There was just enough cloud cover to make the heat of the sun pleasant rather than uncomfortable. Some native tree was in full bloom this time of year, deep purple flowers heavy on the branches as far as the eye could see, the air heavy with their sweet, delicate scent. Birds chirped, bees hummed, and Leia sat among it all, perched on a sun lounger next to an invitingly cool swimming pool.
‘Do you realize,’ she said, taking a lick of her ice cream cone, ‘that this is technically a kidnapping?’
She both looked and sounded thoroughly unbothered by this, tongue darting out to prevent any bilaberry ripple dripping onto her hand. Han, too, shrugged off the accusation as he lay on his own lounger with his hands behind his head, eyes hidden behind dark glasses.
He’d taken his shirt off. Leia was trying to keep from staring.
To her point, he said, ‘I was given direct orders.’
‘Oh, well, if you were ordered to kidnap me I suppose that’s different,’ she said wryly. She flicked her braid over her shoulder and stretched, pulling her spine taut with a small, satisfied noise, then gestured at the ice cream. ‘This is delicious.’
‘Yeah, the berries are from the orchard down there,’ Han replied. Without sitting up, he pointed vaguely beyond the pool and down the hill. ‘They make it themselves.’ He added, a little smugly, ‘I smuggled the shrubs in.’
‘Hm,’ was Leia’s only response. She wasn’t unimpressed, just unsurprised. Han had shown himself to be adept at maneuvering around Imperial blockades plenty of times.
He was really very adept at lots of things. Probably things she wasn’t even aware of.
Leia took a lick of her ice cream.
Of course, the Imperial blockade outside this particular system had been lifted, which was how Han and Leia had not only made it planetside but were sunbathing in Han’s old friend’s very expansive and well-equipped backyard with little fear of being set upon any time soon.
Still, she was struggling to fully relax for other reasons.
‘So Mon told you to kidnap me?’ she asked, leaning forward where she was perched on the edge of her lounger and flexing her bare feet against sun-warmed tiles.
‘To take you on vacation,’ he corrected.
‘She told you to do that?’ she pressed.
‘Okay, so she didn’t use those exact words,’ he admitted.
She reached out to bat him lightly on the arm. ‘She has no idea your milk run was actually an excuse to spirit me away somewhere, does she?’ she asked teasingly, eyes narrowing.
‘Nah, she knew what it was really about,’ Han said. ‘Even helped me pack your, uh—’ He gestured to Leia’s outfit, a little sundress over a swimsuit that had been among her things when the Alliance had cleared out her Coruscant apartment. His eyes lingered on her for a moment before he added, ‘But it was my idea, I’ll give you that.’
Absently, Leia smoothed her hands over the skirt of her dress. ‘And your reason for doing this was… for fun?’
‘Don’t sound so surprised, Princess; I like fun.’
She bit into her ice cream cone. ‘I know you do.’
He turned his head toward her and pushed the glasses down the bridge of his nose so she could see his eyes. ‘Are you having fun?’ he asked.
She was taken aback by how serious he looked, and even more so to recognize that yes, “fun” was exactly what she was having. This planet was gorgeous, and this place seemingly the very best of it. Once she’d felt assured of Han’s friend’s sympathy for the Alliance, it had been nice to spend some time away from the base that didn’t involve missions that were dangerous, stressful, boring, or all three at once. And spending time with Han was nice, too. He was an easy person to be around, she’d come to realize. He made her feel… lighter.
And that made her feel guilty, because there was serious work to be done—there was work to be done right this second, in fact, and rather than doing it, she was sitting by a pool on some remote planet eating ice cream and having fun with a man who wouldn’t commit to the cause, and whom she was increasingly sure she wanted to have some other kind of fun with.
Not that that part was relevant. But really, it was just like him to make it more difficult for her to focus on the things that were important by whisking her away somewhere and being so godsdamned charming.
She didn’t know how to begin expressing any of this to Han, so instead she asked, ‘What if we go back and the base has been attacked?’
‘I guess we’ll do whatever we’d do if we came back from anywhere else and found the base had been attacked.’ Han sat up suddenly, turning to face her and taking the glasses off entirely. ‘Look,’ he said. ‘I thought you could use a break, and Mon agreed. So I asked if I could borrow you for a few days.’
She shook her head. ‘The Alliance can’t possibly be paying you for this. It’s costing you. Why would you do it?’
‘What, you think I can’t do something nice?’ he asked, looking a little offended.
‘I don’t think that,’ she said, feeling herself blush a bit, or perhaps the sun was getting to her. She’d put on more lotion in a while. For now she had other questions. ‘Why something nice for me, specifically? You don’t think Luke would like a vacation?’
‘Yeah, only Luke ain’t tryna shoulder the entire rebellion,’ Han said.
Leia opened her mouth to protest, but he carried on.
‘Not saying you’re doing anything wrong, sweetheart. I get why. I just think sometimes you gotta take a step back. How many hours’ve you spent in meetings this week, huh? Or analyzing mission logs? Blaming yourself for stuff you’ve got no control over? Tryna take responsibility for—’
‘Yes, all right!’ Leia said, a little snappy.
‘I’m just saying—’ Han reached below his sun lounger where he’d set down a beer earlier. ‘You gotta rest here and there or you’re gonna burn out. It’s already happening; I can see it.’
She watched the roll of his throat as he swigged from the bottle and when she spoke again the bite had gone out of her words. ‘So you took it upon yourself to fix things?’
‘Yep,’ he said, setting the bottle down again. ‘I did.’
He didn’t elaborate, simply sat with both hands against the edge of the lounger, fixing her with a gaze as warm as the sun above.
‘Oh.’ Leia swallowed. ‘Thank you.’
He broke the look, waving a hand. ‘’S’no problem.’
She watched him as he lay back down, settling once more with his hands behind his head.
‘You couldn’t have just told me all this back at base?’ she asked, after a moment.
‘You wouldn’t’ve listened,’ he said, eyes closing.
‘I suppose not.’ She finished her ice cream cone and licked sticky fingers clean. ‘I still don’t think anyone’s going to be too happy to hear one of their leaders has been off on vacation while they’ve all been working.’
His eyes flew open again. ‘Oh, sweetheart, there ain’t a single being on that base who’d begrudge you this, and if there is they can deal with me and about a hundred others. Just relax, would you? Besides,’ he added, before she could respond, ‘I wasn’t lying about it being a milk run.’ At her quizzical expression he continued, ‘Reckon you’ll wanna take some of those bilaberries home with us.’
‘You’re terribly sweet sometimes,’ she told him, and then flushed. It really was getting too hot out.
‘I’m going to have a swim,’ she said, and then stood, stripped off her dress in one motion and dove into the pool so she didn’t have to look at him being shirtless and sweet any longer.
It was a while before she turned around, and she didn’t catch him watching her.
When he next asked her on vacation, she’d become somewhat accustomed to him being shirtless and sweet, around and for her specifically, on a regular basis.
Roused by some unknown annoyance, she stretched languid and slow and as best she was able on the Millenium Falcon’s narrow bunk.
The lack of viewports in the cabin and the fact that her chrono was too far away for her to be bothered to reach meant she had no idea what time it was, but it felt sufficiently early that she could allow herself a while longer in bed.
To say that not two days earlier it had been at the heart of a pivotal battle, the Falcon felt so peaceful, the low hum of the ship that she’d found distracting in the past now soothing, the sheets a comfortable barrier between herself and the air of the cabin where on a previous trip, coasting through the Anoat system at sub-light speed, she’d had to rely on her bedmate for warmth.
Not that that part had been so bad.
Now, she felt Han’s hand slide over her waist, his body pressed along the length of hers. The gesture was unhurried with no expectation of more, and she smiled and closed her eyes, preparing to doze off again.
‘This is nice,’ Han mumbled, pressing his lips to the back of her neck and sliding a leg between hers.
It took a lot to muster the energy to respond. ‘Mm.’
‘S’nice just lying here like this.’
She gave a sigh that might have counted as acknowledgment, but she was really too intent on going back to sleep to focus on real conversation.
‘We should go somewhere,’ he continued. Sometimes he didn’t do well at taking hints. ‘We’ve earned some time off. Don’t you think?’
‘Mm,’ she murmured again, and then frowned, brow creasing. ‘What did you say?’
His arm tightened around her and he kissed her neck again. She could feel him smiling. ‘See, you need a break, Princess.’
‘Are you suggesting a vacation?’ she asked, grabbing absently at his fingers where they traced random patterns against the skin of her stomach.
‘Uh…’ He took the opportunity to press a couple more chaste kisses to the curve of her shoulder. ‘I think that’s what they call it.’
‘Han.’ She rolled onto her back, turning her head toward him and reluctantly opening her eyes. He looked every bit as sleepy as she felt, and she wondered why he couldn’t have brought this up when they were both properly awake.
In all likelihood, it was because as soon as they were both properly awake they’d have little time for conversation.
‘The war’s not done yet,’ she reminded him.
‘Hm, probably won’t be for a little while.’ He tucked her hair behind her ear, looking at her through half-lidded eyes. ‘Doesn’t mean you haven’t earned some time off.’
‘Yes, but I can’t just go gallivanting off around the galaxy—’
‘Oh, gallivanting?’ he repeated, eyes opening wider. ‘Here I thought we’d just book a hotel room with a bed that actually fits the two of us, but if you want gallivanting—’
‘Han,’ she said, smiling in spite of herself, ‘I’m saying as enjoyable as that sounds, I can’t right now. The Empire’s never going to be at more of a disadvantage—we have to plan our next steps.’
‘Sweetheart.’ Fully alert now, Han propped himself up on one elbow. ‘Right now the Empire’s scrambling to convince people Palpatine isn’t dead—’
‘They’ve changed their story,’ Leia interrupted. ‘Did I not tell you? He nobly sacrificed himself for the good of the galaxy.’
‘Yes,’ she said solemnly. ‘Luke and I are in Imperial custody.’
‘Real nice of ’em to let me visit,’ Han said, sweeping his hand across her stomach.
‘Even nicer to give us such a lovely, private bunk,’ she replied, trying to nudge his fingers downward. Now that she was less drowsy, his small caresses were distracting in the best way.
He raised his eyebrows, pointedly ignoring her silent directive. ‘Yeah?’
‘So how about switching it for a lovely, private hotel room?’ he asked.
She pushed at his hand again. ‘For now this will do just fine.’
Han was having none of it, splaying his hand flat and still over her stomach. ‘Anyway, this “sacrificed himself for the good of the galaxy”, “rebel leaders in Imperial custody” bantha shit—this is my point. First step is getting the truth out; until the dust settles, we’ve no clue where we are.’
‘Which is why it would be deeply irresponsible to leave,’ Leia pointed out, giving up on directing his interest toward sex and laying her hand over his. They could have this conversation first.
He leaned over to kiss the tip of her nose. ‘Due respect, Princess, there are other people here who can manage this stuff. And you deserve a break, and you should take some time to process…everything.’
Right. Luke’s revelation, which, when she’d told him, Han had been unnervingly calm about. She appreciated it a lot, given that she’d half expected him to leave her there and then, but she had no desire to discuss it any further now.
‘I was talking about you as well, General,’ she told him. When he pulled back she gripped his shoulder and rolled with him, keen to keep him close. ‘You’re—you’re staying, right?’
‘Yeah, sweetheart, I’m staying. And I get that means I got responsibilities now.’ He rubbed reassuringly at her back. ‘But, far as I’m concerned, I got another responsibility, and that’s making sure you’re doing okay.’
‘And you think I’m not doing okay?’ she asked, propping herself up on one elbow and frowning a little. ‘Han. We destroyed the second Death Star. Took the Empire’s two biggest players off the board. I’m—I’m over any number of moons.’
‘Well, it’s up to you,’ he said, soothing her back down onto the mattress. ‘I’m just saying, I think this is a time where you could find yourself crashing, and you might want to take some time for yourself.’
‘Can comm us if they need us.’ He pressed a kiss to her jaw this time. ‘Or we can comm them if we come up with something that’ll save the galaxy.’ A kiss to her collarbone. ‘Hyperspace helps me think, anyway.’
‘Well, it makes me feel dizzy.’
‘Then we’ll have to get where we’re going real quick, won’t we?’
She considered him for a moment, stroking her hand through his hair. She had to admit that it was feeling a lot like four years of running on adrenaline and terrible caf were finally catching up to her, and learning the truth about Vader hadn’t helped.
‘Where are we going?’ she asked Han.
‘You’ll go?’ he asked, beaming at her.
His enthusiasm was infectious; she grinned back. ‘Go where?’ she asked, insistent.
‘I don’t know. Anywhere.’
‘You sound horribly unprepared for this little getaway of ours,’ she said, prodding him in the shoulder.
‘That’s ’cause I didn’t think you’d say yes.’ He caught her hand, pressing it into the pillow and gripping her wrist lightly before kissing her on the mouth this time. She arched up a little to meet him. ‘I don’t know,’ he repeated, when he drew back from her. ‘Somewhere they won’t shoot us on sight.’
‘Well, that certainly narrows it down.’
His smile faded. ‘Yeah.’
She reached up to touch his chin, thumb swiping the scar there. ‘It’s going to get easier, one day.’
To choose vacation spots, but everything else, too. She was as sure of it as she’d been in years.
It got easier, but it got harder, as well. All told, it was a full standard year before they struck a decisive enough victory on Coruscant to be able to confidently describe it as “reclaimed”. It took another year to beat back what was, even for a fascist regime that spanned a galaxy, an astonishing multitude of power-hungry Imperial warlords who saw Palpatine’s death as an opportunity rather than a blow.
Then there was the matter of convincing enough worlds that the New Republic would lead a different kind of government for that to be true—with so many planets understandably wary, it took a while to bring enough of them on board to make the new system an actual system, rather than a well-meaning group of people with a lot of big ideas and no way to implement them.
And so Han had his hands full with the Imperial remnant and Leia played envoy to more worlds than anyone else would have been able to keep track of. The long and the short of it was that the next time Han suggested a break, after things had finally started to calm down, not only were they both in dire need of some time off, but they also hadn’t seen each other in weeks.
Han was also very upfront about another purpose of the vacation.
‘It’s been too damn long since we had sex,’ he announced, as they sat in their apartment, squashed together on the old armchair they were making do with until they had time to find a proper couch. Leia read the news as she sat angled with her legs thrown across his knees. The headlines were beginning to show the fruits of their labor, if only by reporting on actual events that had occurred in real life, rather than just spouting Imperial propaganda.
Leia frowned, setting her datapad flat and looking at him. ‘We had sex last night.’
‘Yeah, ’cause it was the first time this month we were both on the same planet. We were too tired to appreciate it,’ he said.
She raised her eyebrows. ‘Oh, we were, were we?’
Han huffed in irritation. ‘You know what I’m talking about. I wanna spend time with you.’
She twined her hand with his, rubbing her thumb over a graze on his knuckle, well on its way to healing now, but probably nasty when it had first happened. She hadn’t noticed it last night. Perhaps he was right about them having been too tired. ‘So you’d like me to ask Mon Mothma if I can take a few days’ leave in order to have a… sex marathon.’
‘You don’t have to give her specifics, or anything,’ he said.
‘Oh, that’s a relief.’
He ignored the sarcasm. ‘Just tell her you need a break. Hell, tell her to take one herself, while you’re at it. She looks exhausted.’
‘She is.’ Leia bit her lip, eyes on their joined hands, then sliding back to the screen on her lap. So much was happening these days that the headlines all got straight to the point; alongside the victories were blunt declarations of another treaty on the verge of falling through, another planetary government dragging their heels. ‘I’d feel guilty about leaving her.’
‘Yeah, I know you would.’ He kissed the top of her head. ‘None of us are any good if we’re too worn out to function, Princess; I’ve said it a hundred times. We’re both beat; we need this.’
She tilted her head up to look at him, expression wry. ‘It sounds like you have plans to wear us out some more, hotshot.’
‘What can I say? I missed you.’
Leia smiled, reaching up with the hand not clasping his to run her finger along his jawline. ‘Same,’ she murmured.
‘You missed you?’
‘I missed you, and your wit in particular.’
‘Yeah?’ Han raised his eyebrows. ‘Come away with me and I promise you I’ll be witty at least twice a day.’
She laughed, setting the datapad down on the floor, and leaned into his chest, enjoying the way he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
Gods, she’d really missed him terribly.
‘I suppose I do have a number of friends around the galaxy now who might put us up for a while,’ she said.
He squeezed her shoulder. ‘Actually, I thought we could take a vacation right here.’
‘Here on Coruscant?’ Leia asked, nose wrinkling. The planet-sized city had plenty to offer, but it wouldn’t be her choice for a relaxing getaway, and Han’s even less so.
‘Here in this apartment,’ he said. ‘Which I seem to remember us renting at some point, only we’ve never spent any time in it. Thought we could change that. We could—buy furniture.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Or something. Maybe paint the walls something besides beige.’
The way he talked about it was halting, uncertain, as though the idea were a new pair of boots he was wearing in. Leia guessed Han hadn’t ever furnished a home before. That he was suggesting doing so now, with her, warmed her all the way through.
Still, that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to tease him a little. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘you don’t want a week of sex at all. You want a week of being domestic.’
‘Sex can be domestic.’ He kissed her temple, then nuzzled his way down a little to murmur in her ear. ‘You think the thought of sex in a proper bed ain’t a turn-on after months of that damn sleep mat?’
It was. But still. ‘Really, though, Han. A week of domesticity, all the dull parts included. That’s what you’re putting on the table.’
‘Soon as we get one, yeah.’ He grinned at her. ‘I’m all in if you are, Princess.’
‘Really?’ she asked, suddenly feeling breathless. If there was ever a point where the war could be considered over, it was going to come into sight soon, and, she realized, she’d never really stopped to think about what their lives might be like afterwards. Perhaps because she hadn’t had time, or perhaps because she was scared about the conclusions she’d arrive at. Of course, some part of her had expected for a long time that when the dust started to settle, it would be the two of them. But there’d never been time to truly consider it—whether a lifelong spacer could put down roots, whether a princess so changed by war could have anything resembling a normal life.
Han at least gave the appearance of having had no such concerns. ‘Of course really,’ he said. ‘We’ve never been boring a day in our lives; it’ll be an adventure.’
She didn’t know what to say. Eventually she went with, ‘Not a single day? You and I once waited for a contact in a cave for six hours.’
‘I was with you,’ Han said, shrugging. ‘Wasn’t boring.’
Leia blinked and said archly, ‘Well, aren’t you just saying all the sweetest things tonight?’
‘I always say sweet things.’
‘Anyone would have thought you were trying to start our vacation early.’
‘Nah,’ he said, head tipping against the back of the armchair. ‘I just missed you a lot.’ He considered. ‘But if you wanna get started early—’
She stood up. Han made a noise of protest, but it died in his throat when Leia faced him and then braced her hands on his shoulders, kneeling carefully on the chair with her calves pressed to the outsides of his thighs. He smirked at her and she resolved to do something about that, leaning in to kiss him, all soft, intimate promise.
‘Yeah?’ he asked, when she drew back. His eyes were very dark.
‘Mm.’ She kissed him again, on the corner of his mouth. ‘I’ll see about getting time off tomorrow.’
Tightening her knees against his hips, Leia murmured, ‘We can buy new furniture, but this chair has its uses.’
‘The chair stays,’ he agreed, and parted his lips under hers.
‘So, Princess, I’m thinking,’ Han said, ‘marry me.’
‘What?’ Leia asked.
It wasn’t that the question came as a surprise—five years on from Endor and Han and Leia were each among the most permanent aspects of each other’s lives. Leia loved Han fiercely, and she knew that he loved her back. The only reason they hadn’t got married yet was that their remaining together was such an inevitability that to declare their intentions in an official capacity seemed almost too obvious.
Nor was it that Han’s proposal was, to say the least, lacking in the romance department. Leia had always had a hunch that might be the case. And again: the commitment was entirely to be expected, and the details of how it happened were more of an aside.
But the where of it was truly questionable.
‘Guys,’ Luke said, voice coming tinny over the comlink, ‘is this the best time for this?’
‘See, when people get engaged, you’re supposed to say “congratulations”.’ Han, situated somewhere across the sweeping canyon from her, sounded genuinely indignant, which amused Leia even while she was focusing on other things, like the imminent arrival of a platoon of stormtroopers.
Still, Han was getting a little ahead of himself. She lifted her comm to remind him, ‘I haven’t said yes yet.’
‘But you’re going to, right?’
She smiled. ‘I’m certainly strongly considering it.’
‘See, Luke?’ Han said triumphantly.
‘Fine,’ Luke huffed, ‘congratulations, but this is a bad time to get engaged.’
‘Why?’ Han asked.
Leia could almost hear Luke rolling his eyes. ‘Uh, gee, I dunno, Han. Maybe because we’re about to jump a bunch of Imps?’
‘Yeah, and if it goes sideways, we all might die,’ Han pointed out cheerfully. ‘So really it’s the best time to get engaged.’
‘That’s so romantic,’ Leia said drily, shifting slightly to ease the pressure where her hips and ribs were pressed against the ground.
Actually, the not-really-a-surprise proposal broke up the monotony somewhat. When Han had asked her to join him on this mission, she’d thought it might make for an interesting change of pace, which might have been partly Han’s intention no matter how much he went on about it being useful to have two Force-sensitive beings along with him. But ambushes were very boring when you were the one doing the ambushing. She’d been lying on this rock with a long-range blaster trained on nothing in particular for nearly an hour now.
‘Oh, we’re not all going to die,’ Luke said. ‘Anyway, it was obvious you guys were gonna get married eventually. You could have done this any time.’
‘Yeah, Han,’ Lando, situated further down on Leia’s side of the canyon, put in, ‘Plus a little wining and dining wouldn’t go amiss.’
‘Hey, we do plenty of wining and dining,’ Han retorted.
‘Oh, of course you do,’ Lando said. ‘When’s the last time he took you someplace fancy, Leia?’
‘Hey, I try. She’s very busy.’
‘Any excuse, eh, Leia?’
‘No, in Han’s defense,’ Leia said, eyes still trained on the spot in the gorge below them where the path curved out of sight behind some rocks, ‘he does try, and I am busy. If anything, I should wine and dine him a little more.’
‘Thank you,’ Han said. ‘And I’m holding you to that.’ He went silent, and then the comlink crackled again. ‘Hey, sweetheart. If we’re gonna get married, there’ll have to be a honeymoon.’
‘Oh,’ Luke said hastily, ‘this really seems kind of personal.’
Leia raised her head and glared across the canyon at the tree she was pretty sure Han was lying near. ‘Did you just ask me to marry you to make me go on vacation?’ she asked.
‘A honeymoon, sweetheart,’ Han replied. ‘It’s very different. And no, of course not.’
‘Because if you did,’ she said, ‘we’re going to need to have a chat later.’
‘Yes, later,’ Luke stressed.
Lando, on the other hand, seemed interested. ‘I could recommend you a few spots.’
‘You think we need your help to find a honeymoon spot?’ Han demanded.
‘You want your marriage to last, don’t you?’
‘Hey,’ Han objected. ‘I’ve landed on about every world in the galaxy, thanks.’
‘I might like some input on the honeymoon location,’ Leia reminded them.
‘Right,’ Han said. ‘Leia’s the reason half these spots are even safe.’
‘Just so we’re clear, I want no input on the honeymoon location,’ said Luke. ‘Or anything else at all to do with the honeymoon.’
‘I’m just saying,’ Lando said, ‘you can’t beat Alakatha in the hot season.’
Han made a scoffing sound. ‘You can, ’cause Alakatha’s full of snobs.’
‘Alakatha’s perfectly pleasant,’ Leia said absently, scanning the gorge again for any sign of movement.
‘Hell, you wanna go to Alakatha?’ Han asked. ‘We’ll go to Alakatha. We’ll go any place you like, sweetheart.’
Seeing nothing of interest in the gorge, Leia watched a small orange lizard scuttle across the rock. ‘We’ll have to figure out how I’m going to arrange leave, first.’
Han sighed. ‘That’s easy. You go into work. You say you’re taking leave. Done.’
‘Well, it’s not quite that simple,’ she reminded him.
There was a silence. ‘It’s been how long since you had time off?’ he asked, voice deceptively light.
‘I thought you said this wasn’t about that,’ she said, just this side of irritated.
‘It’s not,’ he insisted. ‘Only say we get married in six months. You’ll be finishing up with the Lahara sector stuff, you don’t think you might want a break?’
‘I think I can think about that then.’
Abruptly, she thought of a conversation she’d had with Han years previously. You’re great at planning ahead for everything but yourself, Your Highness, he’d said.
He was annoyingly correct, and did a lot to mitigate the fact that she tended to put her own wellbeing last, especially when she was busy. She was a perfectly capable adult, but she’d admit there were times where the reason she ate well, or got a full night’s sleep, or, yes, took a step back from everything, was Han.
But they did not need to retread the conversation right now.
‘We’ll talk about this later,’ she said firmly.
To her relief, Han dropped it. ‘All right.’
‘All right,’ she agreed.
‘No point talking about the honeymoon right now, anyway,’ Han said. ‘Got the wedding to plan first.’
‘I’ll help,’ Lando offered immediately.
‘If anyone cares,’ Luke said, ‘there are actually stormtroopers heading this way right now.’
The troopers were nowhere in sight; this information was Force-based, and Leia concentrating hard, would have placed them still fifteen minutes off, but she figured Luke could use a break, too, and allowed him this one.
This time, they were the ones being ambushed.
‘Don’t be so overdramatic,’ Leia said, when Han informed her of this, settling on the couch with a mug of caf and curling her legs beneath her.
‘Overdramatic?’ Han repeated, at some volume, stomping the length of the apartment’s living space. ‘I ain’t being overdramatic, sweetheart; they’re the ones being overdramatic.’
She rolled her eyes fondly. ‘It’s a journalist asking a couple of questions for a fluff piece in a holomag whose readership is mostly people we know, Han; personally I can’t see the problem. If they did the slightest bit of digging about on the holonet, they’d find all the information they’re looking for anyway.’
‘Right,’ he said, whirling and pointing to her. ‘And that doesn’t bother you a little?’
‘That the galaxy knows my favorite type of cake? I can think of a few things that bother me more.’ Leia took a sip of her caf. ‘Do we have any cake?’
‘Take this seriously,’ Han insisted.
‘I’m taking it extremely seriously.’
‘I think we should leave for a little bit,’ he announced.
Leia choked on her caf. ‘Excuse me?’
‘For a little bit,’ he said. ‘Just until things settle down.’
She coughed a couple more times, totally thrown by the sudden jump in the conversation.
‘To be clear,’ she said, once she’d recovered, ‘you looked at our personal frame of reference and decided that things are currently “unsettled”?’
Han deflated a bit, looking a little embarrassed, and leaned back against the countertop. ‘Okay, I guess there’ve been points where things have been more unsettled—’
‘I should say so.’
‘—but that doesn’t mean we have to stick around and put up with this… invasive shit, sweetheart.’
‘I know invasive,’ Leia said. ‘This is not invasive. I’ll say no to the interview; I really couldn’t care less either way, but if it’s going to stress you out—’
Han made a small, aggrieved noise and Leia broke off, brow furrowing, no longer amused.
‘Or—I’ll say yes?’ she ventured. ‘What do you want me to do?’
He sighed. ‘I want you to come away with me. Just for a few days.’
‘We went away for a few days two months ago.’ Han made the noise again and Leia set her caf aside. ‘Han.’
He looked up at the ceiling with a sigh, then back at her. ‘Yeah?’
‘Come and sit with me,’ she suggested, holding her hand out to him.
After a second, he approached and took it, sitting down heavily on the couch beside her. Clearly striving for breeziness, he said, ‘I just think we could use a break, that’s all.’
‘Because of the interview request?’ she asked softly.
‘Yeah.’ He blew out a long breath. ‘No. I mean, yeah, but it’s not just—d’you ever get—people want to know what we’re doing all the time, Leia.’
She frowned, confused. It wasn’t as though the media hounded them—even polite requests like the one the nervous junior journalist at Galactic Senate Monthly had made were relatively rare. There’d been a brief period of intrigue around their relationship—not long after Endor, Luke’s downtime from rebuilding the Jedi Order mainly consisted of him gleefully sending her holonet articles with titles like “These Rebel Heroes Are in Love and We’re OBSESSED!” But the galaxy’s memory was very short, and a decade on from when they’d retaken Coruscant, politics, and the people involved with politics, had largely become boring again.
Han obviously registered her bewilderment. ‘I mean like… in our jobs.’
‘We have to be accountable,’ she reminded him gently.
‘I’m not saying—’ He broke off and removed his hand from hers, pinching the bridge of his nose. ‘Ah, forget it, sweetheart. You want dinner?’
‘We can talk about this more,’ she said, watching him stalk over to a cupboard and take down a pan.
‘No, you’re right,’ he said over his shoulder, setting the pan on the hob with a little more force than necessary. ‘We went away a couple months ago; we don’t need to go again.’
She thought about that as he wandered around the kitchen, muttering to himself as he flicked through recipes, took out ingredients. Cooking relaxed him; he’d always said so. But the tension was clear in the lines of his back.
She’d worried about this years ago, she remembered, as they’d curled together on the armchair that still sat in the corner. That one day Han would get itchy feet. But even then, she hadn’t really thought he’d leave her, and she was certainly long past thinking that now, after years of building a life together. Taking care of each other.
She thought about it as she got up to help him chop vegetables, and as they ate, and later when they went to bed.
And when she woke up the next morning, Han snoring softly and hogging the covers next to her, she looked down at him and smiled, a decision made.
‘Leia!’ Han called, rounding the Falcon’s ring corridor. ‘Everything all right?’
Leia’s note, sitting on their dining table when he’d got in after a day of thrashing out the details of four different operations in four different corners of the galaxy, hadn’t suggested she was in any sort of trouble or distress, but it had been a little cryptic.
He stopped short in the entrance to the cockpit, taking in his wife, curled in her customary spot in the co-pilot’s seat. The picture was nothing new, and as lovely to him as ever.
What was new was the luggage next to her.
‘I was thinking,’ she said, swiveling her seat back to face the ship’s controls, ‘that we could take a vacation.’
‘I—’ He lingered in the entrance for a moment, taking in what she’d just said, then shook his head, coming to sit down in the captain’s chair, turning sideways to face her. ‘Princess, I told you. I was just overreacting to—I mean, it was a harmless kid asking harmless questions; we don’t need to go anywhere.’
‘Well, you were overreacting a little,’ she agreed, ‘which is why I think we do need to go somewhere. And not just for a week.’
‘What are you talking about?
‘Six months,’ Leia said. Her eyes widened a little, as though she was surprised to hear herself say it. ‘Mon seemed so pleased it was almost insulting, actually. And Carlist will welcome you back any time.’ She picked nervously at a loose thread in the leather of her chair. ‘Including right now, if it turns out I’ve been… very presumptuous, but I just thought it could be good for us. For you, especially, but for both of us.’
He shook his head again, this time as if to clear it of something. ‘Leia, I don’t—I wasn’t asking you to quit your job. I swear I’d never ask you to do that.’
‘I know you wouldn’t,’ she reassured him at once. ‘And I haven’t quit. Not in a way that isn’t reversible. I don’t mean to brag, but I don’t think I’m ever going to struggle to find a place in this particular government. If I miss it that badly, we’ll talk about it together.’ She took a deep breath and leaned forward, catching his hand in a loose grip. ‘But Han, we’ve been doing this for years now, and you’ve always known when I’ve needed to step away, and now I’m doing the same for you.’
Han opened his mouth and then closed it again. ‘Six months, though,’ he said. ‘I mean… that ain’t just some vacation, sweetheart; that’s—that’s really serious stuff.’
‘I’ve thought about it,’ she said. ‘I’ve given it lots of thought. And I think we should start with just a regular vacation and we can talk about it more while we’re off on some beach somewhere—in between actually vacationing, of course. But I wanted to make sure it was clear that—yes, this is serious. I’m serious about this.’
‘Leia,’ he started. Startled to feel a prickling at the corner of his eyes, he blinked hard and squeezed her hand. ‘I don’t want you to think I’ve been… resenting you, or anything. It’s not like I’ve been unhappy all this time; I—’ He almost had to laugh, then, at the very notion that he had been anything other than blissfully happy. ‘It’s just—just recently. Felt kinda…’
‘Claustrophobic,’ she offered, when he couldn’t seem to find the word.
‘I know,’ Leia continued. She abandoned her seat and came to join him on his, perching sideways on his lap and looping her arms around his neck. ‘I know all of that. And I don’t doubt your commitment to the New Republic; no one does.’
‘Some people do,’ he muttered, settling a hand on her hip.
‘No one we care about,’ she corrected. ‘And no one we care about is going to doubt it if we move on to something new.’
He took that in for a moment. ‘What about the apartment?’ he asked.
‘Luke is very keen to housesit. In fact we might not have much choice but to go for the whole six months; he’s probably already changed all the codes.’
She was so calm about all of this.
‘Sweetheart,’ he began. ‘I can’t just—’
Leia leaned in to kiss away the protest. ‘No one,’ she murmured, echoing his words from years ago, ‘is going to begrudge you this.’ She kissed him again. ‘Least of all me.’
He inhaled, looking at her soft, open face. ‘You still amaze me, you know?’
‘Oh, yes,’ she said, nodding solemnly.
He breathed out again, stroking a hand over her hair. ‘Six months,’ he repeated, half to himself. To Leia, he said, ‘Where are we going, Princess?’
She smiled and kissed him once more, just briefly. ‘Anywhere we like.’