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Prologue*

[two months after
the Victory over Endor.]


Leia stood on the balcony of the vacation cabin in the Corellian mountains, her face turned into the breeze as it whipped through her hair. In the distance, the sun sank down quietly, and the call of some native bird pierced through silent dusk. She leaned into the wrought iron railing with her eyes lost somewhere faraway.

The second Death Star was obliterated, the Emperor dead, his legacy fractured beyond repair. The against-all-odds plan the Alliance had devised on the off-chance they actually slew the proverbial dragon had worked; Rebel generals had been poised to seize key Imperial operations centers on core planets, acting while chaos reigned and wrenching shaky control away from the oppressive regime while Palpatine's underlings started scrambling to consolidate control, while they battled for the crown. With different Grand Moffs claiming control and issuing confused commands, chaos had reigned. Coruscant had put up the most brutal fight, but had finally fallen. The Alliance leadership, now charged with re-establishing democratic legitimacy, and continuing aggressive campaigns against the disintegrating Empire, had chosen to retain that infamous red planet as the federal seat, and in the lull that followed, heroes had been ordered to rest – to breathe, before reconstruction began.

Those who had been fighting and hiding for years sought out home worlds, and loved ones, and long-lost treasures; Luke returned to Tatooine to take care of his family estate, Chewbacca paid a much-needed visit to his wife and child, and Han – Han brought her here, to the hidden luxury of his native planet.

She'd hardly had a moment, as the meeting that issued them all a brief period of leave adjourned, to feel blindsided by the realization she had nowhere to go; he'd been lounging beside her for the announcement, and he said –

"Want to go to some secluded resort on Corellia with me?"

- before she had a chance to feel lost, and isolated.

She went with him gladly; she saw his planet through his eyes – for the first time as a visitor and not a fugitive, as a tourist seeking solace, and not as a diplomat. For the past week, he had shown her hidden places – restaurants and bars that were slightly seedy, exquisite clothing shops, wild turf, and the streets he'd cut his scoundrel teeth on.

Alone on the balcony, she recalled the light in his eyes when he mentioned old friends or told old stories, the comfort in his step as he led her around. He was at ease here, completely himself – he was home, and he shared it with her, without hesitation. She remembered what it felt like to know a place so well, to love a place so well, to feel like she belonged.

She missed it; oh she missed it. She missed the snow-capped wonders of Alderaan, the lush forest floors – the beauty in the crystal-shimmering waters of the oceans, and the beauty in the people.

It just hadn't settled, while the civil war raged, that not only had she lost her family, her friends, her people, and the physical planet itself – she'd lost the intangible emotion that she felt when she was home.

She bowed her head, breathing in this Corellian air, filling her chest with it until it ached. She closed her eyes tightly, willing the salty, stinging tears to stay hidden; she didn't want to scare him, to make him think she wasn't enjoying this.

"Hey."

Han's voice behind her was mild, quiet. She turned slowly, lifting her chin, and looked at him a moment – fresh out of the shower, he wore only low-slung trousers with the customary bloodstripe slashing the side. His hair still hung wet over his eyes as he ran a towel over his head lazily. She must not have composed herself as well as she thought; he caught sight of her face for a second, and crossed the balcony in two strides, the towel abandoned. His fingers brushed her neck, hands tilting her head up; his dark brown eyes swam with concern.

"What's the matter?" he asked intently, his eyes searching hers. "What happened?"

She tried to say it was nothing, but her words choked her, and she bowed her head into his chest instead, a small sob escaping. Worried, his hand rested over the back of her head lightly, and he looked around, as if searching for a culprit for her pain.

She shook her head, swallowing hard a few times before looking up again.

"It's this place, Corellia – it's your home – "

"I thought you were enjoying it?" he asked, his brow furrowing.

She raised her hand to his brow, fingers tracing the wrinkled lines there. She nodded, silently begging him to understand.

"You know it so well," she whispered. "You know it in your mind, in your heart – it's in your soul, Han," she said. "Watching you love this place – I miss feeling that," she confessed; a raw confession, untamed. "I miss my home," she choked.

His arms encircled her waist for a moment, pulling her close. Then, he lifted her, placing her on the balcony railing, his steady arms holding her there. Her knees pressed on either side of his thighs, and he met her eyes a moment in utter silence. He leaned forward, and pressed his lips to hers, lightly at first, then with firm passion, until she couldn't breathe.

"I'm sorry, Leia," he mumbled gruffly against her lips. His hand moved over her spine soothingly. "I'd bring it back if I could."

She put her hands on his shoulders and rested her head on him. The perch was precarious, but she trusted him not to let her fall, and she held her eyes shut tightly, her smaller body shaking. He knew there was nothing he could say to make it better, to ease the suffering; there was not much he could do but be there, and he'd never seen her cry quite so much at once.

"I want so badly to show you Alderaan, Han," she cried softly, nose pressed into his shoulder. "I want you there, with me, like you have me here."

He kissed her shoulder, her temple, the top of her head; he tilted her head back, and kissed her lips again, catching her eye.

"You can tell me about it," he offered. "Everything you remember."

Her lashes covered her eyes a moment, and she looked pale.

"It's hard to talk about," she said shakily.

He nodded; that much he was sure of. She rarely spoke of her home world. She never spoke her native language.

"I can't replace your home, Leia," he said, hand in her hair protectively. "I can try to give you another one."

He avoided the word new; it seemed too superficial.

Her dark, wet eyes met his.

"Corellia?" she asked hoarsely.

"Corellia," he said gruffly. "The Falcon," he listed. He shrugged. "Me."

She smiled at him then, a tentative one, a small one.

"Just you?" she asked.

"What more do you need?" he quipped, softly though, with care.

It had never occurred to him that bringing her here would evoke this kind of reaction; that sharing his roots with her would remind her of the sanctuary she'd lost. He'd only wanted to be alone with her, to escape from the chaos, to revel in solitude away from prying eyes.

His mouth found hers again, and she pressed herself into him, letting herself be lavished with affection, embracing his warmth, the steady rhythm of his beating heart.

"Maybe you're all I need," she said, eyes closed, kissing him again. Her forehead rested against his a moment. "I've felt empty for so long," she confessed softly. "It's not so bad when you're around."

She knew good and well that she couldn't rely on Han and Han alone to fix her; she knew she had to heal in other ways, to move forward, to live for the hope that was on the horizon, but if he meant to stay, if she knew he'd be there, it would all be a lot better. It had taken so much out of her to give into him, to admit to her feelings, and his reciprocation was the kind of uplifting thing she'd found at the end of fairytale books.

His lips brushed hers lightly; it send a shock through her spine, right to her fingertips, and her eyes flew open, finding him staring at her as if nothing else in the galaxy mattered to him, and she was overwhelmed.

"Say the word," he said, his voice low, "and we'll stay here forever," he swore.

They had done their part. The Empire was overthrown. The world unfolded in front of them.

"I have to go back," she said softly. "It's my life's work. It's all I have."

"You have me."

"Do I?" she breathed.

When the dust settled, when she returned to the New Republic – did he want to live the legitimate life, or was he a wanderer, a pirate through and through, who would grow restless with time?

Without a word, he nodded.

"Corellia's my planet, Leia," he said after a moment, his eyes narrowing intently. "It's not my home. I was a smuggler," he emphasized, smirking lightly. "A nomad."

Chewbacca had called him that often; he shacked up where it was safe, until it wasn't anymore, and then – he found a new place. Since Mos Eisley, since Yavin, since sticking with the Alliance – since meeting Luke, he'd stayed in one place – so to speak – for longer than he had since he left the Academy, and it wasn't for political ideology, and with what they'd paid him, it sure as hell wasn't personal gain.

It was her.

She'd awoken something in him that he'd abandoned long ago, that hadn't reared his head since the fateful events that lead him to throw away a career for the sake of saving one enslaved Wookiee from a lifetime of indignity. He wanted to be where she was and hell, he even cared how this whole New Republic turned out.

She noticed his use of the past tense - was a smuggler. She'd never thought of what he'd be when the war was won, because she'd never imagined seeing the war end in her lifetime. Yet here she was - young in her years, old in her soul, grappling with a bright horizon she'd never thought they'd win. She wanted to help build it. She needed to help build it - but she wanted, and needed, him too, and if he was going to stay around even now, even when the Rebellion itself went totally legitimate, she had confidence it would all fall into place.

"It isn't going to be easy," she said.

He didn't know if she was talking about the political situation they'd face now, and the battles they still had to fight, or if she was talking about being with her, and he didn't try to find out. He said:

"I don't care."

She said:

"I wish you'd seen Alderaan," in a small, sorrowful voice, and he said, without hesitation:

"You're Alderaan, Leia, don't you get that?" his eyes bore into hers. "It's part of you."

She swallowed hard, looking at him intently. She wanted to show him what they'd destroyed, but then, he was right – she could tell him. She could talk about it. She'd have to start, wouldn't she – or her culture would disintegrate, Alderaan's survivors, stranded throughout the galaxy, would have nowhere to turn if she kept looking everywhere but within herself.

She ran her hands through his thick hair, silken strands slipping through her fingers, and she wondered what the world would be like for them now, on the precipice of a new era free from the shadow of the empire.

"Leia," he murmured, trailing his lips from her throat to her jaw to her ear. "I love you."

"I know," she answered, feeling whole, feeling comforted – gone was the heavy sadness that had settled in her stomach thinking of what he had in his Corellia; replacing that was something ethereal, the warmth of knowing she could feel at home again – it was people, not planets, that ultimately defined home.

He cleared his throat softly, and pressed his lips to her jaw, his face impossible close to hers.

"Marry me, Leia," he asked simply – and for a moment, the world stood still.

She swallowed hard, her lips parting in surprise, and she was quiet while she read the sincerity in his eyes, the security there, the unspoken promise of commitment, fidelity – the future.

This momentary respite would be followed by more struggle, more bloodshed, more solidifying of Alliance control, but at least now she knew what her reward would be.

She said:

"Yes."

His lips captured hers again, and under the starry Corellian sky, she thought there was no more appropriate way to face the rise of a new age.


*yes, you've read this before; this was originally published as a one-shot called "Home." it fits too well with this story, though.
a bit has been added or re-edited, but it's essentially the same. the two month timeline is arbitrary.