I feel – I do feel a bit… tainted… I feel so… it’s hard to articulate...”

“You wanna talk about tainted? You know half the shit I’ve done? Leia. Listen to me. Look, a girl told me this once and now I’m gonna tell it to you: you’re one of the good guys. Alright?”

“A girl?” she teased softly, daring to glance at him.

“Whole other story. I like to think she was right about me, not sure about it, but maybe. But I know I’m right about you. Alright? Look at me,” he demanded, and he pointed at her firmly. “I know I’m right about you.”

She put the mug down to cup his cheeks in her hands and kiss him urgently, trying to will the tears she’d been holding back to stay at least up by her eyes. He was just as urgent, hungry for her, still, no matter how often he was having her now – still wanting her, his hands moving to pull her closer firmly, press her flush against him, her hands threaded through his hair as she tried to get even closer.

Closer, closer – she couldn’t get close enough – murmuring against his mouth, gasping into it – he still wanted to be close to her – close to her skin…

And then, abruptly, a shrill wolf whistle, causing themboth to yank back immediately, Han’s hair sticking straight up from her ministrations, her hand flying up to cover the top handful of buttons he’d unbuttoned. They looked, wide-eyed, at the assembled remaining members of the Rogue Squadron, including Luke, all holding cold plates of breakfast rations to heat up on the fire, all staring back at them, a bit shocked.

She might quip something at them, were she not so emotional, but she was… her eyes were red, she knew, and she flushed with embarassment more at being caught crying than kissing, which Han seemed to sense because he took her back in his arms and pressed her face to his neck as though to protect her from embarassment when in reality it was to comfort her.

Han cleared his throat, Leia could hear him from the safe darkness of her spot with her face against his hot neck, warm and slightly damp with the tears. “Kaffe pitcher’s right there,” he said simply, jerking his thumb. “Might wanna throw another log on this fire. Been burning for a bit.”  

“She – uh. She alright?” one of them asked awkwardly, and she could hear the shifting of uncomfortable bodies .

“Who, the princess? Aw, sure,” Han drawled. “Her Highness just don’t wanna be seen without her face on, that’s all. You know how women get.”

She gave him a pinch of retaliation as the group laughed.

“They headed off for more wood,” Han muttered after a moment, and she tilted her chin off. “You alright?”

“I’m okay,” she said, wiping her eyes and exhaling. “Thank you. I’m okay.”

“Good,” he said firmly, and he kissed her on the forehead. “Now. You can check me off the list, alright? What else’ve we got going on today.”

Chapter Text

He was at work deep in the Falcon when she made her appearance at the very end of the day. Yes there were tons of external repairs that need to happen, no this was not the time to fix some deeply-rusted crappy wiring in the belly of the ship that he’d been putting off for months. And yet. Here he was, playing the long game. Stretching out his time he’d be necessarily tethered to her, accidentally keeping his ship not quite in shape for hyper – just trips from the surface of the forest moon to Home One’s orbit.

I’m gettin’ there, I’m gettin’ there, he insisted when Chewie whined. Look, when else are we gonna get the chance to do the deep work on someone else’s dime? Anyway, outside stuff’s more superficial, yeah she’s beaten up but it’s what’s inside that counts. And right now her inside’s are not what they should be, I’ll tell you that. And that ain’t even on Lando, for once – s’on you and me. A balancing act, really, ‘cause he wanted to prolong this sort of restful period if he could, but he needed to get his friend back to his family and sort out some old debts, too – not monetary but to other soldiers, people he wanted to help, he didn’t want to be lazy. Damn. A week since victory and already he was feeling lazy – and not liking that.

(Time was getting wonky, real wonky. His head was spinning just thinking about it. Okay – it’d been a week and then before that – ? He’d said he’d been putting off that internal work for a long time, but how long was that, really? Months? Year? Did the carbonite time count or what? Because on the one hand the wiring did get rustier but on the other it’s not ‘cause he made a conscious procrastination choice. Anyway this was left over from the trip. Bespin, before. One last project they never got to on the way there. He’d made sure there’d always be one more project, that it’d never be clear that time together was winding down, as if if he kept finding shit to fix they’d never meet the fleet at all and she’d be all his and there’d be no Jabba. Like one of his hands was making a rope ladder to climb out of something and the other was undoing every knot.)

(She’d made sure there was no Jabba. One hand making a rope ladder, one hand was undoing it, and Leia’s hands had a military-grade grappling hook and was swinging to grab him, yanking him with her into the future and leaving their enemies in the dust. So much faster and more effective than he could ever imagine – he was a land speeder, she was space travel, he was a punch and she was a pistol. His pistol.)

Han thought she’d had meetings until late, said as much, not bothering to knock up his goggles. She said she’d had them — then asked if he knew what time it was, did he realize it was very late? He grunted as a no. Time didn’t exist this deep.

“Things went well,” Leia was saying idly, smoothing the trousers of her jumpsuit. “It was an effective day. Difficult, but effective. We finalized some P.O.W. exchanges, which of course was a great relief, and I look forward to notifying the families and coordinating their travels and, hopefully, pensions. But I was also tasked with guiding a splicer to hack into Imperial data about what Rebel prisoners were on board the second Death Star upon its explosion, and then I had to write the letters – that was much more difficult. It’s a difficult question, the price, the sacrifice.”

“Sounds tough,” he mumbled, leaning deeper into the mess of wiring. Was it disrespectful that sometimes when she talked like an expert it sort of got him hot for her? Okay, a lot of the time – meaning he didn’t really listen so much to what she was saying. The worst was when she was angry about something, indignant, it was nice when it wasn’t at him but even if it was it was still sexy – she’d get all fired up and pissed and all he could think about was how much he wanted her.

“It was. Sometimes I think High Command isn’t so much impressed by my writing – though they should be, it’s excellent, if nothing else at least comparably, have you read Madine’s memos – but rather convinced I have some kind of feminine touch that makes me especially compassionate and well-suited to this kind of thing.” She snorted a little. “Because I’m such a gentle, sensitive person.”  

“Sure ain’t gentle with me,” he managed to drawl. Of course, having her wasn’t in the cards for today, for reasons that he couldn’t help sort of chuckling at. Maybe tomorrow, but last night she’d demurred. When he’d asked that time? she’d flushed crimson and confessed, More like I tried to, ah, clean things up a bit, or perhaps more than a bit – for – ah – a change, now that we’re – I don’t know, it was silly – and, well, I suppose I’m not especially adept with that sort of thing as it’s instead resulted in an especially nasty patch of razor burn.   

(He’d guffawed, he couldn’t help it, though he assured her he’d liked things the way they were. It was just – hardy, badass, no-nonsense Leia, awkwardly figuring she needed to shave down there in order to be sexy now that she had a lover but botching it because she didn’t know how – there was something hilarious about that, no doubt. Like Leia play-acting at being some random anxious girl getting ready before a date on in a film.)

“Cute. Ah – I’m sorry. I’m boring you. I’m unsettled. I talk when I’m unsettled.”

“Unsettled? How d’you mean?” Unsettled obviously wasn’t sexy – just made him worry for her, his stomach tighten with a primal instinct to look out for her.

“Would you mind turning that thing off for a second,” she asked, nodding at the equipment.

“Fine.” He put it all down. Had half a mind to make a comment about how she just thought she could summon an audience with him whenever she liked — then he realized that, well, she could. He would drop anything for her, even if that embarrassed him a bit. She could summon him whenever. She had that power over him, always had. “What’s up?”

He hoped she didn’t want to talk about the half-spat they’d had earlier about sleeping arrangements. It was stupid and they both knew that, they could just move on and behave better next time, no need to dissect the whole thing. And she didn’t, it seemed like. Because as she sat down on a nearby crate she looked contemplative and asked, “Something you said, a few days ago, the day of the explosion, has been eating at me.”

“I said a lot of things.”

“It was what you said about not getting in the way. Did you mean that?”

His first thought was total alarm like are you kidding me you love him anyway, second was maybe this was about the Force like her wanting to be a Jedi, it’d been on her mind nightly, mostly ‘cause Luke was forcing it to be, third was that he didn’t know what she was up to and that made him wary. “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t.”

She nodded to herself, then asked, “Did you really think I might want that?”

“How do you mean?”

“Did you really believe I might be in love with Luke and would want you to step aside,” she clarified.

“I told you, I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it.”

“I had told you I loved you multiple times by then. That I was in love with you. We had slept together.”

“You said to me that you loved him.”

“You asked and I said yes but I thought it was obvious that that wasn’t romantic — how could it romantic? When I had told you that I loved you?”

“You said you loved him,” Han repeatedly stubbornly. “You coulda led with like a brother.”

“You said I loved him and I agreed. You raised the notion and you took my confirmation as a sign that you should step aside, meaning when you raised it you thought I loved him romantically, before I said anything to confirm or deny that.”

Han pinched the bridge of his nose. “Got a point in there somewhere, sweetheart?”

“Why did you think I loved him romantically?”

“Why does it matter? You don’t, right?”

Of course not. Which I have always thought obvious but I can almost slightly understand why you might not feel that way, might not think it obvious. Almost. But what I feel very confused about is how you might think that now, after everything. I thought you and I understood each other. That we were together.”

“We are together,” Han said simply, peering at her curiously, a little alarmed. “Right? I wanna be together, that’s for sure. Okay? You wanna define things, sweetheart, I can understand.” Yeah, he could understand that – he’d known his fair share of women who wanted to put a label on things – maybe this was as simple as that. “Far as I’m concerned, we’re a couple now.”

“It’s not that I’m some insecure girl who wants to define things,” Leia said, annoyed and apparently seeing right through him immediately. “I just don’t understand why you — I mean I think it’s very generous and kind that you wouldn’t want to get in the way of my happiness but I don’t understand…”

“What would you want me to do, huh? Say fuck what you want, ‘cause I want you?”

No. That isn’t what I said.”

“Well tell me what you mean then, don’t play coy.”

“I don’t feel good about the fact that I can tell you I love you and show you I love you with words and actions and yet you immediately jumped to a conclusion that I wanted to be with someone else.”

Han took a deep breath. “Alright. First of all: last time you saw him, he left you and then you were weeping. Weeping – I’d never seen you like that. And you just kept repeating you couldn’t tell me, tell me why. What the hell was I supposed to think about that?”

“But then we slept together. That night.”

“Yeah, princess, the thing is, that doesn’t — look, it means something, to me, with you. But as proof that you and Luke didn’t just break up or confess your love or something, it doesn’t hold up like that. Sometimes sex is just sex.” He tried to frame it as gently as possible, but that only pissed her off more.

“I’m not a child. I’m not sentimental.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“How often is sex with me just sex, exactly?” Leia demanded. “What are the qualities? Is it only just sex in a hut or from behind or on unusual furniture? What about if I’m crying?”

“Kriff! Don’t put words in my mouth, I didn’t say any of that!”

“I thought that night was — exceedingly intimate. And tender.” She pressed her fingers to her lips and shook her head. “Apparently not, if you could think I was pining for someone else throughout. I feel very foolish.”

“That’s not — that’s not what I meant. Look, you’re taking this way out of context, okay? I love you, I love having sex with you — er — making love to you—?” he tried hopefully.

Never say that again, that’s not what I want.”

“The whole Luke thing doesn’t have a fucking logic, okay? You obviously love him. I don’t feel threatened by that. Or if I do I know that’s stupid. Okay?”

“But what you said—”

“Forget what I said, Leia. I stay stupid shit.”

“I know.”

“Look — sometimes, it’s just — it’s pretty hard to believe, okay, that I just — get you. That I get to be with you. That of all the — princes and Jedi and heroes in the galaxy you somehow got tricked into picking me,” he said haltingly. “Can’t blame me for worrying that one of these days you’re going to come to your senses.”

He tried to give her a crooked grin, then coughed and rubbed his neck, embarrassed and flushed. And then, in her Leia way, there she was, rising up and taking his hands and looking up at him even as he tried to avoid eye contact.

“I don’t know if you’ve finally realized, but I’m actually a very intelligent woman. You’ve never been able to fool me. You’re certainly not pulling one over on me now.”

She purses her lips together, contemplative.

“I choose you every hour of every day, actively, affirmatively. The whole six months without you, I woke up every morning and selected the ache of loving you. I’m not a moron, Han. I haven’t been conned. You won me fair and square, flyboy.”

He gave a stiff nod, almost uncomfortable with how much he needed her words, then pointed at her forcefully. “You too, alright? You think I don’t get it, with the Vader stuff – I do get it, and I’m not being tricked.”

“That’s a little different,” she began slowly.

“No it’s not, it’s not different – look, if you get to give me a talk about how much you love me you better accept that I’m crazy about you. Otherwise no deal. I mean it.”

“You’re incorrigible,” she sighed, but she beamed and rested against him as he held her from behind, her arms grasping his arms grasping her. She swayed them back and forth a bit, sighing again. “It’s just strange. It’s strange getting to touch you whenever I want. Having that access and being casual about it, when for most of knowing you I organized every bit of physical contact strategically.”

“Strategy pay off?” he asked.

No, it didn’t, because it was designed to not give you the wrong idea, and instead I became swept up in the wrong idea too, so much so that it became the right one. It’s still strange to look at you and think of you as mine. Like the physical, corporeal you. You don’t understand what it was like thinking of you for months knowing what it was like to touch you, being unable to touch you.”

“Well now you can touch me all you want.”

“It’s just difficult. To negotiate being – being a couple, suddenly. In the world, as opposed to secluded away en route to Bespin. I’m still always surprised when we’re alone now.”

“I’m not.”

“No? Not even a little?”

“Saw it coming a mile away.”

“You did not.”

“Yeah I did.”

“You did not, you were going to leave me. You were going to leave me at Bespin,” Leia pointed out, not unkindly. “You couldn’t have thought we ever would be a – couple.”

“You gotta lose the hesitation and just go with it, baby, if you want people to be convinced.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

“Sure – hey, you see that powerhouse over there? Yeah – we’re a couple alright.

“You make it sound dirty!”

“That’s just my voice, sweetheart.”

“I’m right though. You never thought.”

Han frowned. “It’s complicated, I guess. Maybe I never thought we’d be a couple but I knew I cared about you a whole lot.” He didn’t know how to explain – that leaving her in his mind was the best expression of loving her. That in his book the way people worked was they did what it took to survive, no matter the cost, and that was just the way it was. It wasn’t betrayal, it wasn’t heartbreak, it wasn’t even surprising – it was just human nature. And that turning himself in, acting against his interest in survival, was in a sick, weird way the most loving thing he could think of – would have ever done, really, for anyone. Turning himself in to Jabba so he wouldn’t be putting her life in danger with his bounty – resisting every bone in his body screaming to him to survive, survive – that was what love was. So maybe he wasn’t able to see them as a couple, but he was able to see himself acting with love for her.

“I care a lot about you,” she agreed. “We’ll figure this out. We’ll start with you not assuming I want to be with my brother.”

It was before I knew he was your brother!”

She made a show of rolling her eyes, then steadied herself and turned to face him. “Do you want me to get my quarters reconfigured so that they’re yours as well? And before you say you don’t care just know that I stand by what I said this morning, about it being improper for you to be coming in and out of mine when they’re mine alone.”

“Let’s not go back into this. You really wanna reopen this fight?”

“We can’t just leave it unresolved.”

“Why not?”

“I understand if you think it’s too much too fast, or too much commitment. But I don’t want the ‘us’ we negotiate to just let things lie when they’re complicated. It’s not open, it’s not communicative.”

“Maybe keepin’ the peace is a virtue. You consider that?”

“I don’t want to keep the peace. I want to keep you.”

“Nice wordplay – but didn’t we just say you had me, and I had you, and all that?”

“I came to you with this Luke thing because of that fight. Now that the Luke thing is resolved, can’t we resolve the fight?”

“Fine. Okay. Fine.” I don’t want to keep the peace, I want to keep you. If talking everything out was how she had to keep him… “Look – it’s nothing to do with commitment, okay? I’m just – not a huge fan of the people you work with. Not exactly desperate to register with them as Mr. Princess to get my palm’s print added to your clearances. Not because of you. Just don’t love – them. The idea of them thinking about, talking about us. Alright?”

She nodded slowly. “We should make a life together. Rather than me making space in my life for you,” she proposed carefully.

A life together. Shit. Did she know, what she did to him, how she had this way of making big sweeping statements without shame that fully swept him away, the stuff he only knew how to articulate when he touched her?

“Yeah,” he allowed, impressed. “That’s about it exactly.”

“About, or exactly?” she teased automatically.

“Fuck o-off,” Han sing-songed, squeezing her playfully. He felt light, almost. But then – “Though wait – if we need a thing our own, not making space in each other’s, what’s that mean for the Falcon? We gotta find some neutral ground to sleep?”

“That’s different,” she insisted immediately. “You’re the ship’s captain and it’s yours to fly, but you’ll have to give me say in where we’re going.”

Like on all those old missions, he thought – her giving the objective, him figuring out how to make it happen. Her naming the location, him navigating how to get them where they were needed most. Where they’d be back to back in a surprise ambush, playing off each other’s strengths, shouting each other instructions, taking out each other’s threats – perfect partners, perfectly in sync.

“Just name the destination, sweetheart. I’m ready.”    

Chapter Text

It wasn’t typical that Luke be greeted upon entering the Falcon with an “Oh, fuck,” but then again it wasn’t totally atypical, either. But what was atypical was finding the ship’s captain groaning Oh fuck! not from underneath some panels or deep in a thicket of wiring but instead seated in the booth positively surrounded by datapads, empty kaffe mugs littered about, gnawing on a stylus. “Shit, kid, what time is it,” Han mumbled, raking a hand through his hair almost violently and only glancing up briefly.

“Believe it or not, it’s later than we said. Which was actually intentional, but because I assumed Leia would be working late, not you,” Luke pointed out, balancing a tray awkwardly as he shuffled under its weight up into the lounge. “I brought dinner though – three meals from mess and then a bunch you can hold as leftovers. Can you make some room for me to put it all down?”

“What? Oh – sure, sure– yeah, let me just – thank you, hey, thanks. Gotta get a proper galley in here one of these… lemme just…” Han scrunched up his face and rubbed his eyes with his fists, then started shuffling his things into a messy stack and dumping them onto the dejarik table. “Glad you’re here. F’real. Must’ve lost track of the…”

“What are you working on? And where is Leia?”

“I’m – they got me headin’ this raid on the Coruscant mission, then if that weren’t a bitch enough, one of my guys is injured, concussion out drinking, so I gotta reorganize the whole unit breakdowns… fuckin’ mess, all this paperwork, I don’t do this shit...”

“And yet, here you are,” Luke pointed out, setting out dinner on the table. “Doing this shit.”  

“Yeah, well. I don’t like it.”

 “Face it, Han. You’re practically reformed. Where did you say Leia is at?”

“Where do you think? Still working. Bet someone called in a last minute super urgent super emergency meeting that she couldn’t say no to. Her damn bleeding heart. You know how she is. Want me to comm her?”

“Nah, I’m sure it’s important.”

"Really? Are you sure?”

“I’m sure it’s important to her,” Luke clarified, grinning a little. “Wait – what about Chewie?”

“Oh, you’ll love this, get a load of this – meetings.”

“Chewie – is in meetings?” Luke echoed skeptically.

“Oh yeah – Her Highness and I got into it the other day about what the Rebellion was doing about the situation on Kashyyyk?”

“What is the Rebellion doing about the situation on Kashyyyk?”

“Jack shit, that’s what. We really went at it, wasn’t pretty – anyway, she says she agrees with me now, so you know, to make it right she sets up all this meetings between some high-ranking officials and Chewie and then the little Wookiee rebel cell Kashyyyk’s got. All hours, ‘cause of the time difference. Which is supposed to be what I wanted, but feels a helluva lot like a punishment, I’ll tell you that. Chewie. Meetings. I don’t envy him.”

“I’m sure she’s just trying to help,” Luke said automatically, but Han snorted.

“Really? Are you sure? You’re sure she’s got no other motivations, none.”

“I take it back,” Luke allowed. “Anyway – there should be leftovers enough for both of them. What’s the thing about hot food and waiting, right? That you don’t have to?”

“Thanks, kid, I’m starving,” Han grunted, sliding into the booth and digging in immediately. “Chewie’ll turn up here sooner or later. Your sister too.”

Luke widened his eyes and smiled. “I heard that she’s living here now full-time. Is that true?”

“Where’d you hear a thing like that,” Han drawled, but his eyes were dancing.

“Well for one thing, her pins are all over the place.”

“Be glad it’s just her pins.”

“It’s so funny,” Luke said as he began to eat. “On the one hand, it’s been a long time coming – like the longest time, actually. But on the other hand, it’s still easy to forget. I keep expecting to run into you guys shouting at each other.”

“Still plenty of shouting. Just more variety with the cause.”

“Sure.”

“But hey – think it feels fast to you? Try losing six months in the middle, huh?” Han pointed out. “Not that I mind fast – waited around for her long enough.”

“Well, but that’s the thing,” Luke said, considering his friend. “I didn’t know.”

Han grunted and frowned, confused. Confused and maybe – was that a little taken aback? Luke had never mastered the skill of reading into the micro-nuances of Han’s expressions. So many degrees of disgruntled and irked. So on the one hand, Luke thought maybe Han looked a little – hurt. But on the other hand, maybe he was just projecting how he might feel, having heard his – Aunt Beru had always said lady friend – princess-fighter-sparring-partner-lady-friend hadn’t told anyone they’d gotten together. He wasn’t Han.  

“She didn’t say anything. After – when we reunited, on the Falcon, and then in the ensuing months. I was training for a long stretch of time, to be fair, but… nothing.”

Han’s expression flickered. “That so.” Another imperceptible change in emotion. Han and Leia deserved each other – Leia was simultaneously the most communicative and the least understandable person he’d ever met. So emotionally open, just not emotionally transparent. Maybe when the two of them talked, they saw some kind of closed captioning appear that no one else could see?

(Although he could see the closed captions, he knew, if he really needed to. Like, in case of emergencies. In case of emergencies he could see the closed captions: feeling Han’s pain, forcing Leia to hear him. But that was – emergencies only, not something he would just turn on willy-nilly.

Did Leia not know how to turn off that power? Was that why she was so perceptive, so persuasive? Leia who was his sister – was that the Force flowing through her, making Han legible?)

“I found out after the rescue, actually. That being said, before that, she was really – I mean, she didn’t show it precisely, on the outside. You know how she is. She was very determined about things. She never gave up on you, not once – even when others were sure they might be looking for a body, she was certain we would get you back. But she did seem hollowed out.”

“Why’re you telling me this?”

“My point being – I thought she was just shaken up because she felt guilty, like maybe you’d fought right beforehand? And then I saw you two kiss, on the skiff after Jabba’s, and at first I was so mad at her – for not telling me, not telling anyone?”

“Chewie and Lando knew.”

“Not telling me then – but when I confronted her about it? Her whole thing was – she said it was like a – a soap bubble, she said. And she felt that by speaking about it, she’d jinx it. Burst it. That it was really special to her and she didn’t want to spoil it by talking about it. But you know, way more articulate.”

Luke could see, very very faintly, Han’s slight twitch of a grin, even as he mumbled as if so unmoved, “Got a point there?”

“I guess it got lost in the telling.”

“You’re a real romantic, huh farmboy? You like this kinda thing.”

“Maybe I am, but I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t smile a little over a big reveal of the hero saving the damsel and revealing herself as, Someone who loves him.”

“I’m the damsel in this picture?”

“I guess you are. You have to admit it’s something like a fairytale in retrospect.”

“Yeah, buried alive in a tomb of stone was all romance.”

“Didn’t she declare her love right in front of a room full of Imperials?”

Han snorted. “She tell you what I said back?”

“No… what did you say back?”

“I’ll tell you this – not so romantic.” Han shook his head, somewhere between a smirk and a scowl. “It’s all surreal, ain’t it? Lookin’ back? Tell you what: you know what to me’s the craziest part? The most fairytale?”

“The Falcon staying even partly intact through all this?”

“Fuck off. No. Better.”

“Tell me,” Luke said, unable to hide his grin – he missed this, he missed his friend, having friends, but also still this friend in particular, feeling on the inside with this friend, not on the outside of the Han and Leia knot. He loved that his friends were happy, it was just – well, a part of him was still that Tatooine farmboy, assumed that once two people found each other, that’d be it, they’d just plant roots and settle down and start a private private life some place new – but that was crazy, they were Han and Leia.

“The fact that Darth’s big idea was to get to ya through me and Leia.” As he said it, Han laughed once, loud, the way he did rarely – a big, smirking grin alight on his face.

Luke laughed too, surprised. That was the best part? The craziest? “What do you mean?”

“Like – that he tried to make us hurt to get to you. Me – some nobody. Love the fact of Papa Darth keepin’ tabs on your buddies, who you’re hangin’ out with – I know it’s serious and damn if that scan grid didn’t hurt like hell, worst of my life but…” Han laughed again, hard, his eyes dancing, and Luke laughed again, shocked. “Call me crazy, but the thought of that guy with his…” He shook his head, then did a real quick heavy breathing impression: “Hnnnn… which of the rebel scum…. Hnnn… should I invite to my son’s…. Hnnn… birthday party… ha!

“Han!” Luke gasped, shocked and laughing in spite of himself, eyes wide. “They tortured you!”

“Yeah, well, gotta be able to laugh about it, right?” Han declared theatrically, kicking back. Mostly an act, Luke knew – he knew from Leia how badly he’d been injured, could guess at the emotional trauma that accompanied the physical scars. “C’mon. Lurin’ you in not with money or blackmail but the power of friendship? That’s some spectacularly corny shit.”

“Han!” Luke choked out, laughing harder and struggling for breath. “You’re…! That’s so…!”

“Power of friendship. No wonder he was all mush under that damn suit. Sick sappy bastard.”

“Mush... corny... Papa Vader…” Luke managed between gasps, practically tearing up.

“Don’t tell your sister I said any of that,” Han demanded, pointing at Luke fiercely. “That kinda talk’s not for her. She doesn’t go for that.”

“I won’t, I won’t…” Luke promised, slowly getting his breathing under control.

“I’m serious – not a word.”

“Both irreverent but I will say she does have you wrapped around her finger––”

‘Scuse me?

“Not any more so rather than the rest of us – the whole galaxy has her around their finger, it’s just––”

“Nah, you’re wrong. The whole galaxy has Leia wrapped around them,” Han observed, shaking his head. “Helluva woman, your sister. Quite the handful. Not a lot of men could handle her.”

“You’re holding up okay?” Luke teased, finally getting his breath under control. “How old are you now?”

“Can it, junior. You may have noticed I haven’t brought up a certain kiss shared between a set of twins. You’re welcome for that – can change real fast.”

Luke grimaced. “Alright, alright. Not a word on however old you are.”

“I gotta ask though – how’s it feel? I mean… once a crush, now a twin...”

Luke shook his head a little. “I don’t know. Not quite like that.”

“You gonna give me what she said? That whole I’ve always known?”  

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.” How to explain – that finding out he was Leia’s brother was something like a relief, because it determined definitively who they were to each other. He knew he had these loving feelings for her, these wondrous, shocked feelings of being amazed by her, of thinking she was otherworldly – not sexual though, never sexual – and it was complicated and confusing, how to be her friend like that, how to have such a serious affection for her. After his family was lost he clung fast to anyone who could be family: first Ben Kenobi, for a second, then her and Han. Like he loved with his whole heart and in a world where people were falling away so fast the entire contents of his heart were directed at such a small amount of people. Two people. As a brother he could do that. He could love Leia deeply without it being suspect. Without people accusing it of being sexual.

Because one thing he knew was that it wasn’t sexual. Probably the most confusing part, actually, how non-sexual it had been once. If he let people think he had a crush on her it was because he sort of thought, maybe this is what a crush is: when you think someone is beautiful and intelligent and you want to be around them all the time and they’re the opposite gender of you, all those factors add up to produce a crush. Like Leia was objectively his perfect girl – a composite of parts that should have added up to crush or romance and instead added up to affection. Being her brother made that easy to understand. He felt that way because he was her brother. Because he’d always known he was her brother. That’s why he wasn’t attracted to Leia against all odds. Because he was her brother.

(And he especially used to especially appreciate when his sister’s boyfriend wore his tight bloodstripes because they were indicators of his bravery and he was just so proud to have such a brave pal.)

“Hey. You’ll find a girl you aren’t related to one of these days, huh?” Han promised, giving him a lazy grin.

Luke swallowed and nodded. “I’d like to think I’ll find someone. Someday.” He wished Leia were here. She’d be able to read him. She’d pick up on the shift from a girl to someone and gently nudge him into a conversation he didn’t know how to have with himself.

“Plenty of people in the galaxy,” Han declared casually, maybe too casual, nodding firmly and reaching for his comm. “Alright, it’s been long enough. Let’s see where Leia’s at, huh?”

A girl to plenty of people. Maybe Han was more perceptive than he gave him credit for.

Maybe he was really perceptive – had the Force, even – or else a sixth sense for princesses, because just as he grabbed the thing, there was the banging of tiny boots storming up the ship’s ramp and then a huffy, tired Leia, arms crossed, braids foofy with the mess of having tugged at it all day, annoyed and exhausted – only to brighten considerably when she saw the two of them sitting with dinner.

“Are you happy to see us, or to see food?” Luke teased, rising to embrace her.

“No reason a girl can’t appreciate both. I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting. No, scratch that – I’m so sorry other people have kept me such that you’ve been kept waiting. I have done nothing wrong – hi, hello, it’s good to see you,” she said kindly, kissing Luke’s cheek as they hugged.

“Nothing for me?” That was Han, leaning back with his hands clasped behind his head and smirking at her.

“Patience, flyboy,” she teased, releasing Luke, grabbing a roll and stuffing a hunk of it into her mouth before tossing her arms around Han’s neck and kissing his cheek, grinning.

“Cute,” Han said, rolling his eyes and pulling her onto his lap as she shrieked.

She swallowed, grinning. “I’m multitasking.” And kissed him fully, before clapping her hands together and taking in the table. “I’m glad you two didn’t wait. That wasn’t a dig. I mean it. I’m starving.”

Luke watched them, not sitting back down, smiling a little: Han’s arms around her waist as she settled into his lap, Han then rubbing her shoulders, her hungrily digging in and beginning to rant about her day. They were so unbelievably different. They fit so well together. They’d found each other by accident – someday, could he find someone by accident? Could he be a Jedi and find someone by accident, would the Force let him?

(It would have to, because he was going to let Leia.)

“But what about you, Luke? How was your day?”

“What about my day?” Han was grumbling in her ear.

You have all night to tell me all about your day.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes – and I promise I will ensure your stress is alleviated.”

“Will you now?”

“Privately. Tell me Luke. Are you terribly busy as well?”   

He knew from seeing them in public that they were only like this is private: that lap-sitting and back-rubbing and whispering and innuendo were not part of how they carried on publicly mostly, he suspected, because of Leia’s preferences, though Han wasn’t an especially public person either, he knew. And that felt good: being part of their private, being part of the private them. The three of them, a family.

“Not that busy,” Luke admitted. “I was supposed to have a hearing, about my dereliction of duty – about going AWOL, getting deliberately captured. But then it became very clear that they were in over their head, with the conversation about the Force…”

“Oh, I heard about this,” Leia interrupted, nodding vigorously. “I got a memo, about an upcoming briefing…?”

“Right, yes, so – we’ve rescheduled the hearing so that I and hopefully some historians we can extricate from Coruscant can do a comprehensive briefing about the Jedi and the Sith.”

Leia nodded slowly. “And have you told them…”

“No. I haven’t told them about Anakin being Vader. Per your request.” Luke cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I will tell them that he was redeemed. But I won’t tell them that he was our father.”

Leia looked away, returning to her dinner. “Good. I think that’s for the best. For now. Good. Especially – ah. Especially when there’s such conflicting information out there about the nature of the Jedi. Making it difficult for people to. To understand.”

“We did make a trade…” Luke prodded gently, and Leia groaned.

“What trade?” Han demanded, frowning.

“Do we have to do this now? I had such a long day…” Leia murmured.

“Just a little bit. Just the fun stuff. I promise,” Luke insisted.

“Alright, alright,” Leia sighed, standing up. “What do you need me to do?”

“Just come on over here,” Luke said warmly, trying to get a smile out of her. “I promise, I’ll make it fun tonight. Han, do you still have that blast helmet?”

“What trade?” Han asked again, sour, cleaning up dinner. “And yeah, it’s over there.”

“I promised Luke I’d participate in some exercises if he deferred to my wishes with regards to publicizing our paternity,” Leia said, retrieving the helmet and frowning again. “It wasn’t the best compromise I’ve ever reached.”

“But we reached it,” Luke pointed out eagerly, and he squeezed her shoulder. “And I’m really glad about that.”

“Uh-huh…” Leia said, fiddling with her hair. “Alright, Skywalker. What do you have for me?”

“I always forget you weren’t here for this – it was on our way to pick you up,” Luke said, smiling at her as warmly as possible. “It was a little exercise Obi-Wan had me do, right here on the Falcon.”

“No meditation today?” she asked skeptically, affixing the helmet onto her head.

“No. Not to start. I know you have a lot on your mind.”

“Thank you,” Leia said.

Luke procured the simulator, then handed Leia a saber. She stared at him. “Take it,” he urged. “Just for some practice. You’ll like it, I promise.”

Leia peered at it for a moment, skeptical, then carefully activated the saber. “It’s blue,” she said, taken aback. “I thought yours…?”

“Mine is green,” Luke assured her, revealing another saber on his belt. “That one. Ah. This one is just a spare. From Obi-wan,” Luke managed. “His.” A little white lie – surely if Leia knew it had been Anakin’s, she would be disgusted – but an unreasonable disgust, really, and it was helpful to have an extra to practice…

“Hm,” Leia said. She made a few elegant, careful strokes with the saber, considering it. “I like the sound,” she noted impassively. “It sounds the way doing itself sounds – the way it sounds to enact one’s will. That hum of action.”

“I like the sound too,” Luke said, smiling a little. “Here, let’s get your stance situated…”

(Another thing, too, he liked about being Leia’s brother. Han and her were so busy, even Chewie was so busy, with all they had to do next. And Luke? This big gaping shapeless adventure, of rebuilding the Jedi Order – something he had to undertake, allegedly, alone. Leia had the Force, he wasn’t alone. Leia could give shape to anything, she could do the impossible. She turned the vague, confusing, shapeless mass of the future into something. He could do anything with her. Even if she didn’t get on board completely, just knowing that there was someone else, who had the Force, who would hypothetically be invested in the reestablishment of the Jedi or at least in discovering more about them – that made the biggest difference. He’d felt so apart, recently – even at Jabba’s, it was like he suddenly was speaking a different language, all formal, all dressed in black. Where did those impulses come from, to not use contractions, to stand so sturdy and confident and save the day? It made him feel good, to be able to protect his friends, but it also made him feel lonely. Especially when his friends were now living together, working together. Whereas he was being called forward in hearings…

He’d worried their paths were diverging, that he’d be all alone again, but they were a family. The Force had brought the three of them together, wanted them to rely on one another. If she and Han married – when, really, surely it was a when even if they’d both deny it – then they’d really be one. They wouldn’t diverge too far. Leia was strong-willed and confident and she would do with her life what she wanted, but the Force was strong in her, and they wouldn’t diverge too far.)

“With the shield down?” Leia echoed, taken aback, making a few more elegant strokes with the lightsaber she didn’t realize had once been their father’s.

“Yep, so what’s going to happen is I’m going to set up the sim – and then what you’re going to do is use your feelings – the Force – to deflect the little blasts.”

“Use my feelings.”

“Use your instincts, then, if that makes more sense to you. Feel inside yourself, is what I mean. Concentrate, reach out, and block the blasts.”

“Without being able to see.”

“Without being able to see,” Luke repeated affirmatively.

“And you’re able to do this?” she asked skeptically.

“I am. And you are, too, I know it. Trust me,” Luke assured her, setting off the sim. “Shield down…”

Leia nodded and did so, igniting the saber again.

“Good, Leia. Now just… let down your mental shields… reach out...”

At first, too, it seemed he was right: although she was tentative at first, soon Leia was confidently deflecting, her movements round and almost dancer-like, but still like a viper, a looping, effective, elegant snake.

Luke clapped, ecstatic. “Fantastic, Leia, that’s wonderful! Keep it up, don’t put your guard back up, just stay open...”

And then there was Han, having re-entered without a word, looking on, impressed but skeptical. “She’s got it memorized,” Han noted idly.

“What?” Luke said, snapping his gaze away from Leia’s swirling movements for a second.

“The pattern of the sim. She’s got it memorized,” Han repeated, nodding. “S’real clever, don’t get me wrong – very impressive. But it’s memorized.”

“No it’s not––” Luke began defensively, but he cringed as Han swiftly chucked a bolt at Leia – it slammed against her and she yelped, knocking up the shield.

“Han Solo!” she exclaimed, turning off the sim and saber in turn and then lifting off the helmet.

“See what I mean?” Han said. “I’m not saying she doesn’t have the Force or whatever. Just not what makes her good at that. Bet she doesn’t even know she’s doing it.”

“Did you memorize the pattern of the sim’s shots?” Luke asked.

Leia blinked at him. “I don’t know. Maybe? I probably internalized it. Why?”

“That’s not – that’s not the point of the exercise,” Luke managed, sighing.

“I used my senses,” Leia said, frowning. “I let the rest of my senses other than sight be heightened, and used the information they collected to allow me to deflect the blasts.”

“But did you let go? To the Force?”

“I don’t really know what that means. I heightened my awareness – I made sure I was feeling everything...”

“You’re sort of supposed to – surrender your awareness. Give yourself over,” Luke explained awkwardly, struggling for the right words.

“Well,” Leia practically sniffed. “I’m not exactly the type to surrender my awareness. Especially not with times being what they are.”

“That’s sort of the point,” Luke continued. “That’s why it’s difficult.”

“Well, pardon me,” Leia snapped, frowning. “I find it very difficult to remain aware at all times, but apparently that’s cheating.”

“Oh boy,” Han muttered, grimacing, and Leia glared at him.

“Please spare us your commentary, flyboy,” she snapped.

“Nah, I think I’ll comment as much as I damn please, sweetheart,” he said, but it was just teasing, his smile at her lazy and crooked and calming her down.   

“It’s not cheating,” Luke insisted. “And I’m sure your ability to be so aware is a kind of use of the Force. It’s just not the use I wanted to focus on.”

“The giving yourself over use?”

“It’s the fundamental skill. The baseline.”

“Letting go isn’t exactly my strong suit,” Leia began, and then she whipped around and pointed at Han just as he opened his mouth, snapping, “Don’t you say a word, laser brain, not a word.” He gave her a who me? look, raising his hands innocently.

“That’s why you’ll train,” Luke said, pulling Leia’s attention back to him. “It isn’t supposed to come easily. That’s why we’ll practice, a little bit each night or so.”

She looked unconvinced. “I don’t know, Luke. I don’t think – maybe I’m not as ‘strong,’ or what have you…”

“We’re twins. That’s just sexist,” Luke teased, but her expression remained cross and tired.

“I made a deal and I intend to uphold my side of it,” she said warily. “But that’s all for now, Luke. That’s all I can promise.”

“You liked the saber, though,” Luke pointed out. “Didn’t you? You really took to it.”

“It’s a very – elegant weapon,” she agreed slowly, looking at the handle in her hand.

“You looked good using it,” Han offered, and though she shot him another glare, her expression softened. At first Luke had to wonder, did Han have to make everything sexual? But he could see, now, the way his off-kilter commentary relaxed Leia, brought her back from the brink of frustration or anger or fear. It wasn’t that that was as deep as his thoughts on the matter went – it was that he knew that was the best way to help Leia in the moment, what his own opinions were aside.

“Weren’t the Jedi celibate?” she murmured, turning the handle over in her hands.

“Not anymore, I don’t think,” Luke assured her. “Not under my rules, anyway.”

“That’s a shame,” she quipped, eyes twinkling. “I’ve got this terribly clingy lover I’ve been longing to let down easy.”

“Clingy!” Han exclaimed, mock-aghast. “Clingy!”

“Can you imagine?” Leia continued, smiling a little. “I’m so sorry, I can’t see you anymore I’ve got to join an ancient order.

“I think that’s why they started young,” Luke offered, smiling back and taking the saber from her after she’d held it out to him. “Let’s call it a night, okay? I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

(That, too, still surreal – how many nights had he walked back from the Falcon with Leia? Or at least made the motions to and pretended to be surprised every time she stayed behind…)

“Take it easy, kid,” Han said, raising a hand and nodding. “Thanks for the food.”

“Good night, Luke,” Leia said, embracing him warmly and kissing his cheek. “It was good to see you. You have to understand – all of this, it’s still very – ah, new to me. It carries – emotional weight. You must understand.”

“I understand,” Luke assured her, squeezing her shoulder. “Thanks for keeping an open mind.” When she opened her mouth, brow furrowing, he amended, “A somewhat open mind. A deal-honoring mind, how about.”

“That sounds about right,” she allowed. “Thank you for being patient.”

Luke thought about the massive stretch of future before the three of them, his shapeless one, its emptiness, its limitless possibility. He gave another small smile. “These days, I’ve got nothing but time.”

Chapter Text

Han still couldn’t believe he got to wake up like this. And this wasn’t even that exciting, not today at least – though he also couldn’t believe he’d had the distinct pleasure of waking up coming in the mouth of a princess, he really had to get around to paying her back on that one, though he had to admit the more he knew her the more he sensed she wouldn’t appreciate a surprise like that, his girl didn’t even like to be hugged from behind – his girl, his girl, that felt good, those words, his girl, like home, like sliding in home – she felt like sliding in home, sliding into her – but all this was morning wood talking more than anything, he didn’t always think of her in those terms – it felt crazy to wake up like this because of everything she was, because she was, was – just pretty damn extraordinary.

 On the way to Bespin he would’ve meditated on her looks for a bit – all that soft creamy skin, her heavy dark lashes fluttering on her cheeks as she dreamed – no, made lists in her sleep – and too, more on how it felt to feel her hair in a lumpy braid against him with her head resting on his chest – but that was because on the way to Bespin they’d just lie in bed, sometimes for hours, and she finally got to sleep, sleep heavily, as much as she needed, like she never got to – and so he’d have all this time, y’know, holding her, looking – but now he got maybe one second to consider his disbelief, because––

Beep - beep - beep!

There was her alarm, insistent and predictable and so fucking early these days. Leia smacked it and jerked up, squinting, then rubbed her eyes. “Ah… good morning.”

“Morning, gorgeous,” he said, grinning tiredly and kissing her. “Sleep alright?”

Leia glanced around, inspecting the room. “The blanket didn’t get kicked to the ground, I don’t appear to have punched you in the nose, and I don’t remember waking up in the middle of the night so – I’d call it a success.”

“Glad to hear it,” Han muttered, kissing her neck and then scooting off the bunk, stretching, yawning, naked, moving towards the fresher. “I tired you out, huh?”

“What really sets you apart is your creativity,” Leia observed drily, doing a big stretch of her own – folding herself in half to touch her toes, making him stop in his tracks to watch before saying, faux-scandalized, “Hey! Apart from who?”

Han hurried through his shower, knowing he’d have to make the kaffe afterwards – Leia could do a lot of things, but she was hopeless with the machine, royal something, or just her lack of patience, her insistence that things go according to the rules – but the label specifically says this ratio, Han, what do you mean you have to do a little more for it to be palatable, that’s ridiculous! Leia showered at night – she always had, she explained to him, because she used to like the luxury of letting all her hair air dry on a towel over her pillow. Now that she shared her bed with another person she would be considerate of their needs, she told him wryly, and not go to bed beside them with soaking hair – but the nighttime shower habit remained.

(At first he sort of hated that she’d get up after they’d made a mess of each other, but he’d grown to love how once his head was clearer after orgasm suddenly she’d emerge like a vision, toweling her hair then tossing it aside, snuggling up beside him all sweet and steamy and sighing… sex relaxes you I know, but it just riles me up, it makes me feel ramped up and wild, a shower relaxes me, it centers me, it brings me back to myself…

I make the pretty princess feel ramped up and wild, huh?

Yes – you make me feel like I’m jumping out of my skin. You make me feel the precise opposite of sleepy. It’s actually quite the hassle.

You like it.

Oh, I love it. That’s what makes it so inconvenient.)

Yeah. He still couldn’t believe it.

Han dressed quickly and found her in the booth, a hand mirror wedged up top and pins in her teeth. She gave him a nod as she kept braiding and he went to make kaffe, thinking all the while – Leia, Leia, Leia. He wondered idly what it would be like if she kept her nightly training up with Luke to the point where she could levitate the mirror, float the pins into place. Would he care? Would she use her free hands to multitask so she could hold a datapad?

She was so convinced all the freaky-deaky stuff would send him running – if not all that, then at least her parentage – that was the kind of thing she whispered about to him, late at night, I feel like I’m waiting for you to realize, waiting for you to come to your senses… as though one night you’ll process it, you’ll realize and then leave…

There’s nothing for me to realize.

That’s exactly what someone who hasn’t had a realization yet would say.

Yeah, or someone who has nothing to realize.

The two of them sat down for kaffe and toast and a bit of work, Leia frowning at her schedule – “I don’t understand how I can have taken part of two of the greatest beauracries – monarchy and democratic government – and still be astounded by the bureaucratic waste that occurs in this supposedly scrappy operation.”

“Wanna explain how come when I complain that they’re wasting our time it’s unfair and uninformed but when you do––?”

“You have to attend meetings in order to declare that they’re unilaterally unimportant. Is that your squad list for Coruscant-Plus?” Leia asked, peering over his shoulder.

(The spot was an Imperial black site – he didn’t even know the name yet – but the mission was starting on Coruscant to extract info about it first. A two-part deal – Coruscant-Plus, as Leia called it. A big, complicated, critical mission. They’d be under communications blackout, the whole thing. Leia was proud that he’d been selected to lead it, this complicated, difficult thing. He wasn’t exactly looking forward.)

(Not only in his usual way. Not just grumpy reluctance at being bossed around or positioned as some formal military leader. Maybe this felt kind of embarrassing to admit, but fuck it  – he liked this sort of weird quasi-domesticity, of them being busy all day, exhausting themselves, and then later exhausting each other. Waking up together. He wasn’t crazy about losing that so soon.)

“So far,” Han said, tapping a stylus and grimacing. “We lost a guy though – apparently he’s got some special technical expertise that’s badly needed elsewhere – so now I got another spot to fill.

“Let me see,” Leia declared, taking it from him. “Hmm…” she said, frowning. “This is an excellent group…”

Was an excellent group,” Han grumbled.

“Oh – wait a moment. Where’s Dameron?”

“‘Scuse me?”

“Dameron. You should put him on there,” she said firmly, nodding and handing him back the datapad before gathering her things into a knapsack. “He’s an obvious choice. I’m surprised he wasn’t there already.”

“You think?” Han hedged

“Absolutely. I thought you liked him. You didn’t mind working with him on Endor,” she pointed out.

“Had it my head he was mustering out is all.”

“Really? I didn’t hear that. I can check for you,” Leia said, tugging on her boots and lacing them up as tightly as she could.

“Those the same ones?” Han interrupted, pointing as he changed the subject.

“Obviously. When would I have had time to place a custom boot order?”

Custom boot order. You just need shoes you don’t gotta wear three pairs of socks in!”

“The boots are the least of my problems. If you think this is bad, you should’ve seen what it was like to try to acquire a menstrual cup.”

“You’re on the damn high command, they got you a dress for that holo you recorded, could get you some fucking shoes that fit.”

“When you find a Rebel cobbler, let me know.”

“A what?”

“A cobbler. Now listen, I won’t be back til very late tonight so you and Chewie should do dinner or whatever without me, I’ll eat––”

“A what? And don’t say you’ll eat when you won’t.”

“A cobbler, a cobbler, a person who mends shoes, it doesn’t matter and I will eat. I have to go. Request Dameron. That’s my recommendation.”

“Alright, alright. Go on now.”

“I love you very much,” she said firmly, shrugging on her knapsack. She always said it like that, like a password or a charm against bad luck – something about superstition, about separations and last words.

“Yeah, yeah. See you tonight.”

And then she was gone, practically jogging across Home One’s hangar even though she was early. I like to get there before anyone else. I like to be in command of a space.

Han puttered around a bit before heading off to his first meeting of the day, crossing paths with Chewie briefly as he did. Thinking about this long mission that he was leading, going on without her, the communications blackout – he knew he’d be kidding himself to call it a gig. And he’d enlisted, which meant he was officially not taking gigs but doing his job. That was on purpose. But anytime Luke or Lando ribbed him about his career, he tensed up. He wanted to be useful and effective, and do what he was best at. And a lot of times that was helping the rebels. For a few years, in fact. And this mission fell under that category too. He had to hand it to Mothma or Rieekan or whoever had put him up for this one – it was a great job for him. But as he sat at a little desk sifting through new intelligence, he had to wonder what he’d do when jobs like that ran out. When the government changed over and demilitarization became a priority, he would…?

But that was like a year from now, according to Leia. If everything went smoothly. Hells, he’d never had this problem before and it was barely a problem. But he was so used to getting by – and to the Rebels getting by – by the skin of their teeth that even having the space to contemplate not just his immediate moves but more in the future was…

Uncomfortable? Uncomfortable.

He was jealous of the kid, honestly. Luke’s future – god, future, that sounded corny – was wide open too, he didn’t have a plan on how to restore the Jedi order, but he seemed fine with that. Confident the Force or some ghosts or whatever would guide him, exercising and doing research all day, calling it quits at 1700 each evening and teaching his sister late at night. As much as Leia worried about him – what are you going to say to the Council exactly, what kind of language are you going to use – he seemed pretty unperturbed. Whereas Han felt – not restless but pre-restless. Restless in advance. Like on edge, knowing he would become restless in about a year. Like back before all this when he’d be getting close to the end of one job and he didn’t have another one on the docket – the itch of wanting to know where he’d find his next meal, feed his lust for doing something.

It’d been easy as a kid. The goal was clear: get a ship and get off Corellia. Then: get a ship and get the girl off Corellia. Then, so quickly: pay back Jabba. And then years and years later, the old man, Alderaan, the princess and the kid… he couldn’t remember the last time he wasn’t hustling towards something.

But nah – there’d be that one moment. A second, really. After everything that had happened with Beckett and the girl and all the rest. After Vos was gone, his debt erased. After he’d found Lando and won the Falcon and he and Chewie had set course. That was the moment. He could do anything, could’ve done anything – that stupid kid version of himself, no baggage to his name, a damn good ship, a friend, debtless. What had he thought, then? What had he wanted to do?

Do it all over like an idiot. Headed straight to Tatooine. He had everything and he went and put himself right back in the middle of it ‘cause it wasn’t enough. If not for money (though money helped) then for the thrill. So stupid – that kid who could’ve gone anywhere and walked right into that disgusting disaster. Put himself in debt. For what?

(And how stupid had he been, too, not knowing all the ways bigshot buyers could be disgusting? Like, how did it take realizing his girl had been put in a metal bikini and auctioned to the highest bidder to realize that scum was scum was scum to women in particular? He didn’t know how to explain to Leia that half his delirious grief about feeling her in the thing and holding her wasn’t Jabba hurt Leia but they raped Qi’ra? Her frowning: They didn’t brand me, you kept murmuring in your sleep about branding? I promise I’m fine – it really could’ve been so much worse. But that was another story altogether. And that was grief he only had time for when he was delirious anyway.)  

For what? He dove right back in. Thrill. Usefulness. Being good at something. Leia through herself into dangerous missions even after she survived them against all odds…

But Leia was like some kind of scary muscular angel, punching people in the face for the gods, fighting for good. Not a great comparison.

Point was, he didn’t know if he trusted himself so well. To know what to do next, when next came. (But he trusted how he felt about Leia… maybe if he just evaluated everything with like, would Leia shout at me in a hallway on Hoth if I did this? that would help? Except at one point he’d done everything for which that answer was yes – it’d be damn hard to adjust to no…)

Speaking of Leia: there she was, messaging him.

- I’ve been thinking – before you leave, I need you to prepare a bulleted list of all the distractions you normally send me when one of us is bored. Enough to last the entire time you’re gone.

He sort of grinned absently.

- You’re really going to miss me, huh?

- Don’t get a big head about it.

- I can think of a few things I’d like in return.

A pause, then:

- N O

(This was regarding a discussion they’d had the night before.)  

- Don’t get excited.

- Han Solo under no circumstances am I letting you take dirty holos of me. None. End of discussion.

- Yet here we are discussing it.

- Do you know what a nightmare it would be if those were leaked? Absolutely not. Anyway it’s vulgar.

- Think you and I have different definitions of “vulgar,” sweetheart.

- Obviously. And I’d be mortified, too – just thinking of – posing – makes me embarrassed.

- Yeah? You turning red up at your little desk? Scandalized?

- I don’t think this makes me a prude! I think this is a very rational perspective. I think I’m with the majority of women on this. And anyway – you know as a public figure that I

- Wait, which is it: you’re a public figure or you’re nervous about taking ‘em.

- I’m not NERVOUS.

- You’ve always been nervous right before something that drives you wild.

- Pray tell how exactly would this drive ME wild? How exactly am I benefitting here?

- Can return the favor.

- I love you, but I have absolutely no interest in carrying around a holo of your erect penis. That has no appeal to me.

- … Harsh.

- It’s genitalia. It’s not especially ATTRACTIVE. It’s how you use it that makes the difference. Would you really find a comparable image of me anything but clinical and bizarre?

- Hey. That’s not even what I was thinking. It’d be you know. TASTEFUL. I’m not a pervert. Kriff. Just wanna remember my girl while I’m gone.

- Look – I’ll write you something, then. I think that’s a very generous compromise.

- You’ll WRITE me something. Bedtime story to tell myself before sleep?

-  How about an absolutely filthy letter about everything I’ll want to do to you when I see you next, on flimsi you can pocket. No danger of interception then. One copy.

- I’m more of a visual guy.

- Take it or leave it.

- It could even be in your basics. You’re overreacting.

- You’re unbelievable.

- Really? Feel like you should believe it right now.

- You know, I hope the brand-new rebel intern tasked with internal surveillance is getting a kick out of this exchange. Hi there, whoever you are. Please, let’s keep this between us three.

Han snickered to himself, shaking his head as he glanced at the chrono.

- OH: by the way – I pulled up Kes’s personnel file.

- Back to business?

- You must understand that every minute I spend messaging you adds another minute to the end of my day. And I thought you were a visual guy?

- Hilarious.

- Look: nothing indicates that he’s leaving and his schedule is clear enough. Everything else on it is lower priority. Submit a formal request for your team, I’ll make sure it’s approved.

- Huh. Okay. Maybe.

- ???

Han hedged, frowning and getting up to head to some training he was leading. Not his favorite thing, either. Though he did get a kick of how wide-eyed some of the privates got in front of him. Just hoped there were no random rogues trying to get into shape – they always fucked around. When he told people to lose the General, they’d taken to calling him Dad.

(Leia thought that was hilarious, but she didn’t know she was a part of it, too. Saw him on his comm while they ran laps and yelled out, Tell mom I say hi! Tell mom to pick up some freezepops at the store!

Or wait, yes she did. Because on Hoth he’d been running drills and she’d come up to him with a shipment order to sign and they’d bickered and Janson had joked Luke, is it hard for you when your parents fight, or are you used to it by now?

And Leia had snapped immediately, dry as anything with her eyes narrowed to slits, Don’t worry, Mommy and Daddy still love each other very much.)

He let some time pass before he replied, pulling together the group before him. Mostly folks he didn’t know, but Wedge and Luke were there and true to form, they both greeted him casually, “Hey Dad.”

Han glowered, said a few words, then sent everyone running before turning to his messages.

 - Kinda was thinking maybe I’d ask Lando.

 Leia’s response was immediate.

- LANDO

- Careful Your Worship, you’re in all caps.

- It wasn’t an accident!

- I think he’s proved himself by now!

- He has. Never will get approved. He’s too high-ranking, he has his own projects to lead.

- Why the strong reaction?

- You two together and nothing will get done.

- What?

- All that insufferable flirting. It’s so time-consuming.

- Me and Lando?

- It makes it impossible to get things done.

- Lando and ME

- He calls you baby more frequently than he does all of the women on base combined.

- You jealous?

- Very funny. I’m serious – just a fact – will not get approved. Damn – I have to go – talk soon.

- Alright. Love you. Don’t work too hard.

Han set the group on some more drills and frowned, raking his hand through his hair. He had no problem with Dameron at all. That wasn’t it. Actually, he really liked the guy, would definitely want him along if he had to spend three weeks with a small squad and no communications to anyone but their superiors. He was a funny guy, didn’t go for bullshit, and real eager to go for it when the odds seemed iffy. Kind of like himself, he guessed, but with more of a Luke or Leia attitude – not so jaded. They’d done some shots with a group at the Endor afterparty, and Han had possibly, he thought, crowed drunkenly about him being a man after his own heart after the other man complimented the Falcon.

Right, yeah. He remembered that. Because Dameron had whipped out this tiny little holo from his pocket and shoved it into Han’s hands. He looked at it: a tiny, tiny toddler wearing enormous goggles and running around with his arms outstretched, on repeat. Kes had declared, just as drunk and grandiose: “See that? That’s my boy. Loves flying more than anything, takes after his mom. And when I get home to him, I’m gonna tell him stories about that ship of yours – everything it can do! He loves stories about ships. And your ship has a lot of stories––”

(Han had interrupted to brag about the kessel run, which had been met with a rousing round of loud: we know, we know!)

“And – and I betcha he’ll say no way, Dad! He won’t believe it! And I’ll say nah it was true. I was there. That’s where I was, all that time.”

“Here, here!” someone had shouted, and they’d all drank again, and it had taken Han a little bit to realize he was still holding the holo, and that soft part of him kinda really didn’t want to send Dameron out on another long, dangerous, mission if he could help it.  

It was just – he didn’t want to make a big thing of it, like he’d still request him, he wasn’t that much of a bleeding heart, but – and he’d known Dameron had a kid, he remembered when he was born, back on Hoth, because he didn’t get approved for R&R until a few weeks later and there’d been a lot of risk involved in getting him the news and he remembered Leia ranting to him and Luke about how she had to defend Shara’s making contact with the base in front of High Command – they said it was too risky and not worth it because he’ll be visiting soon anyway, can you believe it! A man should know if his son is born. It’s that simple.

So he’d known, obviously. And he knew Shara a little, because she was a pilot – he’d given her a gruff, y’alright? when she’d returned after the baby’s birth and everyone had been congratulating her all day, clearing wearing her down and depressing her. She’d seemed to appreciate his alternate approach – weak smile, nodded a little. I’m fine. Thank you. He’d found himself thinking clearly, how could you have a baby during a war? And though Leia had admonished him for passing judgement he thought he could see a similar sentiment all over her face.

Now, though – seeing the little kid, the holo, it was just – well. He’d gotten the impression that the Damerons were like Leia – they’d keep fighting for everyone but themselves as long as they believed they could be useful, no matter what. That was just his take. But that meant he had a feeling that without crucial assignments and with a few well-placed comments, they’d probably find it in themselves to go home to their son if that’s what they wanted. Not like he was trying to orchestrate some whole thing, not at all. Not his business, not his problem. But he remembered how much he loathed the High Command members who indulged Leia’s selflessness, took advantage of it, and sent her on another and another and another complicated mission she would always accept immediately. He’d wanted to shake them, still did: don’t you know she’ll never say no?

And he suspected they did know she wouldn’t say no, and used that. And he hated that.

He didn’t want to be someone else’s High Command, taking advantage of someone’s unwillingness to put themselves first for once. Didn’t need a little kid to hate him. All that.

(He couldn’t tell Leia any of this, obviously.)  

So he did the next best thing: instead of just putting in the request like he did with all the rest, he asked Dameron to meet with him. Which felt awkward and weird and formal. And Han didn’t like talking to people. But.

He didn’t say anything about the baby, or mustering out, or anything like that. He just told Dameron he was looking for a last squad member and laid out the mission as clearly and honestly as he could.

“––Coruscant, and then we’ll touch down with Home One for a day and then we head to the site? Just to review,” Kes asked, nodding.  

 “Yeah. So the total time’s about three weeks.”

Kes nodded again, expression unreadable. “Comm blackout still apply to the layover on Home One?”

“Probably. But uh,” Han began, clearing his throat, “In terms of in-person… visiting – well, we gotta sleep somewhere that night.”

Kes laughed a little, taken aback but nodding. “Sure, sure.”

“I’m just anticipatin’ questions, that’s all!” Han insisted, putting up his hands. “Spend it placing sabacc for all I care. Gotta work during the day to transfer the information and repack but the night’s yours to do whatever the hell you want.”

“Nah, I appreciate it,” Kes replied, still amused. “You been telling that to everyone, or just the folks who’re spoken for?”

Han shift awkwardly. “Er…” and then Kes nodded in a slow, deliberate way.

“You didn’t have this conversation with everyone,” he observed, giving a half smile.

“Guy dropped out last minute. You get the specialty pitch for short notice, ” Han evaded.

“You pitch everyone on the mission?” Kes asked, raising his eyebrows. “That’s a nice new rebel courtesy. I mean, I’m enjoying it.”  

“I’m pitching you,” Han said forcefully. “Forget the rest.”

“Look, I don’t know if I gave off the wrong impression somehow on Endor, but I’m committed. I don’t need special persuasion – I am loyal, and I have been for years,” Kes said with a firm nod. “And I take pride in that.”

“Ain’t about loyalty,” Han said, taken aback. “It’s – m’just – look,” he said, lowering his voice. “I’m tryna give you an out.”

“An out?

“You’re fucking perfect for this mission, it’s the easiest choice I ever made, you’ll get approved in a second. But that doesn’t mean you should have to go.”

Kes gave a startled chuckle. “That’s exactly what it means, General.”

“Maybe technically, but not by my rules – look, normally I’d say forget it, but for whatever reason I’m stuck on this, so m’gonna be extra clear: know you’ve got a wife and a little kid, the war’s winding down, if you wanna call it sooner rather than later, I don’t wanna stand in your way. Alright? I – uh. Got some experience with dealing with people who don’t know how to say no.”

Dameron’s face looked like a cross between pissed and appreciative. He frowned deeply. “When Shara Bey and I joined up, it’s because we believed in the cause. If I’m perfect or whatever for an important mission, I’ll see it through. That’s the promise we made. If I’m called upon to serve, what, after all this time now I’m gonna say no?”

“Yeah, but you gotta say no eventually!” Han blurted out.

“Didn’t realize part of the mission was justifying myself to my superiors,” Kes observed drily. “Look, I joined up to make the galaxy a better place. I’m not done with that just yet. I will be, don’t I know it, but if this mission really needs me, then I’m not done yet”

“Sound just like her,” Han muttered under his breath.

“Sound like who? The princess?”

“Yeah,” Han admitted, folding his hands behind his head. “Keep coming back for more.”

“So do you,” Kes replied. “General. Kinda famous for it, remember?”  

Han sighed. “Guess you’re right. Kriff. Something in the water here?”

“Duty. Friendship. Honor. Hope. All that crap,” Kes joked. “Eventually you get so used to it you can’t even taste it.”

“Guess you’re right,” Han muttered, then nodded and clasped his hands together. “Alright. So. You in?”

“I’m in,” Kes said, and the two men shook. “You don’t have to tell me to consider the cost, alright? I got enough of that in here.” He thumped his chest, then rolled his eyes. “And from my wife. But she’s the exact same way, so she doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to scaling back on sacrifice.”

“Good to have you,” Han said seriously. “Real good.”

Han stayed a moment to put the request in, frowning a little. He felt awkward and a little embarrassed, honestly – who was he, trying to intervene with some other guy’s kid? At the same time, he kinda didn’t regret anything. He didn’t regret caring.

Abruptly, he noticed he had an unread message – it was from a bit ago, back when he was chatting with Leia – he’d said goodbye without reading her response. He opened it and grinned.

- Ha! You love me. How embarrassing for you.

He was tempted to reply what he was thinking: nah, not embarrassing, actually if you want to know it’s one of the best things about me, maybe the best thing about me, the kind of person you make me want to be.

Instead, he went with,

- Yeah, well. Don’t tell anyone. Got an image to maintain.

Her reply was instant, like she’d been waiting for him, and it made him laugh aloud:

- I do love that image. Well, what can I say? I’m a pretty visual woman.  

Chapter Text

It was a night that could’ve been like any other night, spent anywhere else in the galaxy – the group of then around the booth of the Falcon, too much food lifted from mess and smothered with hot sauce for edibility spread out before them, drinks and cards scattered. They could be on any moon or planet, or hurdling between the stars, but the inside of the Falcon didn’t know, didn’t care, was insulated from any exterior sounds or smells or weather… it was its own little planet, had its own atmosphere. And its own natives, too, Luke knew, although there were ways to gain citizenship if you hadn’t been born there. Through money, like Lando, or Han and Chewie’s luck. Through – well if not marriage, common law marriage, right, like Aunt Beru was always saying… (but she’s not wearing a ring! he would say, and she’d say, Common law marriage as a way to smooth things over, insisting any adults who kissed were husband and wife.)

And that made Luke a citizen-in-law, he thought happily, taking another sip of his whiskey and grinning at his friends. But no – he’d done what he always did and gotten distracted. Gotten mushy as Leia liked to say – don’t get mushy on me. It was a night that could’ve been like any other night, except it was a night before, or, more specifically, a night before Han was going off on a big three-week mission. Which seemed sort of extraordinary to Luke, big, like something big was happening, but in retrospect, it a) wasn’t different from the past and b) wasn’t different from the future, the more Luke thought about it. The past wasn’t different because: they’d gone on long missions before (except they’d always gone on them together). The future wasn’t different because: maybe that’s what it always would be, just like a long string of missions, forever (except if this was the start of the future how would he know because this was the start). So maybe it wasn’t big, or maybe it was. But if nothing else felt timeless, at least laughing in the Falcon did. If they had to go on missions alone forever, at least they could break up those missions with moments like these.

“Now I know you hate that golden fellow,” Lando was saying, pointing at Han and smirking, “but you can never underestimate the difference a great droid can make.”

“I don’t know how many times Artoo has saved my ass,” Luke agreed. “That little guy…”

“That blue and white dome? I’m sure it’s great, but I’m talking a whole other level. Han, Chewie, you both remember L3. Now she. She was a droid,” Lando said, sighing.

Chewie roared, and Han snorted and knocked back more of his drink. “Yeah, he remembers.”

Another roar, something like a laugh.

Han rolled his eyes. “Not a great Basic translation for that, buddy. Uh – said she was – let’s call it feisty.”

“What’s better than feisty!” Lando proclaimed. “But she was brilliant too, the sharpest navigator… you’re a lucky man, that you’ve still got her. I’m telling you, she was undoubtedly the key to taking out the second Death Star.”

“I don’t understand,” Leia began, frowning. “Are we still talking about a droid?

“My point exactly! Not just a droid,” Lando declared. “She was – a companion, a copilot… Surely he’s told you about our famous first run? The kessel run?”

“I’ve heard about it once or twice,” Leia deadpanned. “But mostly the statistics.”

“L3 was critical – critical – to our success. You really haven’t heard the whole story? It’s quite the tale. It all started out…”

“Not so exciting,” Han interrupted firmly. “Droid got busted up along the way. Plugged her core processor into the Falcon so she’d be in the ship, ‘cause she knew all the best ways. That’s the whole story.”

“You’ve got to be the worst storyteller I’ve ever met,” Lando whined. “You took all the drama out of it.”

“Not exactly a pleasant memory. I wasn’t concerned with remembering all the drama when it happened – just getting out of there alive,” Han grumbled.

“Well. Hopefully all this will make for a great story someday,” Lando said, raising his glass, and the group drank.

“You really damned her to quite the fate, this L3,” Leia noted wryly. “Trapped in the Falcon for eternity to be bossed around by some hotshot spacer. I don’t envy her.” She wrinkled her nose, then stood up, frowning. “I think that may have been one drink too many. Excuse me,” she said, then headed to the ‘fresher.

The second she left, Luke couldn’t help but blurting it out, grinning conspiratorially and warmed by the liquor. “We all realize she’s done the exact same thing, right? Stuck herself in the Falcon with that one forever?”

“Forever? Did any of you see a ring on that finger of hers?” Lando admonished, laughing.

Luke laughed and Chewie roared but Han was only glowering – very seriously in that Han way of his, his expression dark and annoyed. “Cut that out,” he managed.

“Yeah, Lando, cut that out – it’s really hard to find a jeweler around here,” Luke added, grinning.

“Is that all that’s holding him up? Baby, I can hook you up with some of the finest––“

"Baby?” Han scoffed as he leaned back to check if Leia was coming. “Look, quit it, alright?” he added in a low voice.

“So you are going to ask her, then?” Luke half-whispered, beaming even more, eyes wide.

Han shook his head and grumbled, “When she walks in on you talking about her, I’m not covering for any of ya.”

Chewie roared, and Lando nodded sympathetically. “I know, he’s always been touchy, as long as I’ve known him.”

“You have to know she’d say yes,” Luke added, giving his friend a meaningful look.

Knock it off,” Han said in a low, insistent voice.

And then there was Leia, striding in with a grimace on her face and settling herself under his arm. “Y’alright?” he asked, suddenly calm and casual and comfortable again, leaning back.

“Fine, fine. I just can’t keep up with the rest of you, I don’t know why I even try,” she said, sniffing theatrically. “But you’ll all be in tip-top shape to get back to work tomorrow, I hope.”

“Of course, General Organa,” Land said, giving her a smirking smile. “Anyway, we can’t go through all the liquor tonight. I have my own mission coming up. I’m expecting just as much of a send-off.”

Han snorted. “Alright General Calrissian.”

“Excuse me! Was that sarcasm, General Solo?” Lando retorted, and Luke moaned and buried his head in his hands.

“I’m the only one in this whole army who isn’t a general,” he groaned.

“Chewie ain’t,” Han offered, smirking.

“But he’s not a deserter,” Luke moaned.

“I’m sure that once the council hears what you have to say, everything will be okay. I’ll make sure of it,” Leia declared dramatically, leaning forward to touch his hand.

“I know, I know, I just…”

“Luke. Luke. Everything will be okay,” Leia said emphatically, and even though he could hear the influence of the liquor in her voice he could also tell it was a promise about everything, everything. Han’s mission would be okay, the galaxy would be okay, their blood. Everything, everything. She was so certain the Force didn’t flow through her like it did through him but he could feel the weight of her words, solemn and binding. Leia said everything would be okay and so it would be.

“‘Course it will,” Han said casually, like it was no big thing, like he had seen the future and it was a-okay so why the hell was everyone else so worried? That was why they were good together, Luke thought as he watched his friend whisper into his sister’s ear, making her chuckle and smile up at him. That certainty. That confidence. That sense that it was all so obvious. It’s what set them apart from everyone he knew, made them seem golden and bright: it was like they knew something.

The conversation ebbed and flowed, with Han and Leia withdrawing into each other almost imperceptibly – until it was perceptible, Leia with her head tilted up and beaming, Han grinning like an idiot and talking low to her, and then Chewie roared again, glancing at Lando, and his sentiment was clear. “Well,” Lando said, grinning conspiratorially. “We don’t want to keep you two up too late.”

There were some chuckles, but then Leia sat right up a bit sloppily, indignant. “I’m sorry, but I need to say something.”

“Oh you do, Your Worship.” (That was Han, amused and interested.)

“Yes. I don’t understand the point of all this innuendo,” she declared. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. It made sense to me on Hoth – to goad, to tease, to imply something that wasn’t happening in order to make it happen – I understand how that might be funny. But. Now that we’ve become involved, the humor, honestly, eludes me.”

“Oh it does, does it?” Lando asked, laughing.

“Take your comment, for example. We don’t want to keep you two up too late. The implication being that we’re going to stay up late having sex,” she said firmly amidst the laughter, her expression solemn even if her eyes were twinkling a bit. “But we are going to stay up late having sex.”

Han sort of choked out a laugh, his eyes wide, sort of shocked at her candor – Luke was too – he was laughing and looking around all at once.

“When you say things like that, it’s like – yes, and? Oh, did you two have fun last night? I don’t know if ‘fun’ is exactly the word I’d use for it but we had sex last night as well. We have sex fairly regularly. It’s a rather frequent occurrence, at this point.”

“Is this what drunk Leia is like?” Luke managed between gasps for breath. “I don’t know if I ever met drunk Leia. I mean, I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.”

“Well, you should have, because when I’m intoxicated I’m just as reasonable if slightly more candid––“

“Please, by all means, continue being candid, Your Worship – keep tellin’ em off, I think their jokes are dumb as shit, and not just these ones,” Han said, grinning.

“You think you’re on the outside of it? Please!” Leia sniffed, giving him a particularly dramatic scowl. “Way back when, on Hoth say, I understood. Trying to get under my skin, get me into bed, what have you. The point being that you were implying something that wasn’t going on, that’s why it was funny.”

“We aim to please,” Han drawled, and she swatted at him.

“That may be so, but now now, it’s absolutely ridiculous.” She sighed, shaking her head. “Every day, I catch him working on the ship, say, on his hands and knees. And every time, without fail, after I greet him he turns his chin over his shoulder and growls,” and here she did her very best Han impression, complete with a smolder and a wink and deep, grumbling drawl, “See anything you like, sweetheart?”

If the laughter before had been loud, now it was explosive – Han most of all, cracking up almost silently, Luke couldn’t remember ever seeing his friend laugh so hard.

“And I’m like, yes, obviously I see something I like! You were inside me twelve hours ago!” Leia cried, provoking even louder laughter and just as she began to laugh too Han was growling and kissing her to shut her up, and then it looked like they really did need to go, because they showed very little sign of stopping this time around.

“Don’t forget to be on time tomorrow,” Leia was instructing, slapping a bit at Han as he pulled her into his lap. “For his departure. It’s at 1300, sharp.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Lando said.

“Have a good night, you guys,” Luke added, smiling a little at his friends, at how happy they were, trying not to think about how miserable it must be, knowing you’d soon be spending nearly a month apart. “No innuendo intended,” he added, holding up his hands. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Luke,” Leia said, smiling and rolling her eyes, and as he and Lando descended the ship’s ramp, he could still hear them, teasing and flirting and laughing for maybe a bit longer than he would’ve liked. It was pretty impressive, how rapidly things could escalate from name-calling to what sounded suspiciously like moaning, Luke had to admit. They seemed pretty efficient at this point.

The two men walked in silence for a moment. Luke had never really spent time alone with Lando – their first interaction had him more concerned with his newly missing hand. “I hope Chewie made it to his room,” Luke offered after a beat.

Lando chuckled, shaking his head. “Chewie’s spent enough time watching that pirate pull moves on the ladies to know exactly when to clear a room.”

“I don’t love thinking of my sister as one of Han’s ladies,” Luke muttered, wrinkling his nose.

Lando looked startled, then frowned with interest. “Your sister?”

“Oh – I – uh…” Luke began, then took a breath and shrugged. “Yeah. We found out a few weeks ago, on Endor. We’re twins. Pretty strange, huh?”

“Strangest for you, I bet. I was always under the impression that your feelings for the princess were more of the romantic variety. Yikes. What’s that like?”

“Everyone’s always saying that, but I don’t know. I used to think I had a crush on her, way back when, years ago, but now I wonder… I don’t know. I think maybe I never felt that way about her at all.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Why’s that?”

“She’s pretty, you’re close – what’s not to like?”

“I think that’s why I thought I had a crush on her though. Because it seemed like I should. But lately…” Luke sort of shrugged awkwardly, looking straight ahead. “I don’t know. Lately I’ve been wondering if I’m even interested in any – any woman at all.”

If he was expecting a reaction, he didn’t one. Instead Lando nodded good-naturedly, casually. “There’s a lot of beauty in the galaxy beyond women, my friend. Beyond humans, even.”

“You like… really?” Luke blurted out. “Sorry, I mean – I just – I don’t really know anyone who’s even kind of…”

“I like to think of myself as open to just about anything and anyone. But I know not everyone is so open-minded.”

“Huh. I mean, I guess I don’t know if I’m that open minded…”

“Do your sister and her boyfriend know about all this?”

“No. I mean, maybe. I don’t know. It’s the least important thing right now.”

“Well, now we’re even, then. They knew about you being twins, and I know you – fly a different course.”

“You know both now.”

“Even better. I could use a leg up here. I’ve never felt so out of place…”

“Han was like that too. So was I – so was Leia even, I’ve heard at least.”

“I buy that. She’s a princess, after all.”

“She’s changed. Even since I’ve known her, which isn’t really that long, if you don’t count when we were born.”

“Well, gods know that Han has changed too. Especially since I’ve known him.”

Luke looked up, surprised. “You pronounced his name right! You said Hahn!”

Lando looked embarrassed for the first time since Luke had known him. “Don’t tell anyone. We don’t all have the Force, you know. Some of us have to get our power elsewhere.”

XX.

“Be good, junior. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Han rumbled wryly, clapping Luke on the back before letting him go. A small group was assembled outside of the Falcon and a few other ships, departing for the Coruscant-plus mission. Earlier, Luke had helped Leia move most of her things from the ship to her formal, assigned quarters, where she’d live on her own for the next three weeks. Now, the two of them switched places, her moving to Han from Chewie’s arms, Luke moving into their hairy friend’s tight embrace.

As Chewie roared, Luke watched as Leia tilted up her chin and held out her hand formally for Han to shake. “General. Best of luck,” she said evenly.

Han snorted, and as he took her hand to shake, then to yank her into a hug, Luke could tell she had pressed something small into his hand, like a holo chip.

Han grinned wildly, shocked and apparently pleased. “You didn’t.”

“Don’t make me regret it,” she muttered into his chest. Her voice was all casual, annoyed, business-as-usual Leia, but even Luke could see that her grip on him was especially tight.

“Hey,” Han was saying, pulling back and kissing her on the forehead, all easy and light. “Be back before you know it. Easy. Alright?”

She nodded, not looking at him, then steadied herself and put on a brave half-smile. “I know. I love you.”

Instead of replying in turn, he bent down low and whispered something low and lengthy into her ear – she flushed and laughed, shoving him, then smiled and hugged him one more time. Another thing about them that struck Luke – the way they held each other for long stretches, tight and quiet.

“Don’t be an idiot. Stay safe.”

“I’ll do my best,” Han drawled, but he softened a bit, reaching out to finger a piece of hair come loose from her braids. “You feelin’ any better?”

“Don’t worry about me, and I’ll do my best not to worry about you,” she said firmly, but she softened too, her nervousness showing. “I’m fine. And I don’t want you to fly distracted.”  

“Alright, alright. I’ll see you at the changeover, yeah?”

“After last night? General, I’ll certainly be counting down the days.” She winked facetiously, trying to give a joking smile, but Luke could see the pain in her face – she looked almost stricken, her grip on his hand still quite tight.

“That’s my girl.” A quick kiss, a low assurance in her ear, and then she was backing up, chin held high, eyes anxious. Han, for his part, looked his usual calm, confident self, and Luke was grateful for that, because he could see how Leia relaxed every time he spoke in that cocky, no-big-deal manner. He got his team’s attention easily: “Alright, team, wrap it up.”

Luke and Leia stood back and watched, still and quiet, as the group took off. Amazing, how something could be there – all that commotion, life, energy – and then suddenly there was nothing. The two of them were still standing there, long after everyone else had cleared, Leia watching the stars, Luke watching Leia. She was so solemn, her arms crossed, her expression all screwed up and pinched. Finally, she broke the silence, her voice nervous but serious, “I hate watching that ship fly away. I hate it.”

“’Course you do. It’s where your comfy pillows are,” Luke tried, elbowing her and giving a weak smile, but she just shook her head again as they headed down the corridor.

“I don’t know why I feel so nervous this time. I just do. I feel terrible. My stomach’s been upset for days, churning, just thinking about it. I’ve been so exhausted, even though I haven’t gotten any less sleep. My heart is in protest.”

“Things are a little different now,” Luke offered. “And there’s no communication, and we aren’t all together like usual. Plus, things have been so much calmer recently. It seems jarring, to suddenly get back to business.”

“It doesn’t get any easier. That’s what so difficult. You can’t build on successes in war. When people risk their lives, it doesn’t get easier for them to survive. It isn’t as though if you’ve survived five near-death experiences you’re more likely to survive number six. The odds are just the same. It’s always a terrible, terrible gamble.”

“Maybe he’s gotten better at beating the odds. Picked up some skills,” Luke offered gently.

“There’s nothing in the universe to protect him, is what I mean,” Leia clarified, her voice clear and unwavering. “Even from something random. We all think we’re the protagonist of some larger story, and in a story, the protagonist would never die from a freak accident, or for no reason, or anonymously. But we aren’t the protagonist – none of us are. Accepting that randomness, that there is no protection afforded by a reasonable or caring galaxy – you would think I would be used to it.”

“Leia, gods…”

She interrupted him with just a simple look. “And yet.”

"And yet,” Luke echoed.

“I still believe he’ll somehow be protected, because it would just be so wrong for him to die after all this… he must be safe on this mission because it would be wrong otherwise… There is nothing in the galaxy that prevents that wrongness. Wrongness occurs with great frequency.”

“Leia, you don’t need me to tell you that Han will be fine.”

“But you can’t know that, you don’t. There’s no real, concrete reason guaranteeing his safety.”

Lei. Gods. You can’t think like that, you just can’t.”

“I can’t not, is the thing,” she said simply.  They’d stopped walking by that point, and were just standing in a narrow white corridor; Luke hadn’t noticed before or last night that she did look paler, the ever-present circles under her eyes maybe a tad more pronounced even though the past month should have afforded her more sleep than ever. Not so bad as after Bespin, but seeing her run down was definitely unexpected. Clearly this mission was affecting her much more than she’d let on, if she was actually losing sleep. Well, it wasn’t that Leia needed Han, but he definitely made her – come to life. Or at least keep her from becoming tremendously nihilistic…

“There was this – squadron, group, that flew to Scariff just before you and I met – they were the rebel group that stole the plans for the Death Star,” Leia began, not quite looking at him, her chin steady and strong. “They were all killed. Every single one of them, right after the plans had been received. I knew one of them, Andor, but the others are nameless, unknown to me…” Then she exhaled loudly. “I think often about the fact that they died not knowing. In the arc of a story, they would know, know they died for something. But they never knew. They never knew what we were able to accomplish because of them.”

“You don’t think they maybe had some idea—“

“Or take my home, then. My parents were instrumental in organizing the Rebellion. I have to believe that when they saw that beam of power and death itself coming, they knew, they knew I had received the plans and hidden them and the Empire was trying to torture their location out of me… they knew why they were dying, maybe they even believed that it was for a reason. But everyone else? The citizenry? Every other being whose apocalypse hurtled towards them? Their death was senseless. It had no arc in their story. They were the protagonist of a story that got violently shredded to a million pieces somewhere in the middle. And as far as they knew it was for nothing. No protective logic of the galaxy could save them.” Her voice was cool, even – her expression unmoved.

“I wonder sometimes about if that’s what my aunt and uncle thought,” Luke confessed after a moment. “They were murdered by stormtroopers, because of me and Old Ben and those droids.”

Leia shut her eyes and he could see the pained my fault all over her face.

“Not your fault, Leia, not everything is your fault. Okay? Not everything is your fault.”

“Okay.”

“All I meant was that they didn’t know why. That’s something that really eats at me. That they didn’t know why.” Luke shrugged, not looking at her. “That they didn’t even know I was okay. I mean maybe that’s selfish, to think that I was in their last thoughts. But my aunt, in particular – when I think about it, I think how I wish I knew if she knew. That I was okay. I really hope she didn’t think they’d gotten to me first. But it’s really hard to know she didn’t know either way. That it was so random to them. They didn’t even know what the droids had on them.”

"Random. Yes. It’s such a simple word but it’s so terrible in so many ways.”

“When Old Ben died, it was – it was a reckoning. You know? With our – with Vader. It was a long time coming, a final confrontation. But for my auntie and uncle it was just…” Luke tried to offer her a half-smile. “You know, sometimes I think the Jedi believe everything happens for a reason because everything happens to Jedi for a reason. You know, because they’re important.”

Leia nodded, looking almost impressed. “It’s so true though. I bemoan randomness, but I can’t even imagine experiencing all this from the outside. To the average being in the galaxy, trying to live their life? It must all be… well. Maybe it’s a privilege to even think I could have control over my life to begin with.”

“Maybe,” Luke agreed, sighing, “but don’t we all have to believe that?”

“Until we’re forced to reckon with the alternative, yes. And we do have power, especially together – beings united do have the power to change, to do. I know this, I believe it. But any of us, individually, in the heat of violence or chaos – we are rendered so… helpless, in that singular moment. At the very end, that senseless violence, realizing we are so powerless. It’s the scariest thing, that moment, I have to imagine – realizing are not the protagonist of the galaxy’s story. Anyway. I just.” She shut her eyes, shook her head. “I worry so.”

“That would never happen to Han,” Luke said gently, smiling faintly and taking her hand. He gave it a little squeeze. “Han’s always on the up and up. Heat of the battle, life flashing before his eyes? He wouldn’t be struck with some big existential terror at all, ‘cause nothing surprises him. He would know exactly what’s happening. Nothing gets past Han.”

Leia leaned back against the wall, eyes still shut, and laughed softly, like a relief. “That’s true. And if he doesn’t know what’s going on, he can be counted on to bluff.”

“He’s going to be just fine. Leia. C’mon. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you like this.”

“I’m fine. I’ll be fine. I’m just worried. For whatever reason, three weeks is feeling impossibly long these days. It isn’t, though. It’s not nearly so long as six months, of course. And I hate feeling so needy, so dependent on him – it demoralizes me.”

“But it’s okay to depend on people. And I know you know that.”

“I do know that,” Leia agreed. “I’m just still adjusting, sometimes, to how it feels inside of me. To depend, so deeply.”

“Things will settle down soon, won’t they?”

“Maybe. I’m doing everything in my power to ensure that. But I don’t know,” she managed, sighing and rubbing her temples. “I hope so.”

“Hey,” Luke said, catching her eye. “You want to get some lunch? I really want to pick your brain about my hearing some more.”

“I’m so sorry, I would, but I actually think I’m going to just lie down.”

“Did you have breakfast?”

“I just threw it back up. I’ve been so wound up about all this.”

“Then you really need to eat something.”

She gave him a glower. “Do you think just because Han has taken off that there’s an opening for a new thorn in my side.”

“Hopefully not the same kind of thorn?”

“You’re unbelievable. I’ll have something to eat after my nap before my next shift, and then you and I can strategize tonight, in my quarters. Housewarming,” she added dryly, rolling her eyes. “And I suppose we can – pursue more of the training. If you wouldn’t mind. Not – towards any particular end, you shouldn’t get the wrong idea. But having something to focus on… well. I hope it will keep my mind off of – everything.”

“I think that’d be really good,” Luke said seriously. “Clear head, focus, we can even do some sparring if you want to do something more active. You won’t regret it.”

She gave a diplomatic half smile and pursed her lips.

Luke paused. Then, looking at her and frowning at her sort of resigned expression, he tried, “Hey, sis?”

“Yes? Bro?” The withering look she gave him just made him smile, because it made her look like Leia again.

“Three weeks is gonna go by really fast. Seriously. It’s three weeks.”

I know that,” she snapped, as if horrified at the prospect of being seen as soft, and then she steadied herself. “I just. Well. I have a bad feeling, as they say,” she allowed.  

“You have an empty stomach in the mid afternoon and you’re probably hungover – I know I am – and I bet you haven’t been sleeping well,” Luke corrected. “Sometimes, a feeling is just a feeling.”

“That’s very surprising advice, coming from a Jedi.”

“What, you haven’t heard? New Republic, new Order. Everything’s changing now.”

She seemed comforted by that, considered it seriously, then nodded. “We are changing everything,” she amended. “The we beyond you and I, of course. You understand me.”

“I think it’s twin sense. What about you?” We’re family, he wanted to say, don’t you see? We’re going to look out for each other. You don’t have to freak out about feeling lonely ‘cause you’re not alone.

“Funny,” she teased, giving his shoulder a little shove. “I was thinking the exact same thing.”

Chapter Text

 

Leia never found herself on the receiving end of where are you? Messages. She had sent her fair share but she never received them because she was always where she had to be. So as much as she had a tendency to deny whenever she was struggling, it was a real wake-up call to suddenly find herself receiving the very message she so often indignantly sent. And from her brother, no less, who was normally very easy-going and accommodating and hardly the type to rail on someone for being late. Yet as she was resting with her head against the cool metal floor of her fresher, there it was: her comm, going crazy until she managed to blearily answer and croak, “Hello?” only to get Luke to demand urgently on the other side, “Leia! Where are you?”

“What?” Leia asked, grimacing and confused. “Luke? Where are you?

“I’m in Mon Mothma’s office. Remember?”

“What? What time is it?”

“We have that meaning to talk about – you know – her… Are you okay? I didn’t wake you, did I? Are you still in your quarters?”

“No, no, of course not,” Leia managed, peeling herself off of the floor and grabbing onto the counter for stability before splashing water urgently onto her face. “I got – held up, chatting with – I got held up in a social visit and lost track of time. I’m coming right now.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Never better. I’ll be right there, please pass my most fervent apologies to Mon, I of all people know how busy her schedule is and I would – mm – I would never… take advantage of her – I would never deliberately waste her…”

“Leia?”

“Luke, I’ll see you in five minutes. I’m so sorry again,” she said as firmly as possible, and she brushed her teeth another time in hopes of getting the taste of bile out of her mouth before yanking her hair into something resembling braids, grabbing her things, and racing out the door. It wasn’t a total lie, she had lost track of time – more from being curled up in a pitiful heap on the floor after vomitting up her kaffe, but still – it wasn’t dishonest, really, to use her discretion. She did feel bad, though, about the fact that Luke probably thought her lateness was indicative of not caring about the subject of the meeting. He probably suspected that for a while, and this confirmed it. That wasn’t the case at all, she wanted to promise him. But the last thing she needed was him fussing over her if she said she was still feeling sick. If nothing else, it was downright embarrassing to have to confess to stress-induced symptoms. Oh, I’m just so infantile and irrational and needy that I’ve literally made myself sick worrying about my boyfriend, don’t worry. And if she didn’t confess to that and cited a bug, she feared he’d go above her head to Carlist out of a kind of paternalistic brotherly sense of duty, get him to force her to stop working. (When – if – when Han returned she would have to talk to him about this nonsense of implying that Luke should look out for her, sometimes it seemed like her brother’s appeals to her health or wellbeing were just as much about not pissing off his best friend as concern for her.) And then what? Not only would she be unproductive, useless, out of simple shame, but she would also be left with nothing to do but wallow in her worry, which would only make the whole thing worse .

She was – well she wasn’t looking forward to the talk but she wasn’t dreading it. She was glad she could bring something to the table of her and Luke’s family, something potentially positive and affirming, and (selfishly?) something that might move his attention from Vader. It was just that it was a conversation she’d always imagined having with her father, at a particular moment, selected out of meaning after years of her deciding she’d rather not know or him deciding he’d rather not tell. But of course when she’d mentioned to Luke that she was fairly certain her mentor knew the identity of their birth mother, he immediately wanted to know more. And what she was supposed to say, that she was saving it for a special occasion? That would be absurd.

It just felt a bit… wrong. After all this time, after all of her parents’ careful consideration of how much to tell her, what it would mean, how it would impact their family and her sense of self… to just suddenly do it for no real apparent meaning,,, it reminded her of what she’d talked to Luke about. The terror of randomness. And right now, as she worried about Han desperately, she couldn’t handle thinking too much about the randomness of the universe, how the universe wouldn’t protect him, only he could protect him, all that… Just when she thought she was wholly cynical she’d realize she’d been clingy onto another sentimentality, ugh , and this time it was: there should be some meaning as to when I find out the identity of my birth mother .

Well. Sentimentality, destroyed. Leia rubbed her temples one last time and entered Mon’s office, walking swiftly even though it made her stomach turn. “I am so sorry, I so appreciate you taking the time to meet with us, I know your schedule is tighter than ever – Luke, good morning – thank you again, Mon.”

“Leia dear, please, it’s not a problem, have a seat – are you alright? You look pale.”

“I’m fine, really,” Leia said politely, sitting beside her brother, who was giving her a concerned look. “We’re so glad you were able to meet with us.”

“Of course. I hope I can be of help to you two.”

“I told her about us being twins,” Luke began carefully. “About both of us having Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi, as our father.”

(Leia had all but begged him to keep the Vader connection under wraps until she could think through how she wanted to explain it.)

“In spite of all of the pain and challenges of this war, I am glad that it at least reunited the two of you,” Mon offered kindly.

“Thank you. It’s been – an unexpected blessing, to find family again,” Leia said. Gods, it felt good to be careful, to be strategic, to be in control . She felt so pathetic, wracked by worry. Having these careful, deliberate conversations gave her a sense of mastery that comforted her like very few things could.

“It was – something of a surprise, to learn that you shared Master Skywalker as a father,” Mon admitted. “If only because in those days the Order seemed quite strict about discouraging romantic attachments of any sorts.”

“Did you know him?” Luke couldn’t help but blurting out. “Anakin, I mean. Our father.” He seemed to relish in saying it, whereas it only made Leia feel discomfort and unease. They were not hear to talk about him. That had not been part of the plan.

“I did,” Mon said. “Not intimately, but during the Clone Wars I – like your father, Leia, like Bail that is – found myself working with several members of the Order.”

“How well did you know him? Did you know Obi-Wan Kenobi as well?”

“I did, yes, and so too did Leia’s father.” Leia appreciated Mon’s thoughtful effort to continue to refer to her father as her father – to validate her connection to Bail. But it was also a painful gesture, because it reminded Leia that she could have, should have, this conversation with him. That he could have, would have, answered her questions when the time came. That he had likely been planning too. “And I would be happy to share more recollections about that time in the future, should it be useful both personally and professionally. But I have to admit I was under the impression that we came here to discuss the other individual in the picture.”

“Yes,” Leia said gratefully, “That’s right.”

“Our mother,” Luke said, trying the words out on his tongue.

“Mon, growing up, I had the impression that you had known her. My father seemed to have been too fond of her to merely say she was some anonymous, destitute woman, and though he didn’t speak of her frequently he did occasionally let details slip that implied he knew her. Even saying something as simple as that I looked so very much like her – because that meant he knew her face well. And because you two were so I close, I assumed – well actually, if you really want to know, there was a time in my early teens where I wondered if you were my birth mother – anyway, maybe this impression was totally wrong – I mean of course there’s a chance that that knowledge died with him…”

(Leia flushed, a little embarrassed at rambling, but then––)

“It didn’t die with him,” Mon said simply.

“It… it didn’t?” Luke asked, eyes widening.

“Of course, it’s difficult to know for certain,” Mon said carefully. “But Bail and I had a dear friend in the Senate who died an untimely death at the end of her pregnancy. The baby was supposed to only be one baby, and was said to have died with her, but…”

“And Anakin?” Luke couldn’t help but asking.

“She never revealed the identity of the baby’s father. In fact, there were some rumors that the father was your father, Leia, but…”

“The Jedi weren’t supposed to be romantically involved,” Leia finished. “Anakin Skywalker. That does make sense.” What did he do to her?

“A friend in the Senate? She was a senator?” Luke marveled. “Leia, that’s just like you.”

“Well, it’s just like my father, who knew her through their mutual employment as senators, but alright.”

“She was. Leia, I would actually be surprised if her name isn’t familiar to you, but then I remember the purge of information that happened after the Empire took control… she all but disappeared from records…”

“Wait, all the records of her are gone? Really?” Luke asked frantically.

“Of course, she was a dissident, upon her death she was summarily excised from history. Obviously she lives in the memory of her people and in local historical records, but the records of her service in the Senate are surely scrubbed clean.”

“A dissident,” Leia echoed. “Of course. If she was friends with you and my father, she must have been – she must have had – the strongest… the strongest values. The highest.”

“She did,” Mon agreed. “She was an icon. You remind me very much of her, Leia.”

“My father said once she would be proud,” Leia confessed.

“And she would be, I’m sure of it.”

It almost felt beside the point to ask her name – how much did it matter, really? And this magical image of a… a hero of democracy, a friend of her father’s, someone who would be proud of her… another one of Vader’s victims, Leia was certain, another reason to be righteously angry… but she could see Luke was hungry, hungry for more.

“I would love her name,” Leia asked. “We would.”

“Of course, excuse me. Her name was Padme Amidala Naberrie. She was Naboo’s queen as a very young woman, and then later served as its representative in the Senate – rumored to be the youngest ever, I believe. She was very highly regarded, very beautiful… I admired her so much. I felt her loss very acutely.”

“Padme,” Luke echoed. “Padme Amidala Naberrie.”

“A queen, as a teenager? Naboo… and she was critical of Palpatine as a representative of his own world…”

“She was extraordinary,” Mon agreed. “Her death was a great loss to the galaxy.”

“Do you know how she died?” Luke asked urgently.

“In childbirth, was the public story.”

Luke nodded. “My aunt always said she thought I might’ve been born early, because I was so small. Didn’t you say that your family said that too, Leia?”

“In childbirth?” Leia repeated skeptically, ignoring him. “But – she would have been a highly regarded political figure with access to the absolute best doctors…”

“Well but if she had the baby – babies – early after all, I mean wouldn’t that mean there were complications?” Luke asked.

“People give birth to babies early without dying quite often – I just can’t possibly believe that she would really – I mean, on Coruscant ––”

“Well, maybe she was traveling somewhere else and went into labor unexpectedly?”

“Why would she travel somewhere remote enough to have such substandard healthcare at the end of her term? That doesn’t make any sense,” Leia dismissed.

“There very well may have been foul play,” Mon allowed, putting her hands up. “I only know the public story.”

“There must have been,” Leia said firmly. “She would have led a life of privilege, she would have access to the best healthcare––”

“Maybe because he was a Jedi she had to keep things secret,” Luke argued, increasingly annoyed.

“But they weren’t secret, haven’t you been listening?” Leia snapped right back.

“Why do you want – someone – to have hurt her?” Luke asked, eyes narrowing slightly, his implication clear – why do you want our father to have killed our mother? Why would you want that?

Because it’s much more believable than the idea that our apparently kind and noble mother could have loved this monster! Leia wanted to shout back. “I just want the truth,” Leia insisted, tilting up her chin. “I know how Palpatine operated. I know the way misinformation spreads. We can’t take anything that was the ‘public story’ for granted.”

“It is important to be skeptical of Imperial media sources,” Mon placated, looking between the two. “But I’m optimistic that with more research you two will achieve whatever level of clarity you seek.”

“Yes,” Leia agreed tightly. “Thank you.”

“Thank you very much for meeting with us,” Luke said after inhaling deeply. “This is so helpful.”

“Of course. And like I said, another time, times, I would be happy to share more personal anecdotes. But unfortunately, right now, my schedule is just…”

 “We’ll keep our goodbye brief, then,” Luke said amicably, and he stood up to shake the woman’s hand. “Thank you again.”

As Leia agreed, “Thank – you…” she rose too quickly and sent her head spinning, forcing her to lean forward against Mon’s desk for balance.

“Princess? Are you alright?” Mon asked, leaning over and touching her hand, a concerned frown on her face.

“Fine,” she managed. “I’ve been a bit – lightheaded. Stress… It’ll pass in a moment, it passes quickly…”

She could feel Mon and Luke exchange a look just as she stood up fully, pasting on a polite smile.

“Master Skywalker, if you wouldn’t mind escorting her,” Mon said, raising her eyebrows. “I don’t think it’s safe for you to walk alone if you feel faint, Princess. You might fall and hit your head.”

Leia swallowed her irritation and kept on her smile even as she felt the room begin to spin again. “That would be very helpful, Luke. My next meeting is––”

“Actually, who are you meeting with?” Mon interrupted. “I’ll go ahead and personally inform them you won’t be able to make it. That way they won’t be able to blame you in any way,” she added with a knowing look.

“With Admiral Ackbar, but there’s really no reason––”

“Leia. Please. All the blood has drained from your face and you’re nearly swaying. Let’s be adults about these things, yes?” Mon insisted, and Leia felt her stomach churn with embarrassment. “Master Skywalker, escort her to medical, and I’ll notify the admiral. Really, Princess, you need to make sure you take care of yourself. You’re very important to this operation.”

“Of course,” Leia murmured, mortified, as Luke swung her arm around him. “Thank you, for your personal concern. I appreciate it.”

Once they were out in the hall, shuffling to medical, the duo was unusually quiet. Finally, predictably, Luke broke it.

“Look,” he said, “we shouldn’t talk about it right now, because you’re not feeling well, but we can’t just not talk about what happened in there.”

“Luke, I just… can we not… I have so much on my mind...”

“And I know that, but that doesn’t mean that you can just – that we can just – shove stuff down and not process it and say we’ll get to it when we have more free time.”
“Okay, but maybe we can wait just – not forever – I wasn’t saying forever…”

“If you’re up for meeting tonight I’d like to talk about it then. Okay?”

If I’m up for – I’m fine, Luke…”

“Uh-huh.”

“I am – it’s very embarrassing it’s – it’s psychosomatic, ever since I was a little girl – whenever I would worry I would get nauseous – my mother would placate me by saying it meant I was sensitive…I’m just worried about Han. That’s all.”

“So you’ll be okay to talk about this tonight, then?”

“Why does it have to be tonight, exactly?”

“Because I know you , and I know that when you don’t want to deal with something you just shove it to the bottom of your to-do list.”

“Well isn’t that a flattering portrait.”

“Leia, c’mon. Please? Don’t be mad at me. I don’t want to fight. I just worry about you. We don’t even have to talk, we can just meditate on it. I just don’t want you to shove this down, too.”

Leia sighed deeply, steadying herself. This was Luke, her friend, her brother – he wasn’t judging her – he didn’t mean her any harm – he was just trying to help. “Alright. Tonight, then.”

“Thank you,” he said, hugging her tightly as they reached the med bay. “Are you going to be okay to sit down?”

Luke.

“Alright, alright. Be honest with them, alright? Don’t bullshit your way through the exam. It’s only a waste of time if you do that,” he teased, subtly helping her into her seat anyway – she let him.

“Thank you,” Leia said again, giving him a resigned smile.

“You know, if Han were here…”

“He would be saying all sorts of dirty things right now to distract me, actually, so you really don’t want to go down that road,” Leia said dryly, and that got him out pretty fast.

Pretty soon thereafter, she found herself sitting on a sterile metal table, swinging her legs impatiently. “I’ve been a bit under the weather, and some colleagues insisted I get checked out.”

“Under the weather how, Your Highness?”

Leia cringed at the formality. The nurse who had taken her vitals had done the same thing. It was very difficult to say, Please, call me Leia with a thermometer between your lips. “Well I’ve been – worrying, recently, and as a result I’ve been nauseous and vomiting, some, and a bit dizzy,” Leia explained apologetically. “It used to happen when I was a child. It’s stress-induced, I’m sure, or else a bug.”

“Uh-huh. Well, your vitals look fine. It might make sense to draw some blood to check for anemia.”

“I’ve been checked for anemia more than once,” Leia said, then sighed and added diplomatically, “But I’m sure it couldn’t hurt to check again.”

“I’ll put in an order to rule it out. While we’re covering bases – when was the start of your last cycle?”

Leia’s face immediately wrinkled with distaste – typical male doctors, always so certain everything is a feminine problem – as she began to explain, exasperated, “I never get nauseous during my cyc...le…”

And then she swallowed and went very still, counting rapidly in her head.

The date she murmured was hopelessly, hideously not within the past four weeks.

“But it’s very irregular, it’s always been irregular,” she added hurriedly. “So that’s hardly indicative of anything in particular.”

“Forgive me, Your Highness––”

“It’s Leia, please, I would prefer Leia,” she insisted before going back to covering her mouth with her hand.

“Leia, but – are you – sexually active?”

Yes ,” she snapped before she could stop herself, Surely everyone in the entire army knows that by now, and by the way why would I be freaking out if I weren’t?

“And do you use––”

“Always, we always use prophylactics – I…”

But she was too busy having receded into herself to hear him talking about effectiveness rates even with perfect use, and how nothing was for certain but given her symptoms a blood test made sense…

“How long will that take?” Leia managed to demand, squeezing her eyes shut. “For the results, I mean. I know a home urine test is less inaccurate but isn’t it instantaneous?”

“A blood test will only take a few hours and it will be wholly accurate.”

“Do you have a home test here I could take right now?”

“I – suppose we might, but… well, the results are less reliable and the blood test results will be just a few hours.”

“Can I do both? I mean, I would appreciate if I could do both. Please. If possible. If at all possible. I just. I. I feel I need. I just.”

“Princess? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. It’s Leia. Of course I’m fine.”

“I realize that this may have come as quite a shock to you. Should the results be positive, I would be happy to talk to you about your options––”

“No that’s. I’m fine. Actually, I’m fine. Perfectly. I. I suppose I’m just anxious to have the results. Let’s just. Go ahead and get – draw the – let’s just move forward with the blood tests, thank you. Thank you, so much. For your help for your. Discretion. Um.”

That’s how she felt. Stilted. Sputtering. Like she – was short-circuiting or – stopping and starting or – just – she couldn’t – she couldn’t think. She couldn’t think.

Her blood draw went by without her really comprehending it and she was too out of it to try to push for the urine test. Even though she didn’t know for sure, she felt she knew. She felt – so… so – naive and… how could she not have – how could she not have put it together that was so – her own body and – if she couldn’t even keep track of her own period how could she possibly be trusted to lead and… she didn’t even know her own body, did she, the blood that coursed through it that is, she felt alienated from it, untethered and…

Leia went through her afternoon in a sort of daze. Every cell in her brain was screaming at her to shove it to the bottom of her list, to not even let herself think – consider – to just – she couldn’t – like she couldn’t even think couldn’t wrap her head around – how could she have been so stupid

And then a few hours later, just before she was headed to mess for dinner, there it was on her datapad. For a brief, hysterical moment she was thrilled to learn she wasn’t anemic.

(But there was something else that she was and there it was in bold print and now that she was thinking about it she had been the one to say they were safe on Endor and obviously they weren’t and how could she have been so stupid and now she just – wasn’t anemic, just like that – she couldn’t even think it, properly, her brain working overtime to just shove it down, just shove it down and deal with it later, not right that second, she couldn’t––)

Not without Han. She couldn’t possibly begin to even process this whole thing without him. She’d felt terribly needy this whole week but now she felt positively desperate, like she knew thinking about it was going to be hard and if only she could just hold it until he was – if he was – home then it would be okay – which was ridiculous – she couldn’t not – she needed to start thinking this through, now – she couldn’t waste time –

And anyway did she really know what Han would say? On Endor he had thought she was pregnant and while his immediate reaction was to promise to support her ,whatever that meant, when she’d assured him she wasn’t he looked – so relieved , what had he said, thank Gods? And why shouldn’t he be relieved? Right?

(But that gap, that gap between what he was saying to her when he thought she was and then what he said to her when he knew she wasn’t – at the time it had been almost funny but now it was terrifying. She could always count on him to be honest and she needed him to be honest on this, with her, to tell her what he wanted, what he thought, to not make this all on her, and what if he just said what he thought she wanted to hear? Promised to placate her or marry her when actually he was freaking out?)

She loved him. She loved him so much, and she needed him. If she was being honest with herself in her most delirious post-sex moments when she was sated and happy she fantasized about a lot of different futures for the two of them and some of them did involve children, someday. Like maybe in her mid thirties, maybe, which was unrealistic of course, because of their age gap, but…

Children, Han’s…

She couldn’t think like that. She couldn’t get sentimental. She had to stick to the rational facts as she knew them.

The rational facts as she knew them. Until the Disaster she had always anticipated having children someday, if nothing else in the same way she expected to be married via arrangement – it was what one did as the crown princess. After that she hadn’t. Then sometimes with Han she sort of had those fantasies. Now that the war was ending, she knew she probably, almost definitely, no certainly if everything ended well, if everything was okay, if Han got home okay, if if if – that she would want to have children.

So, rational fact one: If she wanted to have a baby with Han someday (and even thinking that made her cringe because it made her feel so vulnerable , to confess to that, to wanting a baby with him someday, she could barely think the words, it was against her nature to make confessions like that even to herself), it felt frivolous to end a – not having anemia – merely because of timing. Ungrateful, somehow, or greedy. Not now but call me in five years? It seemed somehow decadent.

But, rational fact two: Up until this point, they had taken every possible precaution (or had attempted to at least) precisely to avoid this situation. So it didn’t make sense to suddenly change her mind just because she found herself in it. That is, every time they had sex they went to great lengths to ensure that she didn’t – not be anemic – and so it felt really ridiculous that just because by random happenstance she accidentally – was no longer anemic – to suddenly do a total reversal on the concept. There were many reasons why they were trying very hard to avoid this. Why were those reasons invalidated by it accidentally happening? If she had a miscarriage tomorrow, they would immediately go back to using condoms – they would definitely not try to make it happen again…

But there was a difference between something going away and actively dismissing it, the latter felt frivolous, the prior didn’t, so that didn’t really work as an analogy and gods her head hurt, she just felt – so – overwhelmed. She just felt overwhelmed.

(She could feel a certain set of images creeping up on the periphery of her mind for her consideration, waiting to be evaluated: a mental picture of herself with a – or holding a – or – Han holding – she couldn’t glance at them, she couldn’t do anything but shove them away, they were too much , she couldn’t, she couldn’t, she couldn’t right now.)

(And she kept finding herself thinking, I can’t right now until Han, then I can, but then another part of her would point out, He won’t be able to help you sort through this, he’ll just yes you, he’ll try to be a good man because he is a good man oh gods you’re going to be all alone you have to figure this out all alone because Han is too good to see things clearly you have to see things clearly––)

“Leia? Are you in there? It’s me!”

“Sorry! I’m coming. I’m sorry.” She stood up and opened her door partially, swallowing and composing herself. “Hi, Luke. I – sorry. I lost track of time.”

“That’s alright. Is everything okay?”

“Fine, fine. Um. I. Come in.”

“How’re you feeling?” Luke asked as he settled into her room.

“What? Fine. It’s fine, it was just stress. I am feeling a bit out of sorts, though, so maybe, if we could just…”

“I was thinking the same thing. Meditation would be really good right now.”

“Right. Okay.”

She didn’t even – she wasn’t even trying to – keep calm or anything, or hide anything – it was more that she just – felt like she was outside her body again. Moving through water. Paralyzed and not totally there. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t relax. She just – did.

She didn’t want to spend time deep in her thoughts, she couldn’t bear the idea of personal insight or emotional clarity, she just…

She couldn’t relax and Luke seemed to notice after a few moments because then he was saying, “Leia, I feel like you’re shutting me out.”

“Sorry…”

“It’s okay. Just trust your feelings.”

“I... “

“You need to focus. You know this, Lei.”

“I know, I know.”

“Can you just try to bring down those walls a little? We can call it quits early.”

“Yes, I…”

“You know you can trust me.”

“Of course.”

“Leia.”

“I can’t – I just…”

“Alright. Let’s stop. Let’s hold on,” Luke said, breaking their fragile connection.

“It’s not about earlier, I swear,” Leia said, shutting her eyes and trying to think straight. “It isn’t. I really do want to talk about our mother, I swear.”

“I just don’t understand. You’ve never shut me out like this before. It’s only meditation, it isn’t supposed to be stressful.”

“It’s just – don’t you – sometimes – certainly there are some things to keep private, right?”

“Of course, but––”

“I think until I develop better – discipline – with shielding my emotions I just… I worry about – oversharing I mean… you are my brother. Surely that relationship is…. more complicated… than the average teacher-student…”

“Is this – this is about the changeover, huh?”

Leia blinked at him. “What?”

“I get it. Look, you guys have been apart for ten days right in the middle of the honeymoon phase so I’m guessing you’re… y’know, eager…”

“Luke!”

“–– but I also know that you’re nervous, because you’ve been apart and that’s hard, knowing what to say. And I know you’re also just worried, that he’ll come home okay. And yeah, those are personal feelings, and it feels weird to share them with your brother. I understand. This is an especially emotional time, and you haven’t been feeling well, and…”

“The changeover is tomorrow night,” Leia said, interrupting him.

“What? No it’s not. It’s tonight, there was an internal memo – I think Han got Chewie to list me as his point of contact or something so you and I would both get notified about them? They get in at midnight and then they’re in debriefs for a bit and then they’re out at noon. You didn’t see?”

“I did I just – I forgot I’ve been – out of sorts, today… are you certain?”

“If everything goes according to schedule.”

“Is everyone okay? Is everyone safe?”

“You know as much as I do.”

“Obviously not! I have to...  I…” She pasted on the best embarrassed smile she could. “I have to take care of some – personal – grooming…”

“Understood!” Luke said, standing up. “Listen – get – whatever rest you can. Have fun. And we’ll talk about all this later, okay?”

She could barely remember what this was anymore. “Yes. Right. Of course. Okay.”

Chapter Text

Han was spoiled, he knew. In a lot of ways he’d made out like a bandit these past few years, which was sort of a strange thing to say about a couple of years in which he was tortured and frozen and made exactly no cash. But for someone who’d come in with nothing but a friend and a ship and came out with like, at least two more friends plus a princess – and you know, something to be proud of, being a war hero or whatever, not to mention without a debt to make up – he figured he’d done pretty damn exceptionally well for himself.

He figured all that despite being bone tired, his everything aching, his eyes threatening to flicker shut as he and Chewie guided the Falcon through their last jump back to Home One. Which was not the way he’d pictured his big reunion with that princess after all these excruciating days apart. And he’d pictured it plenty, near nightly, multiple incarnations of everything he wanted to do to her, how many times and in what order. Near nightly like some teenager. Well? He was hooked.

He was hooked and she didn’t exactly make it easy for him. First of all being her sexy, unbelievable self, giving him a helluva lot to remember her by. But then there was this goddamn holo that she’d given him at the last minute – he should’ve known better than to underestimate her but she’d really outdone herself this time. Looking at it furtively on nights when he could, he had that feeling again, that spoiled feeling. In the holo she was kneeling on his bunk, damp and naked after a shower, all that long hair slick and soaking, strategic over her breasts but with their pale sides kinda visible when she tucked her chin just so. Gazing at him impassively, contemplative, maybe just a little amused, lips parted, her head gently tilting to and fro. Daring him, powerful, tousled, all his. It never worked to cure his wanting – it only made him want her more.

And there was another bit of it he liked too that probably made him seem a bit soft, but fuck it. It wasn’t nearly so romantic as Dameron’s washer wedding ring, but he liked the way the tiny chip itself felt, carried around in his pocket, there to rub his fingertips against absentmindedly, a private thing she did for him only. Just between the two of them. He got to see parts of her that no one else saw, in every sense. She was his.

And his to worry about, too – that’s what he was mostly doing, as he yawned through landing procedures and swatting at Chewie’s comments. Was she running herself so damn ragged that she was still sick? Was she doing okay with all that Jedi stuff, which she tried to act casual about but he knew was occupying her thoughts more often than not. (She liked sparring, she liked that saber, thought it was – what, elegant, sophisticated, is that what she’d said? – but meditation was more difficult, she was wary of being so emotionally open in front of Luke, both because it made her feel vulnerable and also because she didn’t really want Luke to see how freaked out she still was by their parentage.) Was she remembering to eat and sleep like a goddamn human being?

A week and a half – like a fucking eternity. He was getting spoiled if he couldn’t go a week and a half without her. Shit, he’d been practically longing to just touch her for how many years? Making due with just pissed-off fantasies, every girl he tried to conjure up in his mind transforming into her gorgeous, unattainable, untouchable features. (What had she told him once? Lazy, lolling in his bunk, peering at him with that look of amusement and sneakiness. You know there was a period when I would think about you when I touched myself. Around Hoth, I think. But I was so angry about it, so it became this sort of furious exercise – I was so mad to be doing that, to be thinking about you.) And now he was getting itchy after just some time apart. Shit. Spoiled as hell.

And spoiled, too, that she was back at the base – he needed to get Chewie to see his family soon, and while Kes had his wife on Home One there was there kid. That was the thing about not having anyone: he could get his everyone together fast as anything. Leia would call it putting all his eggs in a handful of rather erratic, impulsive baskets. But he was glad he could fit all his people in his arms. Keep tabs on ‘em.

(Was it cheesy that he was kinda looking forward to letting her know about how well this mission was going? Although of course she’d not want to know anything classified, which all this was. So maybe that would wait until afterwards. But he liked to show he could pull his own weight. That he was competent, reliable.)

(That she could depend on him and he could depend on her. ‘Cause after this he could use a long bout of R&R consisting of just the two of them, no distractions, no nothing. Having each other’s backs. That’s what he wanted.)

(Prove he was worthy of her – this crazy Jedi warrior general princess, sexy and serious and smoldering at him. Spoiled. He totally was.)

XX. 

Leia continued to pace back and forth across the control booth at the center of the hangar. It was just after one, and she’d been there, pacing anxiously, for maybe a half hour much to the confusion and indeed seeming terror of the young recruit monitoring air traffic who appeared to believe Leia was up there solely to monitor his performance since he kept constantly glancing at her worriedly and offering to show her his work. She didn’t blame the poor thing, but she wasn’t about to explain that she needed the sense of control that being able to see everything gave her. Gods, she would never let anything escape her notice ever again. Ever.

Han and his team had arrived an hour ago, right on schedule; she’d spent the whole night checking the status of their arrival and was relieved when her datapad showed it had gone smoothly. According to the slight bit of information available there had been no casualties, and she had to believe she would have heard from Chewie by now if he’d been carted off to medical. Waiting in her room for him to exit the debrief was too anxious, waiting on the hangar’s floor was too exposed and ran the risk of someone approaching her. She was wound so tightly that she worried that if someone so much as spoke to her the words tangled up in her head would just spill out to them no matter who they were…

Han, there’s something I need to tell you.

Han, we need to talk.

I think you should sit down.

Something has happened and I don’t know how to say it.

I’ve been agonizing over how to say this.

Obviously this was hardly my intention and I can’t imagine it was yours

Before you get angry you have to understand

I know you’re leaving soon but it didn’t feel right to

I didn’t want anyone to know before you so

I couldn’t bear not knowing what you

I wish I could say I wasn’t panicking but I definitely do feel a kind of acute

I had to know what you

I had to I

Han please just

Say something say

Say

I

I just had to say something.

She had to say something. Right? She had to. Immediately? Or after they went to bed together? If she said it first there was no way they’d go to bed together but if she said it afterwards he’d be furious that she hadn’t said it first but that meant it would consume their entire reunion but well if it was going to consume their entire lives – or not – wouldn’t that be appropriate… He would be looking to go to bed together, to catch up and enjoy each other and she’d just crush all of that, right before he had to turn around and leave… and focus… She had to tell him even though he would be about to leave. Even though once she said it she could never un-say it, their lives could never go back to what they’d been. Once she told him, she would never not have told him. It would be real, and things would never be as they were before.

Or, was that silly? Was it silly to say things would never be the same? So many more momentous things had occurred since they had met – already she had told him she was she was the offspring of his torturer – how could something as mundane as a pregnancy even compare?

And then – there he was? There he was! Stalking out of the briefing room, rubbing his eyes and looking only a bit worse for wear – no injuries she could see from up in the control booth. His gait indicated some mild exhaustion, maybe, but nothing else. Leia shut her eyes and turned over some Old Language words of gratitude in her head. He’s okay, she thought gratefully – but then she instantly regretted it. Her thoughts – were they still her own? When she spoke inside her head now, was it to an audience?

He’s okay, she tried thinking in the direction of of her internal reproductive organs. In case you would like to know, she added awkwardly. He – the other half of whatever you are – appears, as of this moment, to be doing just fine.

Just at that moment, Leia saw one of the members of Han’s team give him a nudge and point up at the control booth. She watched as Han’s face broke up into a wide grin, and also as he bowed theatrically – she could practically hear the Your Worship escaping from his lips.

Leia looked at his figure, a little paralyzed. It would never be the way it was before. It would never, ever….

Han was pointing dramatically to the floor, the universal sign for get your ass down here, princess.

 She swallowed hard and said goodbye to the recruit and slowly climbed downward to the hangar floor.

“By all means, Your Royalness, take your time,” Han called out, smirking, and Leia realized she probably would normally have broken into a sprint – she just needed a little more time…

Something has happened…

There’s something you should know…

On Endor, she realized suddenly, there’d been that bit of miscommunication where he’d thought she was pregnant (had she been?) – hadn’t he taken that misunderstanding reasonably well? Worried and panicky sure but not terribly?

But no, no, then when she’d corrected him he’d practically collapsed in relief, all thank gods, all you scared the shit out of me… He was so grateful it wasn’t true… (And why shouldn’t he have been?)

There’s something…

Something has…

She was only steps away from him and looked up, giving him a smile that was the teeniest bit shaky. Instantly his expression changed to concern and he closed the space between them and she was in his arms as he clutched her tight and kissed her, urgently, all over her face.

“Hey now, I’m alright, see? Dunno what you heard but I’m okay, swear… gods, I missed you…”

He was squeezing her so close she was afraid he’d somehow sense the ripple of cells that she now knew were clustered below her belly button. “I was so worried,” she choked out, not quite a lie. “I’m so glad to see you, I’m so…” (Very much true.)

“Glad to see you too, gorgeous,” he mumbled, kissing her more deeply, his tongue insistently demanding access between her lips.

“Han,” she tried to protest,  his lips moving quickly to her neck the second she pulled away from the kiss. “Let’s – we should – how much time?”

“Good coupla hours ‘fore I’m due anywhere.”

“Good, that’s – good – we should – let’s go back to the – people are…”  

“Let ‘em stare,” he muttered, and then she was lifted up, her legs instinctively wrapping around his hips, their lips locking again as he began to slowly walk them towards the Falcon. And then, there, his voice again, low in her ear – “You have any idea what I’m gonna do to you?”

“I think I can guess,” she breathed, moving her hands to rake through his hair, luxuriating in it – he was real, he was here, she already felt better…

“Won’t sit for a week without thinking of me,” he muttered, hoisting her up higher as he carried her onto the ship.

“I’d believe it,” she murmured, her heart racing.

“This exactly what you wanted, huh? Me burning for you?” he demanded huskily, dropping her on his – their – bunk – it felt so good to be back in this bunk, this place… “That goddamn holo…”

“You liked it?” she teased as he began stripping her clothes off roughly.

“You’re filthy, princess.”

“That’s all your doing,” she insisted mock-haughtily, unable to stop smiling at him, how good he made her felt, just seeing him, knowing he was near. “You made me this way. Terribly wanton.”

“Think more like I coaxed out something’d been there the whole time.”

Coaxed? I remember it being much more aggressive…”

“Knew the moment I saw you you’d be like this.”

“Filthy?”

“Dirty, sure. And sexy,” he drawled. “And bold…”

“All that from the first time you saw me?”

“Less talking,” he muttered, taking his clothes off quickly, joining her on the bed and cupping her face in his hands before kissing her hard.

“All this after a week and a half?” Leia asked between kisses, giving an awkward laugh.

“Gotta remember,” Han muttered as his hands moved eagerly to her breasts, “I wasn’t there for that whole six-month thing.”

“This is the longest we’ve been apart,” Leia realized breathlessly, laughing. “You’re so spoiled…”

He made a kind of choking sound, his lips going to replace his hands. “Far as I’m concerned, ‘ve had you just about every night since the trip to Bespin.”

“But wait – you’re – Han – mm – you’re okay? The mission…”

“S’classified, sweetheart,” he muttered slyly, and she could feel the vibrations of his words against her skin, his lips trailing lower, his hands nudging her into lying down. “You know that.”

“I’ve – ah – I’ve missed you…” she began between gasps, propped up on her forearms as she laid back and he moved to part her legs. “Can we… let’s…we need to...”

“Missed you too,” Han said, kissing from her breasts to her stomach and further, “You okay? ‘S wrong, Lei?” but all she could feel was his lips on that spot below her bellybutton, it made her feel stiff and anxious, would he put his lips there if he knew what was concealed beneath them?

“... nothing,” Leia said softly after a long pause. “Nothing, I just – I missed you…”

“Can’t imagine why,” he mumbled, kissing the insides of her thighs. “Sure that’s it?”

“Han, there’s… mm…”

“There’s…?”

“You’re… you’re distracting…”

“Sorry,” he said, stopping and smiling crookedly at her and resting his chin below her belly button. She sucked in a breath, the feeling there, of him – he’s okay – of that cluster – that cluster of panic – it would never be the way it was before... “Just missed ya.”

She took a sort of strangled breath. “Han, there’s – something has – there’s… I...”

Stroking her thigh, resting his head on her abdomen, looking at her, expectant and hungry and eager and hard…

Not right now. In a second. Not right now. I’ll do it in a second. Not right now. Everything will change, I’m not ready, not right now ––

“I…” She shut her eyes, inhaled faintly, then opened them and did her best to give him a hazy, smoldering, desirous smile. “I don’t want to wait anymore. I need you inside me.”

Next thing she knew she had her face pressed into his pillow, knees pressed into his blanket, that felt good, the familiarity, the smell of him, while he rifled around for a condom behind her. This wasn’t normally her go-to position, but she had this strange feeling like if he looked in her eyes, especially when she was unguarded and emotional and coming, then he’d be able to tell… she just felt so vulnerable, it scared her, how she felt trembling and fragile… Then there were his hand on her ass, squeezing, it was so familiar, broad and calloused, it knew everything about her, well almost everything…

“Hey,” he was whispering, his voice low and hungry. “You wanna help me with this?”

“Of course,” she was saying softly, sitting up and kissing him gently. The hands that rolled on the condom were mostly still, quivering only slightly. “I love you so much, Han.”

“Love you too, sweetheart,” Han murmured, tucking some of her hair behind her ear. “You’re perfect.”

She shook her head, kissing him, but he said it again: “You’re perfect,” and it was too much, she had to turn back around, put her face back to the pillow and lift up her hips, let him fill her to her brim, scream it into his pillow – she loved him, she was terrified, she loved him, she did.

Afterwards, when he was curled up around her, his comfortable weight holding her close, his hot breath in her ear, their slick skin sticking together, he was stroking her hair gently and mumbling into her neck, “Meant what I said. You’re perfect, sweetheart, you are…”

“Hush,” she whispered, clutching his hand.

“S’all I want,” he murmured. “You’re all I want. Past week? Wish you were there, havin’ my back… perfect team…”

“We do make a good team,” she agreed softly. It wasn’t fair – all she’d wanted was her time with him, to see him, she was so on edge, she couldn’t stop thinking about it, she had to say something…

“After all this s’over? Gonna go ‘cross the galaxy. Just us… see everything… Don’ need anyone else.”

“After it’s all over, huh? Mm… that’s optimistic…”

“It’ll be over. Know it. Then just the two of us, alright? Do everything, everything. No one huntin’ us down, no rules…”

“Han, I…”

“Get Chewie to his family… maybe – maybe – the kid can stay… just for a little while… just us… howabout it, huh?”

“I’d like that,” Leia confessed, her resolve wavering. “But Han…”

“Get you to relax for once… it’ll be so good… just for a lil bit...”

“I know,” she agreed quietly, turning to face him and snuggling closer, her cheek against his chest. “I’ve really missed you. I know it hasn’t been long, but…”

“Got me now,” he said, kissing the top of her head, his lips lingering in her hair. “You been doing alright, though? You been takin’ care of yourself?”

Leia’s breath caught. “Oh. I…” She swallowed. “I think I’ve done about as well as can be expected.”

“Been sleeping? Got that bug sorted out?”

“... uh-huh,” she managed, pressing herself closer to him and shutting her eyes and feeling a little sick. It’s not lying, I’m not lying, just a few more moments Before, because After everything will be different. “I… I went to medical and everything…” Not a lie, not a lie, not technically.

And even if it were – if he’s going back into the mission in a few hours – it wouldn’t – it wouldn’t be safe, really, to distract him with something so significant – it might make it more dangerous – he should be able to give the mission his full attention – right? Of course? Surely?

“That’s my girl,” he mumbled, giving her an impressed squeeze and kissing her shoulder. “Mm. You’re all I need.”

Leia stiffened – almost jerked, really – but he didn’t seem to notice it. Then she took a breath and kissed him and held him close and shut her eyes even though she knew it would be impossible to sleep. Right, she told herself, inhaling the scent of him. Of course. Surely.

Chapter Text

Leia had a secret.

There was something almost comforting in the fact. That is, once she confirmed to herself that her – situation – was, currently, a secret, she felt much more confident and self-assured. Leia may not, apparently, have the first idea how to handle liminally trying-not-trying to tell the other half of the situation’s genetic makeup about said situation, but she knew how to keep a secret. 

It was a natural inclination she’d had as a child, of course: to be mischievous, to have her own little plans and hideouts, to crouch in tiny places and eavesdrop on the cooks, hoisting herself through the palace in a dumbwaiter she could fit in til age twelve at least. But that skill had been honed to a shining point as a member of the Rebel Alliance. Whether coordinating intel drop-offs in Coruscant back alleys or faking her own kidnapping to solidify face time with allies, she was savvy and discreet as a rebel operative within the Senate. She kept countless secrets serving in her father’s place as a sometimes member of High Command. And, of course, she’d rather famously lied to the face of her nightmare of a biological father – the other half of Padme Amidala Naberrie’s situation? She couldn’t stand to think of any similarities between Han and him – lied to his face, under extreme duress, under torture, a feat no one else could claim even if the outcome had still been horrific.

(Sometimes, even now, when she wanted to conceal a secret on the tip o her tongue, her mind would frantically hiss Dantooine-Dantooine-Dantooine! A tendency that was especially frustrating when, say, she was lying sleepy with her boyfriend who was about to redeploy in mere hours, her head on his chest, his hands stroking her hair, so comfortably sore and tender and loving that the secret almost tumbled out of her mouth til her mind screamed They’re on Dantooine! Dantooine! A surefire way to ruin any mood that had been reigniting.

Granted, she’d done a sort of terrible job keeping the secret of her involvement in the Rebel world from her parents. A rather spectacularly terrible job. But surely that was different – that was her parents. She’d never been able to keep anything from her parents. And, she liked to think, there wasn’t very much they fully kept from her. That was just the sort of family they were. Even when she’d lost her virginity to Kier, she’d not thought twice before, in her roundabout way, telling her mother. 

(Mama, she’d said so primly and diplomatically, I’d like to see a new doctor.)

(Of course. Is something troubling you with Doctor Holly? You’ve always been so fond of her.)

(Doctor Holly had been her physician beloved to her since childhood, dead in the Disaster. No, Mama – not a different doctor. A new, additional doctor. For – women’s things. Now that I’m of age or nearly.) 

(Her mother’s smile had been knowing and amused. How did she always know exactly how to handle things? Of course, Leia. You’ll see my doctor, Arja. Unless you’d prefer to see your own.)

(Your doctor is fine, Mama. Thank you.)

She was prone to getting wrapped up in memories like those, especially these days, kneeling before the toilet. Small, tiny ones, snatches of everyday life. Her mother, her mother. If her mother were here now, would she have told her? Would she tell her, about the situation? She was almost a different person. She was much more private, cautious, cynical and suspicious. 

Would she tell her mother before Han, if she was here? Was pregnancy too intimate? It was hard to imagine that if Kier had somehow accidentally gotten her pregnant she would’ve told him before her mother – even her father. (No – she would’ve told her mother, asked her mother to help her brush her hair out and then told her, and her mother would have arranged for them to sit down with her father and say, Mi amor, Lelila has something difficult she wants to tell you, but she needs to know you’ll be reasonable. And then way down the line in the conversation, only then would they get to Kier.) 

(It was sort of insane that she could still create these conversations in her mind. Insane or else very, very sad. Did Luke think like this, about his aunt and uncle? She didn’t think so.) 

Of course, she wasn’t sixteen anymore. And she had no loving parents to guide her. Alderaan had a cultural tradition of prolonged relationships between parents and children, from mothers moving in after their daughter’s first baby was born to help care for the infant to children taking in their elderly parents in their old age – not to mention the protracted advisory relationship between the queen and her successor – she’d counted on a rich, lifelong relationship with her parents. But now, she had known for four years, she had to be her own father, her own mother. She was her own family, now.

Or maybe not. There was the situation, that pesky cluster of cells that, lately, had spread its noxious powers to her breasts, bringing a profound ache to areas of her body so comparably diminutive she had assumed they’d always be blessedly low maintenance. That cluster – tiny and irritating and such a secret – was maybe her family, maybe. Maybe.

And then there was Luke, who had just bumped her hip playfully as they exited mess together. It never ceased to thrill him that Leia could get away with taking her tray out of the mess hall and eating in a private little cubby booth looking out into the stars. She didn’t have the heart to tell him whenever rules appeared not to apply to her, it was mostly because of pity. 

“So,” Leia was saying, smiling at him with a gentle nod. Keeping the secret, keeping the secret, tugging at the tank top she was wearing instead of a bra because of the tenderness but keeping the secret. “You seem to be in good spirits. I take it the hearing is going well? This morning at least.”

“Oh, it’s not,” Luke said brightly. “Or, it is, I guess, from, a certain point of view.”

“From which point of view. From mine?”

“Yes, from yours. They seem really uninterested in the desertion, honestly. They’re mostly using the thing as an excuse to have an argument around me about the Force, and about Ana––Darth Vader.”

“So things look good for you. That’s excellent, Luke, you’ve done well.” 

“But I haven’t, is the thing. I mean hooray, I won’t be found guilty of the desertion, but it’s not like I’ve been planning a big military career––“

“Luke, how many times do I have to remind you that if you truly want to re-establish the Order maintaining a good relationship with the New Republic government and military is absolutely critical?”

“I get that it’s helpful, but it’s not the most important thing, is what I mean. I just want to be as honest as I can, and all they want to know is what the technical definitions of Light and Dark are, how to ensure that the Force isn’t weaponized – I swear someone proposed a background check on Force users, as though the Force is a blaster in a holder!”

“In their defense, when you come to them with a story about Vader killing the Emperor in the name of the Light, it demands some explanation.” 

“Well and another thing too!” Luke said in between vigorous mouthfuls of food. That was something about Luke that never got old, his casual enthusiasm about even the blandest food. “I tried to explain that, and they immediately launched into a series of ‘questions’ that were mostly just assertions that Vader must have killed the Emperor to supplant him.”

“They have their own lens through which they see things, Luke, you can’t let it get to you, and if you want to persuade them you have to accept that.” 

“Right but I – it does get to me. I want to tell the truth. I don’t want to persuade them of anything other than the truth.” 

“You are even more stubborn and idealistic than the day I met you. How is that even remotely possible,” Leia muttered, but she was interrupted by the sound of a – could that be a child, racing around a corridor – yes, there it was, Hera Syndulla’s son, rushing up towards them and covering his mouth to smother giggles.

The boy kept looking over his shoulder excitedly, and as he came up on the two of them in their booth, he gave them both an excited, terrified grin. He was panting so fast, she could practically hear his heart racing as he looked at them with huge eyes.

All in a quick instant, Leia felt – stiff, about her secret – it suddenly took more effort, to keep it, because suddenly she was rigid, her spine straighter than straight, her smile tight and prim, her hands – she didn’t know what to do with her hands – for now they rested, folded awkwardly, on the table before her. 

Luke, meanwhile, in that instant bent down a bit and smiled happily, eyes crinkly and alight. “Hi th––“ he began, but he was immediately interrupted. 

“Don’t-tell-my-mom!” the boy gasped in a rush, his eyes turning fearful.

“Slow down – don’t tell your mom what––?” Luke asked brightly, just as Leia frowned and repeated, “Your mom?”

“Gotta-go-hide-and-go—!“ 

“You gotta hide from your mom?”

The boy nodded vigorously, and Luke winked – winked – before tilting his head dramatically to indicate under their table. Leia felt herself stiffen even more and then there was a small child crawling and curled up at their feet and before she could really think about how she felt about that Hera was running down the hall, a little out of breath but smiling happily.

“Have either of you seen a little boy about this high just looking for trouble?” she asked them. 

“What? No-o, no little boy here,” Luke said theatrically, while Leia demurely indicated downward with her chin. 

There was some ferocious giggling, and then a, “Too bad he isn’t here… I bet he’d love… this fun little nook… under the table!” Hera exclaimed, leaping into a squat and surprising her son, who screamed and threw his arms around her neck, turning into an ecstatic piggyback ride. 

“Sorry about this, folks!” Hera proclaimed, swinging him behind her as he squealed. “He keeps slipping right out from under my nose.” 

“It’s not fair! It’s easier for you to find me because your eyes are bigger!” 

“Hey, Jacen – you know who that is?” she asked in response, her tone conspiratorial as she tilted her head towards Luke. “That is Luke Skywalker. Remember the Jedi I was telling you about?”

“The Jedi? Like Ezra?” 

“Uh-huh.” 

“That’s not real anymore.”

“Yes it is, doofus, or how else would he be right in front of us?” 

“Oh…” 

“Pleased to meet you,” Luke said, saluting with a smile.

“And you remember the Princess, right? From the forest, in the river?”

"You were naked,” Jacen observed, and Leia flushed.

“I’m surprised you recognize me,” she quipped, trying to regain her footing, but though Hera snorted, the joke was obviously lost on the child.

“Well listen. This one’s so big my back is about to break – I’m sorry about interrupting your lunch.”

“Not a problem,” Luke said brightly. “Nice meeting you, Jacen.” 

And with a couple more cheerful words, the merry pair disappeared around the corner.

Leia pressed her lips together, and Luke grinned. “Cute kid,” he said, returning to his food.

“He is, he’s sweet,” Leia agreed neutrally. “It must be difficult for Hera,” she observed after a moment. “Being alone of course but also having a child in this setting.” 

“Eh, she’s clearly managing,” Luke said, shrugging. 

Leia took a beat to collect herself. Then, she asked, as casually as possible, “Do you ever think about having children, someday?”

Luke’s expression soured just a twinge. “Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I love kids, don’t get me wrong – I used to babysit, for my aunt’s friends’ kids? I really love kids. But I guess, growing up, on Tatooine… I never thought…I don’t know. I didn’t really think I would get to have a family. Thought I’d end up like Old Ben.”

Leia frowned, genuinely taken aback. “Really? Ben Kenobi? But you didn’t know he was a Jedi, or that you…?”

“No I – I kind of thought…” Luke turned a little red, looking away. “I sort of thought maybe he was gay?”

Leia nodded delicately, arching an eyebrow. “Oh.”

“And I…” Luke’s mouth twisted into a weird ambivalent screwed up knot. “And I sort of thought – I – was maybe – also… gay. So I thought, you know, all – people like that… had to just… – it sounds silly. I mean when you talk about Alderaan, how you could’ve been arranged to marry a woman––“ 

“Only if I made it clear I was attracted to women,” she corrected automatically. “But that doesn’t seem silly, Luke,” she continued more gently, touching his hand and meeting his eye. “Places have different cultures, different prejudices… It makes sense that you would think that way.”

Luke bit his lip. “Right, well, so I guess I always assumed I would never really have a family of my own… but now… I mean, I don’t know. The Jedi didn’t have children, they had students. But maybe I can have both? I don’t know, it feels ages away.”

"Mm,” Leia agreed. “That’s true.” 

“I’d like to, though. What about you?”

“Oh,” Leia said lightly, her limbs feeling tight and tense. “I always assumed I would, you know, as a matter of – succession, if nothing else. And then with the war it’s been living day to day… but, Luke, just to be clear,” Leia redirected gently, catching his eye again. “Was that you – are you coming out to me?” 

He made the face again. “Yes?”

“Well, thank you. I’m really glad you’ve told me that,” she said genuinely.

“We don’t – we don’t have to talk about it anymore, it’s not like a whole thing…” 

“Of course,” she said, putting her hands up. “I follow your lead.” Then she tilted her head thoughtfully before asking, “Does Han know?”

"What? Oh, no. I mean, not yet. Just you. And – Lando, weirdly enough?”

“Do you want me to… I mean, do you plan on telling him?” she asked. Another secret from Han surely couldn’t make much of a difference. 

“Definitely, definitely – well, don’t tell him but don’t not tell him, when he’s back I’ll tell him.” 

“Right,” Leia agreed. Don’t tell him but don’t not tell him, when he’s back I’ll tell him. It felt uncannily familiar…

“Can I ask you something?” she asked suddenly, the gears in her mind suddenly turning, burning with a question she didn’t know she was thinking about until this very moment. “Maybe you haven’t thought about this at all, but. In case you have.”

“Sure, go for it.”

“If you – if you did, have children,” Leia began slowly. “Unless you adopted, you’d hypothetically select whether you or your partner would be the biological father.”

“I guess so.”

“You’d thus hypothetically be able to choose, whether or not it was related to – him. Whether or not it had the Force,” she continued carefully.

“It’s probably not so cut and dry, but I think basically, that’s probably true.”

“I guess I’m just wondering…”  “If you could choose – whether or not to pass on – this, to a child, the ability, the heritage – but still be able to have a child – that is, you wouldn’t be sacrificing your ability to have a child at all…” 

“Uh-huh…”

“As opposed to your partner’s DNA, which would be clean of all that, but is otherwise pretty much the same, barring any genetic disease…” 

“Would I choose it?” 

"Yes.” She pressed her lips together, thinking. “And I really mean it, like, hold for everything else, you can still have a baby, and you have a genuine option – on or off. You wouldn’t – I mean. You wouldn’t choose to pass on this as opposed to that, would you?”

Luke frowned a little. “I actually would say the opposite.”

“It’s just – even taking him out of it – we always talk about Force sensitivity like it’s this… inherent predisposition some people are born with and thus have to learn to manage… almost like having one leg shorter than the other and needing physical therapy for the impact…” 

“The Force isn’t a burden, Leia.”

“But it’s an obligation, having the proclivity for it – it needs to be managed – wouldn’t it be easier… I mean, don’t you think there’s something morally unethical about deliberating selecting out a more difficult path for your child?” 

"Well, I’ve never lived any other way,” Luke pointed out, “and neither have you.   But to me – I really, really believe, Leia, that if I could teach everyone to feel through the Force, I would want to. I don’t think I’m doing like – palliative care, for your Force sensitivity. Maybe it’s because I have to believe everything happens for a reason? But I really – look, it’s cheesy. But I sort of think I’m lucky.” 

Leia frowned, nodding a little, looking down at her half-full plate. 

“So – I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I definitely don’t think it’s – what did you say? Morally unethical to procreate if you’re Force sensitive.”

“Well when you put it like that––” she couldn’t help but snap. 

“You’re just like in my hearing,” Luke said, shaking his head. “You think eventually you’ll be able to stack up all the facts about the Force and the Light if you get enough of the best intel, and then a rational course of action will just present itself, by looking at the best facts.”

"How else is anyone supposed to make an informed decision about anything?” she demanded, unable to stop herself. 

“That’s why I’m always saying, with your feelings––”

"Feelings are biased,” she said automatically. 

“In favor of who?”

“In favor of – of you, I don’t know, the person having the feeling.”

"So feeling are biased because they take your best interests under consideration.” 

"And not everyone else’s. You can’t just – people can’t – I really envy anyone who honestly thinks they can just do whatever they like, it sounds like a lot of fun, but for the rest of us… and what if you don’t even know what your feelings are? What if they’re in conflict?”

"You keep feeling. And talking.”

"Well, that’s lovely for you that you have it all figured out.” 

“You’re getting a little nasty, Leia. Ease up.” 

"I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said, steadying herself, smoothing her shirt, inhaling through her nose, sitting up straighter. Keep the secret. You know how this is done, you know how to do this. “It’s all this – stress.”