Disclaimer: Disney owns Lucas or is it Lucas owns Disney? Either way, I own whatever is left

Strategic Maneuvers

Formerly: Of Love and Marriage

By DarkLeia

June 21, 2001

Chapter 1: I'm Gonna Regret This

"Leia, I'm getting too old for this sort of thing. The people need a leader," King Antropo stated matter-of-factly in his lilting accent. Although the weariness of his words were clear, he was tall, square- shouldered and sturdy with a certain charismatic gracefulness and strength that belied his advancing age. It had been a stroke of sheer good fortune that Princess Leia and Han Solo had made an emergency landing on Uluruan. Antropo believed the young Princess had perished in the obliteration of Alderaan along with the rest of her family. Apparently, the few recent rumors that had made it out to this relatively remote part of the galaxy of her survival were true.

"Uncle, I must stay with the Rebellion," Leia protested calmly, leaning forward to emphasize her declaration.

Their former unplanned stop in this section of the Outer Rim had already taken more time away from the Rebellion than she had wished. While it was a wonderful unexpected surprise to find her mother's uncle, Leia's great-uncle, alive and well and still ruling Uluruan, she needed to get back to the business of war against the Empire.

"Yes, I fully support your leadership of the Alliance. However, this cannot wait much longer. You understand I need to officiate at the coronation of the new leader. It's tradition." He paused before going on to look at both the princess and Solo. King Antropo was using his most persuasive voice and the stingingly clear logic of a leader, "I could crown you as Queen now. You go, continue with the Rebellion and when it's over you can assume the position or crown Jara. He will be old enough by then. Something similar to this has worked in the past."

"I could be killed before then or captured by the Empire. Should I survive, I have no idea how long it would be before I could come back," Leia reasoned, as much as she didn't like to think of the consequences of war.

"Be that as it may, you are my only hope. Jara is but a toddler. He will never be King unless a crowned leader of the family presides over his coronation. The Regent can run things unofficially, but it is most important for the royal leadership continue for the people's sake. Surely you can accept that."

Leia sighed; pangs of guilt to her royal heritage and sense of duty coursed through her. Painful thoughts of Alderaan flooded her mind. If Alderaan had stayed intact and they had truly defeated the Empire, she more than likely would have assumed her position as Queen and Viceroy as well on that erstwhile world. Most likely, the people would have voted her in since she had been elected senator by a landslide. There was nothing she could do to change the past, but now the option to change the future was in front of her. She could see no real choice.

Solemnly, Leia averted her eyes and spoke softly, "Since I can no longer fulfill my duty to Alderaan, I … accept."

Han's eyes widened. Until now, he had been content to sit quietly beside her and try to keep his mind occupied with more interesting matters. Way more interesting, like the curve of Leia's neck, for instance, or the how enticing her lips looked as she spoke. It still amazed Solo how beautiful he found her.

The King was delighted, a broad smiled crossed his face as he clasped his hands together in relieved jubilation. "Wonderful. Thank you, dear Leia. You will not regret it," he assured in his deep voice. His face changed expression as he continued, "There is just one condition."

Sitting up straighter as if to burden her new mantle, she nodded to indicate he should go on.

"Each new leader must be bonded at the time of coronation."

Han perked up at that and turned more fully in his chair to watch Leia's reaction. She remained impassive.

"That's impossible, I'm afraid," Leia stated evenly, spreading her open hands in front of her in a sweepingly helpless gesture. It was one thing to become Queen in this situation, but bonding was out of the question. She was not about to create another problem by supposedly solving this one. Besides to whom would she bond? She stole a fleeting look at the gorgeous so-called mercenary sitting next to her who was trying his best not to overtly show any interest in the proceedings. There wasn't any romantic entanglements in her life at the present time and there wouldn't be either, if she had anything to do with it.

"It's unavoidable. The law goes back for generations," the King dismissed. He hadn't missed her stolen glimpse Solo's way.

"Then I'm sorry, Uncle. I wish I could've helped." Leia looked truly regretful.

The King was not about to let her back out now. "You are going to help. I can bond the two of you before the coronation ceremony."

"The two of who? Who are you talking about?" Leia glanced again at Solo, nervously hoping against hope that the King wasn't thinking what she thought he was thinking.

"You and Captain Solo here, of course," the King smiled, gesturing regally to the former smuggler seated next to the Princess.

"What!?" Both Leia and Han cried out simultaneously, staring at the King as if he had lost his mind.

The King seemed nonplussed, "Is that a problem?"

"I should say so. I'm not bonding to him!" Leia declared adamantly, pointing to Solo. This was not going to happen. No way.

"You can double that for me!" Han insisted, pointing to his chest, then towards the Princess. "I'm not bonding to her!"

King Antropo looked heavenward with his eyebrows raised. Leveling his gaze to them once more, he plastered a patronizing smile on his face and spoke in his most patient tones, "Leia, it would be best if you bonded with an offworlder. That way should something happen to me or you, the throne will remain intact with our family still possessing the right to rule. With no local family lines to be considered or appeased regarding the bonding, there will be no present or future threat to the throne. Plus, under these circumstances, the bonding can be done right away." With a warm smile, the King threw in what he thought would be the clincher, "It's obvious you two love each other. So what's the problem?"

"What's the problem?" Han asked incredulously, his whole face animated. "You've gotta be kiddin' me!"

Leia looked her uncle square in the eye and in punctuated, serious measured tones said, "I… am… not… bonding… to… him."

Noticing that neither of their comments specifically negated loving each other, the King held out hope, "Leia, my dear, I see the way you look at him. Anyone can see that you love him."

Crossing his arms over his chest, Han leaned back in his chair and grinned smugly at the Princess.

The blush came on fast and furious belying her words as she balked, "I do not." Leia refused to acknowledge even Solo's presence at this point, let alone his arrogance.

The King turned to Han, wagging a finger at him, "Don't look so smug, Captain. I saw the frantic look on your face today when you thought she was hurt and the deadly look in your eye when she was attacked before that. You love her, too."

The King referred to the incident that had taken place when Solo and Organa had landed without clearance. His guard force had been rather overzealous and exchanged blaster fire with Solo before Leia was able to announce who she was and why they had landed in such a fashion. Unfortunately, the King could not fault the guards. This was a system that protected their privacy with everything they had. The fact that the system was so out of the way was probably the only reason that the Empire had not tried to use more force than a couple surprise commando missions thus far. The guards had to assume it was just such an attempt when the Millennium Falcon had landed without prior clearance. The King was just grateful that Solo had saved Leia's life in the raucous exchange.

"I told ya' before. I was just makin' sure she was okay. I'm assigned to protect her," Han waved his hand, trying to play off the whole thing.

"Hmm." The King decided it was time for the big guns. "Fine. Since you're both so sure of your feelings, then you won't mind a little experiment."

"What kind of experiment?" Han asked warily. He had not shaken his distrust of this guy, regardless of what the Princess had insisted when they landed.

The King walked to the wall behind the desk and uncovered a secret compartment hidden there. He pulled out two flasks of a purple liquid. "This is a special elixir. An ancient formula. It has no ill effects, but lowers emotional inhibitions for 24 hours. It will not change or force out facts - or make you fall in love. However, it will encourage you to reveal your deepest truths and feelings. An emotional truth serum, if you will. The more emotional truth you reveal, the more euphoric you become."

"So what exactly are you suggesting?" asked Han, already knowing the answer.

"I suggest both of you take the elixir and stay tonight and tomorrow at the Garden Palace away from distractions. Spend time with each other. If at the end of that time, you come to me feeling the same, then we'll revisit the issue."

"I don't need any truth serum to tell me how I feel. Besides, I've learned to control mind-manipulating drugs. It won't work on me," Han said resolutely, waving off the idea.

"Me either, although it's been tried," Leia finished quietly, her expression falling dark as her mind involuntarily recalled her Death Star experience.

Inwardly, Han winced at Leia's words. It disturbed him on a deep level that she had been subjected to such torture before they had been able to rescue her.

A flicker of emotion crossed Antropo's face hearing of Leia's experience. Then he negated their concerns with a wave, "No, it doesn't work like that. I assure you. It doesn't manipulate you. It only helps let your guard down and gives you confidence to say what you feel."

He chuckled wistfully as if in memory of a past event, "A lot like alcohol without the side effects. Oh, and it does make it almost impossible to lie. You can, but the effort is immense and draining." He waited to let them absorb the information before continuing, "So?"

Han and Leia looked directly at each other, "No."

The King was ready for that, "If you're both so sure of your feelings, then what could go wrong?" Now for the challenge he knew they couldn't resist, "Or is it that you're both afraid that you do love each other?"

Leia couldn't refuse that challenge, even though everything in her screamed it was a bad idea. Maybe it would shut up Han and that smug attitude of his, once and for all. She picked up the flask and drank.

Replacing the drained flask on the desk, she turned to Solo and smiled challengingly. "Afraid, Hot Shot?"

Solo narrowed his eyes at her in a scowl, took the second flask and downed the tasteless liquid in one gulp. "Here's where the fun begins," he mumbled to no one in particular.

The King was pleased with his handiwork and set about making plans. "Excellent. I'll have a driver take you to the palace now and I'll send your things to you immediately, so you can get ready for dinner. I'll make all of the necessary arrangements. Just enjoy!"

"When does this stuff kick in?" Han asked.

"It will fully enter your system by the time you reach the palace. It's about a standard hour away. I'll see you two tomorrow night for dinner with your answer." King Antropo got up from his plush chair and left the room to arrange the preparations.

"Well, now what, Your Worship?" Han's expression was unreadable.

"Now, we go to the palace." Leia got up, spun on her heel and walked towards the door.

Han followed her out muttering to himself, "How do I get myself into these things?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?" Leia asked sarcastically without looking back.