Journeys and Destinations
Chapter Five: Decisions for the Future
Leia lay curled up on her side in the large bed that she normally shared with her husband. Eyes closed, her mind drifted on the outskirts of sleep where her thoughts were still vaguely in her control. She purposefully filled her mind with fond memories, a defensive parry against the tumultuous thoughts that haunted her recently.
She concentrated on memories of her recent trip to Naboo and a warm embrace from her grandmother soothed her soul. A petite woman, like herself, that portrayed the mass of a Wookiee in her posture, her grandmother had been rendered speechless by the sight of her long-lost granddaughter. She stood staring at Leia as if she was an aberration, and Leia recalled feeling as if she was just that. After a long moment, the older woman had stepped towards Leia and pulled her into her arms.
The room spun around them and the faces surrounding them blurred. Her grandmother's breath ragged in her ear, decades of restrained tears falling warmly onto Leia's shoulder. But it was the older woman's whispered words that spun around Leia now. "You're home. You're home. You're home."
Leia's eyes flew open and she lifted her head to catch the time on the iridescent chrono. Han was late. Later than had become usual. It had been several weeks since their fight and they had moved along their everyday lives in a mind-numbing routine. Never the kind to stay mad at each other for very long, the argument between them had been quickly forgiven, but not forgotten. The trade summit eating up much of their free time and Han training his replacement taking up even more, the weeks flew by as the distance between them grew.
She flung the covers off of her and rolled out of bed and onto her feet in one swift motion, accepting the defeat of finding a peaceful sleep for yet another night. When the cool air of the apartment hit her she remembered she had forgone any nightclothes when she climbed into her bed over two hours earlier. Not entirely unprecedented, but definitely not the norm of late; she had wanted to surprise Han and try to grasp back at what they had lost. Walking over to the dresser, she pulled a drawer open and scanned its contents. That mood had passed.
Looking down at the contents of the drawer, Leia paused in contemplation. On one side were her old Alliance tanks and tees that she normally slept in and that Han professed were the sexiest things he had ever seen on her, which only made her scan to the other side for the alternative. On the other side were shimmersilk negligees in assorted colors and amounts of fabric allocated, something she wore when she wanted to feel sexy for him. Knowing that either choice yielded her the same result, she opted for an Alliance tee and some boyish boxer underwear. She was feeling more like a rebel by the minute now anyway.
She heaved a heavy sigh as she walked towards the transparisteel doors leading to their balcony. Living like this, with such an unsettled issue resting between her and her husband, was eating away at Leia's insides. They shared dinner together whenever they could, they talked about work, they made love at night, but none of it was the same. None of it was the way it should be, or could be, between them. Leia had sent word to her aunt shortly after their fight and requested more time, but it seemed time itself would be her undoing.
As she watched the bustling activity of Coruscant on the other side of the glass, she put her hand out and rested it against the cool material. Thoughts that she had tried her best to stave off began to flit around her, like minions around a Hutt. Parts of their argument replayed through her mind. Her jaw clenched tightly along with her fists as Leia cringed at the memories.
Resting her forehead alongside her hand against the window, she shook her head back and forth in remorse. She shouldn't have hidden her aunt's proposal from him; she knew that. And his argument that she was not happy, he was right about that, too. She felt guilty for having hidden anything from him, but she hated when he was right, especially when that meant she was wrong. Knowing how stubborn they both were, she wondered how long this rift could actually go on.
The space traffic outside of her window reminded her of a well-choreographed battle. Flashing lights darting about, it was always hard to tell who was on whose side. She was battle-weary, in more ways than one. Lifting her head up, she looked to the skies, out past the planetary shields and wondered how strong the universe thought she was exactly. Maybe if she knew her breaking point, she would know just when to pull up. But there were no warning sirens, no bells or whistles or any such claxon, only her gut and it was spinning – for whatever that meant.
In the last few weeks, Han had spoken more and more of Wedge's offer to work with Rogue Squadron. Although she thought it would be a perfect fit for him, something didn't sit right with her about it. Maybe it was because Leia knew that the Rogues still spent a good deal of their time fighting the remnants of the dilapidated Empire and she just couldn't see Han standing idly by while he sent his students off to war. No, more than likely, she could see him injecting himself into the fray as every battle became more critical and more crucial than the one before it.
She folded her arms below her chest and gave herself a tight hug. She had heard Han's screams in the hallways of Bespin and watched him sink down into the carbonite chamber, all for her cause, and she just couldn't bear to watch that happen again. It was not that she thought that Han didn't believe in the New Republic as much as she did and would be fighting for his own reasons, but maybe she just didn't want him fighting at all anymore. Hadn't they both fought enough?
Leia spun away from the window as the dual meaning of her words shot through her. Biting her lip, she climbed back into their bed, curling up on her side once again into a tight little ball of emotions.
The sound of their apartment door sliding open stilled her thoughts. Her back to the entrance of their bedroom, she closed her eyes and tracked his movement with the familiar sounds of his routine. He stood at the side of the bed and she could feel his eyes boring into her back as the sound of his belt clicked open. The ruffled sound of clothing sliding off of him and dropping to the floor was followed by the dip of the mattress as his body slid under the covers and nestled up next to hers.
His skin was cool from the evening air and it sent shivers through her as he spooned himself against her, his scent catching up to her just moments after his touch. Her eyes opened as his presence soothed her swirling thoughts and emotions and her body unfurled against his.
Responding to her movement, he placed his hand against her belly and pulled her to him. She wriggled in response and his hand slid under her tee and gently cupped her breast. His voice rumbled in her ear, "The summit's winding down."
"Uh-hum," she hummed back in return as she pressed herself against him.
"Do you still want to take a trip? Together? When it's over?" His voice was still deep but laced with uncertainty.
The doubt behind his words hit her like a bucket of iced water and she spun around to face him. Remembering his offer to find a planet they had never been to and make love under a brand new set of stars, her eyes searched his as she said, "Yes. Do you?"
He took a deep breath and they stared at each other for a long moment. "Leia, I love you more than anything. That hasn't changed."
"Then what has changed?" Her voice croaked out, belying the simmering emotions that she had been fighting to contain these past few weeks.
"I just don't think you're happy, that's all. And honestly, I don't think you've been happy for a long time. And maybe..." He took another deep breath through his nose and then slowly let it out. "Maybe I'm tired of sitting around and waiting for it to right itself someday. Maybe I feel like I've got to push you a little." Taking his hand and resting it on her cheek, he let his thumb trace over her lips as he added, "Maybe that's what's changed."
She took his hand from her cheek and rested it on the mattress between them, her hand now covering his. As she let her thumb stroke his skin, she said, "That's a lot of maybes."
She looked down at their hands on the bed, intertwined between them. Even with all of her internal thoughts and debates, her path continued to remain unclear. "And I don't like change."
Bringing her eyes up to meet his she said, "And I don't like being pushed."
She stared at him for awhile. There was nothing she loved more than this man - not even life itself - and she trusted him. She trusted him with her life and her heart and she just wanted him to hold her and take care of her. She had told him once that she didn't feel like she needed to be strong when she was in his arms and no truer words had ever been spoken.
A smile crept across her lips and she squeezed his hand as she said, "You plan the trip…and I'll be there."
A little over a week later, the Millennium Falcon was slipping into hyperspace. Han had chosen the nearby planet of Borleias, known for its beautiful, isolated beaches. With the Falcon fully stocked, the couple didn't plan on seeing another living soul for the next five days.
Leia stood in the middle of the captain's cabin and let her eyes wander around the room. She had come in here to get changed from her stuffy Coruscant clothes to a more relaxed, vacation appropriate outfit. Tidier than it had ever been in his Alliance days, the room always held a permanent hint of disarray, much like its owner. In fact, the memories this room held for Leia were more enigmatic and varied than the man that the space belonged to. It had been a room that scared her, tempted her, comforted her and bolstered her. She let the memories lap over her like swells in a turbulent sea.
They had had some of their first real fights here. Fights that were less deflective bravado and more raw, honest truth. They had made love here for the first time and countless times thereafter. A cocoon that had been the essence of the man she fell in love with was now vibrant butterfly of shared memories.
On his bunk, which was made up tightly, was the quilt they had purchased on a trip to Obroa-skai. It was a mixture of patterns and symbols and certainly not anything floral, but it was decidedly more feminine than anything she was sure had come before it. Smiling, she recalled Han's face when he first spread it out across their now-shared bunk. It was one of the many times that she thought she could actually see his determined independence and emotional barriers flaking off of him in delicate layers.
She had waged her own similar battles with shedding layers of heavily fortified protection. After years of not talking to anyone about anything, she had taken great strides in opening up with Han. It was an underlying fear to allow oneself to be that vulnerable and emotionally naked with someone, that had proved to be the hardest thing to overcome. And although she had shared much with Han, there were still things that she held back - out of fear or just habit, she wasn't entirely sure.
Her eyes falling on something small and polished on the shelf above the double bed, she walked towards it. Taking it into her hand, she recognized what it was and the turbulent sea that was her memories and emotions swelled up once again before they slowly fanned out, the waves unruffled and the water became still, like glass.
It was a seashell, shaped like a castle.
Memories of a beach and a platform on a lake wrapped around her and stilled her heartbeat to a gentle patter. She hadn't heard him approach, but Han's arms snaked around her from behind, his hands landing on her belly, his head on her shoulder and his breath against her ear. Looking at the seashell in her hands, he held her like that for a moment before he said, "That was a good day."
"Yes, it was." She blinked and a tear fell down her cheek.
He turned her around in his arms and looked at her, wiping the tear away with the backs of his fingers. Taking the seashell from her hand, he bent over and placed it back on the shelf where it had come from and then he straightened up and their eyes met again. He bent down and kissed her, hard, like he wanted to remind her who he was and what he was to her in case she had forgotten. His hands tore at her clothing and he handled her roughly but she couldn't get angry with him because her hands were doing the same.
He was inside of her before they even hit the bed and her eyes slammed shut from the brief pain. He called her name repeatedly as if to make sure she was there, in this place with him and she answered him, because she was. His pace never slowed as he made love to her almost frantically and she clutched to him, feeling the frenzied pull of her need for him; a need to reconnect with him. To find what they had lost in the last few weeks. To reclaim the love and warmth that was theirs for the taking if they would only just let themselves have it.
Their bodies, painted with perspiration, traded places as they rolled around in their bunk on top of the patterned quilt from Obroa-skai. Him on top, her on top, side by side, every way they could as long as their mouths could connect in desperate kisses and they could whisper each other's names in their ears. Their hands glided over their glistening bodies, arms and legs moving in time with the rhythm of their frantic tempo. Even after it was over, the kisses and their hands didn't stop. Their names replaced with 'I love yous' as their hands and their heartbeats slowed and then eventually the apologies came and then the forgiveness and then they were still.
After a long silence, wrapped inside of Han's warm embrace, Leia wriggled away a little and reached up to the shelf above them and grabbed the little seashell. They looked at it together, Leia's back to Han, his hand draped over her as he reached his finger out to trace one of the tiny turrets. Turning her body around to face him, she looked down at the shell which now rested in her hand between them, and then back at Han and said, "Can we go back there…instead?"
"To our beach?"
He nodded his head as he stared at her, a look of determination clouding over his face. "Okay," he whispered as he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.
She looked down at the miniature castle nestled in her hands.
Raising her eyes up to meet his she watched him for a moment as he studied her.
Taking a deep breath, he said, "I don't know what you want me to do here."
She bit her lip and swallowed but said nothing.
He continued, "You say you don't want me to push you but nothing happens unless I do. And the minute we lift off of Coruscant you turn into someone completely different and it makes me not want to say anything, but I can't stand watching it happen over and over again and acting like it's perfectly normal." He trailed his hand over her shoulder and down her arm until it reached her hand that held the seashell inside of it, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I can't fix what I can't understand and you won't tell me enough to understand it."
Her eyes drifted down and away from his and she took several deep breaths. Taking his hand, she pried his fingers open and pressed the seashell into his palm and curled his fingers around it. Then, taking her hand and resting it against his face, she looked at him as a small, delicate smile crept across her lips. "You don't have to fix anything. And I'm sorry I've made you feel like you have to. I'm sorry I still bury things inside of me that I know I should talk to you about, but…" She looked down at his hand resting in between them, encircling the little castle that he had found for her. Looking back up at him, she continued, "But, I'm trying to work on that. You've helped me work on that. And I know I don't tell you this enough, but you're everything to me."
She slid her hand off of his cheek and wrapped it around to the back of his neck. As she pulled his face to hers she whispered, "You're my strength, you always have been. From the day I met you, no matter how long it took for me to see it, you've been there for me. And I know it's been hard for you and I've made it hard for you. I've pushed you away and taken you for granted."
He opened his mouth as if to speak and she shook her head at him. "You once told me that you couldn't see your future without me in it. But…I know…" Swallowing a lump in her throat, her eyelids blinked heavily, releasing the tears that had welled up in her eyes. "I know I wouldn't even have a future without you."
The words had seemed heavy rolling off of her tongue and she felt a relief inside of her as she liberated them. Moving her head and tilting her chin, she kissed him and although it was desperate, it was soft and thankful and forgiving.
When she pulled away to look at him, he looked pained as if the weight of her words were now bearing down on him. She watched his eyes narrow with hurt as he said, "I just can't stand that there is nothing I can say or do…to make it better. I hate feeling so-"
"Don't," she quickly replied as she placed her finger on his lips. Pulling herself closer to him, their foreheads resting together as she shook her head and whispered desperately, "Whether you realize it or not, you just being here helps me more than you can ever imagine."
A buzzing alarm from the Falcon broke their silence. Han hesitated, blowing out an exhaustive breath and then she watched him crawl out from her embrace and slip on a pair of boxers. Before he left, he walked towards her, leaned over the bunk and kissed her one last time as he pressed the tiny seashell into the palm of her hand. Standing up he winked at her and then turned around and headed to the cockpit.
Borleias was not that far from Coruscant and they were probably approaching the system. Sure enough, Leia felt the Falcon slip into realspace and then just moments later, with new coordinates set no doubt, she felt them slip right back into hyperspace.
She studied the seashell in her hand and thought about her husband and her life. She centered on his angry words to her back on Coruscant when they had fought and then his softer words lying in this bunk just moments ago. Was she something that was broken and needed to be fixed? Sometimes she felt as if she was.
She took one last look at the castle in her hands and then setting it back on the shelf, she got out of the bunk and walked into the 'fresher.
Sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, Leia watched the ship land on the same field by a lake on the planet of Naboo for the third time in her life. Each time she had found herself here, she had found her life in very different places. But somehow the venue drove her to action, encouraged her to face that what she may have been running away from. Turning to look at Han, shutting the Falcon down in the pilot's seat next to her, she hoped her decision to come here would help her see her way through this current situation.
They walked down the path and toward the small beach in silence, Han's arm draped over her shoulder as if protecting her from the turmoil swirling around her. They stopped at the edge of the lake and she stood next to him as she stared out at the mountains in the distance.
"Are you happy, Han?"
His silence caused her to turn towards him and find his eyes. He smiled at her. "I'm happy, when you're happy."
She frowned. "Yeah, well...it seems like you treat my happiness like it's more important than yours."
At this comment, Han let out a quick burst of good-natured laughter. "I guess that is how you might see it, sweetheart. But…you make me happy." He turned his head and looked out in the distance for a moment and then taking a deep breath, he looked back down at her and said, "I've been around the galaxy more times than I can count, Leia. I've got stories to write home about until the day that I die. There's nothing I look forward to over that horizon now...other than waking up next to you."
"Did you ever really want to work with the New Republic?"
"Yes. And now I don't. And now I'm not." Placing his hand on the side of her face, his eyes studied hers for a moment. "I know you have aspirations and goals and I support them. That doesn't take away from who I am. I support your decisions and leave most things up to you because I'm happy with you. And you support me in your own way. You know that. Don't shortchange yourself."
She smiled at him and grabbed his wrist with her hand, tilting her head against his palm and giving his wrist a squeeze.
Han watched her and then added, "You have things that you're dealing with that compel you to steer your life in a certain direction. And I understand that. When I don't like something that's going on with you or with me, I let you know."
"Like your role on Coruscant?"
"And my commission before that, yes. Look, I know I may not push you on a lot of things." He dropped his hand from her check and twirled a stray piece of her hair in his fingers. "I guess there're a lot of husbands that feel that they have to display some kind of control over their wives." He tucked the piece of hair behind her ear. "I'm not that kind of man, sweetheart. I know that you would do what I asked you to do without having to exhibit it all the time."
At that she smiled. Wrapping her arm around his waist the couple began to walk along the shoreline. After a long silence, Leia sighed and said, "My aspirations and goals….they were to overthrow the Empire and to establish the New Republic."
"And one's done. But how do you measure the other?"
She was silently relieved that he understood her dilemma. "I guess that's the question, isn't it?"
She had certainly done her part to bring the New Republic to fruition and maybe now it was time to find her own purpose and place in the galaxy. If Alderaan had still been in existence she would have returned to her home planet by now to assume her role amongst her people. And maybe she and Han needed time and space away from the New Republic in order to find a life for themselves, similarly to what Luke and Chewie had already done.
She leaned her head against Han's arm and sighed heavily. "It had never been my intent to climb my way to the top of the galactic arena. I don't know when that became an expectation."
"Whose expectation is that, exactly?"
Exactly? Leia wasn't sure. It was more like the invisible everyone that had run her life for so long now she couldn't see straight. And what did one do when they had accomplished a lifetime goal? Set another one. Plot another course. It's not rocket science, Leia.
She didn't answer him. Like everything else, she knew he understood. They walked along the shoreline for awhile in silence, his arm now slung over her shoulder. Stopping at the edge of the small, sandy beach, she felt him take his arm away from her. She took a step toward the lake so that she stood just slightly in front of him, her back to him.
There was a cool breeze pressing against her body and she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. When she opened her eyes, she said, "You were right…about the decisions I've made." She spoke to the lake and to the mountains and the gentle wind carried her words behind her and back to him.
She stood in the silence for a moment as Han did not respond. He could always somehow sense when she was ready to talk and he waited for her to continue.
"And you're right about me…about who I am on Coruscant," she said with a heavy sigh. Looking down at her feet in the sand, she whispered, "I've never felt at home there."
She felt him close the distance between them and wrap his arms around her from behind, but he remained silent; his embrace her encouragement to continue.
"I haven't…I haven't felt at home anywhere since…" She shook her head at the painful memories assaulting her. Turning around to face him, she said, "I thought it didn't matter where I was as long as I was in your arms." Stepping into him she wrapped her arms around him and he held her tightly against his body, the sound of his heart beat pounding in her ear. "But there's more. I can see that now. And it's not fair to you."
She hoped he understood her words and was secure enough with her love for him to know what she meant. Pulling away from him she looked at him and said, "It's like you said. If I can't find happiness on Coruscant then Coruscant is not where I should be."
He placed his hands on her upper arms and rubbed them up and down a few times, a smile crept across his face and then he looked past her and towards the mountains and the lake. Finding her eyes again, he sighed and said, "I kinda like this place."
She shook her head at him. "I don't want this to be another decision that is based on my needs alone."
"Well…we have the entire galaxy to choose from, Leia," he replied matter-of-factly. "But the way I see it, we'll want to settle down somewhere that we have ties to. Somewhere that makes sense for both of us. Where we can both be happy." Filling up his lungs with a deep intake of breath, he blew the air out slowly, letting it leak out of him as if making room for the thoughts in his head. "To me that leaves us with three choices."
She arched her eyebrow at him. "Which are?"
"Yavin, with your brother. Kashyyyk, with Chewie. Or…this place." Taking his finger he tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear to keep it from dancing in front of her face in the gentle wind. "I don't see either of us being happy on Yavin. And, as much as we love Chewie, we're not Wookiees." They smiled at each other and he looked away to the mountains again. "There's something about this place that I think we're both drawn to." Looking back down at her, he said, "Maybe your path is clearer than mine is right now, but…it just feels right, you know?"
"I know," she said as she spun around in his arms and joined him in looking out towards the looming vista ahead of them. Breathing out, she said, "And this place, especially."
"Our lake?" he asked as he squeezed his arms around her.
"Our beach," she replied, a wide smile stretching across her face as she turned around to face him.
"Our platform?" he offered with a waggle of his eyebrows and a crooked grin.
He bent down to kiss her and she stretched up to meet him halfway. He moved to pull away from her after a quick kiss, but she pulled him down to her and deepened it, his arms wrapping around her in response as he pressed himself against her.
Breaking the kiss she gazed at him for a moment and then her eyes roamed across the vast field with the Millennium Falcon resting in the distance. "Do you think someone owns this?"
"I'm sure somebody owns it."
Stepping away from him, she asked, "Do you think you could find out who?"
He smiled down at her, his thoughts easily following hers. "I think I could do that."
"I think I want to talk to my aunt."
He smiled down at her and then pulled her to him and kissed her again and then she rested her head against his chest and he wrapped his arms around her as if he might never let her go. Melting into him, she inhaled one long, deep breath and then shut her eyes. Feeling the weight of their unresolved issues lifting off of her shoulders, she thought of one last thing that she wanted to say. "Han?"
"Uh-huh?" he answered her and then gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head.
Keeping her head pressed against his chest, she opened her eyes and said, "I still don't know if I'll ever want to have children."
"No, let me say this." She pulled away from him and forced herself to look at him as she continued, "That wasn't an easy decision for me and honestly," she looked down and shaking her head she looked back up at him and said, "Honestly, I was relieved when you didn't fight me on it, because it's not easy for me to stand by it. But I have to. I just…feel like I have to. And that hasn't changed."
He shook his head and looking down he grabbed one of her hands and held it in between both of his own. Looking back up at her he said, "I'm sorry I said it."
He didn't deny his own feelings and they had never been more painfully clear to her than they were right at this moment. But it felt like those mountains in the distance; so massive, yet so far away.
Without a word, she stepped towards him once again and he accepted her into his arms. She rested her head against his chest once more and they stood on that beach, wrapped in a tight embrace as the gentle breeze swirled around them and the distant mountains turned purple from the setting Naboo sun. Closing her eyes, she heard a desperate whisper riding along on the wind that seemed to say, 'You're home. You're home. You're home.'