As far as morning routines went, since Han's retirement theirs had changed - a little. Not much. Well, a little much. Leia had expected he might start sleeping in later, considering he had no pressing responsibilities. Yet for a while, habit persisted - and her early morning alarms woke him up, anyway. He generally found something to do - and sometimes, that something was being up a smidge before her, and poking around making breakfast. She had told him more than once to just roll over and go back to sleep when she silenced her alarms and got up for the day, yet he rarely did, and she attributed it at least somewhat to his desire to make sure she was fed, without having to stress about when she'd get time to eat during the busy New Republic morning, and his concern over how she was starting her mornings these days - which was, usually, hanging over the sani.
This was one of those mornings he was up before her, shuffling around in the 'fresher with a razor and lazily scraping off the stubble on his jaw. Idly focusing on his reflection in the mirror, he tried to guess if the alarm or the nausea would wake her first this morning - increasingly, it was the nausea, waking her up almost an hour before she needed to get ready and get going, a fact which made Han anxiously grumble over whether or not she was getting enough sleep. He trusted her to know herself, and if she was overdoing it, but he still worried. As a former general, with no real commitments at the time, he had plenty of time to devote all his time to worrying about Leia, though thus far, he was pretty sure he'd reigned it in enough that he wasn't driving her completely up the wall.
Not completely. Halfway up, maybe.
He shook off his razor in the sink, and glanced down as he heard soft jingling - the bells on Zozy's collar, announcing his presence. Han had made the bells mandatory after the third time Zozy snuck into the kitchen, silent as the grave, and - accidentally, of course - nearly tripped Leia. It was a measure that had her rolling her eyes a little, but Han wasn't about to let her have a bad fall in their own home - not on his watch, and not because of her precious pet.
Zozy sat on his haunches and peered up at Han, tongue lolling out happily.
"She up?" Han asked him.
Zozy chirped. He swished his feathery tail, and cocked his head. Zozy had a habit of cuddling around Leia's ankles when she was dealing with her morning trials, and to Han's chagrin - at first, he'd learned not to take it personally - Leia preferred the mooka's affection to Han's. She was snippier and more temperamental, nowadays, but those moments were always followed by contrite horror, and Leia swearing up and down she wasn't using hormones as an excuse, and she was so sorry. Han had stopped treating it as a personal attack a few weeks ago, recognizing that the resurgence of some of her more mercurial attitudes was not a regression of any of the healing strides she'd made with her post-traumatic stress disorder - it was just hormones, and he didn't want her to feel worse about it than she already did.
On cue, Leia half-ran into the 'fresher, sleepily stumbling in. She headed for the sani, then abruptly stopped in front of it. She put a hand to her forehead, and one on her hip, and closed her eyes, frowning. She took a deep breath, and then started to pace slowly behind him. Zozy wagged his tail at her happily. Leia made a soft, frustrated groaning noise.
Han peered at her, studying her in the mirror.
"Gonna be sick?" he asked, leaning forward and going about his shaving as if all were normal - this was normal, now; new normal.
Leia continued to pace gingerly. She shook her head.
"I don't think so," she said faintly. "False alarm. No," she stopped, lunging for the sani again, and then stopped again, sighing. "Maybe, yes," she muttered to herself.
She put both of her hands on her stomach and bowed her head, taking a few more deep breaths.
"Can you go turn my alarm off, before it rings?" she murmured tensely. "The noise has been...really," she trailed off, as the alarm started to sing in the next room. She winced hard. "Han," she urged.
He dropped his razor and went to turn it off, and heard her start to get sick as soon as he walked out. Fumbling, he slapped at buttons on the damn thing, trying to silence it as quickly as possible - it was an obnoxious, klaxon-like wailing noise, loud and persistent enough to ensure she wouldn't sleep through it at her tiredest. Han figured that was a relic of days long gone, though; he knew Leia rarely slept deeply enough that an alarm wouldn't wake her up. That kind of sleep was long lost, a rarity, to a woman who had been through as much as she.
He tossed it back onto the bedside table, and strolled back into the 'fresher, only to nearly run into her. She was hunched over the sink, letting the water run to rinse the basin. He rested his hand on her back lightly and muttered an apology; she shook her head.
"Sorry," she retorted. "Couldn't make the sani."
He gave her an amused look, given how close the sani was to the sink, but said nothing. She straightened up a little, and winced, moving to the side. Grimacing, she lifted the lid of the sani and bent over it, waiting. Han opened the medicine cabinet above their sink and started wordlessly preparing a little cup of mouthwash for when she was done. He set it aside, careful not to crowd her - he knew she hated to have him hover - and picked up his razor again. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed her straighten up, a hopeful little look on her face, only to pitch herself over the sani and start to vomit again, her shoulders collapsing in defeat. Realizing her hair had mostly come loose from its braid, Han stepped over and gingerly held it back for her until she was done.
She finally lifted her head slowly, and groaned, and Han slid his hand gently back over her hair. Then, he picked up the little cup, handed it to her, and stepped back a little. Zozy wove around her ankles sympathetically. Turning her head slightly to acknowledge his help, Leia nodded slowly, toasting him with the mouthwash.
"Thanks," she said faintly.
She rinsed out her mouth, spit in the sani, and flushed everything, turning to lower herself to sit on the edge of the 'fresher basin. She ran a hand back through her hair and sighed, closing her eyes and rubbing her temples. Han finished up shaving, keeping an eye on her out of the corner of his eye. He watched her lean down and stroke Zozy between the ears, clicking her tongue at him softly, and then she stood up, sidling over and reaching for her tooth brush. He made room for her, and since she leaned into his side pretty heavily - unexpectedly affectionate, which was rare, any time she was dealing with the morning-or-whenever-it-decided-to-strike-sickness - he rested his hand on her lower back and bent to kiss her temple.
"Feel any better?" he ventured gruffly.
Leia gave a half-hearted shrug.
"You know it...fluctuates," she mumbled. "Comes in waves."
She squeezed a thin layer of toothpaste onto her bristles, looking up at him narrowly and meeting his gaze in the mirror.
"Your shaving cream," she warned, nettled, "smells. I asked you to use mine."
Han frowned, moving his hand soothingly over her spine.
"No, you said my aftershave, not the foam - "
"Well now it's the foam. Can you get away from me?" she asked sharply.
With no change of expression, Han just nodded and stepped back, raising his hands. He backed into the doorway, patting his palm over his jaw and neck to rub in excess water, and tapped his foot, deliberately refusing to react.
"You think anythin' sounds good for breakfast?" he asked calmly. "Toast, with some citrus fruit...?" That was usually good for her, and some tea that Malla made sure they were well-stocked in, full of electrolytes and other nutrients.
Leia nodded, and lifted her head, her eyes swimming.
"I don't really want you to get away from me," she said, her lashes fluttering. "You just...smell so unappealing," she squeaked.
Han choked back a laugh, raising his eyebrows. He waved his hand dismissively, snorting.
"'M gonna go cut up some mint," he told her seriously. "Then I'll smell like mint. Settles your stomach, usually?"
She nodded again. She put her toothbrush in her mouth forlornly, and he added, just for good measure:
"Don't worry about it, Leia."
She smiled at him gratefully around the toothbrush, and he left her smiling, making his way into the kitchen to start fixing something for her to eat. Even if she just nibbled at it, it always made him feel better. He knew how fast-paced things could get at her office, and now was really not the time for her to miss out on food. He got out some fresh mint, and the water-infuser they used to make sure there was always ice cold mint water in the fridge. He also squeezed citrus fruit over two pieces of bread before popping it in the toaster - something he'd figured out usually helped, too. Getting the bread nice and toasty, and adding salt and citrus juice to it, was almost like a home-made citrus-infused cracker, and Leia said sometimes it was all she could even consider eating.
She shuffled into the kitchen a few minutes later, and leaned against the island counter, accepting the glass of fresh, cold mint water with a rueful smile. Han sliced up a piece of citrus and turned, handing her one of the fresh pieces, and she took that, too, nibbling on it hesitantly. She'd thrown a robe on over her t-shirt, and tied up her hair into a knot at the back of her neck - no sound of the 'fresher running, so she was dragging her feet today.
"I'm so tired this morning," she grumbled around the rim of her glass as she took a sip. She sighed. "It kept me up all night," she confided.
Han picked up the cutting board and moved to stand next to her, continuing to slice. He looked over at her with interest.
"How long you gonna keep calling it 'it'?" he asked.
She wrinkled her nose stubbornly.
"We will find out when we find out," she retorted.
"Can't we nickname it or somethin'?" Han asked. "'It' sounds kinda creepy."
"Sure," Leia agreed. "Your spawn kept me up all night."
"Spawn. Adorable," he said, deadpan.
Leia smiled gently. Han glanced down at her abdomen.
"Still can't feel anything," he said, furrowing his brow - he tried, sometimes. Just rested his hand there in bed, or while they were watching the Holo. Leia was unconcerned, but reassuring -
"You will, in a few weeks," she promised. "I know Dr. Mellis thinks its eerie that I can feel it. The finer details of the Force fascinate her," Leia murmured. She felt like sometimes, it made Dr. Mellis skeptical of how much Leia needed her help - but Leia very dearly needed her expertise. Innate senses were not at all the same as medical prowess.
"Be easier on you if you weren't Force sensitive, I guess," Han said. "You'd get more sleep."
"Mmhmm," Leia murmured. "Well, I guess it's training me to function with little sleep."
"You already do that," Han retorted. He paused, and looked up. "You want to just go in a little late? Push some meetings?" he proposed warily - she didn't always take such suggestions kindly; he'd been accused of coddling her more than once. Han had a strong suspicion that, despite having been pregnant before, she was still out of her element a little, and having a hard time adjusting to the fact that she really might need to make certain changes. That or - she was concerned about how it would look to her colleagues.
She shook her head, but didn't bristle.
"I'm already working a half day," she pointed out. "We have that sono."
Han nodded. He spun around and grabbed the toast as it popped up, dropping it quickly onto a plate and then setting it down next to him while he finished cutting the fruit. Hearing the toaster, Zozy came scampering in, parking himself at their feet with a jingle of his collar and getting ready to patiently beg for scraps. Leia grinned at him. Han started moving fruit from the board onto the plate, nodding to himself.
"Uh-huh," he said. "That sono," he repeated.
That sono being - the one they had never gotten to last time, not in the way they were supposed to. The one they'd see today was a week or two after the one she'd miscarried at, when she'd been barely conscious for the last sono. She was on edge about it, despite also being quite sure that there was nothing wrong - it seemed that even though her senses assured her all was well, and she insisted she was fine-tuned enough to know it was different, there were vulnerable, fragile parts of her that still worried her body might betray her suddenly.
He stuck a piece of fruit on his thumb and lifted it to his mouth.
"Gonna be fine," he soothed.
"I know," Leia said, reaching over to take the plate. "I know, and what I've read, and what Dr. Mellis has said is that - all this morning sickness is usually a good indication, it means possible toxins are being identified and purged," she trailed off. "And, you know, I wasn't...really sick, last time. Only once or twice," she murmured.
Han dropped a wilted piece of fruit to Zozy, and he caught it. Leia gave him a look. Han glared back innocently, and shrugged.
"You can't even resist the animal baby," Leia pointed out, for the hundredth time. "How are you going to make yourself discipline the Solo baby?"
"Hey, I had no discipline, when I was little," he pointed out. "I turned out great."
"Jail is discipline, Han. You went twice."
Leia elbowed him gently, rolling her eyes. She laughed. Han licked his thumb, and furrowed his brow, straightening up a little.
"What were you sayin' about the alarm, earlier?" he asked. "The noise?" he prompted.
"Hmm?" Leia mumbled through a mouthful of toast. "Oh," she said. She put her toast down, and furrowed her brow a little, looking down at her plate. "The noise," she began.
"Makes you nauseous?" Han asked.
Leia shook her head.
"No, it startles the baby," she said, uncertain herself. "I think. The couple times this week I've woken up to it have been very...distressing, and disconcerting," she explained. "And I'm used to that noise. I think it's scaring," she pointed at her abdomen, "him," she said.
Han raised his brows.
"Or her," she said, shrugging - and Han glared. "I need to pick a different tone."
"But you've had that alarm tone the whole time," Han started slowly. "And last time, too."
Leia nodded thoughtfully.
"I'm further along," she said softly. "And this one isn't sick," she added, pressing her hand against her abdomen gently. She reached out with her senses, and felt the bright, breathing life she was now so attuned to. "That's kind of fun, you know?" she murmured. "The hearing developing."
"Think it can hear me?" he asked curiously.
She nodded, crunching into the second piece of toast.
"You better watch your language," she warned blithely.
Han smirked, and turned back to the leftover fruit. He picked up another piece and dropped it down to Zozy, and Leia rolled her eyes again. She checked the time blinking at them from the chrono on the stove, and bit into some of the fruit, scowling. She needed to get moving, if she didn't want to attract attention coming in late - she was well aware that there was rampant speculation among the masses about her potential condition. Her own inner circle was openly and obviously suspicious, though she and Han told no one, officially. Even her father and Luke and - the handful of others - who had figured it out were feigning ignorance, since they had been told to keep silent until Han knew, and were waiting obediently for it to be announced to them.
Leia brushed off her hand on her robe, and set her plate aside, leaning over to brush her lips against Han's cheek. She lingered a moment, pressing her nose into his cheek, and then, even as he turned to give her a proper hug, drew back sharply, with a pinched, resigned look on her face - she was almost positive she was going to vomit again. Han gave her a sympathetic look, reaching for the mint water to have it ready, and Leia spun towards the sink, and started to heave.
The white-trimmed, lavender coloured walls native to Dr. Mellis' practice always had the soothing effect they were designed for. It was a demure, unassuming colour that evoked a peaceful contentment in happy patients, but was not too bright and garish for those in mourning who needed something a little softer. Having experienced both feelings in rooms like this, Leia felt it was the optimal choice. A significant aspect of Dr. Mellis' practice, however, was that she always tended to her patients herself. She was recognized among the core worlds as one of the best, an elite researcher, and capable of extreme precision and discretion, and she only took on as many patients as she felt she could personally and intimately attend do. Rare emergency instances sometimes hindered her, but she had never missed one of Leia's private appointments, or passed it off to one of her midwives, and that only added to the trust Leia had in her. The most significant aspect was that Mellis generally eschewed the use of droids unless they were needed for monitoring purposes; she considered them cold, bothersome, and incongruous in an environment that was meant to nurture sentient life, a belief that certainly eased Leia's mind.
"So," Dr. Mellis began, as she moved around on her rolling stool, sitting in front of her sono machine and entering the appropriate programs. "How are we feeling? Still dealing with nausea?"
Leia turned her head away from Han to watch the doctor work. She nodded, frowning.
"I don't think it's as bad as it could be," she said.
Dr. Mellis grinned, turning towards her on the stool.
"Heroic," she said brightly, "and, I think a good way to look at it. Framing things positively. I like it."
Han snorted; Leia shrugged.
"I'm…happy it's there," she said. "The morning sickness."
"I understand," Dr. Mellis said. She lifted her chin and looked over at Han, tilting her head. "And you? Adjusting okay?" she asked wryly. "Mood swings and all?"
Han nodded, resting his elbows on the exam cushion.
"What mood swings?" he asked, deadpan.
Dr. Mellis ticked up an eyebrow.
"Smart," she remarked.
Leia reached over and covered Han's hands with one of hers.
"He's a saint," she said seriously.
"Of course, people say that about Han Solo all the time," Dr. Mellis agreed.
Han laughed, shaking Leia's hand off and clasping it between his. Dr. Mellis scooted forward again, and gestured at Leia's abdomen.
"Roll up your blouse whenever you're ready," she instructed.
Leia complied with one hand, and Han tilted his head, resting his temple on his knuckles and watching her. She tucked the folded fabric under the band of her bra, and leaned her head back, staring at the ceiling anxiously. She breathed out, and Han squeezed her hand pointedly.
"You know it's gonna be fine, Sweetheart," he said.
"I know," Leia said quietly.
She did she just…wanted confirmation from someone who did this for a living, instead of a mystical entity that let her sense things, but sometimes seemed as changing and whimsical as the wind.
"He's right," Dr. Mellis said pleasantly. "Of course, he doesn't know anything, he's just being optimistic," she added blithely, and Leia smiled wryly. "You're out of your first trimester, every blood test and genetic screen we did was perfect," she listed. "This will be a little cold," she added, turning to smooth gel over Leia's bare abdomen. "Losses do get rarer, the longer you carry. And you've got a great," Mellis paused, rubbing an antiseptic wipe over her wand before she lowered it to Leia's skin, "uterus."
"See, I'm always sayin' that, too," Han said, straight-faced. "Aren't I, Leia?" he poked her wrist.
Leia rolled her eyes, biting back a smile.
"Shut-up," she muttered affectionately.
She couldn't help but vaguely remember the silence, amidst all the noise, that she'd heard after her miscarriage, while the nursing tech searched, searched, searched, for –
"Hear that?" Dr. Mellis asked calmly.
Leia lifted her head, blinking.
- a heartbeat.
She looked at the screen, where the clear, pristine image came into focus and seemed to ripple, peacefully, with the unmistakable sound that she remembered, and could sense, sometimes, in her blood, and in the back of her mind, if she attuned herself to the Force closely enough – a heartbeat.
"Nice and strong," Mellis murmured firmly.
She studied the screen for a moment, her expression intent, then reached up and traced an outline with her index finger, showing them what she was looking at.
"Baby is awake," she said, indicating a movement. "Moving feet…here," she went on, looking back to Leia. "Normally, I'd tell you you'll be able to feel this in a week or two, but you already do."
"Yes," she said quietly.
She leaned her head back again, and rolled it to the side, looking at Han. He straightened up, giving her a smug look – a smug look with the appropriate amount of relief hiding in there somewhere.
"Well," Dr. Mellis drawled. "Han, in a few weeks, you should be able to feel movement," she said. She moved back a little, holding the sono wand in one hand, and held her palm out, wiggling her fingers at Han. "Give me," she said.
Han loosened one of his hands from Leia's and handed it over. Dr. Mellis pulled his hand closer to Leia, and pressed it right under her navel, applying gentle pressure. Han flattened his palm – Leia wasn't showing enough for it to be obvious, as long as she wore loose clothing, but there was a swell there that hadn't always been.
"As she gets further along, try here," she said. "Most partners tell me that's the easiest area to sense something."
Han nodded, concentrating.
"Feel anything?" Leia murmured.
Han tilted his head.
"Uh," he started. "Is it moving?" he asked.
Leia nodded. She pointed at the screen for him, so he could watch the slow, molasses-like movements on screen. Han finally shook his head, hesitantly pulling his hand back.
"Nah," he cleared his throat. "Not yet." He furrowed his brow. "What's it feel like?"
"Butterflies," Leia supplied. "Carbonation," she added.
"Oh, so like you feel when you look at me?" Han joked, smirking.
"No, I feel irritation when I look at you," Leia retorted swiftly.
He poked her in the arm, and she slapped her hand gently against his chest, laughing softly. She turned her head back to the screen, and pointed at some of the numbers.
"All of these are good?" she asked earnestly.
"Most of those don't have anything to do with health," Dr. Mellis said gently. "But, your blood pressure is right where it should be, and the rhythm is exactly what we want at eighteen weeks. I don't see anything to worry about."
She smiled, encouraging.
"What I'll do is take a few photos for you to keep," she explained. "I'll write current measurements on the back, and the most accurate due date I can project. I know you need that to set your maternity leave in order."
"You still have the same estimate?" Han asked gruffly.
"For the most part," Dr. Mellis said. "Leia's easy. She's the only patient I have who closely pinpoints her conception date for me," she laughed. "Though, babies work on their own schedule."
Dr. Mellis began to clean up the sono wand, and turned to tuck it away, beginning to give commands to the machine. Han sat back, crossing his arms and turning his head pointedly to Leia. She glanced at him through her lashes, compressing her lips, and Han gave her a look, arching his brows.
When? - he mouthed at her, exaggerating the word so she could read his lips. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. He crossed one leg over his knee, tapping his hand against his foot. W-h-e-n! – he demanded silently, intensely curious.
Leia feigned innocence, turning to look at the sonogram.
"She, uh, tell you when that was?" Han asked loudly, directing the question at Dr. Mellis.
"I had assumed you were there, Han," Dr. Mellis fired back smoothly.
Han narrowed his eyes at her back, and Leia smirked.
"Can you tell if it's a boy or a girl?" he asked.
Her eyes on the screen as she began measuring, Dr. Mellis paused, studying the image.
"Not with complete confidence until about twenty weeks," she answered. "Though I know what you're having. I read the genetic blood screens," she added. She turned to them. "Would you like to know? I thought you didn't."
"She keeps calling it 'it,'" he accused. "So, I think we need – "
"No, we don't," Leia interrupted.
Han glared at her lightly.
Dr. Mellis looked interested.
"I thought maybe you knew with your," she nodded at Leia's head vaguely, "abilities."
"I think I will, when it's time," Leia offered, accepting the towel Dr. Mellis handed her to clean off the sono gel. "I think I was…starting to know, with the other," she murmured, looking up at Han. "But we don't care, do we?" she asked, uncertainty creeping into her tone.
"'Course not," Han said hastily.
"He just doesn't like calling it 'it,'" she said, handing off the towel with a murmur of thanks. She hesitated, looking at her abdomen a moment before she began to roll her blouse back down. "I don't think I can know until it knows," she reflected, "and it doesn't…have awareness of that sort of thing."
Leia looked up, shaking out the wrinkles in her blouse.
"It's just a lot of primitive, intense emotion – fear, or hunger, or fatigue," she listed – basic needs.
Dr. Mellis looked fascinated, and Leia blushed a little.
"I still need you," she assured her.
"For some things," she agreed. "The Force won't be able to set an epidural for you, if you so choose. Though," she added, cocking her head curiously, "I suppose it might treat you better in the way of meditative techniques, if you decide to go the so-called natural way."
"So-called?" Leia quoted.
Dr. Mellis clapped her hands and stood up, sliding her stool away.
"I don't believe in that nonsense," she said simply. "Short of injuring the mother, there's no unnatural way to have a baby. Medical advancements are not unnatural, they offer choice, and comfort. You'll do what's right for you," she said firmly, "and I will respond to your wishes so that everything goes safely."
Han ran his hand over his shin, still leaning back in his chair. Leia nodded, and then turned to look at him.
"Make them give me the epidural," she said dryly, "even if I try to get brave."
"You're brave as hell, Leia," he retorted.
"Sweet-talker," she accused.
He flashed a grin at her, and Leia sat forward a little, bending her knees and pressing her bare heels into the cushion – her feet were prone to slight swelling now, and she'd taken her shoes off for the duration of the appointment.
"Arkadia," she said slowly. "Would you say I am in the clear to tell others?"
"That is up to you," Dr. Mellis said. "It's not for me to decide what you're comfortable with. I'm also not one to tell you to keep a pregnancy under wraps just in case it ends in a loss. You need support when you're mourning."
She crossed her arms.
"If it reassures you, though – again, you look fine. Healthy. And I think you can tell, deep down, this will go how you want it to."
She smiled wryly.
"On that note, do you think it would be cheating if I submitted a wager to the gambling houses concerning if you are pregnant, and how far along you are?" she asked. "Under a pseudonym of course."
Han snorted, and Leia made a face at the reminder – the Media; relentless, as always.
Dr. Mellis laughed, and uncrossed her arms.
"I'm going to head down to my tech room and get a few Holo-sonos for you," she said. "Should take about ten minutes. Do you have any questions?" Mellis looked between them expectantly, and Leia looked to Han, arching her brows. He shook his head, shrugging, and the doctor inclined her head pleasantly, and turned to go, leaving them alone moments later with the gentle click of the door.
Leia was still for a moment, and then sat forward, swinging her legs off the exam cushion and turning towards Han. Her ankles brushed together as her feet dangled, and he uncrossed his leg, leaning forward. Her placed his hands on her ribs lightly, his thumbs brushing her stomach, and took a deep breath.
Leia ran a hand through his hair, and leaned forward to press a kiss to his temple, sighing in relief.
"Han," she started thickly.
"I know, Sweetheart," he said giving the same sigh of relief. "I know."
"Thank the stars," she whispered, swallowing hard.
She had trusted her feelings as deep as they ran, yet still, the doctor's confirmation that all was well meant everything to her. The apprehension she'd felt just walking into this appointment evaporated, but for a brief moment, running her hands over Han's neck and shoulders, she took some time to think of her mother, and appreciate her strength.
Han lifted his head, and brushed his knuckles under her jaw, smiling at her.
"How're you feeling?" she asked.
"Me?" he retorted, raising his eyebrow. "What about you, you're the one – "
"Han," she said his name again, softly. "It's starting to get so real."
He hushed up a little, and nodded.
"Yeah," he agreed, lifting his shoulders. He pressed his palms together, and then rested his chin on his fingertips. "'M feelin' pretty good, Your Worship," he said. "You?"
She nodded fervently.
"It's felt like getting to this moment of…confidence," she said, "has been slow, but now it's going to move so fast," she murmured.
Han nodded again –he could see that, could see time colliding, day after day, until forty weeks – which seemed like an eternity – was really no time at all, and the baby would be here, and he'd be able to have the same tangible relationship Leia already had.
She pressed her palms on either side of her thighs and leaned forward, staring at him. He tilted his head.
"We can start tellin' people, yeah?" he asked.
Leia smirked dryly.
"You know most of the people who matter already guessed," she snorted. "Father's not stupid. Luke senses it. Chewbacca smells it," she sighed, feigning consternation. "I accidentally told Carlist. Mon Mothma probably figured it out; I've taken several mornings off, or gone home early."
Han glared at her.
"Oh, and Tavska, she's in charge of my schedule, and it's the same pattern, more or less, as last time. I can't hide anything from Winter. Pooja noticed I stopped drinking; she probably told the entire Naberrie clan her suspicions – oh, and Mara knows – "
"Leia," Han grumbled. "Leia!" he stopped her, furrowing his brow with a smirk. "Hey, the point is, they don't officially know."
She bit her lip.
"Are you angry?" she asked quietly. "That – there were people, who knew before you?"
She had never really asked, or explicitly told him that was the truth – but Han would have known that Luke and Chewbacca, particularly, would have figured it out. And is it had gone longer and longer, after his retirement, and Leia hadn't revealed anything, Bail had gotten restless, dropping thinly veiled hints about his increasing suspicions while Han feigned ignorance and Leia just rolled her eyes at them all.
Han shook his head.
"I like how I found out," he said huskily, sincerity written all over his face. He lifted a hand, and pointed at her. "Next time, though, I wanna be first." He arched his eyebrow menacingly. "I wanna know the night it happens – night, yeah?" he said, fishing for information.
Leia shoved his hand away, tilting her head back and laughing. Han squeezed her knee, making her jump, give a soft shriek, and pull her knees up, grinning at him.
"Or not night?" he tried, giving her a look of concentration, lifting his hand and ticking down fingers as if to count back weeks. "C'mon, you at least gotta tell me if it was on the Falcon – I'll give the old girl a real good clean – "
"Han," she laughed, lunging forward and taking his face in her hands. "Does it matter, does it really matter?" she asked, her voice softening. She ran her fingers over his jaw. "We're having a baby," she said. "You, and me."
Han nodded. He reached up to touch her wrist gingerly, running his thumb over her pulse. Impulsively, he pulled her down into his lap, tilting his chin up, his nose inches away from hers. She didn't much care that they were still in the exam room; she was happier than she imagined she'd be in this moment, and Han was looking at her in that way he had.
"What are you thinking?" she murmured.
He leaned forward and kissed her collarbone.
"'M thinkin," he said slowly, "it's a damn good thing I came back to get you on Hoth."
Leia smiled, and slid her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. She pressed her nose against his temple, taking a deep breath to savor the moment, and gave a small nod – because that about summed it up. It was a damn good thing he had come back to get her on Hoth – and then some.
Han had generally assumed that he'd be telling Bail about the baby again, but when it came down to it, Leia decided against repeating that tradition. She said that was usually only the way things went with the first child, and she didn't quite feel comfortable treating this baby as her first. It felt - repressive; indelicate, somehow. What mattered was that it had been honored, and honored well, and she preferred to tell their inner circle altogether this time. The idea of otherwise planning who got to tell who, and when - officially - was a little exhausting, and in a small gathering of people at their home, she could not only enjoy their reactions privately, she could make it clear to everyone what was being given to the Media, and what was not.
She was keenly wary of Rouge, as she was certain her aunt would want to release an official announcement, complete with all the tidings and trappings such and event for Leia would have garnered on Alderaan. Things were so very different now, though. On Alderaan, if Leia were Queen and wed to someone in an Elder House, or a prince of the blood, her baby would have implicitly belonged to the monarchy and the people - and much of that had been forsaken now. To this day, they often had to gently remind Rouge of such - and Leia did try to balance respect for tradition with the privacy she wanted for herself and Han. She'd said she'd likely allow a christening and some limited ceremony for this baby, for the sake of culture, and Rouge and Bail's contentment, but she also wanted a firm line drawn early, a firm message to the public: her children were off limits.
Leia was slowly easing herself back into the thinking and planning that had come to an abrupt halt last time, and with each passing day she felt less vague apprehension, and more confidence, about it all. She was sure nerves would start to settle in eventually - if she was half as smart as she thought she was, nerves should definitely start to settle in, or she'd be a fool - but for now, there was enjoyment, and still time to prepare.
Listening to the ambient conversation as it drifted down the hall, Leia finished up the high priority call she'd just taken in her neat little alcove of an office. She minimized taking calls in her down time, but these specific financial treaty negotiations had been urgent enough and high-stakes enough that the deputies needed her clearance to offer certain terms, and it hadn't taken long for her to analyze the situation and give her recommendations.
As she dimmed her console, she ducked her head and peered under the desk, clicking her tongue softly at Zozy. He peered back at her with his ears flat back on his head, a reproachful look in his big, sweet eyes. He had decided he did not like the company downstairs, despite usually finding visitors exciting. He seemed to have a threshold of how much he was willing to tolerate, and the ears had started to lie flat around the time Winter and Tycho arrived. In general, Zozy was also scared of Rouge, and that might be adding to his mood.
She arched her eyebrows at him.
"You can stay in here," she allowed. "Don't chew up any wires," she said sternly.
He chirped at her, and rested his head on his fore paws. Leia nodded, satisfied, and pushed her chair back, flicking her hand over the room's sensor as she left to make sure it registered her departure, and turned the lights off. She went down the hall and around the corner to rejoin everyone, smiling as the noise got louder. She caught the tail end of Winter's dramatics as she walked back in -
"- idea why she possibly could have wanted this specific group of people to all gather at her apartment."
Winter turned her head and looked at Leia impishly.
"Do you have any idea, Pasha?" she demanded innocently.
Bail shrugged from his armchair.
"I suspect she might finally tell us," he retorted, and his stress on the word finally was unmistakable. Of course, he'd figured it out weeks ago, but not everyone was as sharp, and he'd been tight-lipped about it.
"I think Carlist knows," Winter sang, tilting her head. She leaned back into the sofa blithely, settled next to Tycho. His arm was draped around her shoulders, and he tilted his head back to share a good-natured look with Leia. "He brought a whole bundle of arallutes."
Leia raised her eyebrows, and looked around - Carlist had arrived after she'd gone to take the call. He looked back at her a little sheepishly, and she shook her head, incredulous - not his best effort in subtlety.
"I thought - flowers are always - I don't know what this occasion concerns," Carlist said, stammering unconvincingly. "No idea. Flowers are a polite gesture in the home - "
"Particularly if one finds herself in need of organic rattles."
Rouge turned her head and gave Winter a piercing look. She cocked her head, and looked back at Leia curiously.
"Is that what this is?" she asked primly. She turned her head suspiciously. "Carlist, how would you know?"
Rieekan held up his hands, panicked.
"I don't know anything!" he swore.
Leia smirked. She came further into the room, and folded her arms loosely, looking around at them all - Rouge, Bail, Carlist, Winter, Tycho, Luke, Pooja, Chewbacca - only one face was missing.
"Where's my husband?" she asked pointedly.
"He's putting the entirely innocent arallutes in a vase," Bail said.
Leia arched her brows.
"Han has no idea where – "
"Leia, do we own vases?" he called from the kitchen, sounding perturbed.
Leia took a seat on the arm of her sofa, smirking at Luke as he moved his arm to give her room. He started to leap up, then thought better of it, and settled back, compressing his lips as if to mime zipping them. Silently, Leia asked after Mara, and Luke responded that she was fine; off planet getting an old friend out of trouble.
"Just leave them," Leia shouted to Han. "They're meant to die over the next few months, anyhow."
Carlist looked about ready to start banging his head against a wall, wary he'd truly given away something that wasn't already – at least implicitly – understood by everyone. Han reappeared a few minutes later, shooting a wicked grin at his old commanding officer, and Winter clicked her tongue slyly.
"How many months?" she asked, and then tilted her head at Leia. "Unrelated, do you think Zozy would take well to a hypothetical baby?"
"What baby?" Luke asked, in such a flawless imitation of consternation that Pooja gave him a startled look, and arched a brow, laughing at him.
"Leia's baby," she retorted, snorting.
Her mouth fell open at her own audacity.
"Damn, Naberrie, steal a man's thunder!" Han griped, pretending to glare at her.
He came to stand beside Leia, and slid an arm around her waist, leaning his thigh against the armrest she was perched on. She reached over and ran her hand over his hip affectionately, biting her lip. She looked up at Han, drawing out the inevitable – and the obvious, until Chewbacca reached out and gave Han a gentle smack in the back of the head.
[Out with it, Cub!]
"Ay!" Han yelped, reaching up to clutch the nape of his neck. He scowled. "You gotta be patient, pal, Leia'n'me are just tryin' to announce that – "
"Han," Winter said sweetly, tilting her head back, "if you extend this any longer, I will make your first your last," she threatened vaguely.
"Hey," Leia murmured. "Not fair to me."
Winter gave her a sharp look, and Leia sighed, her hand coming to a stop at Han's waist. She tucked her fingers into his belt, pulling him close to her side, and looked around before finding her father's eyes. She felt a little shy, for a moment – the last time she had told all the people who really mattered, things had gone so wrong –
"For heaven's sake, what do all of you know that I do not?" Rouge asked, throwing her hands up.
Leia started laughing, taking pity on her.
"Aunt Rouge," she said, shifting her gaze to her. She tilted her head. "Han and I are having a baby."
Rouge gave her a wide-eyed look, and there was a split moment of silence before Winter gave a dramatic, deadpan gasp.
"You are?" she exclaimed.
Bail took a step forward, making a show of shaking his head.
"It's about damn time," he swore, striding across the room to Han. "You know how long I've had to act like I didn't have a clue?"
"Act?" Han snorted. "You don't have a clue, Viceroy."
Bail rolled his eyes, and took Han's hand, clasping it in a firm grip. He turned to the side and gave Leia a stern, paternal look, narrowing his eyes.
"You sure took your time, Lelila," he informed her.
She took a deep breath, and lifted her arms to hug him as he released Han and leaned closer to her.
"Superstitious," she whispered, accepting his kiss on her forehead, and squeezing his shoulders. "Nerves. You understand."
He nodded; that he certainly understood well. Pooja clapped her hands, tilting her head back in relief.
"Ryoo is going to be so happy – all of them are, congratulations, Leia!" she said warmly.
"I told you, Tycho," Winter said loudly.
Rouge shook her head, placing a hand on her hip.
"And just how were all of you aware of all this?" she demanded. "I had no such inkling – are you really, Leia?" she asked, looking earnestly at her niece, and then she even looked at Han, her expression soft. "Han?"
Han put his hand over his heart.
"Would I lie to you, Aunt Rouge?"
"I expect you would, and likely have, but not about this," she smiled, and put a hand to her lips, beaming for a moment – before remembering she was the last to know, and turning a sharp look on her fellow guest.
"Force sensitive," Luke said, answering her first question.
Rouge's eyes flicked from person to person.
[Heightened olfactory senses,] Chewbacca warbled.
"Noticed she stopped drinking," Bail offered.
"Likewise," Winter offered.
"Winter told me that we figured it out," Tycho said seriously.
"Guessed," Pooja said flippantly. "Late mornings. My sister's been pregnant twice."
Rouge finally glared at Carlist, and he pointed accusingly at Leia.
"She told me."
Rouge raised her brows, and Han gave Leia a startled look. She flushed, pursing her lips.
"It was an accident," she hissed. "He – don't look at me like that, Han," she chastised primly, noting the incredulous, but amused, glint in his eye. "The only person I told outright was you, strictly speaking!"
He slid his hand up her back and to the side of her head, pulling her closer and bending down to kiss her temple. He rubbed her shoulder warmly, tucking his other hand into his pocket.
"No one was keepin' it from you, Rouge," Han offered gruffly, shrugging.
"They were keeping it from us," Winter grumbled. "Dragging out our speculation – I was starting to feel like one of the masses – "
Leia rolled her eyes.
"Well, it can't have been so very long," Rouge said, skeptical. She nodded at Leia. "She's hardly gained any weight."
"How far along are you?" Pooja ventured. "If you don't mind me asking."
Leia pursed her lips, sliding her arm around Han's waist.
"More than halfway, actually," she revealed quietly, her cheeks turning slightly pink.
Pooja looked incredulous.
"You can't be!" she exclaimed, thrusting her hand out. "You don't look – Ryoo was so noticeable even in the first trimester!"
"Ryoo had twins," Luke said, turning his head slyly to Leia.
She laughed and shook her head.
"It's only one," she confirmed.
"You sure?" Tycho asked. "I've heard stories of surprises. Sometimes they hide."
"They can't hide from me," she said smartly. She pointed to her temple. "I can do one better than eyes in the back of my head. I've got eyes in their minds."
"More than halfway," repeated Bail, surprised. "I was trying to keep track – well, I suppose I don't know how far you were when you told Han," he trailed off, thinking to himself.
"My wife didn't show hardly at all with our first," Carlist offered. "She was tiny."
Bail glanced over at him, and said nothing. He couldn't remember…Breha had rarely made it halfway.
"I suppose you've also been wearing flowy clothing, to disguise what is there," Rouge murmured. "I thought you had just taken a fancy to a more feminine style of late – "
"You're the only one," Winter snorted. "The Media just decided it was confirmation she was pregnant."
"And hiding it," Pooja added with a grin.
Han looked down at her, and then around the room, arranging his face in a frown.
"You really can't tell? I think it's real noticeable," he said, deadpan. Rouge gave him an appalled look, and Leia arched an eyebrow, turning her head slowly to glare at him. Han went on, blinking innocently: "Then, I reckon, you don't see the bits where it's most noticeable – "
Leia shoved her elbow into his ribs, shutting him up. He grinned, gloating smugly at the annoyed look on Bail's face. Winter gave a short, approving laugh, tilting her head back to look at Han.
"I get it. Breast joke."
"Thank you, Winter," Bail said loudly.
Winter wiggled her eyebrows at Leia. Rouge, busy giving Han such a pinched look it was entirely possible her features would just utterly disappear, pursed her lips and made a disturbed noise with her tongue, her shoulders tense.
"You can't possibly still be," she began, scandalized, lifting her hand delicately. "Well," she said crisply, apparently for lack of a better euphemism.
Winter sat forward sharply, her eyes wide, giving Rouge a piercing, incredulous stare. Her mouth fell open.
"Sith spit," she swore, shaking her head in disbelief and then shooting looks at everyone with drawn out glee. "You think – she thought," she said, settling her gaze on Leia, "you'd be celibate for forty weeks."
Han gave Rouge a long-suffering look.
"I'm not hurtin' her," he protested.
"Winter," Rouge snapped tersely. "The histrionics are a little much – it is not uncommon, among aristocrats, to refrain – too much excitement, you know – "
"Even fragile women aren't that fragile," Pooja snorted.
"Rouge," Leia said placidly. "You needn't worry. Han isn't 'exciting' me too much in the bedroom."
"Yeah," Han. "I'm not – wait," he broke off, frowning, and turned, looking down at her suspiciously. "I'm not?!"
Winter cackled. Leia suppressed a grin, shooting Han a placating look through her lashes – she was just teasing him. A little flirtation never hurt –
"Oh, you blow my mind, dear," she patronized.
"You guys have got to stop," Luke ordered. "Carlist is going to die of shame."
Rieekan was indeed a curious shade of magenta, and Chewbacca snickered at him, folding his arms. Humans were such – prudes. Han reached up and tugged on the end of Leia's braid gently, scowling at her. She leaned over and kissed his forearm lightly, resting her head on his arm.
"Damn glad you ended up with me, aren't ya?" Han asked pointedly. "Things'd be pretty boring if you had to keep givin' up sex."
"I am never going to get used to this sort of vulgar repartee in the drawing room," Rouge sniffed helplessly. "Honestly, Leia."
"Me?" Leia protested. "I am not the only culprit."
[Cub – Lady Organa, what is this nonsense?] Chewbacca warbled. [What do the men do if they are not allowed to be affectionate with their mates for the whole gestation?]
Winter, who had picked up Shriywook alarmingly quickly from merely being around Chewie, translated:
"He asked how the aristocratic men amused their poor, hard-up selves."
"Oh," Rouge said mildly. "They cheat."
She answered, at the same time Bail, and Carlist, also responded – grimly – "They cheat."
"It went unspoken," Bail said bitterly. "It's old tradition – er, old – behavior," he said dismissively. "I never did such a thing."
"Except when you were off knocking up my aunt to get yourself a bastard heir," Pooja said seriously.
Bail rolled his eyes at the memory of the stale rumor.
Han let his hand slide off Leia, holding it up.
"Hang on," he said loudly. "They cheat?" he repeated. "On their wives?"
Leia looked over at him, finding herself quite taken with how offended he was – not that she expected anything less. Rouge gave a protracted sigh, a sour look on her face.
"It's still in practice, across various social constructs," she said. "Especially Elder Houses."
"Arranged marriages," Tycho said abruptly. "Less feeling involved, usually."
Han shook his head, waving his hand harshly.
"I don't care – runnin' around on someone who's pregnant with your kid?" he shot a suspicious look at Rouge. "You think I'd do that to Leia? You'd turn the other cheek?"
"No, I do not think you would do that, at all, as it were," she said firmly, "And I would not." She paused, and narrowed her eyes at him. "I was worried you might go insane without the touch of a woman, since you cannot have one polite conversation without referencing carnal activity."
"Aww," Winter purred. "Aunt Rouge, that's so sweet."
Han looked unsure if he should be offended or honored, and he stared at her with a consternated expression. Then, he took it as it was – a compliment, an indication of Rouge's faith in him, and he snapped his fingers, pointing at her smugly.
"That's gettin' you the first glass of champagne," he said, nodding firmly. He folded his arms. "'Bout time for a toast, you think?" he asked.
His suggestion was met with raucous agreement, and Chewbacca took a step back, reaching out to ruffle Han's hair with a few more growls of congratulations, and then walk back with him to the kitchen to fetch things for a toast.
Luke looked up at Leia and nudged her leg, silently offering his seat on the couch. She shook her head, content on her perch, and he tilted his head at her, asking, silently – can I try…?
She shook her head a fraction, telling him to wait; Han still wasn't able to feel anything, and as she'd said before, she didn't think it was right for Luke to start connecting with the Force when Han didn't have that.
The gathering began to relax, after a moment – move around, offer their private congratulations to Leia.
"I'm so happy," Pooja said, giving her a quick, tight hug. "You'll be a wonderful mother. Do you mind if I tell the family? Or would you rather?" she asked.
Leia grasped her elbows.
"I'd like to tell Jobal and Ruwee," she said. "I planned on calling them a bit later tonight, if you'd like to stay and be there."
Pooja nodded eagerly, knowing her grandparents would be delighted. She beamed, and stepped aside so Rouge could lean in to kiss Leia's cheek, smiling proudly – and Tycho, and Winter, until Leia was face to face with her father again, and she folded her arms across her abdomen, and smiled softly.
"How far, really?" he asked quietly.
"Twenty-two weeks," Leia answered, a little apologetic. "We were enjoying having it to ourselves."
"There's no need to justify your privacy," her father said simply. "It occurred to me you might just never make an official announcement, and leave the world wondering."
"We might, still," she murmured. She looked down, and gathered the material of her stylishly loose shirt in her hands, pressing it behind her back and flattening against her skin. She nodded down at her abdomen. "It is noticeable, somewhat," she pointed out. "Several of my more tailored gowns stopped fitting."
She ran her fingers over the swell of her abdomen, and smiled, loosening the fabric again after a moment, and letting it fall.
"And how have you been feeling?" he asked earnestly.
Leia shrugged, tilted her head back and forth.
"Decent, for the most part. The nausea has started to subside."
Bail nodded. He clasped his hands in front of him, and grinned again, his eyes bright. He leaned closer, reached out to touch her under the chin, and lifted her head to him, looking at her intently.
"She would be beside herself with happiness for you," he said quietly. "Your mother."
Leia took a deep breath, and nodded. She knew – and she missed her mother infinitely more, wishing she had her around to help her adjust, and to teach her things only mothers knew. Her father winked at her, and released her chin, stepping back – in time to welcome Han's return with the freshly opened champagne.
Long after their guests had left, Leia stood in the doorway of the room that would soon be a nursery. The room she and Han had picked out months ago, just after they'd moved in. She tilted her head against the wall, and watched moonlight streaming through the window, and let herself think, until she heard Han on the staircase.
He pointedly tapped on the wall as he came closer to her, thus announcing his presence, and stepped up close, sliding his hand up her side, to her shoulder, and pressing a kiss to the back of her head.
"Chewie staying?" Leia murmured softly, her temple resting against the doorframe.
Han shook his head, nudging her ear gently with his nose.
"Falcon," he mumbled – and Leia gave a small shake of her head. Here, and in their old place, they had always reserved a room for Chewbacca, and yet it seemed old habits died hard for him. He so often preferred the comfort of his simple hammock on the ship.
Han pulled her hair back from her neck and kissed below her ear. Leia's leaned back against him, her eyes drifting up to the shadowbox full of arallute petals Han had hung on the wall a few weeks after they moved in. It was the only décor in the fledgling nursery so far, and it lingered on her mind.
"What if I'm not maternal enough?" Leia asked thoughtfully.
Han squeezed her arm, rubbing his nose gently against her shoulder. He tilted his head, looking at her profile, and furrowed his brow. He shifted his weight, lifting his chin a little.
"You're maternal," he retorted.
"Mmmhmm, yes," Leia murmured wryly. "That's what they used to call me, in the Rebellion. Old maternal Princess. Whispered it behind my back."
Han snorted, well aware of the things she'd been called behind her back. Leia feigned confusion.
"Oh wait, that wasn't it."
Han squeezed her shoulder again. He turned his head, kissed her cheek, and wrapped his arm around her chest, hugging her back against him. He rested his temple against hers, following her gaze to the shadowbox.
"You had a hard time with that loss, Leia," he said quietly. "You got plenty of those feelings."
"Yes, but what if I'm not maternal enough," she protested. She didn't sound anxious, just curious, and Han hesitated, resting his chin on her shoulder lightly.
"What's 'enough?'" he asked, quoting her. "You're takin' care of yourself. Doin' stuff you're s'pose to," he said. "What else're you s'pose to do, right now?"
"Oh, I don't know," Leia said, with a shrug. She gestured forward, biting her lip, and shook him loose a little, stepping forward. She looked around the room, and turned to face him. "Nest more?" she asked.
She drifted towards the window seat – her favorite part about this room – and crossed her arms, clasping her elbows in her palms.
"The way you did, with the bunks on the Falcon, and the leather?" she tilted her head back, gazing at the smooth ceiling. "Decorate the nursery," she murmured, looking back down. "Its so empty," she said, taking a slow seat on the window cushions, "and yet…we're half-way there."
Han nodded. He stood in the doorway, watching her.
"Yeah," he agreed quietly. He tilted his head. "Feels like a long way off," he said warily. "'Cept – "
"Way too soon, all at once?" Leia finished for him.
He grinned at her; happy she'd finished his thought. She shrugged a little, cocking her eyebrow.
"It's maddening, like that. I suppose."
Han smirked, and pushed away from the wall. He walked around for a minute, slowly, rubbing his jaw, and then stopped opposite her, nodding.
"Okay," he said seriously. "You got ideas about how you want it to look in here?" he asked.
Leia lifted her hand.
"I want the crib in that corner," she murmured immediately. "Malla reached out, she wants to send a carved carousal," Leia mimicked the motions of a mobile, and then turned a little. "A lullaby chair, over here, I think, and then – open space, in the middle of the room," she went on.
She frowned, tilting her head thoughtfully.
"I guess we'll have to decide if this will stay the nursery, or if it will belong to," she trailed off, pointing to her abdomen. "This one," she mumbled slowly. She arched her brows, and Han put his hands on his hips, giving her a smug look. "Ahhh," she murmured, blushing.
"Yeah, see?" Han said, strolling forward. "You got instincts," he said. "You're thinkin' about it." He reached out to touch her shoulders, bending forward to kiss her forehead, and then stepping to the side, and sitting down next to her.
He slid from the window seat on to the floor, slipping his arm around her leg, and running his knuckles over her shin soothingly. He tilted his head back so he could rest it on the cushion, and look up at her.
"It's just nerves, Sweetheart," he said quietly. "You can shake some of 'em off, now."
She reached over to stroke his hair back and nodded, smiling faintly.
"Maybe it's that the idea of buying all the stuff we need, and setting it all up, makes it so much more," she tugged on his hair a little, looking for the word. "Real. Normal. Human."
"Hmm. I hope we have a human one," Han said seriously.
She poked his head, and her shoulders relaxed. She smiled, biting her lip and looking down at him curiously. He smirked a little, looking down at his palm. He rubbed it tensely, taking a deep breath.
"It all feels surreal," he said, shrugging. "You know?"
She nodded again.
He looked back up.
"Aren't you gonna have a gathering thing?" he asked. He gestured around. "People give you stuff for this?"
Leia looked taken aback, and appalled for a moment, and Han raised his eyebrows, unsure what he'd said. She blinked, and then composed her expression, pressing her lips together.
"That – no," she murmured. "I won't have a shower. That's a…tradition that's rooted in helping new parents offset the financial burden of having a baby," she said. "I never knew a single woman who had something like that, not in my social class," she explained. "It would be…incredibly uncouth to have a shower with the riches we have."
"Uh," he said. "Yeah, I get that, I guess. The whole thing though, it's kind of," he shrugged. "Y'know, a right?"
"I can still have a celebration without their being gifts involved," Leia said simply. She tilted her head. "The amount of diplomatic gifts I'll receive will blow your mind," she added dryly.
Han wrinkled his nose, and Leia nodded solemnly. She suspected they would start coming in as soon as it was public knowledge she was expecting. Most aristocrats, and obsequious politicians, were quick with gifts – it was a status identifier.
Leia combed his hair with her fingers a little more.
"You'll have to handwrite a thank you note, to each dignitary," she said seriously.
"Well I'll have just had a baby; you couldn't possibly expect me to do it," she retorted, fluttering her lashes.
Han squinted his eyes, trying to decide how to respond to that without putting his foot in his mouth. Leia laughed, ruffling his hair.
"Relax, Han. Tavska will write them. I'll sign personally, that's all," she said.
Han did visibly relax. He turned his head and kissed her knee gratefully, shaking his head.
"Good," he said, deadpan. "I don't even know how to write."
"Hush," Leia said, digging her toe into him. "You're smarter than you let anyone know."
Han grinned smugly. He rested his temple against her knee, and furrowed his brow, thinking about the evening. It had been full of happiness and good cheer and – a lot of Rouge's typical comments, and some interesting bits about Alderaanian tradition.
"You really think we need a nanny? Or somethin'?" he asked.
Leia sighed uncertainly.
"I want to say no," she said. "I want to do it ourselves. Just us," she murmured. "But I…think…we have the resources to seek help, and we might need it. With my work, and – "
"I'm gonna be at home, though – "
"Yes, but you have to have your own adult time sometimes," she said. "I'd need it, if our roles were more – usual."
Han grunted warily.
"And you think me and Rouge should vet people…together," he muttered.
"That's one thing we can give Rouge," she murmured. "I already told her no ostentatious public christening, no titles will be bestowed, and so on," she listed. "She knows how to read people, to get a trusted employee," Leia assured him. "And I trust you to do that, too," she added. "Especially you."
Han gave another skeptical grunt.
"S'it really a thing for men to be nannies on Alderaan?" he asked, frowning. "Not that I think it's weird –" he started hastily.
Leia laughed a little.
"Not so much for infants. Infants need nurses; Alderaan usually surrounded infants with women," she said. "However, there was an overarching belief that men didn't have innate instincts like women. That they needed – training. So, yes, a lot of young men did stints as au pairs."
Han ran his hand over her leg a little slower, thinking about it. There certainly seemed to be a lot more out there about assuming women had maternal instincts than assuming men had paternal ones. He rolled his head from side to side nervously, chewing on the inside of his lip.
"Alderaan was a near perfect society, Han, but it was still human," Leia murmured softly. "Pedestalism," she reminded him. "Over-sanctification of women, in some respects."
Her hand stilled in his hair, and she let it fall to his shoulder, frowning to herself. Han tapped on her leg lightly, looking up at her again.
"Do you think Carlist did that?" he asked.
"Yes," Leia answered immediately. "He was a caretaker for my Antilles cousins, for two years before he joined the Palace Guard," she said. "There's a reason he's known me all my life."
"So 'cause you Alderaanians were so equal, men got all kinds of pre-fatherhood training, and women were just s'pose to know?" He snorted. "That ain't fair."
"Hmmm," Leia murmured.
Han kissed her knee again.
"You know plenty, Leia," he said. "You don't need to worry about a damn thing."
She looked down at him, and smiled. She shifted, and moved off the window seat, settling down next to him on the floor. She looped her arm through his, and rested her head on his shoulder, looking around the empty room.
"I thought blue might be a nice colour for the walls," she said. "That kind of light shade, that's maybe sort of violet – "
"Periwinkle?" Han supplied seriously. "Like that gown you wore to Luke's retirement."
Leia compressed her lips, smirking.
"Yes, Han," she said. "Periwinkle," she quoted, snickering.
"Don't make fun of me," Han said, nudging her stubbornly. "I hear a lot of your discussions with Tavska. And Rouge. And Winter."
"Well, stop eavesdropping, and I might not make fun of you for correctly identifying periwinkle."
Han draped his arm around her shoulder and then wriggled it down her back to her waist, his fingers brushing her ribs.
"Okay," he agreed. "That colour's good for me – want to talk about names?"
"Well, I," she began.
"You got one picked out, don't you?"
"No," she said honestly. She let out a breath. "Sola told me that it's very uncommon on Naboo for anyone to name a child before it's born. That it's considered bad luck. Just a superstition," she said hastily, not wanting him to think she utterly believed it. "Father told Luke that Padmé named us after she saw us, so," she trailed off for a moment. "I was thinking we might…wait?" she offered.
She turned to look at him intently.
"If that's okay with you," she added. "We don't have to stress about it."
"What if," Han began dramatically, "we can't agree, and we get in a big shouting match in the delivery room?"
"Typical Han and Leia?"
"We'll give someone a tie-breaker vote," she said flippantly.
"Who?" Han prompted. "Not your father," he warned, tickling her ribs. "He'll pick something ridiculous. Like Bail."
"Han," Leia reprimanded prudently.
"'Less you want to name it Bail," Han muttered.
He pretended to be extremely relieved, and she rolled her eyes.
"Winter," she suggested. "Winter – "
"Is a worse prankster than Wedge Antilles," Han said, eyes wide. "Luke," he told her firmly. "If there's someone breakin' a tie, it's Luke."
Laughing again, Leia nodded.
"But we're not talking about names," she reminded him.
"Right – bad luck."
"Or something like it," Leia murmured.
"And we're not gonna find out what it is," Han added, giving her a suspicious look.
Leia compressed her lips primly.
"It doesn't matter to us. Health matters," she reminded him.
"Yeah," Han agreed, narrowing his eyes. "You know, don't you?"
She shook her head, and took his hand firmly, lacing her fingers into his and pressing it tight against her abdomen.
"Han, I swear, I don't know," she promised. "I don't know if it will come to me, or if that's something the baby doesn't understand at all, and Dr. Mellis would have to tell us," she said softly. "It really doesn't matter," she murmured. "Right?"
"'Course not," Han said hastily. He shrugged. "I just like knowin' things."
"Hey, so do you!"
Leia shrugged a little. She rested her head on his arm again, thinking about her own preferences – did she have one? She wasn't sure. Given her cultural background, she was trained to want a girl; Alderaan always wanted little girls. They were the heiresses and they were the guardians of bloodlines, because a woman always knew if she had given birth to a child. With men – paternity could always be uncertain.
Part of her wanted a girl. She knew she'd find it easier to relate to a girl throughout the years, even if her own adolescence had been unconventional. Part of her, though, feared the same abuses being visited on any daughter of hers, and wanted, instead, to have the chance to raise better men.
"I think," she started hesitantly. She squeezed Han's hand. "I thought…the first one might have been a boy," she murmured. "I don't know if I knew, or if I was being…I don't know."
Han pulled her a little closer, nodding silently. It was hard not to think of the miscarriage, even in the happiest little moments now. It didn't necessarily dampen the excitement, either; it was just nostalgic. Old pain that had long since been coped with, and settled into the right places in the heart – where it was remembered, but not dwelled upon.
"How much time you think you're going to take?" Han murmured.
He pressed his hand against her ribs gently, fingers splaying over her abdomen.
Leia hummed to herself thoughtfully.
"Tavska technically isn't appraised, though as I've said, she's not stupid," she snorted. "I'll talk it over with Mon and Father – since he'll be my stand in," she said.
"Really?" Han asked. "Not Evaan?"
"No," Leia murmured. "Evaan's Alderaan's senate representative. She doesn't stand in for my duties as Ambassador."
"I suppose I could…ask Solo and Jobal and Ryoo how much time they think is wise," she went on. "My mother," she shrugged. "Well, I don't think she 'took time,' in the traditional sense. Palace full of aides, nurses, servants – and she had a planet to rule."
"You're takin' time, Leia," Han said sternly. "You need it. Hell, we – "
"Of course I'm taking it," she interrupted. "I don't expect either of us to be alone with a brand new baby right away," she added, eyes widening. "To start, I think I'll block off twenty weeks of complete maternity leave. Jury is still out on whether or not I'll be able to stay away," she finished, snorting.
"What if you want more than that?" Han asked anxiously.
"Then I'll take more," she placated. "But I'd like to save the time for if I need it later."
Intergalactic standards required at minimum one year of paid parental leave be afforded to each parent. There was no mandate that stated it all had to be taken at once, nor did it expire.
"Just don't want you to stress yourself out too much," he mumbled. "Yeah, we gotta take care of the baby and learn that stuff but you're gonna have to recover, too."
Leia ran her hand over his gently.
"I appreciate that, Han," she said.
"I read stuff," Han said gruffly. "That time off can't just be about bein' a mom. S'gotta be about you feelin' better, too. Like yourself."
Leia giggled softly.
"I love you so much," she whispered, pressing her nose against his cheek.
Leia shifted, stretching her legs out in front of her, and took his hand, running her thumb against the palm for a moment. She pulled it forward and tucked it against her abdomen, moving her shirt so his bare skin was against hers. She waited for a moment, tilting her head, and then looked over at him intently.
Han looked down, raising his eyebrows.
"Feel that?" she asked earnestly, biting the inside of her lip. She hoped he could – it had been driving her crazy that he kept having to wait, and wait, and wait –
Han leaned forward a little, and nodded eagerly, reaching out with his other hand. He placed it next to theirs on her abdomen, staring intently, and then looked up, and grinned.
"Leia," he said, swallowing hard. He shook his head a little, awestruck. "That's unbelievable."
She nodded in agreement, smiling.
"You feel that all the time?" he asked.
She nodded again, and Han lunged at her, still grinning, attacking her with kisses. She squeaked in surprise and wrapped her arms around his neck, letting him take her gingerly to the floor, tossing her head as she tried to remain dignified – "Han! You can't maul me in the baby's room – "
Han mumbled something incoherent against her neck, and she closed her eyes, dissolving into laughter again – she figured they had a few minutes before Zozy heard them roughhousing and came to investigate. And that, she knew, was just a precursor to all the interruptions they'd face when they actually had the baby.
a/n: i think this is the longest chapter. it's my second favorite!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Coming home late from an evening of family socializing, Leia had so many things on her mind, as she often did. Most of them were vague concerns – focusing on what she had to do tomorrow, what she needed to get in order, et cetera; the usual concerns of a powerful woman in charge of an entire galaxy's diplomacy. Some of the things on her mind were more mundane – Zozy needed a new chew toy, she needed a haircut, she had to use the sani for the ten thousandth time this evening –
Primarily, though, her more subdued, idle thoughts lingered on the subject of the baby; tonight, she was almost viscerally aware that something was wrong with Han. He'd been pretty quiet most of the evening, and on most of the flight home, and his jaw was twitching with his usual indicators of stress.
She was uncertain what was wrong, and she was unsure when exactly she'd picked up on it - but since she had, it was persistent, and his emotions were starting to give her a headache. One side effect of her pregnancy, she realized, was an increased sensitivity not just to her own hormonal shifts, but also to the emotions of those around her. It was something she decided was specific to her connection to the Force.
Luke theorized it had something to do with her baby's burgeoning ability to pick up on emotions outside of its mother's, as well – if it can hear Han, it can probably start to feel him, too, Luke postulated.
She trusted Luke's instincts there. She knew the baby could hear Han. She felt it react to his voice all the time.
Letting them into the apartment, she furrowed her brow, reaching up to rub her temples at the intensity of Han's discomfort. He didn't seem sick, it was more emotional than that – and for the life of her, she didn't understand what could have happened over the course of the evening that pissed him off or upset him so much.
It had just been dinner, with her family – a quiet, close-knit gathering, where Leia shared a healthy, happy sono with her inner circle, and Rouge served tea and the traditional dishes and desserts that an Alderaanian mother would bestow on any expectant daughter.
Han shut the door, and Leia paused, turning to look at him.
"Think I'm gonna go to bed," he muttered. "Want me to take Zozy out, first? You need anything?" he offered.
Her head throbbed, and she bristled at the idea of him tucking himself away in the bedroom – it wasn't that late, and if she wasn't tired, he didn't have a right to be tired – she felt an overdramatic flare of irritation and before she could stop it, retorted:
"Yes, I need you to stop sulking," she snapped crisply.
She winced at herself, and Han straightened up a little, arching his eyebrows.
"I'm – what?" He asked warily. "I'm…not sulking," he protested, but his hesitance, his uncertainty, told her he was, and he was startled she'd realized it. Frowning, he narrowed his eyes. "Are you in my head?" he demanded.
"No, Han, I never do that to you," she answered, her shoulders falling. She grit her teeth, and her hand drifted down to her abdomen. "I'm – very sensitive to emotions right now and something's," she broke off, her eyes filling with tears, "something's wrong with you, and I don't know what I did – "
Her voice cracked and pitched and she rolled her eyes at herself, raising them to the ceiling. These hormones, these damn hormones! She never burst into tears over little needling issues with Han, and maybe she was misreading him altogether, maybe everything was fine – she wasn't used to how sharp her senses were.
Han relaxed a little, reaching out to rub her shoulder.
"You didn't do anything," he said, and immediately, her senses told her – sincere; he means that.
She sucked in her breath and reached up to wipe her eyes. She folded her arms and frowned.
"S'okay, Leia, don't worry," he promised gruffly. "I'll go have a drink and shake it off."
She turned to him, thrusting out one hand.
"Shake what off?" she asked, concerned. Her eyes widened, searching his. "I don't see what happened between the residence and here that soured you."
He shook his head, frustrated.
"It doesn't matter."
"It does!" she insisted. "I'm the one who gets bitchy over nothing right now! You can't start doing it, too!" she hissed, glaring at him. "You don't get to be a bitch, Han, I have the rights to bitchiness."
He looked at her incredulously for a minute, and then grinned a little, his emotions lightening instantly. When he relaxed, her headache eased, and she felt a thousand times better, letting out a quick sigh of relief. She pursed her lips, still concerned, and Han stepped forward, resting both his hands on her shoulders.
"Got it, Your Worship," he said gently.
She swallowed hard, and tilted her head up.
"What's wrong?" she implored softly.
Han shifted his weight in discomfort, frowning.
"Don't really want to bother you, Sweetheart," he muttered. He squeezed her shoulder. "'Specially if it's affecting you twice as bad, the emotional stuff."
She slapped his hand away, and then winced, taking it back apologetically and rubbing his knuckles.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm always on a hair trigger – you can't internalize it," she said tightly. "It's worse for both of us – it, whatever it is," she added, harried. "Talk to me."
"You wanna sit down or somethin'?" he asked dryly, gesturing around. "I don't really like you on your feet all the time."
She glared at him immediately, her face flushing.
"For the last time, I am fine – "
He grinned, nodding.
"Yeah, I just like to get you fired up sometimes," he interrupted.
She grit her teeth.
"Death wish, Hotshot," she growled.
He shrugged wryly, and folded his arms, considering her. His smile faded a little, and he sighed grimly, turning on his heel. She stayed put, her head tilted, and he glanced back, arching his brows.
"You want to talk or not?"
"Yes, but I – first, I need…the sani, again," she told him, in as dignified a manner as possible.
Han nodded seriously.
"After all that talkin' you did about turnin' down the throne," he said, deadpan.
Leia rolled her eyes, suppressing a small laugh, and watched him drag his feet into the living room before she turned and made her way to the first level sani to relieve herself. It really was a thing to be taken seriously, the experience of having a small, growing human being living in alarming proximity to her bladder.
She lingered in the 'fresher for a moment, washing her hands, chewing on her lip, wracking her brains to determine what he might be struggling with – was it some anniversary she'd missed? Not theirs, she'd never forget theirs; was he thinking about his mother, missing her, like Leia had missed hers this evening?
He hadn't said anything aggressive or sarcastic at dinner, not more than usual. He'd snapped at Rouge about something, but if he hadn't snapped at her – and received a snap back – Leia would think the world was ending.
She slipped her shoes off at the foot of the stairs and made her way back to the living room, where Han was sitting on the edge of the sofa, his elbows on his knees, chin on his hands. He looked up at her and smiled around his knuckles. She collapsed in the corner of the sofa next to him, curling her legs up as best she could. Automatically, she rested one palm protectively on her abdomen, and she did not miss Han's lingering study of that gesture.
She arched her brows at him, waiting. Han bumped his teeth against his index finger, lowering his hands tensely.
"You notice they were kind of – rough on me, tonight?" he asked curtly. It sounded as if it took a lot for him to get the words out, and Leia tried to not to show too much confusion – they?
"They," she repeated aloud, carefully. "The – Media?" she asked, baffled. Had he seen something she hadn't? Lately – now that it was fairly obvious to the public she was pregnant - the Media had been full of fluff pieces about her, despite no official confirmation. Han hadn't been a target.
"No," Han said bluntly. "Your old man. Rouge. Your family," he said pointedly. "All of them."
Leia compressed her lips, her heart sinking. She fell silent, looking back at him, and shifted a little, thinking back on the evening. Lots of laughing, lots of talking, lots of – teasing. Teasing Han, specifically. She hesitated, tilting her head at him softly.
"Han," she began.
He shrugged a little roughly.
"All those jokes," he went on grimly, "'bout how I'm gettin' more than I bargained for, how it ain't the same thing as the Falcon, how I'm gonna get a real wake-up call," he trailed off for a second, looking down at his feet. "They think I'm some kind of idiot?"
Leia pursed her lips, able to see clearly where he was going.
"Everyone's actin' like I think it's a game, or that we're gonna bring home," he gestured vaguely, "a doll, or somethin'."
She swallowed hard, bracing her elbow on the back of the sofa gently.
"They don't mean to be hurtful, Han," she began calmly. She didn't want to write off his feelings, but she knew her father and her aunt – and even Winter and Tycho – weren't at all intentionally demeaning him. They knew Han's worth; they just found the idea of a criminal-smuggler-turned-decent-man facing fatherhood – amusing. "They're just ribbing you."
"No one treats you like that," Han pointed out, his expression hardening. "No one acts like you don't have a clue."
He grimaced a little, reaching up to rub his jaw.
"I know you told me you culture kind of thinks men can't hack it, but your Dad did. You think the world of him," he said, struggling not to sound bitter. "They're actin' like I knocked you up on accident and now 'm just fumbling around."
Leia hesitated, twisting her finger in her hair. She tugged it loose of its braid a little, looking down at her nail, and sorted through her thoughts, trying to choose them carefully. She honestly hadn't considered that the jabs might be getting to Han. She folded her arms hesitantly, her lips twisting in a frown.
"I don't think anyone is trying to degrade you, Han," she began warily – and she didn't; her father was long past underestimating Han, and Rouge didn't think him useless. She wavered, trying to figure out what to say next. "I know you don't take this lightly, but I think it's more that there are certain aspects in life I was brought up to anticipate, certain – realities," she said, "that I was trained to accept. Motherhood is one of them. I was socialized to the inevitable truths, or I just understood them – things most men aren't socialized to consider anyway, and you grew up on the streets. Outside of the...norm."
He was giving her a skeptical, cool look, and she sighed, rubbing her forehead.
"It might be that they don't think you – and well, maybe you don't – realize how messy and…unromantic this is going to get."
She was suddenly thinking of sleepless nights and screaming infants and snotty noses and dirty diapers and the daunting physical changes she'd go through in the midst of all that and maybe, in a subtle way, her family was trying to prep Han for something less idyllic than he was dreaming of.
She fidgeted a little, her brow furrowing, and pursed her lips. Han sort of stared at her, a sour look on his face, his nose scrunched up as if he were trying to figure something out. He shrugged, and shook his head sarcastically.
"Maybe I don't," he said, though his tone indicated he thought the accusation was idiotic. "But I did grow up on the streets," he pointed out, seizing on that comment. "I know it ain't an easy thing to raise a kid, Leia," he pointed out tiredly. "Just 'cause I wasn't 'socialized' to expect fatherhood," he paused tensely. "You know, I got a pretty good education in what it's like to not have one around."
Leia licked her lips, nodding. She listened to him – and she could tell some of his irritation was coming from that root, exactly; he hadn't had an example of fatherhood, and he was afraid of falling short. He didn't need indications that Leia's family had no faith in him – even if they were jokes.
"What do Bail and Rouge know about it, anyway? She's never had a baby, and he's," Han stopped, rubbing his jaw. "Uh, never mind, I don't know what he's been through," he muttered.
He wasn't keen on what Bail had or had not witnessed with Breha, and now that he thought about it, he was probably wrong to assume Bail had left his wife behind closed doors during her troubles.
Han sighed, frustrated.
"Unromantic," he muttered. "You mean 'cause there's gonna be blood? 'Cause you might get a little torn up and not – 'sexy' or somethin'?" He scoffed. "Leia," he said shortly, "all that stuff you think is…unromantic or," he waved his hand dismissively, "whatever you want to call it, that's your world talkin'," he snapped pointedly. "That's what your kind – "
"My kind?" Leia asked sharply, her eyes cutting at him angrily, cheeks flushing – she drew her elbows in a little, hurt, and Han swallowed hard, sighing harshly -
"Your background, Sweetheart – your…social class," he said, backtracking a little. He rubbed his forehead. "I'm not…I don't mean," he gestured between them earnestly, his hand flexing. "You and me are…our own kind, but you've got it wrong – I'm sayin', you still got a little of that aristocratic stuff in you, in your outlook," he said, standing most of his ground. He sighed again – "The stuff I think you're talking about, the stuff you think's a shock or somethin' – it's just part of life. You know, I don't think women are," he wrinkled his nose, looking for a word.
He was trying to say he didn't expect her to be perfect or to always look exactly as she did now – he'd seen plenty of women at their worst, including her, and it hadn't shocked his sensibilities or ruined his perception of women as people or as romantic partners. And Leia had seen him at his worst. His experience with the carbonite - and his relapse, had not been charming in the least.
Han folded his arms, and gave her a long, stubborn look, deciding not to finish the sentence.
"You can't shock me, Princess," he said instead.
She kept looking at him, silent, and he finally flung out a hand, his mouth dry.
"For Sith's sake, Leia, are you gonna kick me out of the delivery room?" he asked, anxiety suddenly gripping him.
She blinked, taken aback.
"Of course not," she said. The thought had never crossed her mind. She needed – "I can't do it without you there."
He arched his brows.
"Then what do you mean, 'unromantic,'" he quoted. "I was there when we went through a miscarriage," he said gently, gesturing between them. "I've seen you bleed. I've seen you sick."
She turned her head, brushing at her hair. She took a deep breath, insecurities suddenly bubbling up out of nowhere.
"It's more intense than that," she said. "I don't care if you see me give birth," she said, her voice trembling. "What about when – I can't have sex because I need to heal, or it hurts too much, or I'm too tired – even if it's long after we're cleared to do so? Or I haven't showered or I'm just angry at you all the time or, or – "
He shook his head calmly.
"You can't shock me, Princess," he said again.
She looked over at him, her eyes watering. He held her gaze for a long time.
"I don't care about any of that, Leia. We both wanted this," he said. He hesitated, and then shrugged. "You know, after everything we been through, you could stop having sex with me tomorrow and I wouldn't go anywhere."
Leia burst into tears – rather dramatically – and Han widened his eyes.
"That was – hey, calm down, I didn't mean to – "
"It's just the hormones," she gasped, wiping her eyes furiously. "Give me a minute."
Amused, Han closed his mouth, and watched as Leia composed herself, then turned a pitiful look on him.
"I have to use the sani again," she said, in a pained voice. "Hold your thought."
Han bit the inside of his lip and tried not to laugh. He nodded, and watched her gingerly get up, and drag her feet off to the 'fresher again. While she was gone, he got up and went to the kitchen, fixing some mint water for her. He brought it back into the sitting room, and left it waiting for her. When she returned, and saw it, she looked up and smiled at him.
He held up his hands dramatically.
"Try not to cry," he joked.
She snorted softly and resumed her seat – closer this time, reaching out to slip her hand into his. He squeezed it tightly, his jaw tightening a little.
"Leia," he said slowly, heavily. "I know that things are gonna be really different. I think you're more scared of that than I am," he said bluntly. "I'm just glad we got all this," he waved his other hand around, "to give a kid, okay?"
She nodded, leaning forward and resting her head on his shoulder. She wished she'd have noticed sooner that her family's jokes were bothering Han, but she was glad he'd told her. She understood implicitly that he was worried about his own performance as a father, but either he hadn't realized that, or he didn't want to talk about it right now.
She lifted her head, nodding again.
"I'll speak with them," she said.
Han shifted, agitated, and frowned.
"Don't do that," he muttered. "I didn't want to start somethin', stress you out," he began.
Leia kissed his shoulder, and placated him by rubbing her palm over his wrist firmly.
"I can have a talk with my family without it being a huge catastrophe," she said calmly. "I really don't think they understand that they're bothering you," she added.
Han nodded – and he figured she was probably right. He'd just –
"I don't want you to let things like this fester," she murmured. "I don't ever want you to feel ostracized from my family. You married in to a lot, Han. I need you – and them – to know that I have your back. And if we set this straight now, there will be less condescension when the baby gets here."
Han relaxed a little. He still didn't want to be responsible for stirring up discord, but he figured she was right. She nudged his shoulder, and he lifted his arm, draping it around her comfortably. She pressed herself into his side, closed her eyes, and sighed, the ache in her chest slowly subsiding. His emotions settled slowly, and the feeling was like a lullaby, drawing her down into peace.
She shifted, murmuring –
"Did you mean what you said, about sex?" she asked. "Being with me even if I stopped sleeping with you?"
Han ran his hand over her ribs, resting his hand on the swell of her abdomen.
"Yeah," he said quietly, without hesitation, still thinking they were having a serious conversation – which made it somehow, all the more amusing to her, when she quipped –
"That's so nice. If you stopped having sex with me, I'd divorce you immediately."
Han threw his head back, shaking it with a mock scowl, and then turned to her, gingerly, raising his hand in a mock threat to start tickling her ribs. She shied away, feigning fear, shaking her head.
"Don't, you'll wake up the spawn – !"
Han only grinned, and changed direction, going for her feet instead.
Increasingly, Leia spent evenings in her offices at the Alderaanian Embassy – the last hour of her day, or an hour after. She was slowly beginning the process of planning her maternity leave, and much of that mean keeping her father integrated into the loop of her daily activities, and working with Evaan and Rouge as well – Bail would cede most of Viceroy duties to Rouge, his ministerial duties to Evaan, and stand in for Leia, and Evaan would act as functional regent. Rouge was – as her heart desired – the protocol figurehead.
Even working late, she enjoyed her offices here. They were lush and welcoming and much more secluded.
For now, she and her father had abandoned the more mundane details of work, and were enjoying drinks on the balcony – a kaffe with a touch of whiskey, for him, and a cup of iced tea, for Leia; that was an odd craving she'd developed while pregnant. She wanted tea – but only cold tea.
Han found it fascinating – You want me to brew you hot flavored water and put more water in, only cold and frozen?
Well, when he put it that way –
"How have you been feeling? Still alright?" Bail ventured, leaning back in his chair.
Leia nodded, her legs stretched out in front of her and crossed at the ankle.
"I seem to be having a fairly average experience," she said. "Routine. I check all the boxes," she lifted her hand, and began ticking down fingers, "morning sickness, swollen feet, tired, mercurial," she trailed off. "I won't add the more gruesome details," she said wryly.
"Hmm. Oh, I've seen them," her father said mildly. The worst of it, he thought, for him, had not been watching Breha go through it, but watching her go through it time and time again with no living result.
"Lately," Leia offered, "the baby has been," she indicated with her hand, on her side, "favoring my kidneys for pillows," she muttered darkly.
"At least it sleeps," he said.
Leia smiled. She reached for her cup, and took a sip, replacing it on the little patio table lazily.
"I've gotten used to the peripheral hum of its heartbeat," she murmured. She gestured to her head. "I'm attuned to it in my subconscious. I keep worrying the world will be too quiet, when it's born," she smirked, "and then I remember: crying."
"Ah, yes, crying," Bail snorted fondly. "You cried constantly, for such a long time." He remembered. "Breha was so distraught, so worried there was something wrong." He sighed. "I couldn't tell her you were a Force sensitive infant and your mother had just died, and your father," he trailed off.
Leia leaned forward, curious.
"Why did you never tell her, Father?" she asked. "Am I right in assuming it's the only thing you ever lied to her about?"
"It was not a lie," Bail said seriously.
Leia arched her brow.
"I have never believed that omissions are lies. You know that," he justified simply.
She just shook her head a little, and thought to herself – that was likely why he and Obi-Wan Kenobi were such good friends. They were above lying – from a certain point of view.
"I did not tell Breha in an effort to protect her. And to give her peace of mind," he explained. "She had been through so much, always having her child ripped from her arms at the last moment. I did not want her spending your whole life terrified she'd lose you."
"Of course she did anyway; every parent does – but she did not need that added burden."
Leia pursed her lips. She didn't resent her father for not telling her mother. That had never really been one of her issues; their marriage was none of her business. And his answer satisfied her.
"I can't imagine raising a baby during a war. And with Luke's bloodline, and mine as well," she murmured. She shook her head. "I have enough anxieties, and we're at peace."
He tilted his head at her.
"You will be fine," he said confidently. "I've seen you lead. The most important thing you have to take to heart is that you do your best. That is all you can do."
Leia pointed inwards to herself.
"What I am lucky to have had is parents like you and Mama," she said seriously. "To have examples of diverse families, but happy families, all around me during my childhood," she said. "I can't tell you how fortunate I am you were able to give me that."
Her father smiled at her gratefully, and she leaned on her forearms, squaring her arms, and tapping her elbows with her fingertips. She chewed on the inside of her lip for a moment.
"Han never had that," she said softly. "He had a mother who could barely afford to parent him."
"You're worried about Han's ability to be a parent?" Bail asked, raising his brow skeptically. He had never expected Leia to express doubts about Han – she never had before.
"No," she said intently, her eyes on him. "I think Han has learned incredible things from his lack of having a father. It will probably inform him in ways that are more important than I can understand. And in ways that he doesn't understand. He might keep me from being too neurotic. But sometimes it sounds as if you and Rouge are worried," she remarked mildly.
She looked down at her arms for a moment, and cleared her throat.
"I need to speak with you about Han," she said calmly.
Bail knit his brow, hesitating. For lack of anything better to do, he took a sip of his spiked kaffe and waited patiently Leia shifted, trying to get more comfortable, and thought about her next words.
"You both make a lot of jokes," she said gently, "about Han, and the shock he's in for," she waved one of her hands lightly, "it starts to come off as if you don't think he's up to par."
Bail blinked, eyes widening.
"Well," he began. "Leia, we're only joking," he said earnestly. "I – understand it can sometimes be difficult to tell, with Rouge," he added dryly, "but we mean no harm."
"I know," Leia placated. "I know, and I told him that, and we've talked – and I think he knows that, too," she explained, "but he's got more to overcome. He's got parental issues that are different than mine. Abandonment," she said, "the lack of a good male example."
Bail crossed his arms thoughtfully.
"Han treats you remarkably well for a man who never had a strong male influence."
Leia gave her father a withering look.
"Yes, well, barring Alderaan as an obvious outlier when it comes to patriarchy, that's probably why. He was raised by a woman, in his formative years, and he watched men use her."
Bail nodded, inclining his head in agreement to that point. Having been raised entirely around women himself, and around men who were conditioned to defer to women, he didn't immediately assume that on other planets, a male figure might be a damaging thing.
"I know it's normal for us to tease men about fatherhood," she said. "Any men. And especially on Alderaan, we think of babies as a very female sphere that men have to be trained to handle or invited into – everything on Alderaan is a female sphere, but Han wasn't raised around that. Corellia is much rougher, and much more egalitarian. Almost to a fault."
She tilted her head.
"It didn't occur to me it would bother him until he told me," she said simply, and shrugged, "so don't think I'm jumping down your throat. I do see where he's coming from, though. I have nerves about my own abilities to be a mother, and if someone were teasing me constantly about being in over my head, it might hit too close to some insecurities to be funny."
She raised her brows.
"Han wanted this long before I was sure I did. He was patient for me. Don't forget that," she chastised gently.
"Of course, of course," Bail agreed hastily.
"I think he wants to know you have faith in him," she said. "And I don't want him to doubt himself because he feels like no one thinks he can do it," she added. "I really need Han's confidence. I'm going to need it more when the baby is born."
Bail continued to nod, his brow nodded.
"I really had never considered – Han is just so confident all the time. He's – well, you know him," Bail snorted, waving his hand. "Arrogant, flippant."
"Well, Father," Leia said, exasperated. "Didn't you ever act confident when you were really anxious?"
Bail opened his mouth, and then bowed his head sheepishly.
"Yes," he said grimly. "Your entire childhood."
Leia have him a pointed look, and her father smiled wanly.
"Don't make a big deal of this," she said. "Just – take it easy on him."
"I'll speak with Rouge, too," he offered. "You don't have to."
Leia looked relieved – she surely appreciated that. She shifted again, and reached for her iced tea, and Bail leaned forward and tapped his finger against her knuckles, searching her expression when she looked over the edge of her cup at him thoughtfully.
"Can I help with any of your nerves?" he asked.
Leia tilted her head back and forth, lowering her cup.
"Not really," she murmured. She laughed at herself uneasily. "I know I just spent a good chunk of time pointing out the disservice Alderaan does to men in assuming them to be lesser parents based strictly on their maleness, but," she paused. "There is…something…unique – "
"Motherhood is unique, Leia, you don't have to tell me that," Bail said, shrugging without taking offense. "There are plenty of things I won't relate to, and won't attempt to. In some respects Alderaan disregards equality in favor of matriarchy, but in many respects we have it right. Can men be just as good of a caretaker as a women? Absolutely, and we shouldn't condition against that. But can men experience parenthood the exact same way as a woman? Not in the slightest."
"Something like that," Leia agreed faintly.
She ran her index finger around the rim of her cup.
"I miss Mama, that's all," she said. "I'm surrounded by women who have never had a baby."
Bail nodded, listening.
"The Naberrie women – " he started.
"Oh, I know," she broke in softly. "And I do mean to speak more with them. Ryoo has offered herself for conversation more than enough times," she said fondly. "I still want it to be my mother," she said.
Her father squeezed her hand.
"I'm not her," he said, "but I will be around."
Leia lifted her other hand and rested her chin on it, smiling.
"Thanks, Daddy," she said quietly. She sighed. "I think my worst fear is that after everything I've managed to survive and everything I've done, I won't be able to do this right."
She swallowed hard.
"And in the end, that's how I'll be judged, isn't it? In a thousand years, my life's work will be a footnote if my child doesn't turn out right."
She compressed her lips.
"You aren't alone in that fear," Bail said kindly. "It's a powerful motivator," he added, laughing a little. "You and Han will not be bad parents, Leia. No matter how many mistakes you make. I have great confidence in that," he said firmly. "Nurture is so important in raising a child, but children are their own individuals, as well. There always comes a point when your child will act independently of what you wanted for him or her, or taught him or her, and quite often, it isn't your fault at all."
She sat back, smiling at him. She nodded, breathing out slowly. She knew that – it didn't necessarily alleviate the pressure, but she knew all of that. There were so many unknowns coming at her, and it had been a long time since she faced the unknown.
Leia held out her palm.
"Give me your hand, Father," she said.
He did, curious, and she pressed it to her abdomen, adjusting his palm patiently until she saw his face change, and knew he could feel what she could, and what Han could – what almost everyone could now, at this stage. He looked up at her excitedly, pride written all over his face, and she smiled back, feeling that same pride – and then some.
It was late one night, one night shortly after there had been a formal public announcement about Leia's pregnancy. Nothing grandiose – nothing near as ostentatious as what Rouge thought befitted the Princess of Alderaan, just a simple word from Leia informing the public of impending maternity leave, on a day when she'd worn clothing that allowed no question to remain.
Unable to sleep, Han lay on his side in bed, vaguely agitated. The Media attention on them over the past few days had been aggressive, as it always was when something remotely interesting broke concerning Leia. That sort of intense focus always irritated him; it set him on edge and made him feel hostile and wary at every turn – he had gotten used to it, being married to one of the most powerful women in the galaxy, but he had never gotten tolerant of it, and it was difficult to bite his tongue.
Damn reporters always wanted a comment, a quote, a statement – General Solo, did you ever see yourself as a father? General Solo, do you want a boy or a girl? Is it a boy or a girl? General Solo, what do you think about all this? General Solo, General Solo –
He scowled, closing his eyes for a moment, shaking his head a little. More often than not, questions were phrased to be inane enough that they irritated the target into a scathing response that could be taken out of context: Leia had taught him that. It was why he kept his mouth shut.
What did he think about all this? He hadn't say anything in response to any question he'd been asked, but that one nettled him. Asked as if he weren't consulted, as if Leia was in this by herself. He didn't want to be the center of attention or even be praised by the Media; he wanted to be left alone – he dreaded being zeroed in on while the galaxy waited for him to fuck up fatherhood.
He ran a hand over his face tiredly. They were getting closer and closer to a time when a baby, the baby, wouldn't be just an abstract idea anymore. He knew it wasn't abstract for Leia, hadn't been for months, and it wasn't really abstract for him, either, but he couldn't experience any of it really tangibly until it was born.
He had plenty of confidence in his relationship, but increasingly less certainty about his own performance in other respects. And it wasn't necessarily that those ideas were put into his head by the Media, or by Leia's family – they were just exacerbated by the bombardment.
Leia said things sometimes that stopped him in his tracks. Casual, normal things, flippant comments about something they needed for the baby that he'd never heard of, or something that she'd need during delivery, and he got an anxious feeling in his chest, like he was way behind on the curve – did she just know things he didn't, was it written in her genetic code? Was she reading more than he was?
It was more and more obvious to him now that Leia's practical and logical concerns about parenthood, which he'd tended to think were somewhat of a buzz kill, were just as important as all the emotional decisions he'd made about it.
He watched her sleep next to him, restless, debating whether or not he should wake her up. He wanted to talk to her, hear her reassure him. He kept remembering something she'd told Rouge years ago – I'd never have married a man who wouldn't be a good father – and he knew he had that faith in him, but he wanted to hear it. He couldn't turn his nerves off until he did.
Yet he hated waking her. He had always hated waking her up. Even though she slept so much better these days, he still remembered times when just a few hours had been a struggle for her, and he had conditioned himself to protect her sleep, not disrupt it.
She laid on her side, facing away from him, her shoulders rising and falling in a slow rhythm. Her hair was woven back into a loose braid that would be more knots than plait tomorrow, and streamed onto the pillow. Han reached out and touched the edge of it, twisting a strand around his finger.
He stared at Leia's back for a long time, wrestling with his better angels, and then swallowed hard in defeat and moved forward, curving his palm over her shoulder and shaking her gently, his lips brushing against the back of her neck. He told himself it wasn't such a sin to wake her up tonight, as tomorrow was not a working day.
"Leia," he mumbled quietly, wincing even as he said it. "Wake up. C'n you…wake up?"
He kept his touch as light as possible, hoping he didn't startle her. It didn't take much to wake her, and to his relief, she didn't jerk awake. At the foot of the bed, Zozy heard him talking, and perked his head up curiously, watching them.
Leia stirred sleepily, murmuring incoherently. She turned, her lashes fluttering, and nodded, shifting around to face him, her brow furrowing with concern. She tangled her arm up in his, nodding, yawning, her eyes opening a little, adjusting to the dark.
"Sorry," he muttered with a grimace – and out of a dead sleep, too –
She shook her head.
"What is it?" she asked softly, mumbling through a yawn, but resting her hand on his neck. She shifted closer on the pillow. "S'everything okay…?" Han never woke her up for anything less than a real problem.
He nodded, swallowing hard again. He reached up to grasp her fingers tightly. Leia pursed her lips, humming under her breath.
"What is it, Han?" she prompted gently, her voice soft, and comforting.
Han squeezed her hand tighter, his throat dry. He wasn't sure there was a subtle way to put it – I'm fucking terrified, Sweetheart –
"I got some qualms," he blurted under his breath, and then scowled at himself – qualms, qualms – ?
Leia opened her eyes to catch his intently. She nodded –
"I'm listening," she whispered calmly, lifting her hand a little to touch his cheek, and running her fingertips over his tense muscles at his jaw.
He sighed, frustrated with himself.
"'M just, 'm thinkin' about the baby," he muttered, "and how we got…fifteen weeks left, and that ain't that much time."
Leia smiled wryly.
"'That' would probably feel like quite a bit if you were carrying it," she whispered, pursing her lips.
Han nodded, grinning a little at that.
"Yeah," he agreed. He took a deep breath, and then let it out, determined to be straightforward. "I don't know if I'm gonna be good enough," he confided, gripping the tail of her braid in one hand and glancing down. "'M worried…I'll just fuck up all the time."
Leia turned her hand, running her knuckles lightly over his jaw, and then letting her hand fall to rest on his shoulder. She pressed her palm against his chest, nodding.
"I am too, Han," she said softly, without hesitation. "It's all I think about."
He looked up at her skeptically, and she arched her eyebrows.
"Did you forget me asking you if I'm maternal enough to do this?" she asked.
"Thought you just meant you don't think you're, uh," he shrugged again, "sensitive enough. Mushy," he explained dryly. "You know you're not incompetent."
She lifted her own shoulders, imitating his shrug.
"No, I don't know that," she murmured, stifling a smaller yawn. "I've never had a baby. I don't know what I'm doing, either."
Her hand slid further down his chest, and then back up. She let it fall between them, and then let it creep upward to take his hand out of her hair, lacing her fingers into his.
"But you've been around 'em," Han muttered. "Held 'em," he pointed out.
"And given them back to their nannies or nurses or mothers when they cried even the slightest," Leia whispered. She widened her eyes. "With this one," she swallowed hard, "I'm the one people give it back to when it's upset."
Han stared at the look on her face for a moment, and then laughed gruffly. He squeezed her hand, and she licked her lips, tilting her head forward on the pillow.
"Or me," he said. "They can give it to me."
"They can," she agreed quietly, "and you won't fuck it up."
Han's expression darkened again, uncertain. Leia pulled his hand closer to her chest, reaching out to nudge his foot with her in a sign of encouragement.
"What if I drop the baby?" he blurted.
"The man who successfully navigated through an asteroid field?" Leia murmured. "I don't think so."
Han gave a short sigh.
"Why d'you have so much faith in me?" he asked gruffly.
She tilted her head curiously, her eyes searching.
"Y'know," he mumbled. "You told Rouge that time, you'd never have married a man who'd be a bad father," he went on. "Why d'you figure I'll be any good?"
Leia shifted slightly, turning onto her back. She looked at the carved wood balcony of the bed, holding his hand close to her heart. She chewed on her lip for a moment before turning her head slowly to look back at him.
"Well," she began softly. "You're worried sleepless about it right now," she murmured. "I think a man who would be a bad father wouldn't keep himself up stressing about it."
"That's how you know now," he muttered. "That's not how you knew before you married me."
She smiled a little, and then yawned again. He groaned softly, and threw his other hand over his face for a moment, frowning, and uncovering his face.
"'M sorry I woke you up for this – " he started.
She brought his hand to her lips and kissed his knuckles.
"It's okay," she soothed. "Han, I don't think there's a better place to talk about how terrified we are to do this than alone, in our bed, in the middle of the night," she said honestly.
She swallowed hard.
"Because when we have the baby, we have to act like we have it together, and it has to think that for the rest of its life," she hissed seriously.
He laughed a little, and nodded, relaxing some – how terrified we are. He swallowed, waiting, and she turned her head back, staring at the arching canopy of their bed again.
"It's not a single moment," she murmured. "It's a lot of things. It's very…subconscious," she said, taking a deep breath. "You know how skittish I was about children. I didn't check boxes before I married you making sure you possessed certain pre-ordained good father qualities, part of me just knew. Just in case. That you'd be good."
He stared at her profile, listening.
"Han, I treated you so roughly sometimes," she sighed. "Before Hoth. On Hoth," she raised her eyebrows, and snorted quietly, "even on Naboo," she added dryly. "You never quit on me. You were smart enough to see what was about you, and what wasn't about you, and be there, even when you were mad at me or you didn't understand the problem."
She turned her head to look at him.
"Kids need that," she said. "They need that so badly."
She yawned, and arched her eyebrows at him gently – had she given him enough? Han shifted closer wrapping his arm around her waist and burying his face in her neck. He nodded slowly, and kissed her neck, and behind her ear, and then leaned up on his elbow, and rested his chin on his palm.
"Thanks, Sweetheart," he said gruffly.
She nodded, turning onto her side and facing him. At the foot of the bed, Zozy began turning in circles, and then started to burrow under the covers. Han turned his head and glared, giving a short whistle through his teeth. Zozy ignored him and continued to burrow.
Leia nudged Zozy with her foot – she usually didn't mind him under the covers, but his extra body heat gave her hot flashes now.
"Han," she whined, pursing her lips. "Get him out."
Han sat up a little more, nudging at Zozy. Leia watched him, and shifted onto her back again – it was more comfortable, in a way, though she usually preferred sleeping on her stomach. That was not in the cards for the time being.
"You need more faith in yourself about this," she said softly, her eyes running over his back and shoulders. "You had all that confidence about, um, not…being shocked by anything that I have to go through."
Han leaned forward sharply and tried to grab at Zozy. Zozy scampered, and took refuge by Leia's ankles. She gently nudged him away, trying to get him back out from under the covers.
"Yeah," Han muttered. "'Cause 'm not insecure about bein' able to love you. I know how to do that. I don't know how to raise a baby."
Leia smiled. She leaned forward and kissed his shoulder.
"You'll be fine, Han," she whispered.
He nodded, sitting back a little. He smirked, and pulled one knee up, resting his arm over it.
"You remember last time? When Rouge thought I'd be offended if you breast fed?" he snorted.
Leia nodded. She lay back, running her hand up and down his arm thoughtfully.
She turned her head, her nose buried in the pillow.
"Would you think it was weird if I breast fed?" she asked in a muffled voice.
Han didn't say anything immediately – he was busy fishing Zozy out from under the covers again. She watched him warily. The question was more rhetorical than anything; she already planned on doing so.
He dragged Zozy out gently, placed him firmly on top of the covers. He turned his head to look at her finally, his brow knitted.
"Uhh," he said, frowning. "How else would you feed it?" he asked flippantly.
She cocked her head a little, amused - he didn't sound as if he were saying that in a sarcastic way, as if to reassure her that of course he wouldn't be immaturely bothered by it - he sounded genuinely confused. Zozy showed some interest in returning to his burrow under the covers and Leia snapped at him. He curled up where he was instead.
"With a bottle," she answered lightly.
Han blinked a few times.
"Yeah," he muttered, "but not when it's a baby," he said slowly, his voice slowing even more as she looked at him, as if he was realizing he had made an obviously stupid assumption, "…right? When they're babies they have to," he hesitated, and nodded at her chest. "Or no?"
Leia bit her lip, holding back laughter.
"You can give babies bottles when they're days old," she informed him gently, "and formula."
Han looked back at her seriously, attempting to betray no shock. Leia turned her head further into the pillow, giving in to some laughter. Han glared at her, and stretched back out next to her, resting his chin on his palm again.
"No one on Corellia does that," he muttered. He remembered seeing women feeding babies in the streets, but never with bottles. "'Course I don't think it's weird," he said hastily. "How come you think I'm gonna freak out about all that kind of stuff?" he asked curiously. "That's," he twitched his hand. "You can't help that stuff," he grimaced, "makin' sure it gets raised right," he trailed off.
It seemed like each of them had fears that emphasized different things.
"Not all of it," Leia murmured. "I don't have to breast feed."
"You want to?"
"What, you think I'm gonna get jealous?" he snorted.
Leia laughed quietly. She peered at him through her lashes.
"No," she retorted. She bit her lip, looking down at herself, and then back up. "I'm scared," she said quietly, "of my body not being mine anymore," she gestured between them, "and us…losing some of this. It will never be just us again," she murmured, "and I want the baby, but I also," she hesitated, licking her lips, "think I'm…just," she sighed. "Scared."
"Is this the same thing again?" Han asked. "You think I won't think you're sexy anymore?"
Leia blushed, and wrinkled her nose, tilting her head up primly.
"I hate that word, I've always hated – and I'm not – "
"You are," Han mumbled, leaning forward and nudging her jaw with his nose. "You're so – "
She started laughing, blushing still.
"Stop it," she hissed playfully. She pushed some loose hairs out of her face and bit her lip, shrugging. "Things will be different. I have a realistic view of it and that's why maybe I dread the…less idyllic parts, the less sexy. So I get nervous you," she stopped again. "I believe what you said to me the other day. I trust you. I," she stressed the word intensely, "am daunted by it all."
Han lowered his arm and inched closer, sliding an arm over her waist again. His wrist rested against her abdomen, and he studied her silently. He tilted his head.
"There's different kinds of sexy," he said flippantly.
"Mmhmm," Leia hummed, cocking one eyebrow.
"Yeah," he drawled. "R'm'ber the first time we had sex?" he said, pressing his forehead against hers. "Was that what you'd imagined?"
Leia laughed. She kicked him.
"No," she retorted seriously. "There was so much talking, and not nearly enough dramatic music."
She bit her lip. Han grinned, slid his hand over her hair, and pulled her closer.
"Nothin's gonna make me less attracted to you," he said gruffly, running his fingertips over the back of her neck. "Sure as hell not gonna get turned off by you having my baby."
She turned her head and kissed his wrist.
"Don't be a sap," she teased softly. "Whose therapy session is this?"
"Mine," he retorted seriously. "So stop encroachin'."
"Encroaching, qualms," she sighed. "I don't even know who you are anymore."
Han grinned, and laid his head down, closing his eyes. He took a deep breath, and let it out, much more relaxed. She closed hers, too, resting her head close to his, and then she sighed, blowing hair out of her face.
"Trouble has already begun," she murmured. "I can't sleep close enough to you anymore."
"You can put your back against me," he mumbled, opening one eye.
"Then I can't look at you," she complained.
He grinned, and kissed the corner of her mouth.
"I'm glad you woke me up, Han," she said sincerely, her voice low. "I want you to talk to me about these things."
"You feel like you can sleep now?" she asked, concerned.
He nodded again, turning his head into the pillows. He mumbled something, and Leia sat up a little, biting her lip.
"Well, before you do," she whispered, tickling his shin with her foot, "can you make me some toast?"
Han opened one eye again, and glared at her. She pursed her lips.
"With, um, the pepper preserves? And some slices of shuura?"
He blinked incredulously.
"Gross," he informed her bluntly.
She shrugged pointedly.
"Take it up with your spawn," she retorted.
Han grinned at her, and rubbed his forehead. He leaned over, nodded, and kicked the covers off, getting up to acquiesce. Leia rolled over onto her back, watching run a hand through his hair and then head to the 'fresher first, and she sat up gingerly, leaning back against the headboard.
She let her head roll back lazily, thinking about the future. It was probably important that they use their nights for sleeping now, while they still could – and yet there was something charming, too, about just the two of them, wide awake in the middle of the night.
a/n: family advice is always good (well, not always, but you get my drift). say hi to some Naberries!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Three years earlier, when Leia had visited the Alderaanian sculptor who created the Hydenock jewelry box her father had given her as a wedding gift, she had cautiously asked if he might be interested in making a cradle. When the need for a cradle had gone from possibility to reality, she had followed through on her tentative commission, asking not only for a cradle from him, but a rocking chair, as well as some other decorative pieces to populate the nursery with. Igo had been overwhelmed with delight, and tried to complete the commission as a gift to her as an Organa princess; while she had appreciated the offer, she'd ensured he was compensated handsomely, even using Rouge's many charity organizations to arrange for him to train some apprentices in the artistic skills he curated from their lost planet. It was a perfect arrangement in every sense; Igo was honored by the prestige, and Leia got the homey, beautiful nursery she wanted - the Hydenock additions went beautifully with the hand-carved, Kashyyyk-native oak crib that Chewbacca had given them.
She had been eagerly anticipating the day the pieces she commissioned arrived, and when they did, she was given a welcome surprise: Jobal and Sola Naberrie arrived with them, escorting the shipment, and presenting themselves at her apartment with smug, proud smiles, and the confession that Bail had conspired with them to arrange a visit.
"I hope you aren't upset with him, or us," Jobal said kindly, wrapping Leia in a hug, "and we are staying with Pooja, so we won't be in your hair as house guests - Bail felt you might want some women to talk to."
"Women who have been there," Sola said in her matter-of-fact way. "Don't worry; we wouldn't dare try to replace Queen Breha. But we do at least have a duty to Padme to make sure you don't feel alone."
It didn't cross Leia's mind to be upset with them - or with her father. She was always more hesitant than she should be when it came to reaching out to the Naberries, and she might have kept politely putting it off if he hadn't intervened. She knew Jobal was a valuable resource; she'd been a nice comfort to speak with after her miscarriage. She expected Sola was just as knowledgeable - and both of them said the only reason they hadn't brought Ryoo as well, to form a veritable army of maternal experience, was due to Ryoo's work schedule, and her reluctance to drag her children on a inter-planetary trip as Whyler was off planet and unable to watch them.
"Did Han know about this, too?" Leia asked, as she'd welcomed them in.
"I believe so," Jobal answered, and Sola said: "Yes, he made the comment that we'd be a damn sight more useful than Mon Mothma."
Leia laughed at that - she had similar thoughts the last time, when she stumbled through the first few months of pregnancy with virtually no one to compare notes with or turn to, besides her doctor, and abstract clinical information out in the Holo sphere. Even personal stories from strangers didn't resonate, given how detached the felt from them - and Sola and Jobal were family, women who had genuine, relatable experiences.
"Has Mon offered any useful commentary?" Sola asked.
"She's been incredibly supportive of my leave needs and how I want to handle that sort of thing," Leia said, "but in terms of my having a baby, she seems absolutely fascinated," she snorted - Mon was certainly a practitioner of what she preached; she had begrudged Leia nothing in coordinating time off and had also made it perfectly clear that if Leia needed to have her baby with her at the Senate at any time, that was entirely welcome; yet Leia also sensed a scientific interest from her elder mentor - procreation did not seem to be something Mon ever considered for herself, and seeing a close friend go through the process was eye-opening for her.
"Well, we're here bringing knowledge, advice you'll want to roll your eyes at, and an irritating amount of maternal superiority," Sola joked, "as any new mother is entitled to, from her relatives. And - "
"Some hand-me-down things from various Naberrie children, including an old doll of Padme's," Jobal said. "Of course, you'll have more brand new items than you can handle, and that's a fun aspect of preparing we'd never want to take away from you, but there's something about heirlooms."
Leia nodded earnestly, kissing her grandmother's cheek. The gesture was so kind, and heartwarming - she was missing out on so much in that department in light of the destruction of Alderaan. So many things - a silver mobile for a crib, the Antilles christening gown - so much, lost forever.
"Padme never played with the doll, by the way," Sola snorted. "It sat in her room - but my grandmother made it, so it was kept around, intended for her child."
The two women threw themselves into helping Leia arrange the newly arrived furniture in the nursery, offering admiration for the way everything had been set up. The walls were done - as Leia had imagined - in a very light, soothing blue. Han had painted them a few weeks ago. The crib was in the corner, tucked into a nook in such a way that a burst of early morning sunlight through the window wouldn't wake the baby. The - minimal - bedding that she currently had in the crib was all earthy, forest colours; hand-woven with material native to Kashyyyk. Malla had sent along more blankets and wraps and wool papoose slings than they would ever need, but the gesture was so appreciated. There was a little swing that was meant to soothe the infant, and a chair that claimed to do the same thing, and shelves and storage hooks - and the Hydenock furniture added a keepsake chest, an elegant little ottoman stool with a motif of Alderaanian falcons nesting around the letter 'S' - Solo - painted on top of it. The Hydenock commission also included a neat little chest for clothing, a bookshelf, a few unique bins for toys, a changing table with a safety rail she could raise if she needed to turn away for a moment, and of course - the cradle.
"That we'll keep in our bedroom for now," Leia said, as Sola stood running her hands over the beautiful woodwork - it was the last thing they hadn't placed. "I know the baby will outgrow a cradle fairly quickly, and right now Han and I plan on moving him or her into the nursery when that happens."
"Ah, you're going to keep the baby in your bedroom?" Sola asked.
"Well, I didn't think so at first," Leia said, "but everything I read suggested my sleep would be better off if I could turn over and get the baby to feed him or her instead of having to go down the hall, at least while they are so small," she said, biting her lip. "I had originally wanted to, ah, respect the sanctity of our bedroom, but," she trailed off.
She furrowed her brow,
"You think I shouldn't?" she asked.
Sola put her hand to her chest, snorting.
"I think you should do whatever works to get as much sleep as possible," she said seriously. "Speaking from my experience only, I was strict with Ryoo staying in her nursery from day one, but Pooja slept with me - and I'm inclined to agree with what you've read," she said dryly. "I lived, and I learned, and sleep ceased to exist in both cases."
Leia felt a little relief, and Jobal came up behind her to squeeze her shoulders.
"Sola's right, do what you think is best," she said gently. "You'll adjust based on what you think your baby needs," she advised. "Here, we'll carry this into your bedroom," she added, picking up the cradle with Sola's help.
Leia followed them to direct them, indicating that her side of the bed was the right side, closer to the 'fresher - the side that looked like a civilized human slept in it, rather than a restless, angry rancor. Han had an inexplicable knack for somehow dislodging every sheet from its tucked-in spot while he slept. And he never made the bed. He was always up later than Leia, even when he'd been working, and it was a habit she'd quickly decided wasn't worth fighting over. If Han didn't want to make the bed, fine. He did laundry, so she made peace with it.
"There," Jobal said, situating the cradle in a little niche right next to Leia's side. "You can get used to it there, this way," she said.
"And train yourself not to trip over it in the middle of the night and send you and baby both flying to the floor," Sola said dryly.
Leia blinked at her.
"Speaking from experience?" she asked.
Sola grinned, but shook her head.
"No, but it was one of my constant paranoias," she said. "No matter where I went, how old Ryoo was, I always thought - but what if I trip and fall crush the baby?"
Jobal laughed, folding her arms.
"Among all the fears, there's always one specific, weird one," she remembered. "I burned my wrist with Sola's formula once, and I was always specifically afraid I'd get her bottle too hot, burn her taste buds off, and she'd never be able to tell me because she didn't know what taste was."
"Well, Mami," Sola began dramatically. "I guess it's time you know," she joked.
Jobal looked down at the cradle, sighing.
"It really is gorgeous. Igo is an artist in every sense of the word."
Leia nodded, stepping up to run her hands along the edge of the cradle. It was decorated all over with carvings of native Alderaanian fauna and flora, scratched so delicately into the wood that they seemed apart of it. Like the ottoman, the head of the cradle displayed an intricately decorated S - Leia had almost wanted to wait until they had a name, and carve that instead, but she decided she'd rather have the cradle to use for more than one baby, if they still wanted another one when all this was said and done. The bottom and sides were blanketed in a soft, ivory cushion, and when pushed, the cradle rocked gently for a bit before settling back down.
"I saw you have an oscillating chair already," Sola said. "Smart. Ryoo used to sit in hers, happy as can be, silent, for hours. She loved it. Pooja screeched like she was on fire if we ever put her in it. Pooja was always screeching, though."
"That was a gift from Senator Arkadya," Leia murmured. "She said it was controversial, but that controversy goes out the window when the baby really, really won't shut up," Leia frowned. "Aunt Rouge thinks it's going to shake the baby into madness."
"You'll have to wait until it's older to tell," Sola retorted, deadpan. She waited a moment, then furrowed her brow in mock reflection. "Ryoo seems sane."
"Oh, those things are fine," Jobal said breezily. "You just ought to avoid leaving them asleep unsupervised in them if they still can't hold their heads up."
Leia nodded, chewing her lip and folding her arms. She looked back down at the cradle for a moment, her elbows resting very lightly on her abdomen - ungainly as she sometimes felt now, it was somewhat nice having a built in armrest - slash - shelf to rest her datapad on. She lifted her head, raising her eyebrows.
"What do you say to some tea?" she offered.
Both Jobal and Sola agreed, and Leia led them down stairs, and into the kitchen.
"I appreciate your help," she murmured, nodding her head back in the direction they'd just come from. "With the nursery."
"It looked so pleasant even before the Hydenock furniture," Jobal said. "Teacups?" she asked, while Leia brewed. Leia pointed her to one of the cabinets, and Sola folded her arms curiously.
"Leia, does Alderaan assign gender to colours?" she asked. "As in, on Naboo, yellow is feminine, red is masculine," she listed.
Leia shook her head.
"No, but we have an odd superstition that bright colours will frighten a baby," she snorted softly. "Many of the diplomatic gifts we received were infant replicas of traditional planetary clothing, and Rouge saw the fuchsia sari from Saccoria and I thought she was going to have a stroke."
"So, the blue in the nursery isn't indicative?" she ventured. "Of if it's a boy or a girl?"
"Oh," Leia said, taking honey, sugar, and milk out of various places to offer as additives. She shook her head again. "No, Han and I don't know what it is."
"You can't tell?" Jobal asked. "I think I asked you that last time," she added, frowning.
"I could if I knew what I was looking for, I suppose," Leia murmured. "Strictly scientifically. But I don't mind the surprise. And if I'm sensing things wrong, I don't want to prepare for one thing," she trailed off, shrugging. "We'll take either, as long as its healthy."
She compressed her lips, divvying up hot water and tea leaves and letting Sola and Jobal fix their tea how they liked. She had a strong - very strong - suspicion that the baby was a girl, and occasionally almost referred to it as such in company. Still, she kept her mouth shut. There was something to be said for simply letting things happen, and refraining from planning things ahead of time.
They moved into the sitting room, and Leia curled up on her favorite place on the sofa, gesturing for Sola and Jobal to take any seat that appealed to them.
"Where's Zozy?" Sola asked, looking around with interest.
"Han took him to the Falcon," Leia said. "Which I thought was odd, but then you two showed up. Zozy is neurotic around guests."
"Wonder how he'll react to a new, permanent guest," Sola said, arching her brows.
"Well," Leia sighed. "We've done some research, and it should be okay if we bring home things that smell like the baby, and he sees that his pack - that's Han and me - accept the 'new animal,'" she quoted. "Mookas are allegedly very loyal and gentle, so I'm not worried. Aunt Rouge, of course, thinks we should get rid of him."
"Kind of hypocritical, as my aunts used to let their pittins in my playpen with me," she noted. "She means well."
"She'll be smitten with the baby," Jobal said. "Mark my words. And spoil him or her, too."
"In a positive way, I hope," Leia muttered. "Relatives exist for spoiling, but I have vague concerns that Rouge will try to," Leia frowned, looking for the right words. "Han and I want privacy, and freedom, for our children," she said carefully. "No titles, no finishing school, none of what I had, or of what my child would be expected to have on Alderaan - Rouge has a hard time with that."
"I can see how she would," Jobal said gently. "She'll soften, you'll see. She's an imposing woman, but not an unkind one, from all I can tell."
"And, you never know," teased Sola smugly. "Your kid may decide he or she wants all the trappings of Alderaanian royalty despite your best efforts to give them a less burdened life."
Leia took a deep breath.
"I would not know what to do with that," she said dryly. She herself had not hated her position - but it had been daunting responsibility, and still took its toll today, in memory, and in practice.
"Don't worry," Sola said, deadpan: "You won't know what to do at all."
Jobal shot her eldest daughter a look.
"Sola," she snapped.
"What? I'm offering solidarity," she snorted. "None of us know what we're doing, Leia. Maternal instincts are, to a certain extent, bantha shit nonsense men use to claim women should to most of the work. You'll learn something every day," she said earnestly. She paused. "Like just last week, I learned that Pooja is the little twit who stole all my birth control when she was fifteen, and I grounded Ryoo for it."
Leia gave her aunt an alarmed look, and Jobal laughed gently.
"You're scaring her," she chastised.
"The bright side is, at least Pooja was stealing my things to be responsible," Sola muttered. "That's what I told myself. Ryoo obviously never stole my birth control," she added. "If she had, Indy wouldn't be here."
Sola scowled for a moment.
"You know what irritates me - I would have gotten her the birth control. Do I think fifteen is entirely too young to have sex? Yes. But I'd rather you be young and foolish than young, foolish, and pregnant."
"Leia, you have many, many years before you have teenagers to worry about," Jobal said loudly, shaking her head at Sola.
Leia sipped her tea thoughtfully, her eyes wide.
"I don't know if Han has considered the fact that the baby will turn into a teenager," she mused. "With half his temperament, and half mine," she shook her head. "If it's girl, I get the feeling he'll understand my father a lot better," she snorted.
"He'll join an exclusive club of men who have new respect for their fathers-in-law," Sola snorted.
Jobal nodded knowingly, leaning back with a nostalgic sigh. She looked at Leia intently for a while, silently considering her, and thinking, a little sadly, of Padme, and how Padme's busy career and secretive lifestyle had kept her own mother shut out from the bulk of her pregnancy.
"Can we answer anything for you, Leia?" Jobal asked. "Ease any fears, offer any advice?" she prompted.
"Give us the hard stuff," Sola said smoothly. "You can ask your most alarming questions," she went on, dramatic. "Modesty is a dead quality after having a baby."
Leia tucked her nose into her mug of tea, sorting out her thoughts. She had all kinds of questions, but she knew so many of them had only the response - it depends. She'd gathered enough in her own independent preparation to know that every woman was different, and experiences varied with as much uniqueness as precious gems. Given the opportunity to ask anything, she hesitated, trying to find something good - though of course, it wasn't as if the conversation, or their willingness to help, had a time limit.
"What's the hardest part?" she asked faintly.
"Breastfeeding," Sola said immediately.
Jobal was more hesitant, tilting her head back and forth.
"You'll have a moment when you realize you can't always make their pain go away," she said. "That's the worst."
Sola rolled her eyes.
"Okay, philosophically speaking," she drawled, and Leia smiled at her characteristic sarcasm.
Leia bit her lip, leaning forward.
"Well, um - what's something you wish someone had told you? Something you wish you knew, or you needed to hear," she asked softly, "when you really felt overwhelmed or defeated?"
Sola wasn't so quick to answer this time. She hesitated, sitting back, and looked over at her mother. Leia waited, glancing between them both. Jobal tilted her head, thinking deeply herself, and then Sola turned back to Leia and lifted her chin.
"You can do it," she said, soft, but firm - and Jobal nodded eagerly, as if that's what she'd been thinking, down to the letter. "It's that simple. Women have been doing this since the dawn of time, and you are no different. Labor, delivery, nursing - even when you think you can't do it, you can."
Jobal was still nodding.
"And when you need help, ask for it. Immediately and often," she said.
Sola snapped her fingers seriously.
"It's okay if you need a break from the baby," she said seriously. "It does not make you a bad mother to go get a massage, get your nails done, have a drink, and not think about the baby. The baby has a father, and he'll be fine alone with it."
Leia compressed her lips tightly, looking between them gratefully. Their words were so confident, and so comforting. They had clearly earned their stripes, and were proud of it, and eager to impart that wisdom wherever it was needed. She was relieved that she had them as a resource to turn to, and touched that her father - and Han - had made sure she utilized them. The days were flying by, faster and faster; after the old year had faded into the new, time seemed to skyrocket, and the defining hour was approaching like a whirlwind. Some days she was ready, and others she was petrified of what she and Han were about to undertake - but there was no turning back now, and it meant the world to hear something as bluntly reassuring as even when think you can't do it, you can.
After spending the better part of an afternoon chasing Zozy around the Falcon, preventing him from inadvertently killing himself, protecting vital systems from his destructive playfulness, and growing suspicious at any moment the Mooka was too quiet, Han was convinced he was at least partially ready for the whole fatherhood thing.
Zozy was relatively well trained, it seemed, unless he was loose on the Corellian freighter, and eventually Han ended up harnessing him to the foot of the Dejarik table. Resigned, Zozy flopped down on the seat cushions and calmed down, his tongue lolling out as if he didn't have a care in the world.
Occasionally, Han took a break from his meticulous work to shoot a glare at him. Zozy always swished his feathery tale blithely; happy to have the attention, and Han tried not to be charmed by it. He was busy adding still more safety features to the Falcon - Leia had instructed him to cover any remotely sharp surface with rubber padding to prepare the eventual toddler stumbles that would happen, and he'd also taken time to install transparent plasteel covers over all electrical sockets and control panels, configuring them to only open with his or Leia's fingerprint activation.
That was a painstaking process, with all the programming necessary - and he'd have to do Leia's prints later, when she was on board - but when he'd remembered today was the afternoon Jobal and Sola were arriving, he'd thought it the best time to do it, so they could get some time together.
Pooja, Bail, Luke, and Mara were coming over for dinner later, and he'd go upstairs and clean up and see how the final set up of the nursery looked. He was interested in seeing Mara's interaction with the Naberrie side of the family. He knew she'd met them; Luke had taken her out to Theed a few months ago. It seemed to have gone well, from what Luke said – and Luke implied that they'd both be back on Coruscant for a while after Leia had the baby, because he wanted to spend time with his niece or nephew.
Han came out of the bunkroom, wiping his hands on his trousers, and stopped suspiciously in the main hold when he saw Zozy standing up on the table, his hackles raised, his ears flat back on his head. He looked around, confused about what had spooked the little guy, and saw Chewbacca standing ominously in the other doorway, staring innocently at Zozy.
"Chewie," Han griped, rolling his eyes. "You know you scare him."
Chewbacca snickered, tilting his head. He thought the human habit of keeping pets was absurd, and though he never menaced Zozy directly, he did think the little creature's constant wariness of him was amusing.
[Will your youngling have as silly a name as this critter?] Chewbacca asked.
Han folded his arms.
"Don't make fun of Zozy's name," he retorted. "Leia picked it and her language is dying," he reminded him. "Think about that, pal."
[This does not change the fact that you sound ridiculous when you say it,] Chewbacca informed him solemnly. Han glared at him, and Chewbacca went on, crossing his arms casually. [I still think you should name your youngling,] Chewbacca finished with a long, complicated combination of syllables, and Han cocked a brow at him, giving him a dry look.
"Chewie, half your clan can't even pronounce that," he said. "What's it mean?"
Chewbacca bared his teeth in a wide smirk.
[It means it will be cuter when it's older,] he translated.
Han scowled at him, raising a hand and pointing at him sharply.
"Y'know, Leia's gettin' more sensitive and touchy by the day," he warned, "and it's gonna get worse after she has it – if you call her baby ugly in front of her, and I see even half a tear," he threatened.
[I am only teasing you, Cub,] Chewbacca growled. [I know humans think their own young are aesthetically pleasing. I won't insult the infant.]
Han reached up and rubbed the back of his head, eyebrows raised.
"I dunno, I never thought they were that cute," he muttered. "Not right away. Maiah and Iver are cute," he said. "Ryoo Naberrie's twins," he added, refreshing Chewie's memory.
[You'll think yours is cute,] Chewbacca said seriously. [Lumpy was much too small, but I still took pride in him.]
"Thanks for the insight, buddy," he snorted. He lifted his chin. "What're you back in here for?" he asked. "You need help reconfiguring' that alarm code?" he asked.
He and Chewie were installing a more sensitive system, one that picked up on threats and alerted at further distances, and was more precise in defining the threat. He figured if he and Leia were going to have a baby traveling on the ship, he wanted as much forewarning as possible.
Chewbacca jolted suddenly.
[No,] he warbled. [I am almost finished with it. I came in to tell you General Rieekan is here. He wants to speak, if you have time.]
"Time? I got nothin' but time, I don't work for him anymore," he said smugly. He pointed at Zozy with a snap, tacitly ordering him to lie back down, and then strode forward to pass Chewbacca, heading for the boarding ramp.
Chewbacca followed him, and saluted Rieekan formally as he stepped back into the private hangar and returned to running his tests from the outside. Han paused halfway down the ramp and beckoned at Rieekan.
"You ain't gotta ask, Carlist," he said. "Ramp's down, come on up."
Rieekan smiled wryly, and followed Han up the ramp, walking with him into the main hold. Han paused, turning to face him, and raised his eyebrows, waving at the seat behind him. Rieekan turned to take a seat, and Zozy leapt back to his feet, chirping excitedly.
"Ah, hello," Carlist said, reaching out to stroke Zozy's feathery ears. Zozy yelped excitedly, swishing his tail.
"Cool it, Zo," Han muttered, shaking his head. He strode forward, and crouched down, unlatching Zozy's harness. "Here, I got an idea," he said, snatching the Mooka up and tucking him under his arm. He smirked, and jerked his head. "C'mere, look at this," he said to Rieekan.
The general followed, and watched Han crouch down, and gently drop Zozy into a smuggling compartment. A – reconfigured smuggling compartment, he noticed, tilting his head with interest. One of the deep, square cut outs that was settled into the gut of the ship had been padded up. Soft, protective cushion was tacked up, and the open bars and pipes had been reworked and set aside so the result was a smooth, hide-away area that formed an inset, sort of –
"Is that a playpen?" Carlist asked, incredulous.
Han straightened up, nodding smugly, as Zozy hopped around inside, unable to leap out, swishing his tail excitedly at the environment. He dove at one of the walls, pouncing on it and bouncing back happily.
Carlist shook his head, grinning. He crossed his arms, rubbing his jaw.
"Leia seen this?" he asked.
"No," Han said.
Rieekan gave him a look, his brows arching.
"You think your wife is going to be happy that you want to chuck your kid in an old smuggling compartment to play?" he asked.
"Leia? She's gonna laugh," he said.
Rieekan looked skeptical. He held up his hands.
"You know your wife better than me," he said, "but I promise you, wait to show her this until the new mother nerves wear off a little," he warned.
Han gestured back towards the bunkroom.
"I turned the spare bunk into a sort of – crib," he protested.
"Yes, a safe place to sleep, that's thoughtful," Carlist said. He gestured to the compartment dramatically. "She's gonna see this and think 'smuggling trap,'" he said. "He wants to put the baby in a smuggling trap."
Han frowned, and tilted his head.
"Uhh," he started. "You think?"
"Or tell her you built it for Zozy, and then when the kid crawls in to play, she'll think it's adorable," he went on. "But I'm tellin' you, Han, you think this is a fun hideout, and Leia's gonna think 'tiny baby asylum.'"
Han reached up and scratched his jaw, tilting his head curiously. He stepped aside, looking down at Zozy, furrowing his brow. Zozy curled up happily. Han looked back over at Rieekan seriously.
Carlist grinned again.
"Why'd you decide to convert one of them into a playpen?" he asked.
"In case 'm watchin' the baby and it tries to escape," Han said immediately.
Carlist raised his brows. Han winced and looked back into the compartment – sounded much more like a baby jail when he put it that way. He was still unsure Carlists' assessment was correct, though. He'd liked building forts when he was a kid, when he did find time for fun. He thought it was a great place for a fort.
Han tilted his head and looked back at Carlist.
"Only converted one of 'em," he said.
"Why only one?" Carlist asked.
Han blinked at him.
"In case I gotta smuggle something in the other one," he said, matter-of-fact.
"Han," Carlist snorted, "when is the last time you actually smuggled something?"
Han glared at him, and then tilted his head pointedly.
"I smuggled some chocolate biscuits out of my kitchen last night," he said, as aggressively as possible, "because Leia said if I let her eat any more of them, she would push me off the balcony."
Carlist tilted his head back and laughed, good and hard. Straightening up, he rubbed his neck, arching his eyebrows.
"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, I've been there," he snorted.
Han smirked dryly, and then took a step back, tucking his hands into his pockets for a second. He considered Rieekan, wondering what he was really here for, and then shrugged, nodding at the cockpit.
"Want a drink?" he asked, noting Rieekan wasn't in uniform. "Looks like you're off duty."
"Policy meetings earlier today," he muttered, nodding. "I'll take splash of somethin,'" he agreed.
Han ducked into the galley and grabbed a bottle of whatever he had left – the dregs of an aged Corellian whiskey – and returned quickly, tucking it under his arm, and holding two chipped glasses in one hand. Rieekan followed him into the cockpit, and Han took his usual seat – Carlist took the co-pilot's which, of course, Han now considered to be Leia's.
He poured two drams of whiskey, then set the bottle aside on a stable part of the console and leaned back, swinging his legs up onto the controls and crossing his feet at the ankles. His scuffed black boots fit too well against one of the steering mechanisms; there was a scratch on them exactly from his constant penchant to sit like this.
He took a slow drag of the whiskey, and looked at Rieekan intently.
"What can I do for you, Carlist?" he asked gruffly, and then without waiting, pointed around his glass and said, "'M not takin' my commission back," sternly.
Rieekan gave a short laugh.
"I wouldn't expect you to," he said. "Retirement looks too good, particularly at your age," he added dryly. He cleared his throat, and rested the bottom of his glass in his palm, falling silent for a moment. "Well, Bail told me you two made sure Leia got a female heart-to-heart with her Naberrie relatives," he said.
"Did you want to be included?" Han asked, deadpan.
Rieekan gave him a wither look, took a sip of whiskey.
"Hardly," he retorted. He paused. "I, uh," he started, clearing his throat roughly, "wanted to – make sure you got the same deal," he said, straightening his shoulders with determination. "I know the Viceroy's raised a daughter but – I think I got insight he doesn't," Carlist explained. "Looks like you're gonna be home a lot, yeah?" he said, shrugging. "So was I. Me'n'Morrie didn't have a palace full of help. And that's nothin' against Bail," he added.
Han watched him, listening.
Carlist curled his hand around his tumbler of whiskey, his expression a mixture of amusement, and conviction. He gave Han a stern, but somewhat sheepish look, taking a deep breath.
"What I'm here for is to offer you unsolicited advice," he said firmly
Han nodded. He swallowed hard, lowering his glass and resting it on his knee. He kind of figured it was somethin' like that, when Rieekan started talking. He shrugged.
"S'not unsolicited," he said gruffly – and he meant it. Rieekan was one of the few people he figured had plenty of insight, and wasn't likely to treat him like an imbecile when he did offer advice.
"You didn't exactly invite me to give it," he pointed out.
Han shrugged again.
"I ain't got a lot of outside guidance," he said bluntly, arching a brow matter-of-factly – and Carlist was struck by the honesty of the response, and leaned back, tipping his glass forward. "What've you got?" Han challenged.
He held Rieekan's gaze, determined to hear whatever he had to say.
"Bail hasn't given you a talk?" Carlist ventured, at least mildly surprised.
Han tilted his head back and forth.
"It ain't that he wouldn't," he said. "He speaks up plenty, about stuff he experienced, but he's wary of bein' condescending to me," Han explained. "Sorta my fault," he added under his breath. "And I think he knows me'n'Leia are doin this different."
Han took a deep breath, and then another large drink.
"So," he said bluntly, "what've you got?"
Carlist considered him for a moment.
"You're not ready," he offered finally.
Han gave a jerky nod. He'd been feeling that for weeks, months. He knew Leia felt it, too – as 'ready' as they were, they didn't really know what to expect.
"Yeah, I know," he agreed dryly. "Want to be, though, so 'm okay," he added confidently – he'd been working on that, because damned if Leia wasn't right when she kept saying they had to act like they knew exactly what they were doing – for the baby's sake.
Carlist leaned forward.
"You're even less ready than you think you are," he said simply, tilting his head. He hesitated, and then took a deep breath, his brow furrowing. "Look, Han, here's what's really important," he said carefully – Han got the impression he'd thought a lot about what he was going to say, and had just been waiting for a time to have the conversation.
He frowned thoughtfully before he went on:
"You have to help. You have to be there, be more present, than you can imagine," he said emphatically. "And I promise you, no matter how much you think you're helping, you're probably not helping enough."
Carlist paused; making sure Han was listening intently. He grinned a little.
"And when you are helping enough, you're probably going to get told you're doing it wrong. Don't take it personal."
Han nodded. Rieekan looked down at his glass, swishing the remaining whiskey around thoughtfully.
"You're both gonna be learning, but she might get irritated with you for not learning fast enough," he said, "and that's just because she's scared, too."
He stopped, and lifted a hand, rubbing his forehead tensely.
"Sorry, it's a little odd to talk about – Princess Leia – like this," he muttered. "Like she's – "
"Human?" Han said. "You've always been good about that, Carlist," he said gratefully. "Treatin' her human. It meant a lot to her."
Rieekan nodded. He scratched his jaw.
"I know I don't know her like you do, and some of what I say might sound presumptuous or generalizing but…I had three kids," he said, "and I know what it's like to be a new father. It's not easy. Sometimes it's really tempting to just quit tryin' to help if she keeps snapping at you. Don't quit."
Han sat forward, tilting his ear closer, his jaw set as he listened.
"I don't know what you two are planning, but a really good thing I learned – Morrie was only nursing for a while, and I could barely help do any of the feeding at night. So I started doin' anything else I could do – laundry, diapers, play time, anything…and if she didn't want me interfering with what she was doing for the baby, I did stuff for her."
Carlist nodded to himself firmly.
"You gotta really be there," he said. He narrowed his eyes. "I know you're sittin' there thinkin' you're gonna be the most supportive damn husband there ever was. I did, too – it's gonna be miserable for you, too, sometimes," he swore, "but even if doesn't seem fair, you gotta get over it. It still falls on you to comfort her until she gets back on her feet, and you two can sort of," he lifted his glass vaguely, "get yourselves back."
"And I...don't want to overstep, but with Leia," he paused. "Well, you remember what I told you? Back before we got the Viceroy? When everyone was on your tail about her?" he prompted.
"Yeah," Han said quietly - that Han needed to be ready to handle what came with Leia; he needed to be ready to get her professional help, if it came to that.
"Keep an eye on that," Carlist said, very quietly. "My wife had no history of any kind of mental illness, but with our second child she got...she struggled. It really mucked up her head for a while. She needed medical help," he went on. "And Leia's got a history of - well, I guess I don't really know if she does," he admitted, "but keep an eye out. It can be a pretty fine line between normal adjustment distress and...real trouble. For us, for me watchin' Morrie, the biggest clue was her not bonding with our middle son. I don't want to scare you," Carlist said hastily. "Just...be aware."
Han cupped his glass in his palms, staring at Rieekan for a long time. He lifted his glass, downed the rest of the whiskey, and nodded sharply.
"Yeah," he said hoarsely. "Okay."
Rieekan raised his brows.
"That all sounds right to you?"
Han set his glass aside.
"I don't know a damn thing about any of this," he said flatly. "'M gonna take your word, 'M gonna take Bail's word, and if none of that works, 'M gonna do what I've always done."
Rieekan raised his brows.
"Follow Leia around, bein' there when she doesn't want me, until she realizes she needs me," he said, deadpan.
Rieekan snorted, sitting back. His shoulders relaxed, and he reached up to run a hand through his hair tersely. He laughed, and nodded.
"That," he said seriously, "has seemed to have worked in your favor."
Han grinned. Carlist sighed, and looked down at his glass again. Watching him, Han realized he didn't know much about the life Carlist had lost on Alderaan, and before he could stop himself, he was asking –
"How old were your boys, Carlist?"
Rieekan raised his eyes to the ceiling. He stared at it for a while, then tipped his glass to his lips and downed the rest of his whiskey. Swallowing hard, he cleared his throat.
"Twelve, nine, and seven," he said heavily. "Tor, Brec, and Whick," he listed, his voice trailing off. "Think about them a lot," he said honestly.
Han nodded, silent. He couldn't imagine – and his wife, too. He thought, for a brief second, about losing Leia, only losing Leia, and he could barely breathe. He reached up and rubbed his chest with his knuckles. He sat back, and reached for the whiskey, pouring them each another dram, and sitting in the silence. It was easy silence – and Han was grateful for Rieekan's efforts.
He'd always kind of – wondered if Rieekan ever felt ostracized, after Bail returned; if he felt like Leia had gotten her father back, and didn't need the surrogate anymore, while he still ached for a surrogate child. He had married them, and he was included in their circle – but Han still wondered.
"Couple people comin' over for dinner tonight," Han said gruffly. "You want to join us? Leia's got the nursery all set up now. Let 'er show off," he said casually.
Rieekan looked at him warily.
"I don't want to barge in on a family – "
"C'mon, Carlist," Han interrupted, deadpan. "You're like a grandfather."
Rieekan started to smile, and then scowled.
"Hey, I'm not that old – c'mon," he fired back. "Uncle," he offered.
"Sorry, General," Han retorted. "Luke's got that on lock."
Rieekan rolled his eyes. He raised his glass, tilting it towards Han, and silently thanked him, nodding. It sounded good, a little celebration.
"Don't get used to the idea of the nursery you worked so hard on," he advised sagely. "That baby will be in your room much more than you think."
Han laughed. He gave a small shrug. There was so much to consider, so much to anticipate – and amid everything else he was feeling, the most significant feeling was excitement. He could handle anything that came at him. He raised his glass to Carlist, this time for a real toast – it was a damn good thing, all this family support he and Leia had – and it made him feel like he'd been right, in wanting a family of his own.
a/n: my favorite chapter (of this collection, at least)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was difficult for Leia to describe what she was feeling, when the time came to have the baby. She wasn't entirely sure if it was like she'd imagined, or entirely different - though she knew that never having done it before, she couldn't ever have fully understood what she was going to go through. Painful, messy, and eye-opening as her miscarriage had been, it wasn't birth, and this was an altogether different experience - most importantly because it wasn't accompanied by heartache, but adrenaline, and anticipation - a joyous, jittery fear that was underscored with overwhelming determination and relief.
For the most part, it was a normal, mundane progression - discomfort, slowly rolling into more severe contractions, signs and signals from her body and her intuition that told her it was time, and though Leia had known earlier than most women that this would be the day, Dr. Mellis trusted her sensitivity, and brought her in to get her settled and ready. It was a lengthy day spent telling very few people - her father, her aunt, Luke, a handful of others - where she was, and spent with Han by her side, alternately pacing nervously, and sitting tensely, while nurses and midwives fluttered in and out performing the usual checks, monitoring Leia, and letting her know in increments what to expect.
It wasn't a long labor, but it wasn't short. She thought at first that it didn't hurt very much at all; she had a high threshold when it came to pain, too high. As hours passed and things progressed, she was less vocal about how bearable the ache was, and more inwardly focused on staying connected with the baby, and trying to manage her own pain. It was fierce, persistent, and intense, over in moments that felt like eternity - and even when the contractions faded at their intervals, she was left exhausted, her muscles hurting the way one did after prolonged combat or physical exertion. Her perception of everything was ultra sensitive - Han's hand in hers, the anxiety of the baby - she hadn't expected the quiet terror that she knew was coming solely from her - her, she knew it was a her, unequivocally and suddenly - she'd felt it, when she struggled to control her intuitive power and offer peace, an explanation for what was happening.
Laying on her side, her head tucked as close to Han's chest as she could get it, she held onto his arm with both of hers, digging her nails in. He rested his chin on her temple, keeping her head pinned gently so she couldn't jerk around and see the needle the midwife was piercing her spine with. He held his other hand on her hip, pressing firmly, offering comfort.
"Hang in there, Leia," he murmured, watching the midwife set the epidural.
She closed her eyes, her lips moving soundlessly, speaking not to him, but to the life inside her - this is supposed to happen to you; its alright.
The midwife looked up, nodding brightly at Han, and stepped back with the needle, disposing of it discreetly. Han kept Leia still, watching with wary interest as the epidural was set and, after a few moments, the midwife indicated it was safe to let Leia sit back up if she wanted to. Han moved his chin, pressing a kiss to her temple, and pushed sweaty hair away from her face, trying to catch her eye.
"You can sit up," he said, sliding his hand off her hip.
Leia shook her head. For a moment, she was comfortable on her side - -as comfortable as she could be. She was so hot, and tired, but Han smelled good, and his touch felt good, so she stayed curled up close to him, rubbing her nose against his shirt. He grinned, and sat back just enough to grab a handful of ice and clutch it in his knuckles, rolling it against her forehead.
She grimaced and pulled his arm tight to her, digging her nails in sharply. She tossed her head, her breathing quickening harshly, and Han looked over her sympathetically. She pressed her knees together hard, and then opened her eyes hazily, licking her lips.
"How long until it kicks in?" she asked faintly.
Han looked up.
"Ten minutes or so," the midwife offered gently. "It won't be long, Leia," she promised.
Leia nodded, loosening her grip on Han's hand a little. She tilted her head up, pressing it closer to his knuckles, and he pushed the ice back into her hair, smoothing cool water over her generously. She moved her lips in silent thanks, her lashes fluttering. She swallowed hard, fumbling to find his hand again, and interlocking their fingers.
"Oooh, the things I do for you, Hotshot," she murmured, bringing his hand to her lips to kiss it.
Han scooted his chair closer a little, and pulled his hand right back, so he could kiss her knuckles. He brushed the rest of the ice down her back, and then covered her hand with both of his, pressing it against his chest. He hadn't been very talkative; the more intense her labor became, the quieter he got - she was unsure if it was out of respect, or nerves, or a little of both. It didn't matter - he was there, and he'd done everything right, and she couldn't ask for anything more - and she couldn't find it in her to be angry at him, like so many clichés seemed to think she ought to be.
She exerted every effort to try and keep herself calm, keep her mind in a good place, self-soothing the sharp pain when she could, and offering a silent lullaby to the baby, so she would calm down. It was hard, so impossibly hard, to confront this unknown for herself while also desperately attempting to make it safe for the baby. She knew she had the endurance for it; that power was written into her evolutionary code, both mental and physical, but her initial curiosity about labor was over - she wanted it done, she wanted her baby.
Leia turned to the side, shifting onto her back, and Han let her draw her hand back. She ran it over her face, taking a few deep breaths, and tilted her head back, staring up at the ceiling. She took a deep breath and reached for his hand again, holding tightly - Sith, the contractions were worse and worse, she was aching, in every sense of the word, for that epidural to kick in so she could recoup, focus all her energy on the baby instead of herself - this one was awful, this one was so rough -
She turned sharply to the side, reaching for Han. He grabbed her shoulder and leaned forward, letting her rest her forehead on him, dig her teeth into his shoulder.
"Mmm. Mmmhmm," she whimpered. "Fuck," she swore. She pressed her knees together again to stop them from shaking, and clawed at his chest. She shook her head. "I can't do this," she said, gritting her teeth.
Han grabbed her hand again and squeezed it. He nodded confidently.
"Yeah, you can, Sweetheart," he said firmly. "You know you can."
She nodded in agreement; feeling ridiculous as the contraction faded, and a blessed trick of biology momentarily had her forgetting it had been so bad in the first place. She leaned back, exhausted, and looked over at him, her lips parted, her face flushed and bright. Han leaned forward, resting his arm casually on the pillows near her head, and grinned. His heart raced in his chest - he felt like he'd been running for his life all day, since early this morning when all of this started. He was eager for the end result, and he felt somewhat helpless sitting next to her - he couldn't take away any of this pain, and he couldn't imagine what it was like, but it was good pain.
He nodded his head at her abdomen.
"'Sides that, how ya feelin'?" he asked lightly.
Leia laughed breathlessly.
"I've had worse," she retorted brazenly.
She arched forward sharply, her hand grappling for his on the sheets, and he gave it to her quickly. She bit back a shriek, holding it behind her teeth, and her ankles slipped on the sheets. Her blood rushed in her ears, and when it was over, the midwife was standing next to her, checking some monitors calmly, and then sauntering back down to her feet, where she gently pulled them into stirrups at the end of the bed.
"You're moving fairly quickly, Leia," she said kindly, adjusting the fit so that it was snug, "I'm going to have Dr. Mellis come in here. It won't be long," she said again.
Leia didn't answer. She sat back, and Han adjusted her pillows for her, his stomach somersaulting. He arched his eyebrows at her, his brows going up, and Leia swallowed hard, her fingers trembling in his loose grip. She stayed silent, saving her strength - they'd been talking so much, earlier, carrying on with their usual banter - now they had entered into that realm where final battles demanded focus and solemnity and wrestling with one's own inner chaos. There were a multitude of things going through her mind - she missed her mother, she was in awe of this moment, that she even had this moment at all; she and Han's lives were going to be so unimaginably different -
She grit her teeth, and turned her head towards Han again, tightening her grip - and then loosened it a little, her lips parted in surprise.
"Oh," she breathed softly.
"What's wrong?" he asked anxiously, pressing her knuckles to his lips.
She shook her head.
"It wasn't so bad," she said hoarsely. "That one. It's just," she winced, licking her lips. "Pressure."
"Those are the words of a woman whose epidural just kicked in."
Han looked behind him, and Dr. Mellis gave him a knowing smirk as she came into the room. Her heels clicked, and the gloves she was pulling on made a soft snapping noise as she situated them.
"Xio tells me you," Dr. Mellis said, grabbing a rolling stool and pulling it down towards the end of the bed, "are almost ready to deliver."
Leia threw her head back tiredly. She nodded feverishly, and winced, sitting up a little to look down. She jerked her hand from Han's and ran her palm over her abdomen, hoping her touch would help. There was so much distress and uncertainty - she thought her world was ending, Leia sensed that, and that had to mean they were so close -
"Leia," Dr. Mellis called calmly. "Your vitals are good, baby's vitals are good," she told her, and then looked at Han. She held up one finger. "One centimeter left," she told him. "That means Leia can start pushing soon and barring any complications, it all happens like," she snapped her finger, "that."
"Complications?" Han asked.
"None detected," Dr. Mellis said smoothly.
Leia took a deep breath, pressing her palm to her abdomen again. She compressed her lips - the pain had subsided to mostly pressure, a dull, occasionally sharp ache, and she felt vaguely as if she missed it - the loss of sensation was almost scarier. She gasped, her eyes wide, as she felt a rush of fear from the baby, and Han looked over at her with concern. She closed her eyes, and shook her head.
"It's okay," she murmured, half to herself. Shhh, she thought, her eyes stinging - she was sure it was twice as terrifying for the baby as it was for her; she was fully possessed of understanding - it seemed impossible to convey to such a burgeoning new life that she was about to meet the voices that had soothed her all these months.
Han stood up, pushing his chair back. Dr. Mellis was conversing with the midwife quietly, and then ducked her head back between Leia's knees - an image Han had always found weirdly comical. He grinned a little, and then ran his hands over his thighs, feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness again. He looked down at Leia.
"What can I do?" he asked, reaching down to brush her hair back. "More ice?"
"Han," Dr. Mellis said, "you can hold a knee if you want to feel more involved - Leia's knee," she said. "You might get kicked, but it's worth it." Dr. Mellis turned to her midwife. "Ten," she said, and then, matter-of-fact, peered up at Leia. "The end is in sight, honey," she said slyly.
Han reached up to rub his jaw, and nodded, his heart skipping. He turned, striding down to Leia's knee, and she sat up a little, eyeing him warily. She glared at his back.
"Han," she snapped tensely. "Don't - I don't want you - stay up here," she ordered, gesturing to her shoulders and head.
Han stopped, but rested one hand on her thigh.
"I don't mind," he said, and then turned his head back to her leg.
Leia twitched her knee at him, agitated.
"I don't even want to look," she growled. "You stay - stay up here," she snapped again.
Dr. Mellis laughed.
"I don't think he's a fainter, Leia," she placated.
"There are some aesthetics I'd like to - Han!" she hissed.
He'd already inched around her knee a little, stepped closer, and peered between her legs next to Dr. Mellis. He blinked a few times, cocked his head, and then shrugged, looking back up at Leia.
"I've seen it before," he said. "It looks the same."
Dr. Mellis looked up at him, cocked an eyebrow, and laughed softly.
"She's not crowning yet," she advised him.
Han straightened up. He took her knee in one hand, and her thigh in the other. Leia glared at him, shaking her head, and let out a slow breath. She closed her eyes tightly.
"I feel a lot of pressure," she said tightly.
"Good," Dr. Mellis answered.
Leia sat up abruptly, bracing one arm behind her. She grit her teeth.
"I need," she began, her voice catching.
Dr. Mellis nodded.
"Take a deep breath, and use all your strength to focus your muscles," she coached, "and push - don't be - "
Leia complied, and Dr. Mellis raised her brows, pursing her lips.
"-gentle," she finished, impressed.
She looked up at Leia through her lashes.
"I usually have to teach women not to be dainty about it," she murmured, then sat back a little, and looked over at Han. She inclined her head down. "Han," she said pointedly.
He pulled Leia's knee against his chest and leaned forward to look again. Leia blinked, noticed what he was doing, and shook her head, rolling her eyes back and putting a hand over her face. She groaned softly - and Han stared for a moment, certainly noticing a difference than what he was used to this time. He cocked his head, looked back at her, and grinned.
"Leia," he said, louder than he meant to. "I can see - there's a baby," he informed her, swallowing hard.
"I've noticed," Leia growled faintly. "Come here."
Dr. Mellis smiled to herself as Han slid his hands over Leia's leg and moved back up to her shoulder. She scooted forward a little on her stool, said something to the midwife, and then sat back, her shoulders relaxing.
"Rest for just a minute," she murmured.
Han gave her one of his hands and kept looking down at her smugly, beaming with pride.
"Take it easy, Scoundrel," Leia murmured. "You haven't gotten to the best part," she gasped. A wave of pain hit her, dull, but unexpected, and she felt dizzy, lifting her head hazily. "I'm going to be sick."
The midwife was handing Han a metal basin before he could think to grab one. He put a hand behind Leia's shoulder so she wouldn't choke, and held the basin for her. He didn't flinch as she vomited, just handed the basin over when she was finished and just as quickly handed her a few ice chips to rinse the sourness from her mouth.
"Ugh," groaned Leia weakly. "I thought I was through with this."
"Nausea is common in the final stage of labor," Dr. Mellis soothed.
Leia closed her eyes tightly, and reached up to grab Han's elbow.
"I can still feel some of it," she murmured, and then dipped her head, moaning softly. "My head hurts - it's not the end of the world," she murmured softly. "It's us, it's just us."
"Leia?" Han asked worriedly.
Dr. Mellis looked up sharply, and snapped at the midwife to check vitals.
"She's stable, everything is stable," Xio said warily, glancing at Leia. "Leia, you seem a little incoherent - are you seeing black spots? Do you feel like you can't breathe?"
Leia took a moment to compose herself, and then looked up at Han before swallowing, and glancing at the two women helping her.
"I can feel...my baby's distress," she began.
"Your baby is not in distress," Mellis said firmly. "Heartbeat, blood pressure, all vitals - "
"I know," Leia interrupted. "I mean this is - chaos, for the baby, it's like - a hurricane," she managed. "It doesn't understand what's going on."
Xio looked to Dr. Mellis, and Dr. Mellis looked impressed, and fascinated.
"I suppose I had never considered what labor was like from the infant's point of - "
Leia cut her off with a groan.
"Can I -? Push?" she asked faintly.
Dr. Mellis nodded, compressing her lips - back to the business at hand. She put a hand encouragingly on Leia's shin, and kept nodding, waving her hand slowly to mime Leia taking in a deep breath, and repeating the same process as she had moments earlier.
It progressed like that, for what seemed like an eternity, though later Han told her that part of labor had only lasted forty-five minutes. She had so much faith in herself to do this, to get through this; little parts of her banded together to remind her she'd been through so much worse, she'd been tortured, she'd lost her world, she'd survived injuries that should have killed her and heartbreaks that were even worse, and that kept her strength where she needed it, even as she became more and more exhausted.
When she started to fade, physically drained despite her emotional fortitude, she was viscerally aware of Han sitting down next to her on the bed and shifting half his body behind hers, helping her sit forward with both hands firmly on her shoulders. He kissed the nape of her neck, and pressed his lips to her ear, gruff and encouraging.
"You're blowin' my mind, Sweetheart, c'mon," he said softly, talking her through the rough pressure of another contraction, and what felt like the thousandth time she'd exerted all her energy to try to finally deliver this baby - "You should see what's goin' on down there," he said seriously.
"I told you not to look," Leia snapped, setting her jaw and bracing her feet hard against the stirrups.
"Good, Leia, perfect," Dr. Mellis said.
Leia relaxed, leaning heavily back against Han.
"'M not traumatized or anything," he soothed, stroking her hair. He cleared his throat, looking down at the medic.
Mellis was focused, keyed in on Leia with exactly the sort of expert care Han wanted her to have. He eased himself back a little, giving Leia some space, and took a few deep breaths himself, reaching up to push his hair back. This was happening, this was really -
"Leia," Dr. Mellis said soothingly, looking up. "Try to relax. Don't tense up," she said.
Leia shook her head a little. She closed her eyes tightly, her hand sliding over the sheets. Han gave her what she was looking for, intertwining their fingers - and Leia sucked in her breath. The world had faded for her, into soft, nonsense, sounds; for a split, overwhelming second, she could only hear sharp, scared wailing in her ears - her daughter's -and it left her breathless. She experienced a burst of determined calm, and opened her eyes - her comfort be damned, she had to direct all her energy to easing the anxiety of this little girl, and she needed Han to help her. She squashed her girlish reluctance for him to have a full view of the reality of childbirth, and clutched his hand tightly to her chest - tighter than she'd held it yet. She squeezed his fingers hard, and Han looked at her anxiously, his attention drawn rapidly from the look of blithe concentration on Dr. Mellis' face to Leia's earnest, determined eyes.
"Han," she said, licking her lips.
He reached out and pressed his palm to her sweaty forehead, pushing damp strands of hair back again. He smiled at her, leaning into her again, his hand drifting from her hair down to her shoulders, ready to give her a boost forward and help her sit up if she needed it.
"Need my help?" he offered tensely.
She shook her head.
"No, Han, listen," she said quietly, squeezing his hand hard again.
He moved his head closer.
"Leia," Dr. Mellis said mildly. "We only need one more," she encouraged. "I know you're exhausted. One more, and I think your body will do the rest," she promised.
She pressed her palm against the inside of Leia's thigh with a warm, confident pressure. Leia ignored her - not out of malice; she knew Dr. Mellis was trying to make this as easy as possible - but because she was so focused on Han, on trying to put into words what she wanted to tell him, to impress upon him. She took a deep breath, blinking rapidly a few times, and grit her teeth - at this point, it was just as hard not to push as it was to give it all she had.
"What, Leia?" Han pressed nervously - his stomach dropped; was something wrong? Something he couldn't see, was she feeling something - he couldn't be her advocate if he didn't know -
"She's scared, she's really scared," Leia said quietly, whispering to him. "She doesn't understand what's happening," she choked, licking her lips again - she thought she sounded insane, translating the intense bundle of emotions the baby was consumed with. "She knows your voice, okay?" She nodded down towards her doctor. "I want you to be the first person she touches," she whispered urgently.
"Me?" Han asked nervously, his voice hushed.
Leia nodded, kissing his knuckles.
"She knows you," she said again - she knew it would help, she knew it might instantly soothe, even, if the first human contact the baby had was someone she'd listened to her entire life. She swallowed hard, and rolled her head to the side. "Arksiah," she murmured. "Is it," she caught her breath, resisting the urge to bear down, "alright if Han catches her?"
Dr. Mellis looked up.
"Of course," she agreed briskly. "Sooner, rather than later," she added wryly. "You're only making it harder on your body, resisting," she warned kindly.
"She's scared," Leia argued hazily, letting her head fall back. "Han," she said again, huskily.
He smiled at her bravely, taking a deep breath.
"And here I thought you didn't want me down there," he teased.
He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and she loosened her grip on his hand. He squeezed her fingers one last time, straightening up. She felt a little deprived as he hands left her, and he moved away, but she could do her part in this on her own, she was built for it, possessed of this primal power; it was more important to her that the baby -
"Hang on," Han nearly tripped over himself as he turned back to look at her, his feet catching all over each other as he stared at her with wide eyes. "She? It's a she?" he asked hoarsely.
Breathing heavily, Leia waved her hand at him.
"Han!" she growled.
He grinned broadly, and nodded hastily, hurrying down to her ankle. Dr. Mellis moved a bit, ducking her head. She grabbed for one of Han's hands and pulled him around Leia's knee, moving out of the way as much as possible, but giving herself plenty of room to supervise. She placed her palm over Leia's foot, and looked up at her, giving one sharp, commanding nod.
Leia stared the ceiling for a moment, her world going silent. She heard nothing except heartbeats, thought of nothing but the lullabys she'd hummed to herself over the past few weeks, of Han's laughter, Han's voice, her own hand pressing against her skin to feel flutters of movement. She took a deep breath, pushed herself up on her elbows, and dug her heels into the stirrups hard. Physical strength suddenly rushed back, surging through her easily, and she directed all her sensitive abilities at trying to soothe the panic of the baby she was determined to bring safely into the world.
You know him, she thought soothingly, you know him, you know me, it's alright; just listen to his voice.
Dr. Mellis said something brightly - "Hold your hands like so - a gentle pull is okay, Han, you've got her - " and Leia focused, and she held her eyes closed lightly, trusting herself - trusting Han.
Han focused less on what he was seeing, and more on what he was feeling. Not because the realities disturbed him, but because the physicality of the process was so much less significant to him - Leia might disagree - than the magnitude of how his life was about to change in a split second - in the instant that his shaking hands went from empty, to full, from trembling, to steady, in one stunning turn of events.
Dr. Mellis guided him firmly, but he forced himself to have faith in his own ability as he straightened up, forming his arms into a cradle. He was vaguely aware of Arksiah prying the collar of his shirt open with a businesslike touch, lightly wiping her gloved hands over fresh new skin.
"Bare skin contact," she was saying, in a very calm, experienced tone, "hold her against your bare skin, Han - Leia, you're all done - "
Her voice seemed far away, distant and cloudy. He stepped back, vaguely aware of Leia's foot near his hip. Gingerly, he held the newborn to his chest, one of his palms delicately cradling her tiny head. He stared down at her, adjusting to the welcome shock of her weight in his arms, the feel of her small fists waving against his chest. Arskiah held a warm blanket up to him, gently cleaning off the baby's face, and Han tilted his head to look at her closely - her eyes were closed, fringed with tiny, thin dark lashes - dusting of dark golden hair on the crown of her head -
"Han? Han, she's not crying. Talk to her, Han."
Leia's voice was urgent, worried, and he blinked, looking up. She was sitting up, flushed and exhausted, her eyes scanning over him worriedly. Surely she could sense - but maybe there was too much going on for her.
"She's okay," Han said hoarsely, starting to grin. He nodded fervently. "She's - you're okay," he added awkwardly, looking down at the baby. "Aren't you? I'm," he started, trailing off, but he was having trouble saying it.
Leia directed most of her energy at them for a moment, probing the deep emotional connection she had with the infant, and infusing that with her mental perceptions of Han's voice, Han's smell, Han's presence - Daddy, she thought firmly, hoping that was enough, hoping she'd know who it was.
Dr. Mellis nudged Han back and peered down at the baby. She reached over, swiftly stuck her finger between the baby's lips, and swiped it clear. For a moment, the baby girl still didn't cry - but Han could see she was breathing just fine, she was just in awe - or Leia was soothing her - and then, she did start to wail, kittenish and confused.
Dr. Mellis clapped her hands together gently, nodding, and then placed her hand firmly on Han's arm.
"She's fine," she reassured him quietly. She patted his arm, and tilted her head at Leia. "We'll take care of Leia on this end," she said wryly. "You take that baby girl to her mother."
Han nodded. He swallowed hard, and then, though it seemed like the riskiest thing he'd ever done, he took his first steps as a new father, carefully and deliberately stepping up to Leia's side. He'd made it, he'd carried her without dropping her - he'd made her feel safe - and Leia was dragging pillows up behind her to support herself, her fatigue forgotten in her eagerness. She reached, and Han gave, scared to let go until Leia had both arms cradled around the baby.
The infant's crying seized almost immediately as Leia soothed her. She unlaced her gown with trembling fingers, and held the baby against her breast, tucking her tight into the crook of her arm against her bare skin. She reached down to stroke her cheek reverently, and dipped her head to touch her forehead to the newborn's, everything in her filled with such an indescribable pride, such unbelievable wonder.
That out of nothing, she and Han had -
"Oh, my god, Han," she whispered huskily, her words trembling - overwhelmed, relieved, tired, elated, she burst into tears, biting her lip softly.
Han leaned down to kiss her temple, grinning. He couldn't stop grinning. He stroked her hair back, reaching over to grasp Leia's elbow and steady her arm.
"Look at her," Leia murmured, tears rolling down her cheeks. She licked her lips, unable to tear her eyes away. This was - this was her baby, snuggled there where she belonged, where she'd always belonged.
Xio stepped up to give her a soft blanket, helping her slip it around the baby warmly and yet doing so in such an unobtrusive way that Han and Leia barely noticed her there, so absorbed were they.
Han nodded, pride blazing in his eyes.
"Look at you," he said hoarsely, stroking her hair over and over. "Seen you do a lotta incredible things, Sweetheart. Nothin' beats this," he said. He leaned forward and kissed the corner of her mouth, kissing her through her admiration of the baby. "Nothin'," he repeated.
He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled her into his side - pulled both of them, into his side. If he held his arm just right around Leia's shoulders, he found he could brush the baby - his daughter's - head with his fingertips. He held her protectively, and reverently, swallowing hard. Leia turned her head, and arched her chin to give him a hard kiss on the lips, before turning her attention back to the baby. Leia laughed huskily. She bit her lip, her knuckles brushing gently along the baby's jaw. She heard the tiny, fluttering heartbeat in her mind, and felt the panic settling as the little girl was gradually introduced to the concept that her world was not ending, but beginning - and these were her parents, and they could barely believe what they had accomplished.
She had expected the moments following delivery to be a blur, and that they were. Later, she barely remembered any of it – the administrative questions, the clean up, the routine medical tests. She wasn't even sure she remembered how long it was before both she and the baby were clean, dry, and resting comfortably in the postpartum wing.
There had been a handful of agonizing moments when she was alone, when the midwife took the baby for preliminary check-ups and a bath. She made Han go with her, because she didn't want the baby out of their sights – and proving once again that she'd always been the right choice, Dr. Mellis deemed that perfectly fine. She stayed with Leia and helped work through the less pleasant after effects of delivery, and helped with the transition to the recovery suite.
She and Han were left alone now, with instructions to sound an alarm if they needed anything. They were left alone, that is, with the baby, and that was something to behold. It was a strange sensation; stranger still was the thought of taking her home, nestling her in the cradle next to their bed, keeping her, forever –
She was sleep now, watched over by her parents. Tucked warmly in Leia's arms, with a pale green blanket wrapped around her – one that Malla had sent them, that Han had made sure they brought with them to the Med Centre - she had already nursed once, with Leia receiving help from the midwife to guide her – and Han and Leia had been silently watching her for some time now, with Leia's last words lingering in the echoes around them.
She needs a name, Han.
It was the final decision left to make – an important one. She was less stressed about it than she expected she would be; as prone as she was to planning things, she'd have thought facing baby that was hours old and still nameless would strain her. It didn't. She had realized the moment Han handed her the baby that she already knew what she wanted to name her.
Han stirred a little, leaning forward. He curved his hand gently around her tiny foot, ducking his head forward and pulling his chair closer so he could press his lips to the little toes.
He smiled to himself, and Leia smiled, too, tilting her head back. She blew some hair out of her face, twitching her nose at it, and Han looked up to push her hair back for her. He rested his hand on the baby's stomach – ever so lightly, afraid of waking her – and studied Leia's face intently.
"You feelin' okay?" he asked.
Leia parted her lips and lowered her head, shifting her legs gingerly. She lifted her shoulders, and inclined her head slowly.
"Sore is an understatement," she said softly, "but I think adrenaline and endorphins are keeping me fairly numb to it, for now," she added.
Han nodded. He placed his other hand on her thigh and squeezed gently, staring at her for a long time. He hadn't yet decided how to put into words how completely in awe he was without sounding either ineloquent, or too saccharine to ever come back from. He could only stare at her and feel both humble, and fiercely proud – and he was still unable to comprehend his feelings about the baby, his baby, her baby. They were good feelings; they were just so new, and totally consuming.
He didn't think he'd ever do anything as important as what she'd just done.
He swallowed hard.
"Tell me the minute you need anything, Leia," he said huskily. "Don't hold back, don't try to be tough – "
"Han, Han," she interrupted softly, resting her head back. "You don't have to prove yourself to me."
He clamped his mouth shut, and squeezed her thigh gently again. He took a deep breath, and let it out.
"You want me to go get your dad?" he asked. "No pressure, he doesn't want to rush you, none of 'em do," he said. Bail, Luke, and Chewbacca were the only ones who had chosen to wait in the private area in Dr. Mellis' expansive practice. It was so state of the art it was hardly like waiting at all. Others, such as Rouge, and Winter, and Pooja, had elected to wait to be invited in when Leia was more rested, and a whole slew of visitors would be less overwhelming.
Leia shook her head slowly, adjusting her arms. Han sat forward earnestly and reached across her, folding one of her pillows and setting it up so she could rest her elbow more easily on it.
"You can take her out and introduce her," she murmured, "when we have a name to give them."
The little card on the side of the climate controlled, smart monitoring baby crib merely read Solo, Baby Girl – no name. It listed all her other statistics – average weight, a little shorter than average, dark eyes – Dr. Mellis said that was unique; she said most babies had blue eyes.
Baby girl Solo had dark eyes, like her mother's.
Han nodded, giving her a lopsided smirk.
"Maybe we shoulda picked one already," he muttered.
He moved his chair closer again, and rested his arms on the bed, leaning forward, his eyes on his daughter. He watched her sleep, trying not to think about all the things that might hurt her someday, if he couldn't protect her.
"Han?" she asked softly, waiting patiently to catch his eye. She watched him as he stared at the baby, still transfixed, and then - finally - shook himself a little and looked up.
"Do you want to name her after your mother?" she asked intuitively, sensitive to his preference. She had a feeling he wanted to, and thought he was unlikely to speak up. She wanted his honest opinion, and didn't want to manipulate him, but she was so sure Jaina was the right name for this baby.
Han smiled at her a little warily, and shrugged. His brow furrowed slightly. Leia sensed he was wary of pressing for that when the pressures - or what he perceived as the pressures - of her family, surrounded him.
Leia thought that her father might be expecting her to name the baby after Breha, though she doubted it was an aggressive expectation. It was an assumption he would make, not a demand. She did not think he would be offended if that was not the case.
Clearing her throat lightly, Leia curled her fingers around the baby's tiny fist, and looked down at her, speaking calmly, but surely:
"I like it," she whispered. "Jaina. It's clear. Simple. It's nice in any language."
She felt Han looking at her intently, and hoped she was opening the conversation enough; being encouraging. He shifted and rubbed his jaw, tilting his head.
"What about your ma?" He asked guardedly.
Leia pressed the baby's tiny fist against her breast, absorbed, for a moment, in their new little daughter - and then she lifted her chin, and turned her head to meet Han's eyes intently. She studied him a minute, and then tilted her head matter-of-factly.
"Here's what I think," she murmured. "My mother will never be forgotten. She has an immortal name. She will be immortalized. Breha Organa won't ever really die - neither will I, Han, or you, really." she shrugged wryly, "that's how it will be - we'll go down in history."
Leia turned again to look at the baby, her chest tightening - oh, she was so little, and so new, and so warm and cuddly - Leia bit her lip.
"There were several who thought I shouldn't take your name," she murmured abruptly. "Solo. They thought it was diminishing."
She looked over at Han, having never felt that way herself. Han smirked a little, arching a brow at her. He always liked to point out that those people didn't care as much about Leia's identity as they did about taking orders from a woman who shared Han Solo's name.
"Same principle," she said softly. "Organa's not a name, it's a dynasty. It endures."
Han looked back at her, his elbows propped on his knees, his chin in his hand, listening.
"You said your mother gave you her surname, Han."
He gave a short nod.
"Hers," Leia emphasizes. "It meant something to her. She...wanted it to keep living."
"Don't think it was that deep, Sweetheart," Han muttered cautiously. "She just knew my old man was scum. Y'know 'm not even sure she knew who he was," he said grudgingly.
Leia laughed huskily.
"I don't want anyone to forget Jaina Solo," she said, her voice trembling. "She means a lot to me, you know. She had you," Leia said, nodding at him, biting her lip. "She gave me you. And look what you gave me," she said, lifting Jaina up a little.
Her nose wrinkled slightly - sweetly - at the sentiment, and Han's lips turned up at the corner in a lopsided smirk. He tilted his head pointedly.
"You did most'a the work," he retorted, at that. "I had all the fun."
Leia lifted one shoulder, her hand still curled protectively around the baby's tiny fist. Han reached out to gently brush his knuckles against her foot. Leia watched his hand - so large in comparison to the infant toes - and she shifted closer, tilting her head towards Han.
"My family doesn't eclipse you," she said softly. "You get a say."
Han took a deep breath, his expression thoughtful, fixed on his daughter. He did want to name her after his mother - desperately. He just wasn't sure it would go over well – his mother had been a nobody, and there was so much respect, and admiration, and fawning, over Queen Breha, and the last thing he wanted was resentment anywhere near his daughter, from anyone. He didn't want anyone to be alienated -
He swallowed hard, aware that Leia was still watching him patiently. He gave a curt little nod, looking up to meet her eyes. Leia smiled brightly, splaying her hand over the baby's chest.
"She's Jaina, then," she said quietly, lifting her a little closer to her heart. "Jaina," she sang softly. "Jaina Solo."
Han leaned forward, raising his arms and resting his weight on his elbows. He clasped his hands, resting his nose on his knuckles. Leia touched her nose to Jaina's forehead, and Han rubbed the heel of one of his hands over his temple, his throat locking up.
He stood, and leaned over to kiss the corner of Leia's mouth, running his hand over her hair. His forehead lingered against her temple, and he grinned, only a little unsteadily. He took a deep breath.
"'Preciate it, Sweetheart," he whispered huskily. "I love you," he murmured, kissing her temple again.
Leia rocked Jaina a little, tossing her head. She tilted her head up to give him a quick kiss on the lips, and then lifted her brows a little playfully.
"What's her second name, then?" she asked.
Han sat down, this time next to her on the bed, drawing his leg up a little so his knee nudged her thigh. His other leg hung off the bed and brushed the ground, and he leaned into her steadily. He cocked a brow.
"S'your turn," he retorted. "I got her given name."
Leia clicked her tongue quietly.
"No, no," she murmured. "I did," she countered primly.
She gave him a gentle, but pointed look - she didn't genuinely think anyone would be angry with her for forgoing Breha, but it would ease the blow if she argued it was her choice, not Han's - and it was. Han, she knew, would have let her do anything, which was of course why she didn't. The more she thought about it, too, the less of a problem she anticipated – she doubted Rouge and Bail and many other Alderaanians wanted to hear Han mispronounce their beloved queen's name for the next half a century.
He nodded in understanding, and then looked uncertain, his eyes moving restlessly. He crossed his arms, uncrossed them, and then tilted his head, silent. He gave her a look of bewildered disbelief, and Leia laughed huskily.
"I trust you," she coaxed.
He continued to think, his eyes drifting back down to the baby –Jaina—she was stirring now, her head lolling towards Leia curiously, and he crossed his arms again. It felt like the first real, confident decision he had to make as a father – what to call her. He didn't want her to hate it in years to come. Han cleared his throat, venturing -
"You think...Rue, that too...sore?"
He and Leia had never decided on anything as permanent as names in her first pregnancy, but he remembered her mentioning that one. Had it been a casual mention, or something her heart was set on that could never be used again?
He saw her hesitate, and that was enough of an answer. He nodded in understanding, twitching his hand a little to show he understood. He tilted his head back, blinking up at the ceiling.
"What's 'Breha' mean?" he asked. "On Alderaan, your native names have meanings, yeah?"
Leia nodded, resting her head on his shoulder. She grew a little distracted; Jaina was rooting around, and Leia took a deep breath, relying on the short lesson she'd been given on nursing to try and guide her to latch on. To her surprise, Jaina did so without trouble, and Leia felt her first surge of maternal pride – I did it!
"Light," she answered, stroking Jaina's sparse hair. "'Breha' means light."
"I got one," he said, self-assured, suddenly. He paused very seriously, taking a deep breath before he revealed it. "Yvaine."
Leia looked up at him intently, her lashes fluttering. She parted her lips, her expression curious, but intrigued.
Han saw her lips move slowly to form the name, trying it out.
"Yvaine," she repeated huskily. She bit her lip briefly. "How is it spelled?" she asked.
He spelled it for her.
"Yvaine," she murmured again.
"It means 'light' in Corellian," Han explained gruffly. "So, s'like namin' her after Breha, too," he paused, "but I say it right," he added sheepishly.
Leia started laughing huskily, rocking her arms. She bit her lip and looked at Han affectionately, her lashes thick with tears. She blinked them away, and nodded, careful not to jostle Jaina too much while she nursed.
"It's very musical," she whispered.
"You like it?" he asked warily.
"Yes," she murmured. She leaned forward and angled her arms, so Han could look down at her better, too. "Jaina Yvaine," she sang softly.
Han kissed her forehead, and the crown of her head, and leaned forward to rub her arm, squeezing gently, but firmly. Leia tilted her head up at him, her eyes bright, taking a deep breath. He gave a short, husky laugh, smiling brilliantly.
"Jaina Yvaine," he agreed gruffly.
"You knew of a native Corellian name that means 'light' off the top of your head?" she asked skeptically.
Han shrugged lightly.
"I, uh, was doin' some research, even though we weren't talkin' names," he admitted. "I was…really afraid it was gonna be Breha, if it was a girl, and I was dreadin' sayin' it wrong her whole life."
She kissed his shoulder.
"Well, you did good," she complimented.
Han snorted. He nudged her shoulder with his.
"You did good."
She blushed, and turned her attention back to Jaina – Jaina Yvaine. She thought of her mother, her heart aching with a calm, accepting longing. She wished her mother were here – she even wished Han's mother were here, despite never having met her. And in naming this baby after Han's mother, she did not at all think she was slighting her own. 'Breha' had an ancient inflection to it, perhaps carried a legacy so daunting it might be a burden, but 'Jaina' was special to Han for no other reason than he had loved his mother beyond words, and he'd love his daughter with the same unyielding grace.
Han sat forward a little, leaning over her. He rested his hand on the back of Leia's neck and massaged gently, clearing his throat.
"Does that hurt?" Han asked hesitently, of Jaina's nursing.
Leia grimaced a little, lifting the arm that wasn't supporting Jaina, and waving it back and forth a little.
"It doesn't hurt," she murmured, "right now. It feels," she frowned thoughtfully. "Unfamiliar, but soothing," she decided.
Leia looked away from Jaina, and rested her free hand on Han's leg, moving it back and forth gently.
"You need to know how important you were to her," she told him softly. "She knew you almost immediately, when you touched her. I felt her calm down."
Han raised his brows, grinning. He was so relieved he'd been able to do something, to feel apart of all that. It could have been isolating – for both of them, and yet Leia had kept him close, and involved, and he seemed to have been present enough for her, too.
"You have a good connection with her? Stronger than it was?" he asked anxiously.
Leia nodded slowly – Jaina's presence was glittery and illuminating in the Force, a mixture of curiosity, fright, meekness, strength, and trust. Her emotions were dramatic and sharp, and she perceived her surroundings in highly stimulated senses – understanding that, Leia could begin to see why babies cried so much in the first years of their lives.
The world was – so much to take in.
Jaina turned her head away abruptly, and Leia tended to her, making sure her head was supported, and she could breathe all right, and she was satisfied. She made soft, talkative mewling sounds, and opened her eyes, her eyes drifting with hazy focus from Han, to Leia.
Leia smiled at her, clicking her tongue soothingly, and sat forward a little more, sparing only the smallest wince for discomfort at her general soreness – she turned confidently, and with care, placed Jaina into Han's arms, stroking her soft, dark gold hair, and relaxing back.
She folded her arms across herself protectively; fatigue settling in suddenly, and heavily – and she wanted to see her family before she tried to get the sleep Dr. Mellis told her she desperately needed to get while she had midwives and nurses to take advantage of.
"You're up, Daddy," she encouraged Han, the truth of the world holding so much more meaning, when he was sitting there holding the newborn. She tilted her head bravely at the door, biting her lip: "Go introduce her."
Han took a deep breath, and nodded slowly. He stood gingerly, then bent to kiss the corner of Leia's mouth, and shared one more look of solidarity with her before he turned slowly, and carried Jaina Yvaine Solo towards the door, to walk her down the hall and, as Alderaanian tradition asked, and introduce her to the extended family with little fanfare, and great pride.
d'awwww! don't worry, i will probably do a little something with the others meeting her for the first time. a tag to my tag, if you will. also, this is the first time i have ever written a childbirth scene that wasn't a fade-to-black, or wasn't one that opened on the baby already being born!