Leia had never been so frustrated with an operation in her life. The caterers needed their hands held, one band had backed out at the last minute, she still hadn't seen a final guest list, and now Mon Mothma wanted her to talk to the guy who was engraving the plaques. Plaques, what do they have do with entertainment?
As was the custom for the last week, the minute Leia stepped out of her office she was surrounded by people.
"Your Majesty," said a young ensign, whose name Leia couldn't remember, "Mon Mothma wanted to know if you talked to the engraver?"
"Not yet," Leia said, and turned to the next one.
"Here is the finalized guest list," said a not-so-young aide of Mon Mothma's.
Leia took the data pad. "Finally," she muttered, as the aide walked away.
The last assistant was waiting patiently. "Yes, Dack, what did you find out about a replacement band?"
"Well, ma'am, the one I had in mind wasn't available, but I was talking about it to a friend of mine in the cafeteria and General Solo overheard and recommended a five piece jazz quintet from..." Dack consulted his notes. "Tatooine."
Leia looked at him and pursed her lips. "Did Han say they were good?"
"Have you called them?"
"I wanted to ask you first, Your Majesty."
Leia sighed. She really wished she had a military title, she hated being called 'Your Majesty.' "Fine, call them. If they're available, book them and get them on the next flight here."
"Right away, ma'am."
"And Dack," Leia said. "Let me know as soon as you've got confirmation."
Leia turned to go back to her office and realized the young ensign was still standing there.
"About the engraver, Your Majesty?"
Leia sighed again. "Look, could you go get me a sandwich from the cafeteria. I came out here to go to lunch, but I'm not going to have time if I have to give final numbers to the caterer and talk to the engravers before the meeting at thirteen hundred."
The ensign nodded. "Any preferences?"
Leia shook her head. "Whatever looks good," she said and went back into her office.
Fifteen minutes later, Leia had finally established that the engraver had the correct number of plaques and all the right names. Just as she clicked off the comm, the ensign came in with her lunch.
"Perfect timing." Leia smiled. "Tell Mon Mothma that the engraver is taken care of. He's got the right information and is well on his way to being finished. He'll deliver tomorrow afternoon, which gives us plenty of time to take care of last minute problems."
The ensign seemed relieved. "Terrific, I'll let her know." She turned to leave.
"And Ensign," Leia said. "Thanks for the sandwich."
The ensign grinned at her. "Anytime, Your Majesty."
Leia yawned and stretched, rolling her neck to work out some of the kinks in her muscles. She picked up the guest list and bit into her sandwich. She'd seen a lot of preliminary lists, but had just gone straight to the count without actually looking at the names. She decided now would be a good time to familiarize herself with who was coming. She was halfway through her sandwich and happily reading off names when she ran across a name that left her with a hollow in the pit of her stomach. She set down the sandwich and stared at the name.
Denid, who invited him? she wondered, but, of course, he would be invited. After all, King Denid and his home world of Velmor, were steadfast supporters of the Rebellion, thanks largely to her and Luke. Damn, she thought, why didn't I think of this before? Of course, she knew why she hadn't thought of it, she didn't like to think of Denid and their time together. She didn't like to think of that time at all. Denid was a painful reminder of just how out of control things had gotten, how out of control SHE had gotten.
Leia frowned and put down the data pad. She tossed her now abandoned lunch into the wastebasket and tried to think rationally about the whole thing. First of all, she thought, I'm probably making something out of nothing. After all, if he was still interested, surely he would have contacted me before now, especially in light of the fact that he's coming to the gathering. He must know I'll be there. He probably feels as awkward about this as I do. He's probably involved with someone, maybe even married. There's nothing to worry about, she told herself. He's forgotten all about me, we've both moved on, and no one needs to know anything about this. If I run into him, I'll be cool but pleasant. He'll probably act the same way, and that will be that.
Of course, someone else did know. Luke knew, and he had been furious about it at the time. She never knew, and never asked, especially in light of the discovery that they were twins, whether he was angry on Han's behalf or his own. Since Han had never said anything about it to her, she had to assume Luke hadn't told him. Not that she thought he would. Luke wasn't the type to tell tales, still it bothered her. It bothered her that it had ever happened in the first place. It bothered her that she'd kept it from Han, and it bothered her that Luke knew. Still, there wasn't really anything she could do about it, except come clean, but she saw no reason to hurt Han over what was essentially nothing but a stupid mistake.
After her meeting was finally over, Leia went back to her cabin where she'd promised to meet Han for an early dinner and then an evening to themselves. He'd been busy lately. Reeiken had him working with supply in a supervisory capacity. In the few short months since he'd taken over, Han had turned the place around. His contacts and his knowledge of the shipping industry made him a vital resource. Supplies to the Alliance now ran smoother than ever before and for less money. While Han had been busy with that, Mon Mothma had been encouraging Leia to find new roles for herself. So far, Leia knew she didn't want to plan parties for a living, but she liked some of Mon Mothma's ideas for her future, and she was anxious to get a chance to really talk to Han about them and get his opinion.
When she opened the cabin door the rich aroma of Corellian spice dumplings filled the air. Leia loved it when Han cooked. She hadn't grown up cooking, so when there was no one to cook for her, she ate fruit and cheese or sandwiches from the cafeteria, things she didn't have to prepare. Han, however, took the time to cook, and the meals he made impressed Leia not only with their taste, but with the obvious pride he took in his work.
Han smiled at her as he came out of the kitchen, "You have the best timing in the world," he said. "You consistently come in after all the work is done, just as I'm ready to set the food on the table."
Leia smiled at him, setting her data pad on the coffee table. "Timing is a big part of my job."
"Yeah," Han said, jibing her. "How is the party planning going?"
She grimaced. "Nerfherder." She stuck her tongue out at him.
"Don't point that thing unless you intend to use it," he teased, as he put their dinner on the table.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "What makes you think I don't intend to use it?" she said as she sat down.
Han leaned into her and said, "I was hoping you'd say that."
Leia looked at him with a barely contained smile. "Eat your dinner."
Han grabbed the edge of her chair and pulled her to him. "Define dinner," he said with a grin.
The next morning, Leia was gone before Han woke up. He showered and went to his office only to find himself in the middle of a major fiasco. A medical supply run had been ambushed by Imperial pirates. The supplies were gone, and he was down two freighters and twelve men.
The medical shipment included vital bacta to resupply their medical frigate and the Ithican home world. The Ithicans were fighting an all out war with the Imperials on their world, so the Alliance had been funneling them guns and medical supplies. The Ithican representative was supposed to be at the gala tonight and was going to smuggle the supplies back with him.
Han spent the rest of the morning looking for another source of bacta. When he finally located one just before noon, he didn't have any freighters available to make the run. He got Chewie on the comm, and they decided to take the Millennium Falcon and make the run themselves. He'd agreed with the supplier to make a mid-space drop, so, assuming everything went as planned, he and Chewie could do the pick-up and be back before the gala was over.
You are a genius, Han thought to himself as he straightened his uniform in the mirror. You are the best damn supply officer this place has ever seen. It's a wonder they ever got along without you. Oddly enough, his pick-up with Chewie had gone off without a hitch, and he was only an hour late for the gala. He'd left Leia a message telling her where he was before he left, so she wouldn't be livid, thinking he'd stood her up. Han plucked a tiny piece of lint from his collar. You're damn good looking too, he thought, winked at himself, turned off the light, and left for the grand hall.
The place was packed, but as usual, Leia was in white and not difficult to spot. Unfortunately, she was also surrounded three deep by diplomats, generals, admirals and all other manner of hangers-on. Han decided to skip trying to edge his way in and went to the bar instead. They were lined up deeper at the bar than they were around Leia, so he hung back, waiting for an opportunity to get a drink, and surveyed the room. He was hoping to spot Luke, but since the kid had started wearing black all the time, he was hard to see in crowded, dimly-lit rooms.
Han turned his attention back to Leia. He loved to just watch her. He loved the way she looked, the way she moved, and the way she worked a crowd. She had such passion when she spoke of the Alliance. Her enthusiasm was infectious, which made her the primary money raiser at these functions. Mon Mothma was deeply respected and motivational in a quiet way, but no one whipped a crowd into a frenzy like Leia. Han couldn't help grinning at the thought.
"She's fabulous isn't she?" said a tall young man standing next to him.
Han looked at him. The stranger's eyes never left Leia. He was a good six inches taller than Han with thick black hair and very nice clothes. Han couldn't be sure but there was an air of royalty about the guy.
"Yeah, she's great," Han said, clearing his throat. He wasn't sure why the guy spoke to him. He couldn't tell if the guy didn't know that he and Leia were a couple, or if maybe he did, and this was his way of complimenting Han.
"She's not just a pretty face either," the stranger said. "She's got an amazing mind."
Okay, he doesn't know who I am, Han thought.
"She's incredibly brave," the stranger continued. "Did you know she actually has an Imperial death tag? They came that close to killing her."
Something in Han's blood chilled. How the hell does he know that? Han decided to set the guy straight. He turned to him and stuck out his hand. "I'm General Solo, Han Solo."
No light of recognition appeared in the stranger's eyes. "Nice to meet you, I'm King Denid of Velmor." He shook Han's hand.
"How long have you known Leia?" Han asked casually.
"About six months. Do you know her?"
"Yes," Han said, with a tight-lipped smile. "For years."
"Oh." Denid smiled. "Then you must know Luke?"
"Yeah, the kid's like a brother to me."
Denid laughed. "That's great, have you seen him tonight?"
Han cleared his throat again, the conversation wasn't going like he'd expected. "No, not yet."
There was an awkward pause. Leia moved away from the crowd around her.
Denid grinned. "I'd love to stay and chat, but it's really important that I speak to Leia." He leaned in to Han and whispered, "Don't tell anyone, but I'm going to ask her to marry me again."
Han's jaw dropped, but the young king didn't notice as he headed toward Leia. Han was fuming and his mind was racing with the information. The king had said he'd only known Leia for six months, that would mean they met while Han was in carbonite. Han's jaw was starting to twitch. He knew for a fact that Leia never mentioned her death tag to anyone, which would mean that Denid probably knew about it the same way Han did. He'd seen it, and considering that the tag was placed low on her hip...this guy had asked her to marry him before? She had an affair with him while I was in carbonite! The second the thought crossed his mind, Han stormed out of the hall, pushing people out of his way as he went.
Leia caught sight of Han leaving and let out a frustrated sigh. She hadn't seen him come in and now he'd left without even bothering to say hello. She thought about going after him when she caught sight of Denid coming toward her. Her previous plan of being cool and pleasant flew out the window, and Leia decided to just duck him. She took advantage of her diminutive stature and slipped deeper into the room, letting the crowd swallow her. She decided to quickly say her good-byes and follow Han.
He was waiting for her back at their quarters. The room was dark when Leia walked in, but she could see Han standing framed against the port window, a shadow in the starlight.
"There you are," she said, uneasy for some reason. "I know those parties are tedious, but I wish you'd say something to me before you leave."
Han didn't say anything. He kept his back to her and continued staring out at the stars.
She walked tentatively toward him, approaching him cautiously, although she wasn't sure why. "Han?"
"How long were you involved with him?" Han asked in a low, tight voice.
She could see now that his arms were held rigidly at his sides and that his hands were clenched into fists. "What?"
"The king, how long were you involved."
Han spun around to glare at her in rage. "Yes, you do."
She started backing away from him, unsure of what he knew, unsure of what to say to him. "It's not what you think."
She could see him struggling to control himself. "Oh, yeah, what was it then? Were you bored, sick of slumming, looking for a little royal dick, what, what was it exactly?"
Leia felt as if she had been struck. The impact of his words pushed her back further away from him. She fought for composure, her mind working furiously to come up with something, the right something, to say to him, to make this terrible offense go away, to bring them back to where they had been only a few hours before. "I...are we talking about Denid?"
Han looked stunned. "I don't know, was there more than one? Just how many guys did you sleep with while I was in carbonite?"
Leia stumbled back from him and tripped over the step that lead down to the lounge area. She was shaking her head, trying to say no, but she couldn't speak the words.
Han was on her the instant she fell, he gripped her shoulders lifting her off the floor. "Did you sleep with him?"
Leia was still shaking her head, her mouth open with no voice. She could feel his fingers digging into her arms, the pain seemed distant compared to the roaring in her head.
Han found himself shaking her. He could see himself doing it, as though he were watching it from a distance. He could hear his voice, distorted. "Tell me!"
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Leia found her voice. "Yes," she cried.
Han dropped her. He stumbled over her and toward the door. He swept an arm across an end table scattering two irreplaceable Alderaanian vases. They skittered up and shattered against the wall. Leia instinctively covered her head, as the glass showered down over her.
She lay on the floor, a pool of white in a sea of shattered glass, which is where Luke found her minutes later. Her distress had ripped through him as he made small talk with a dignitary from Ithica. He'd excused himself and slipped quietly from the party. Once outside in the hallway, he started running, fear washing over him. After the first wave of anguish hit him, it had been followed by a chill of nothing, as though she had simply shut down. Luke was accustomed to a steady warmth linking him to Leia through the Force. Without it, he felt bereft and confused. Minutes later, he was at her door, palming it open.
The first thing that struck him was her lying on the floor, the next was the glass glittering in the starlight all around her. His hand moved to hit the lights, but he kept them on a dim setting. She was unresponsive to his presence as if she didn't even know he was there. He used the Force to swirl the glass up and around. He formed it into a ball and then sent it to the garbage chute in the kitchen. He knelt beside her then, and realized she was staring unseeing at the wall. Luke brushed an errant lock of hair from her forehead and quietly whispered, "What's wrong?"
"He knows," Leia groaned back. "He knows and he's never going to forgive me."
Luke knew "he" was Han, but he was unsure what it was Han was supposed to know. Without intruding into her thoughts, he couldn't be sure what she was talking about. "Knows about what?"
"Denid," she gasped. "He knows about Denid."
Luke sat back on his haunches and sucked his teeth. This was bad, very bad. It had been bad when it happened and it was twice as bad now. "Damn," he hissed. "How did he find out?"
"I don't know." Leia sobbed. "What was I thinking? Why did I do that?"
Luke stroked her hair. "It was a bad time for you. You weren't yourself. Did you explain that to Han?"
"No," she whimpered. "I couldn't say anything. He was so angry. I just...how am I supposed to explain myself? What am I supposed to say to him? I don't even know why I did it."
Luke slipped his arm around her and pulled her to him. "It's okay," he said. "Why don't you go get cleaned up, put on something more comfortable, and fix yourself some tea. I'll go find Han."
"What are you going to say to him?"
"I don't know yet. First, I've got to find him. Don't worry about it. I'll think of something. You two will work this out, talk it through. He'll understand, you'll see, it'll be okay."
Leia nodded and he helped her to her feet. Luke kissed her lightly on the forehead. "I'll be back."
"Okay," Leia whispered.
It didn't take Luke long to find Han. He was in the hold of the Millennium Falcon. Every piece of shelving was torn down, every spare part and every component, that Leia had so carefully inventoried on the way to Bespin, was scattered across the floor. Han was sitting on an overturned box, his head in his hands his elbows on his knees.
"Did you miss anything?" Luke asked, looking at the mess.
"Go away, Luke," Han growled without looking up.
Luke ignored him. "Chewie's going to be furious when he see this mess."
"Chewie's not here, he's on his way home to his faithful wife and kid."
Oh, boy, here we go, Luke thought. "I just got back from Leia's quarters. I see you've decorated both places the same."
Han didn't say anything.
"I don't usually like to pull the big brother stuff," Luke continued, "but I don't appreciate finding my sister on the floor in a room full of broken glass."
"This is none of your business, Luke, this is between me and her."
"Until you start breaking things-" Luke said grimly.
"Just get out of here, you don't know anything about this!"
Luke sighed. "I think you'll find I know quite a lot. I was on that mission."
Han looked up at him for the first time, rage filling his eyes. "What!"
"You heard me. I was there."
"Then why the hell didn't you tell me?" Han growled.
"What exactly did you expect me to tell you?"
"How about the truth?"
"Which is what, as you see it?" Luke asked.
"She slept with that guy!" Han shouted.
Luke steepled his fingers. "Yes, she did," he said softly.
Han glared at him, unsure of what to say. He had no response for Luke's casual agreement. Finally, he blew out an angry breath and said, "You know, when people first started figuring out she and I were together, I had all these people coming up to me. Some of them I didn't even know, but they all had something to say to me about taking care of her, not hurting her, watching my step with her. Well, I've watched my step. I've been nothing but faithful to her since before we even got together. But I get stuck in carbonite for a few months and she's out fucking other guys." Han's face was contorted with the pain of it. "Obviously, nobody told her to be careful with me."
Luke felt terrible as he realized Han was right. Everyone was concerned with what being with him might do to Leia, but no one considered what being with Leia could do to Han. In matters of the heart, everyone is fragile. "It wasn't other guys," he said, "it was one guy, one time."
"I don't care," Han said, dropping his face back into his hands. "Just go away."
"Don't you want to know why?" Luke asked.
"No. I know why. I can look at him and see why. He's better looking than me. He's younger than me. Hell, he's taller than me, and to top it all off, he's a king."
Luke leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. "All of that's true. So why didn't she stay with him? Why isn't she with him now?"
Han shook his head but didn't say anything.
"That mission was six months ago. You've been back for four. He asked her to marry him, Han. He actually announced it to his subjects before he asked her. Denid means it. He wants her for his queen. If she's the type of person you're saying she is, why isn't she there now?"
"I don't know," Han finally admitted.
"Well, I do," Luke said. "She's not like that. She loves you. She's made a life for herself here, and she's happy with it. She doesn't want what Denid's offering. And she doesn't want Denid."
"Then why did she sleep with him?" Han asked quietly.
Luke shrugged. "I honestly don't know, but I do know this. I have never seen Leia so out of control as she was those months you were gone. She was okay at first, but then after we couldn't find you and days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, she just sort of lost it. She was drinking, she was reckless, she lost interest in the rebellion. She signed herself up for the most dangerous missions. It was crazy. This whole mission with Denid was crazy."
Han ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't understand."
Luke shook his head. "I didn't understand either, so I signed up for everything she signed up for. I was afraid, without me there, she'd get herself killed. The mission that introduced us to Denid was nuts to begin with. We answered an automated distress call that had no date stamp."
Han looked up at him. "That's crazy, those things can go for years."
"I know, and this one had been going for a long time. When we got there we found Denid. He had escaped Velmor when his father and mother were killed by some crazed mob. A family friend got Denid and Loren, his fiancé, off the planet. Unfortunately, they had problems with their ship and crashed. Loren was killed in the crash and their escort was badly injured."
"So, how long had they been down there?"
Han made a face. "Great, he's good looking and tragic. They certainly have a lot in common."
"More than you know." Luke said, "Leia knew Loren, she was Alderaanian. She and Leia went to school together."
"Great," Han grumbled.
"That's when things got a little weird."
Han looked at him. "Do I wanna hear this?"
"I think you need to hear it. Leia agreed to go back to Velmor with Denid. She disguised herself as Loren, and I disguised myself as a trader. Our story was that I ran across their distress signal and found them."
"Are you kidding? That's crazy, why would she take a risk like that?"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. She was in a risk-taking mood."
"I don't understand."
"Well, all I know is that we arrived in the middle of the coronation ceremony for Denid's younger brother. It was pretty wild. The people were cheering for the return of their king, the Imperials were there, the regent was corrupt, you name it, it was happening. The whole thing was a mess, like something out of a bad political thriller."
"So what happened?"
Luke sighed. "So, they tested Denid's DNA, verified he was who he said he was and made arrangements for him to be crowned instead of his brother."
"I'm sure that made the brother happy," Han said sarcastically.
"He wasn't nearly as upset as the regent who'd never planned on giving up the throne in the first place."
"Oh, great. Good going. Way to pick a mission."
Luke shrugged. "I was just following orders."
Han arched an eyebrow at him. "Yeah, right."
"Anyway, the night after Denid was tested there was a ball in his honor. That's when he announced he and "Loren" were getting married, a.s.a.p."
"Did Leia know he was going to do that?"
Luke shook his head. "No. Of course, at the time I wasn't sure. Later that night, the Imperial attache comes on to me and offers me big bucks to kill Denid and "Loren". Naturally, I accepted her offer, but then went to tell Leia as soon as the ball was over. I didn't want anyone seeing me going into her suite, so I crossed the roof and dropped down to her window, which is when I saw her with Denid."
Han's stomach turned, and he reached out and grabbed an elbow joint lying on the box next to him and threw it as hard as he could against the opposite wall. "I can't stand this. I'm finished talking. I can't hear anymore of this." He got up to leave the hold, but Luke grabbed his arm.
"Let me finish."
Han pulled his arm away. "No. Thanks anyway, but I don't want to hear the gory details."
"I don't have any to give. Listen, I saw him kiss her, but that was it, he kissed her, she never put her arms around him, there was no passion. He kissed her and she let him, but that was it."
"Apparently that wasn't it!" Han shouted. "And I'm through talking to you about this." He pushed roughly past Luke and climbed out of the hold.
Luke watched him go, stunned at his own failure. Then he realized he knew how Han felt. After he'd seen Denid kiss Leia, he'd left, never delivering the message about the regent and the attache. He'd been furious that she seemed willing to turn to anyone but him for comfort. Luke ran his fingers through his hair. I'm sorry Leia, he whispered, I guess I'm not the one to do this.
When Luke returned to Leia's cabin, she was gone.
Mon Calamari ships are highly organic in design. With the Empire receding a few of the large ships were converted back from their modified battle design to once again be beautiful examples of uniquely organic plastisteel and titanium construction. One aspect of the ships that set them off as completely Mon Calamari was the huge arboretum on the top deck of every ship. Each ship had it's own unique arboretum as a place not only to grow food but to provide a relaxing park area complete with simulated weather for ship dwellers to relax and feel at home. On the ships the Mon Calamari built for themselves, the arboretums were huge underwater gardens.
Han had always like Mon Calamari ships. His mother had been the head chef on one when he was a boy, so he'd spent much of his childhood in an arboretum just like the one he was walking through now. It was late, or rather, so late it was early, and the arboretum was deserted except for Han. He walked aimlessly through its sculptured gardens, trying to find comfort in the greenery.
He'd been wandering for an hour when the automatic weather system decided it was time to water the plants, and it began to rain. Han was far from an exit, so he ran to take shelter in a covered bridge crossing one of the irrigation canals that were designed to look like streams. The other side of the bridge opened into a grove of trees that surrounded a small courtyard. He could barely see the figure sitting next to a fountain that bubbled up in the center. Still, even from a distance he knew it was her. It struck him as ironic that she too would come here. He thought about turning around and going back home to the Falcon, but as he saw her sitting dejected, seemingly oblivious to the rain, he realized that in most ways home was in front of him.
He cleared his throat, set his jaw, and began walking toward her. You have loved this woman too long not to hear her out, he thought, so go hear what she has to say for herself. As he approached, he realized she had changed. Instead of her formal gown she wore only a simple black tank top, khaki pants and work boots. Her hair was pulled back in a single braid. Water was running down her face and she was trembling with a chill, but she didn't seem to notice. Her head was tilted back, as if she was intentionally letting the rain wash over her.
The rain-softened ground absorbed his steps, so it wasn't until Han was standing right over her, that Leia noticed his presence. She looked up to find him staring at her, his eyes a mixture of confusion, sorrow, and hurt, his face darkened with both anger and sadness.
They looked at each other for a long moment. Han could see the pain that seemed permanently etched in her eyes more vivid now than usual. Leia's countenance held volumes of sorrow, and almost always did, but there was something new there now, a new sorrow, one with his name on it.
Leia spoke first. "I'm sorry."
Han moved to sit beside her, ignoring the wet marble of the fountain. They sat quietly for a time.
"Do you love him?" he asked, swallowing hard.
"I don't know...I guess, I just wanted a reprieve."
Han thought about that for a moment, thought of all the times he'd had sex with someone just to escape, just for a little while, from the terrible loneliness of life.
"Did it work?" he couldn't help but ask.
Leia sighed. "No. It was awful, like mourning. I was worse off after than before."
"Yeah," Han said, remembering that feeling, that terrible awareness the morning after that absolutely nothing had changed, and the desire that came with it to just escape. He looked at her, and for the first time in a long time, he was reminded of all the things that had happened to her in the three short years he'd known her. Suddenly, it seemed unreasonable for him to fault her for seeking shelter in another man's arms. After all, she was only twenty-one and everything that mattered to her was lost. Along came a man with a similarly tragic history. Naturally, she was drawn to him. Han ran his fingers through his now wet hair.
"Do you love me?" he asked quietly.
Tears spilled over Leia's eyes. "More than you will ever know."
When they finally got back to her quarters, they were both soaked to the skin. Leia followed Han into her small kitchen where he put on water for coffee. He went to help her take off his jacket, which he'd given her in the arboretum. What started as him helping her get out of wet clothes quickly turned frenzied, him pulling off her clothes, her pulling off his. He had a sudden need to see her and touch her, all of her.
Leia wanted him, wanted him to touch her and show her that he forgave her. She wanted to feel his forgiveness inside her. She was in a daze. She was cold and wet and emotionally drained, so when Han went to lift her she let him. She let him set her on the counter, she let him move over her. It's wasn't as if they never fell to the moment and made love where they were, but this was different. As he moved his body over hers, his hands playing over her, his mouth taking hers, Leia knew it wasn't about passion this time. This was about claim, about marking territory, about erasing another man's hands from her body. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, and held on, holding her fear in check with arousal.
As he slid inside her, Leia realized with sudden clarity that her body had become the playing field in a hidden game between Han and Denid, and Han was determined to win. This was a different side of Han, one she had never seen before. She liked it and it frightened her all at once. He wasn't bringing her gently toward climax, he was driving her to it, and instead of letting her slip over the edge, he pushed her, then leapt after her when she fell. She felt him slump against her, soften and slip out. His body seemed impossibly heavy on top of her. She had a sudden rising panic of being trapped. She realized with a start that the kettle was whistling. Han stirred, kissed her collar bone, moved off of her and turned to shut off the burner. As he busied himself making coffee, she slid herself awkwardly off the counter and went to get robes for both of them.
She felt sheepish and a little embarrassed at her own abandon as she came back to the kitchen wearing her heavy, plush robe and carrying Han's for him. He handed her a cup of coffee and took the robe from her. He slipped it on but didn't bother closing it. They went into the living room and sat quietly on the sofa for awhile, sipping their coffee. Neither of them mentioned what had just happened in the kitchen.
They hadn't bothered to turn on lights when they came in, and neither did so now. Leia glanced at him over the edge of her cup. She was unwilling, just yet, to look him in the eye. His body gleamed in the starlight, but his face was cast in shadow. He seemed predatory and beautiful, and she suddenly felt very small. He seemed to know what she was thinking, because as she thought it, he set down his own cup and took hers.
It had occurred to Han, just then, that he'd never made love to her on this sofa, and that he wanted to. He wanted her to forever associate it with him. Suddenly, he couldn't stand the sight of her wrapped in the robe. She seemed closed off, separate, he never wanted her separate from him again.
When Han slid over to her, Leia was hoping it was to hold her. She was tired and still cold and hopelessly ashamed. She wanted to be reassured that he still loved her, that he had forgiven her, but as he drew closer, and she could see the look on his face, Leia knew Han wasn't looking for that kind of comfort. He wasn't finished laying claim. He seemed driven to have her in every room of her quarters, in as many different positions as he could manage in one night. The next few hours passed in a blur for her. She would doze off only to be awakened, shifted, repositioned, and finally carried, until at last they ended up in bed.
At four o'clock he dozed off, and Leia slipped silently from his hold to go take a shower. She still felt chilled to the bone, her muscles twitching with fatigue. She was sore and feeling chafed.
She turned the hot water on and stepped in, grateful for the heat streaming over her.
The sound of the shower coming on woke Han. He knew Leia loved showers, found them soothing, stress relieving, and, on occasion, erotic, and he was only too willing to accommodate. In a flash, he wondered if Leia had had sex with Denid in a shower. He was instantly on his feet.
Leia leaned against the shower wall, enjoying the cool tile against her cheek juxtaposed with the hot water running over the rest of her body. She had just about decided she might recover when she felt his hands move around her waist in what was, for them, a very familiar gesture.
Leia groaned inwardly but held her tongue. She'd promised herself earlier in the arboretum to take whatever he dished out tonight, to let him work out whatever he needed to, to make things right between them, but she hadn't expected it to be like this. She winced in anticipation as he turned her around in his arms. This is going to hurt, she thought as he went to lift her. Her body had nothing left to offer to ease his entrance.
Han bent over her, his ear sliding close to her mouth, when he realized she was saying something. He could barely hear her above the sound of the water, but he finally made out that she was whispering 'please,' over and over again. She didn't even seem to know she was doing it. He didn't lift her to settle her against his hips as he normally would. He looked at her face as if seeing it for the first time. Her eyes were clamped shut and her lips were swollen and bright red. She was trembling despite the steamy heat of the shower.
Leia didn't know why, but Han stopped lifting her and stood back. She cautiously opened her eyes to find him staring at her.
Leia looked at him and Han's heart melted. She was his, he thought, completely, totally his. It occurred to him then that she must be exhausted and probably sore. Come to think of it, he thought, I'm kind of sore, but here she is willing to let me go again. Penitent, he thought. He let his mouth curl on one side in a half grin.
"Let me get your back," he said as he turned her around and reached for the soap. He bathed her then, and washed her hair, a favorite activity of his. After the shower, he toweled her off gently and carried her to bed. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
Late the next morning, Leia awoke feeling oddly hungover. She was on her stomach and rose to her elbows, her hair a screen in front of her face. She pushed it over her forehead and looked at the clock. Nine-thirty. I never sleep this late. She could hear Han moving around, and she could smell something delightful coming from his direction. Leia wiped the sleep from her eyes and thought about getting up. Han came in just then with a tray.
"Hey," he said. "I thought I was going to have to wake you up."
Leia rubbed a hand across her face. "I'm up," she said, sitting up and pulling the sheet to cover her.
"I can see that, I brought you some breakfast." He sat the tray down in front of her. There was juice, scrambled eggs, toast, fruit and coffee.
"Wow," Leia said. "This is a lot."
Han sat on the edge of the bed. "I thought you'd be hungry..." He hesitated, unsure whether it was smart to bring it up. "After last night."
Leia dropped her eyes and picked up a piece of toast and nibbled off the end. She nodded. "Actually, I'm starved."
Now that he had mentioned it, Han felt compelled to talk about it. He set his hand on her knee, the sheet keeping him from actually touching her flesh. "How are you feeling?"
Leia didn't look at him and took a bite of her eggs. She chewed thoughtfully for a moment before she swallowed and said, "I'm okay, a little sore, maybe."
Han cleared his throat. "I'm sorry about that."
Leia shook her head. "Don't be. It's not something I necessarily want to repeat, but I don't resent it. You had your reasons, just as I had mine. What I want most is not to dwell on this and move on with our lives."
Leia touched her hand to his cheek, cradling it. "I love you, Han."
He shut his eyes, and pushed back the sudden lump in his throat. "I love you too," he said in a throaty whisper.
The door chimed.
Han rolled his eyes and groaned.
"I'll get it," he said, getting off the bed. "You finish your breakfast."
"If it's not an emergency, I'm unavailable," she said as he walked out, shutting the door behind him.
Luke was at the door.
"Luke?" Han said, surprised to see the Jedi at this hour. "Don't you usually train in the mornings?"
"Yeah, but I thought...I mean...I just wanted to be sure everything was okay."
Han grinned at him. Luke looked like a young farm boy again, unsure of himself or what to say. "Come in," Han said.
Luke took in the room as he followed Han to the kitchen. Two robes were tossed on the floor in the lounge and all the stuff from Leia's desk was carelessly tossed to the floor. A couple of cushions were off the sofa.
Luke cleared his throat, which prompted Han to realize how the place looked.
"Excuse the mess," Han said sheepishly as he picked up the robes and headed for the bedroom. "I'll just tell Leia you're here."
He stuck his head into the bedroom and saw that Leia had finished most of her breakfast. "Luke's here," he said, tossing the robes on the bed.
"Tell him I'll be out in a minute. I want to jump in the shower."
"Okay," Han said and shut the door behind him.
Luke was standing in the lounge looking a little lost when Han returned. "She'll be out in a few. She's in the shower."
"You want some breakfast?"
Luke stroked his chin. "You got any toast?"
"I'll have some toast."
Han went into the kitchen. Luke leaned on the counter that separated the kitchen from the lounge, but quickly drew back.
Han looked at him. "What?"
Luke blushed. "Nothing." Something in the Force rippled around the counter, it felt like Leia, sex, and fear. He probably wouldn't have noticed it, but Leia had been completely closed to him since last night, and he felt strangely bereft and hypersensitive to her presence.
On the other side of the counter, Han was puzzled, he'd wiped down the counter this morning, was her underwear dangling on the other side or something? She'll kill me, he thought. He quickly put the bread in the toaster and then came around to Luke's side of the counter and looked, but there was nothing. "You okay?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
Luke looked a little cross. "Yes, I'm fine. How's Leia?"
Han looked at him blankly. "She's fine. We're fine. Everything's fine now." He was babbling but he didn't know why. He started setting things back on her desk. He'd cleaned that off after the counter but hadn't set it back up.
Luke put the cushions back on the sofa. The toaster popped. Luke looked at Han and Han looked at Luke. Something unsaid and vaguely sinister hung between them. The room felt surreal.
Then Leia walked out of the bedroom. She was wearing khaki pants and a navy pullover. She looked healthy and happy.
Luke's shoulders suddenly relaxed, and he seemed to breathe easier. The moment between him and Han passed.
Han went into the kitchen to get Luke's toast and some juice for him.
Luke turned to Leia. "Are you okay?" he asked softly. "You've cut yourself off from me. I'm not used to that. I was worried."
Leia dropped her eyes and rested a steadying hand on Luke's forearm. "I'm fine," she said gently. "I just...last night was..." She searched for the right words. "Exceptionally private."
"I was worried." Luke said again. "He was so angry when I left him, and then you weren't here and you cut me off."
Han was coming back into the lounge.
Leia squeezed Luke's arm. "I'm sorry. I should have touched you just to let you know I was okay, but at the time...I was...occupied." She squeezed his arm again and went to sit down on the sofa.
Luke frowned, but followed her.
Han handed him his breakfast and they all sat in the lounge, Han and Leia on the sofa and Luke in the overstuffed chair.
"So what's on everyone's agenda for today?" Leia asked, trying to return the atmosphere in the room to something resembling normal.
"Well, I have training this morning, and then I was going to make a run with Rogue Squadron this afternoon," Luke said as he buttered his toast.
"I have a lousy day ahead of me." Han grimaced. "I have to contact the families of the men we lost in that bacta ambush, and then I've got to try and find two new freighters and replacement crews."
"That does sound like a lousy day. You want me to make some the calls about the freighters for you. Now that the gala is over, my schedule has suddenly opened up."
Han started to agree when the door chimed again. "I'll get it," he said, pushing himself off the sofa.
When he opened the door, King Denid stood there, a large bouquet in his arms.
"Oh," Denid said, startled to see Han. "I must have the wrong cabin. How are you?"
Han gave him an icy smile. "Fine, but if you're looking for Leia, this is the right cabin."
Denid seemed confused. "Oh."
Behind them on the sofa, Leia shut her eyes. Will this never end, she thought.
Han, however, was surprisingly civil. "Come in, she's right here," he said, sweeping his arm to gesture Denid in. "Look, sweetheart, it's King Denid," he said in a chipper voice.
Leia blanched as she stood. "Hello, Denid," she managed to say in a surprisingly unaffected tone.
"Go ahead and have a seat on the sofa," Han said to Denid, but stared at Leia as he said it. She blushed.
Luke stood with his mouth open.
"Didn't you say you had training to do?" Han asked him.
Luke looked at him, as if in a daze. He never, in a million years, would've expected Han to be this civil. "Yeah," he finally stammered.
"And I need to make those calls." Han bent and kissed Leia on the cheek. "You'll come by later and get the freighter information?"
He grinned at her. "I'll see you in a little while then."
"Yes." She smiled back at him, thanking him with her eyes. She loved him for not making a scene.
When Luke and Han left, Leia finally turned to Denid.
He stood before her with his head lowered.
Leia cleared her throat. "The flowers are lovely."
He held them out to her. "They're for you."
She smiled at him. "Thank you. I'll just put these in some water." Instinctively, she looked for the vases on the end table, but then remembered their fate. "I'll have to get one out of the kitchen. Leia found a plain glass vase in the cabinet over the refrigerator and filled it will water. She arranged the flowers and set them on the counter. Denid stood on the other side and watched her.
He sighed and said, "You're in love with him, the general?"
"When you turned down my proposal six months ago, you said it was because your place was with the rebellion, but the rebellion wasn't the real issue, was it?"
Leia blinked back tears that had suddenly welled up. "He was lost to me then, taken. At the time, it felt like he was gone forever. I was...it was a bad time for me."
Denid nodded. He gave her a weak smile. "Then I guess there's no point in my staying."
Leia dropped her eyes. "No," she said softly.
Denid shook himself from the moment and turned to go. At the door he said to her, "I wish you all the best."
"I wish the same for you."
He hesitated and then said, "I could have given you your life back."
Leia shook her head. "You could have given me my status back, that's not the same thing."
Denid looked at her, and saw for the first time, the history in her eyes, her proud people, her lost world. "No," he said, "I suppose it's not." He turned and left, the door softly closing behind him.
Leia stared at the flowers for a moment. They were beautiful and well scented. She shrugged and dumped them, vase and all, in the garbage chute, and went to find Han.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading. You might also like my books: The Annie Fitch Mysteries: Exposed Fury and Hidden Fury (available March 2,2021) and the stand alone novel: One Big Beautiful Thing, available anywhere books are sold and on all digital platforms. Enjoy!