The Path Forward

Chapter One: The Itinerary

Han Solo stared down at the space charts laid out on the desk in front of him. His eyes were darting back and forth between them and the list of planets that he and Leia had to visit on their next official traveling expedition. The couple had been living on Coruscant for nearly one year now and as Leia had promised, the required travel for her job had not only been minimal, but it had always involved the Commissioner of Galactic Trade Relations, namely himself.

Crunching the numbers and making a few notations on his charts, Han laid his stylus down, ran his fingers through his hair and smiled as he sat down and relaxed in his office chair. He loved it when a plan came together so nicely. Glancing toward the comm on his desk and the time chart on his wall, Han picked up his headset and placed a call to Chewbacca on Kashyyyk.

Han had spent the last year on Coruscant watching Leia enjoy the fruits of her years of sacrifices and struggles with the Rebel Alliance as she fulfilled her dream of building the New Republic. At the same time he had helped her deal with her overwhelming emotions surrounding the reality of her history and heritage. Both of them finding that the slower pace that came with peace time had been a double-edged sword for the Princess of Alderaan.

While their time together on Coruscant had allowed Leia to learn how to relax and enjoy the simple things in life, it had also allotted her ample time to dwell on everything that she had endured over the past decade; something she had not allowed herself to do during the hectic days of the Rebellion. Han had enjoyed helping her unleash the years of laughter and passion that she had held bottled up inside of her but the millions of unshed tears and unvoiced sorrows acted as a sobering counterweight.

Like a boat that is knocked off-kilter, Han still felt that Leia had yet to find a comfortable balance in her post-Rebellion life. So when Leia asked him to map out their upcoming trip, Han had seized the opportunity to take a few liberties with their itinerary. Feeling a little off-kilter himself as of late, he thought he knew exactly which direction the two of them needed to head to set them straight and in typical Corellian fashion, he forged ahead with abandon.

Still unsure how he would pull everything together - Corellians not very well known as a detail-oriented people - he was pleased that he had at least gotten their schedule squared away. As a familiar howl rang through his communicator's headset and his hairy, old friend flickered into view, Han started talking excitedly. Wookiees, it just so happened, were very good with details.

Later on at their apartment, Han looked up towards their front door as he heard it slide open and watched Leia walk in.

"Oh, what smells so good?" Leia moaned as she set her datapad down on the small table in the foyer.

Han smiled. "Dinner," he replied as he approached her. "It's this stuff that you cook in the kitchen." As he reached her, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him as he joked, "You know that little room over there behind that door?"

"Funny. Is there a shelf-life on your jokes?" She smiled at him and then sighed as her body sunk into his and she rested her head against his chest.

"Tough day?"

"You can't even imagine."

Giving her a quick squeeze, Han said, "Well that's perfect then, because I have a nice, relaxing evening planned for us." As he pulled away from her and guided her to sit at the dining room table, he added, "And I have some exciting news."

"Why am I suddenly worried?" she said as she rested her elbows on the table and her head in her hands.

"Nothing to worry about!" Han yelled back to her as he disappeared into the kitchen.

After serving the both of them heaping plates of food and two dangerously full glasses of red wine, Han lowered himself into his chair and watched as Leia first carefully balanced and then delicately sipped on her red wine.

As if intentionally teasing him, which he would not put past her, Leia began to share the details of her tough day with him. Halfway through their meal, while Han's impatience grew, his wine disappeared and a sly, anticipatory grin stretched across his face, Leia set her glass down and asked, "So, what's the exciting news?"

He finished the last of his wine and savored both it and the pregnant silence that followed. Setting his glass down, he looked at Leia and smiled. "I finished our itinerary for the trip next week."

Lowering her eyebrows, she gave him a smirk. "Setting the bar pretty low there, aren't you?"

Han rose from his seat across from her and walked towards her. He leaned against the table next to her and crossed his legs at his ankles. "I've added some extra stops in there for us."

A flash of interest twinkled in Leia's eyes as she leaned back in her chair, a half-empty glass of wine in her hand. She took a sip. "Go on."

"We leave work on schedule. And we return on time. And it doesn't cost the New Republic a thing."

Leia let out a quick chuckle as she placed her wine glass down on the table and stood up in front of him. "I'm sorry. I think you must have me confused with the former Princess Organa of the Alliance to Reinstate the Republic." Leia then took her hand and moved one of Han's legs so that she could stand up nestled in between them and as she snaked her arms around his neck she added, "Now, what were you saying about some extra stops?"

Han grinned at her and wrapped his hands around her lower back as he said, "First stop will be the beautiful, tropical paradise of Yavin four, home of the famous Rogue Squadron Pilot and Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker."

Han and Leia had not seen Luke since his visit over three months ago. And although he still had trouble remembering things like putting his clothes in the autovalet and compacting the trash receptacle when it was full, Han hadn't missed Leia's subtle hints regarding her desire to visit her twin brother post-haste. A warm burst of satisfaction pulsated through him as her face lit up at the news.

"Really?"

"Really." Han pulled her closer to him and kissed her quickly on the lips.

"And then where?" Leia asked as she began to nibble on his ear lobe and his neck.

Han tilted his head, allowing her room to explore. Grabbing her wine off the table he took a quick sip and said, "Oh, something like ambassador visit this and trade dispute that."

"And then where?" Leia questioned as she straightened herself up and took her wine glass back from him.

"Kashyyyk."

The couple hadn't seen Chewie in months either and this news made both of them smile.

"Do they know?"

Assuming she meant Chewie and Luke, Han answered, "Chewie – yes. Luke – no."

"Anywhere else?"

"Only one official stop after Kashyyyk and then I have a surprise for you."

Pressing her body up against his as she set her wine glass on the table, she whispered in his ear, "I am suddenly very excited about our next business trip."

"Ummmmm," Han answered as his hands fell down a little lower on her body and his fingers began to gather up the material of the knee length skirt the princess wore. "Just how excited are we talking here?"