Coruscant had changed. It had been years since Emperor Palpatine, and subsequently, Mon Mothma had inflicted terror on the galaxy.
Han Solo hadn't liked it then. He didn't like it much now. Never before had he seen such a diverse, thriving metropolis transform in such little time. With the scourge of oppression lifted, the people of Coruscant had decorated their planet like a child's toy on Life Day. It wasn't what he had expected or braced himself for - pleasantries were unanticipated in a place where everything had been so austere. Where exactly was he? The question echoed in his mind. Around him and as far as the eye could see, smiling faces greeted his glances.
However, the projection of security formed by the government didn't interest this particular individual, nor did the friendliness of the open atmosphere - rather, he was bound to a duty he himself had established. He had prepared himself for this mission, and no matter what he encountered, he knew how to stand proud - despite what had been stripped from him. He hadn't made a commitment to this world, or with the New Republic. Han Solo had abandoned this galaxy long ago, and had relegated it to his most distant memories. Even if this revolutionary flux swept through every inhabited world for light-years, everything Coruscant stood for was in his past. This venture wasn't going to alter his perspective, and he intended to never let it change the judgments he had previously formed. Coruscant may have donned a new exterior, but within it still bred of the rebellious days of scum and lies- where different species were forced to fight, steal, and kill together for their survival.
Overcoming the Imperial rule had been difficult, and many had given their lives to the cause. Decades later, nobody remembered the heroes, and surely no one spoke of the wretched villainy transposed by either side. Han had begun to wonder what had changed since those years of conflict; only those who had bore witness to the disaster could form a conclusion.
Nothing. Nothing was the answer.
Behind all this was an unstable benchmark of management, perched on the breaking point. These people - these citizens - were as unaware as they had been nearly thirty years ago.
Was Han Solo bitter at the state of the galaxy? Yes. Did he have cause to despise those he had never met? Yes, for he blamed their fanatical regulations on the shreds of life to which he still clung. They had reduced him to a rugged outsider, eliminated his contacts, and forced him back to a single Outer-Rim prison planet. The world was more of a holding cell, dedicated to containment, and never freedom - that justified his use of the word 'prison'. Surprisingly enough, he had learnt a lesson from his imprisonment there, and had even come to notice how that sector of the galaxy refused to accept rule handed down to them by mindless bureaucrats.
He had found himself in the company of those who had also been evicted from their former positions - many of whom had served during the time of Emperor Palpatine - and were required to expand into moisture farming. The one-time smuggler could even declare them his friends, as they were one of the few supports he permitted himself to lean on. It was unlike Han Solo to rely on anyone, except good old Chewie. He had never allowed himself that luxury.
But that was before a woman barged into his life, caught his gaze, and cornered his heart. Long ago, what now seems like forever and a day, he had fallen in love. Real love. Not holodrama melodramatic muck. In her eyes he had been her scruffy nerfhearder protector, who had rough edges and a smart-talking gist about him. She had tortured him with the instances of tender caresses and soft touches, the sweet taste of her skin against his lips, the stinging of burning kisses, and the feeling of live fire racing through veins. She was intoxicating, wonderful, but the polar opposite of his renegade nature. She was overbearing, burdened with the weight of life, at the mercy of her own dark past, and yet she was more than he could ever have asked for.
His bedtime story had been broken by the convenience of political union. How her acceptance of her fate had strangled his heart, and shattered a million cursed glass mirrors. Though he had pleaded with her to accept him as her husband - instead of the unworthy prince of Hapes - she had remained ignorant of his feelings. Tears had dribbled down his cheeks as he clutched her to his chest upon their farewell, promising that he would return to her. He had vowed to save her from unhappiness - the captivating princess of Alderaan deserved more than the worth of a thousand men.
If losing the woman he had valued more than his own life wasn't a nightmare, interrupting the ceremony with a blaster secured his fate. Hapes had demanded he be stripped of his rights and banished from their sight. The New Republic had complied, more from fear of the marriage being denounced, and treaty broken. His accomplice, Chewbacca, had also suffered the same punishment for his loyalty, and for that, Han could never forgive himself. The Wookiee had a wife and child back on his homeworld, and due to actions of a bold, fool-hearted human, he had never gotten the chance to see them again. Luke, meanwhile, had conceded to go ahead with the arrangement, sticking close to his twin sister, and at the same time, robbing Han of any respect he had harboured for the young Jedi.
The New Republic had showed no mercy in shoving the two "culprits" out of the way of the prying eyes of the media. Leia had married Isolder in a parade of confetti and smiles, placing the first kiss on each other's lips for the benefit of the audience. Han was sickened at the thought of his relationship with her being taken - claimed - by a man who hadn't earned a single credit in his life. Han had earned Leia's respect, and they had worked to form a liaison - one that was not easily destroyed.
Leia wouldn't respect Isolder as a husband. Han just knew it. He wanted her to yearn for him throughout the years of her false marriage, and realise what she had sacrificed for supposed bliss. The path of his life was a decisive current contained within a river, rippling at the will of the wind. The wind had betrayed him. He would never again leave his fate to a foreign body, even the wind whose touch of beauty spread far and wide.
Leia was that wind - soft and deadly.
Han had left her too long in the clutches of bigots, and he could only hope that with the passing of twenty years devoid of his presence, she would be the same obnoxious but strong Leia he had saved from the torture of Lord Vader and Tarkin. He wanted the woman he knew back.
He felt his way along the wall surrounding the spacious New Republic compound, the course stone scraping his palms. He restrained a grimace, pressing his body against the barricade and peering around the next corner. He kept the noise of his movements to a minium, avoiding discovery by the ground staff. Being persecuted for escaping a prison planet was one thing, but getting arrested for a straightforward bypass of security? He was a man, not a Threepio!
His heart pumped in his chest, his eyes coming to rest on a small security droid scanning the grass and shining a bright circular light against the walls. The droid started to hover in Han's direction, immediately forcing Solo to duck his head back round the corner, to glue himself to the jagged surface, and hold his breath. A few moments later the droid floated harmlessly past, allowing Han to creep around the corner, avoid more ground security, and slip over a low point in the wall's structure.
Leaping into the brush, Han settled underneath the protection of two large plants, which adequately sheltered his body from occasional passing security patrols. He was now inside one of the main gardens of the Imperial Palace, adjoined to the suite where the Hapan monarchy was currently staying. Leia - his beautiful Leia - was now Queen Mother of the Hapes Cluster, wielding the immense power of sixty-three worlds within the technological consortium. Isolder, her husband, was content to sit on the sidelines, though Han assumed he was in truth under the command of his mother, Ta'a Chume. And finally, with both her parents came the only child - a daughter - Trali'a.
Leia had given the Hapes Cluster an heir to the throne, as was part of her duty. Han had been shaken by words of Leia's pregnancy fifteen years ago, and would have almost disbelieved the news if he hadn't encountered pictures of the tiny Hapan Princess. Thoughts of Leia in a happy, consummated marriage flashed through his mind, tickling his nerves and his twisting stomach muscles into a rigid knot. How could she betray him like this? He had always stayed true to her, no matter what.
Chewie had also surrendered himself to this mission, the last of which the two companions would ever partake in together. The age-old tradition of the Wookiee life-debt had lasted until Chewbacca's death, and even in that instance, his actions gleamed of loyalty and friendship. To allow Han passage on a ship to Coruscant, Chewie had died.
Han sighed and bowed his head in respect to his best friend's memory. He didn't know why exactly he was here - other than to keep a promise - and what this visit would accomplish. If anything, Han was determined to walk away with something for Chewie's bravery. The old courageous Wookie deserved that, at least.
The mission was more of a mandate to himself. Not a day had passed when he didn't think of Leia, or promise he would return to fix the unfinished. He was here to say what had been unspoken, and to perhaps become a part of her life again.
Han was so deeply involved in his own musings, that he almost missed the entrance of another being into the main garden. He gasped a sharp intake of breath, but continued to keep his head low, watching the visitor and permitting a small smile to escape ever so gently. This person certainly wasn't a patrol guard - far from that. Leia was the only one who could excite the warmest feelings in the rogue Solo. He knew it to be her; he could feel it inside him.
Leia would always be part of him. There was no excusing the manner in which she had breezed through his life, finding the words to break through his barriers like no one ever could. It didn't matter that she was the Hapan Queen Mother; position had never affected her before.
Han squinted in the darkness, trying to gain a clear view of her aged features. They had both grown older in the twenty years since separation, but Han expected her beauty to still remain.
Han breathed sharply as Leia stepped into the pale blue moonlight - coated in chalk by the blazing moon in the background. His eyes shot wide open. Leia was wearing a pure white low-cut dress, which pooled at her feet depending on her movements. Attached to her neck, a fragile silver chain dangled across her collarbone, and trickled down in her cleavage. Her liquid chocolate hair was swept up off her back, and twisted into a swirl centred on top her head. She wore no shoes, bearing her ankles, feet, and toes for the flora to eye in envy. Leia Organa showed only three-quarters of her age, and if it wasn't for the slight bulge of her figure, and the wrinkles creasing her taunt facial skin, Han wouldn't have noticed.
Still, Leia was perfect.
With his surprise, came clumsiness, and his right bent knee was squashed against the ground, snagging a twig and snapping it in half. He froze.
Leia's head darted around, warning signals buzzing across her body. "Who's there?" she demanded loudly, in a formal tone. "I know you're there. You might as well come out before I call security!"
Before, Han had hesitated to interfere in her life again, but now destiny had granted him no choice. Rising up slowly from the bushes, he put his hands up indicating his intent.
Leia frowned into the night, encircling him. "Who are you? Identify yourself."
Han took a few more steps, folding himself into the moonlight that had once cast Leia so beautifully. He was certain she could plainly see his face now.
"I repeat, identify yourself," she said, standing taller. She didn't seem intimidated by his close proximity, and neither did she seem frightened. Han couldn't help but let free a lop-sided grin.
"It's me, sweetheart," he said, winking.
Leia's face only showed puzzlement, and if she was experiencing any other emotion, he couldn't identify it. Perhaps Han had changed so much appearance-wise that she wasn't able to recognize him at first glance. With the years passing like the falling rains of Kamino, Han hadn't bothered with shaving, and eventually decided he liked the feel of stubble staining his jaw and chin. His hair had become matted and worse for wear - so much so that one wouldn't be able to tell its true colour. However, Han's athletic form would continue to linger throughout his life and probably to his grave.
Although, there was always the thought that Leia had forgotten about him completely.
Eyeing him up and down warily, she parted her lips to gasp. "H-Han??" She coughed, hugging her midsection. "Han Solo?" She corrected herself in a somewhat monotone pitch that distinctly made Han feel uncomfortable.
"Leia," he whispered, stupefaction swimming in his eyes.
She shook her head to one side, lips still parted as if the sight of him hadn't sunk in. "It's been so long-"
"-twenty years-" he added.
"I never thought I'd see you again?" Leia trailed off.
Smiling, he moved closer to her. His dirty hand appeared from the pocket of his slacks, and lifted to trail across Leia's bound strands of hair. "I always keep my promises, Princess."
His thumb stroked her cheek, tender as his love had always been.
"This is like a dream," she murmured, staring up into his eyes.
Han bent further down, tracing his thumb and forefinger across the slight wrinkles in her skin. He memorized them in his mind, just as he had memorized her facial features two decades ago. He knew the ideal spot to kiss her for pleasure, and then another place that he could simply nibble on. Leia was his sweet paradise - except she wasn't his, was she?
"In dreams, Princess," he replied, huskily, "you greet me with a hug."
"Oh, Han?" Leia looked unsure, her eyes darting round to glimpse at the surrounding area. "If we're caught, I will become the laughing stock of the Hapan royal family."
Han scrunched his face up, making an expression of disgust. "Politics, Leia. How could one more scandal matter?"
Leia seemed to weigh this, her eyes distant. Sucking in a deep breath, she smiled, whisking her hand up his chest to clasp his burly shoulder. With her eyes closed, she pulled Han to her, and their bodies slotted together like two pieces of a puzzle reunited. These pieces were meant to function as one, and if divided, the portrait imprinted against the blocks would disintegrate. They had disintegrated once before, but fought for alliance.
Leia pushed Han into the side of her neck, clutching at the man who had once been such a vital part of her life. In the days of the Rebel Alliance, Leia had grown to accept his tongue-in-cheek attitude, and in turn, he bit back comments about her aristocratic upbringing.
"I've been away from you too long, Leia," Han said into her neck.
Leia's head bobbed up and down. "I know, Han. I know."
Dipping his cheek near the sensitive area of her neck, he felt content once more. It had been a long time since he had felt like this, and to experience it again was mesmerising. Fantasies couldn't surpass the reality of the situation.
"Tell me, is he good to you?"
Leia rubbed her hair across his own, overlooking the dirt that caked his follicles. She was humming something to herself - a quiet tune.
It took her a few moments to finish her melody. "It isn't a case of treating me well, Han. In Hapan society, the woman holds a superior position to the male, which is why there is a Queen Mother. In public, he thinks on his own, but remains reserved in the presence of the media - I see the value in his opinions and experience. In private, he's a very kind man, and we treat each other as equals."
At this response, Han withdrew, his fingers dancing to her shoulders where he could feel her skin beneath her thin garment.
"You respect him? and love him," Han admonished, emphasising words with a momentary pause.
Leia's brow creased, and her hand crept up to scuffle his front locks of hair. Frolicking with the strands, she reshaped it into the style he used to wear.
Han knew she ached for the times of old, and the period where she was satisfied with the life she had crafted. But ever since things had changed, her control over destiny was weakening.
Upon seeing her, he knew he had missed the inspiration for his strength. And Leia had missed her other half.
"Love is a strong word, Han," she corrected, adding the finishing touches to his hair. "It shouldn't be used loosely."
Han's jaw straightened, and he moved away from her. His feet lead him to a small patch of rare flower species, where his thoughts, and the questions he wished to ask her, engulfed him. Everything was running so fast - he hadn't predicted that. When he had first conceived of this reunion, he had not accounted for the mood of the meeting. Leia was always one to lead the conversational arc, and he'd just follow along, injecting remarks of sarcasm. Had she become docile in the years passed?
From behind, he sensed her move to pursue him. An instant later, her petite hand was resting on his shoulder, and she was peeking around to tentatively smile at him.
"It has been so long. I sense you have changed, and are not the man I knew and adored," she said. "What have you been doing for the last few years?"
Han shrugged her hand off, brushing his worn grubby clothes. "They locked me up, Leia. I've been living on this Outer-Rim world for twenty years - contained there and unable to leave. Chewie, he was also punished for our unwelcome interruption of your wedding ceremony." Han stopped to let out a frustrated sigh. "How would you feel if you couldn't leave your prison for two decades? Fortunately, when compared to the rest of the galaxy, it still has a speck of decency left."
Leia's hand tightened on his already strained shoulder. Her body edged closer to his, her free hand roaming to slide around his waist.
"I wasn't aware of that. They told me you and Chewie had been assigned to do some recovery work in the aftermath of the Empire's destruction, and whenever I asked to speak with you, you were on another away mission. I admit, I questioned their answers, but I was still getting over the shock of sixty-three planets containing millions of people, trusting their Queen Mother to perform her duties." Leia's tone was rather hazy, almost as if she was piecing together mysteries in her mind.
Neither said anything for a few moments, both adapting to the idea of being around one another again. When Leia spoke again, it was with cheer and vibrancy.
"Where is Chewie, Han? Surely he knew I would want to see him! Don't tell me you've being giving that furry fuzzball the wrong ideas about me," she joked, chuckling at her own expense, eyes dancing. "Just because it's been-"
"Leia. Stop," Han demanded. "How do you think I got away from the authorities?"
Leia pressed her head into his shoulder blade, and Han felt his shirt become wet.
"He's dead, isn't he, Han? He's dead because you wanted to fulfil this silly promise to me?"
Pushing back his own emotional onslaught, he amended, "Princess, it's far from silly."
Pivoting around, Han opened his arms and moved to hug her, allowing the tears she shed to soak his tunic. Leia didn't make a noise, but just as clearly as if he were crying, he felt the pull of his own heart in memory of a true friend. Chewbacca had been unique, and Han doubted he would meet another being as forgiving, protective, friendly, and compassionate. Han Solo couldn't have asked for a better partner and friend.
The idea of death belittled Han, and he could not forgive himself for how he had infected Chewie's life with problem after problem. Imagine - he had been the one to murder his partner, and at the same time, wish him back. Death overtook a person so suddenly that once they were gone, the only residual left was emptiness. Han regretted a lot of things, but none more so than sending a companion into a savage battle with the knowledge that it would most likely kill them. Therefore, indirectly, Han had become Chewbacca's murderer. He shuddered to think about it, but the facts of reality rarely went away, and could never truly be buried forever.
In a fraction of her normal voice, Leia squeaked out a response. "Same thing happened to Luke a little more than ten years ago. I mean, he was killed, but not by traditional means." Leia's voice was furthermore reduced, barricaded by the material of Han's tunic. "Before the Emperor died, he sent an assassin to kill Luke. They called her the Emperor's Hand. Her name was Mara Jade. She managed to gain Luke's trust, and once she had sucked him dry of everything he treasured, she murdered him in cold blood."
"I'm sorry, Leia. Luke was?one of a kind. After all the kid had done for the galaxy, he didn't deserve to be killed that way. I don't know what I can say?but his memory will remain with us."
She nodded, sniffling back her tears and gathering her forgotten composure. When she had managed to see without tears clouding her eyes, her gaze met Han's. An electronic pulse ran through them, sparking buried memories and resurfacing the dormant.
"Leia, you haven't changed one bit. You look gorgeous - you will always be," Han said, leaking his emotions into a controlled train of thought.
"You know, I regret some of the things I've done, including letting you get away from me," she admitted, brown eyes glistening. "But from my marriage, I have received the greatest gift I could ever receive - a daughter."
Han winced, finding himself unable to bear the concept of Leia being with another man - intimately. He was jealous at the thought of it. It infuriated him to no ends, partly because he had never had the chance to branch their relationship in that direction.
Leia must have noticed a scowl appearing on his face, and immediately went about explaining at a million words a minute. "Han, it isn't what you're thinking. I? we never? we? it didn't feel right to our hearts."
Touching his face, a warm smile came to her lips.
"Trali'a is a creation of medical technology?"
Han let out a deep breath, trying to calm his quickened heart rate. How could he have ever thought Leia would betray him? He should have known she wouldn't have the heart to forget him.
"Sweetheart, I came here half-expecting to find a different person in place of the woman I love. But after all these years, you're still the same. Stubborn as ever. It seems like just yesterday I took you aside on the Falcon and kissed you," he said, voice shaking. "I'm still drawn by you. Still attracted. I could never forget?"
Leia nodded thoughtfully. "But our hearts deceive us so. Don't be fooled."
Her eyes became misty, and she moved to gently caress a nearby flower. Nature responded by blowing the exquisite creation into her hand. The yellow petals quivered - a touch of feathery soft material - all connected at the centre with a hive of faint brown. The large stem grew from the ground, deep blue meeting fluorescent yellow, and both looked at peace with one another.
"Becoming the Hapan Queen Mother has made me realise something. In a world filled with technology, it's easy to forget the simple things. And when we forget those, we also let opportunities slip past us." She let the flower sway away from her. "Sometimes life doesn't provide us with those options again. I've ignored the gifts fate gave me beyond recognition. Fate - what a blind, cruel presence it makes. And destiny, such which designs our life for us." She tossed her head around, capturing his attention on her face. "Doesn't it feel like we're not supposed to be doing all this? This timeline feels as though it shouldn't have happened. Why? Because I blindly missed a transport. Destiny has failed, but perhaps fate has already cast its ballot."
"Leia," Han encouraged, speaking softly. "None of this lost time was your fault. You made a bad decision - we all do."
"Luke and Chewie paid for that bad decision with their lives. It was only one decision, and it royally twisted our future. Bad decisions, good decisions, I don't care anymore. To me it's just another judgement, and another meddling failure to walk away from."
Han stayed quiet during her words, gazing at her with only love and admiration in his eyes.
"Look at what I did to my friends, Han! You and Chewie were locked up. Chewie was shot down in your escape. Luke was killed by his own lightsaber. Even Artoo and Threepio were scrapped without me knowing so." She threw her hands up in a menacing action. "I'm supposed to be the Queen Mother! I'm supposed to know these things."
"Shh, shh, quiet Leia," Han soothed, reaching for the warmth of her body. "You're getting yourself worked up over things that can't be corrected."
Leia trembled, her breath shuddering into her lungs. The former princess of Alderaan and the current Queen Mother of the Hapes Cluster was frightened, but she knew she was in the safest arms she could be - her lover, ace pilot, and hero of the Rebellion.
"Han, I've missed you so much. Every day I've thought of you, wondering if you hate me for what I've done. Do you hate me for being me? I want you to hate me, like others before you have done. I know Luke despised me - he must have done."
Han shook his head, stroking her hair. "I could never hate you, Leia. Not even if the whole New Republic commanded me to. You hear me? Never, Leia. If I did, I wouldn't be me anymore."
"I know that now," she whispered, sounding adamant. "Through the Force, I can sense your torrent of emotions sheathing me. I could almost sense your presence even before you revealed yourself - I should have known it was you."
"Then you can sense my love, sweetheart." This time Han didn't use her nickname sarcastically. This was coming purely from the heart.
"There is nothing that I can say to make up for lost time. I wish I had the words to convey what I'm feeling right now." She snuggled her body into him, her hands trailing along his muscles. "I feel whole."
"Don't go back to him," Han instructed, darkly. "They don't need you. You have provided them with an heir. If you go back, they will never allow you to leave. I know what prison is like. You don't want to go there. I?I don't want you there."
Leia sighed, almost as if she had the weight of the Galaxy on her shoulders. "They need the Queen Mother they've known for decades. I can't condemn my daughter to the throne before she has had a chance to experience life. I don't want her to make the same mistakes I did."
Winding their way up to his face, her hands clutched both sides of his neck in a heated grasp. "My daughter needs my guidance, Han. I can't abandon her. Not even for you."
He recoiled, eyes banishing under his eyelids. Han felt like a disgrace to himself, and moreover, a fool. He was just an instrument for the galaxy to wield, to be tossed around in every direction never knowing his home. He had thought Leia would be his home - his wife - but she had a duty to fulfil.
"My debt is repaid, and my promise is fulfilled. I promised I would come back to you, and I won't break that promise by not accepting your judgement. There is nothing more for me here."
Leia looked shocked. "Where will you go?"
He had to smile in spite of himself. "Wherever the wind takes me, Princess! Wherever it calls."
She looked saddened, the wrinkles almost ruining her perfect face. Han knew Leia was drawn by the great tug of obligation, and like she had done so many times before, she had to accept his reckless decision. Somehow, some way, he always got himself in the thick of it, and managed to climb out.
"Trali'a will be worried and start looking for me soon. I better get back. Do you need anything? Credits, clothes, a place to stay, a ship? I have connections." She frowned, an uneasy shadow covering her face. Han wouldn't respond or accept charity. "It feels as though I'll never see you again."
"I won't ask you to make a decision you've already made in your heart, Leia," he answered, looking down at her, envisioning an innocent smile plastered across her face. "Some would say that if I cared for you enough, I'd be willing to let you go."
"Ah, but I have to be willing to let you go, too," she reminded.
"I love you, Leia," Han exclaimed. The great twister inside his soul burst and exploded with joy, encompassing his body in the radiance of his announcement.
Grinning, Leia responded, "I know."
He didn't know how to end it for possibly the last time. Han had come to do what he needed for closure, and only found it harder to do so. Leia was so invigorating to be around. She trapped all men in her web, like helpless creatures that were hers to mould. He had forever been stuck on the threads of her ambush, waiting for her to accept her claim.
"I need to get back, Han," she said. "But before I go and we walk out of each other's lives, I'll leave you with two last gifts."
She eagerly retreated from her stance before him, and hurried along a small path erected halfway across the other side of the main garden. She disappeared a few seconds later, coming right back with a small flower, petals ignited by the moonlight.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" she asked, captivated by its round pools of shining yellow silke?n and petals rimmed with a striking sprinkle of lilac.
"Yes," Han breathed. "Like you. Mysterious, delicate, and unique."
Lifting the flower, she placed it delicately in his hand. He was careful not to squash the gift with his brute strength. It was likely that it would die in a few days, and the stunning petals would welter - such a shame for such an exotic creation. This gift Leia had given them represented not only beauty, but also their love.
May it welter, but never truly die inside.
"It reminds me of the shine of the Alderaan sun on a hot day," came her awed voice. "Han, if we were in any other situation, I wouldn't allow you to go. I'd yell, I'd scream, and beg. Why would you leave me? Why would you break us? I need you, and I need us. But I know I can't say any of this. I may ache for you, though I can't succumb. I must deny it."
"We're living a life of denial. Constant denial. Remember when you first fell in love with me, Leia? It was so unexpected. One morning I woke up surrounded by the misery and death of those military bases, and every day for years I did the same thing, but it never mattered. I knew you loved me, and you knew I would always stay by your side. It was the right thing to do - the only thing to do. We had to fall in love sometime. Now the universe is asking us to hide our feelings in shame. Shame for what? For being ourselves?" His breathing was erratic, and annoyance palpable. "I don't think I can. And I don't think I want to." With those words, spoke in desperation, the atmosphere of the garden changed, and time seemed to slow.
"Han?we must. Please, understand." Her eyes held the galaxy and his heart, despite the consequences. He had fallen for her on the first Death Star that day. He couldn't deny that. Nevertheless, he had to lock away his feelings and throw away the key. He could only keep telling himself that this was all for Leia, all for the woman he loved.
"You mentioned a second gift?" Han inquired forlornly, giving her another small, sloppy lop-sided grin that he barely managed to muster.
Drawing herself up on her toes, her mouth fled to his ear, the barest touch of her lips running a heat wave through him. He could feel her mouth move, and it drove a stake into the land of ecstasy.
"Remember this, nerfherder," she murmured, harmoniously. "Memorize this."
He wasn't given a chance to respond when Leia's head glided to press her lips against his. Han felt his body melt at her touch, his hands wavering to clutch the back of her head and lower back. Leia's mouth stirred in ambience with the rhythm she had created within him. She was magical, her berry flavour meeting in a gentle, smouldering detonation.
He had given up his destiny forever to touch her, to breathe her, and love her. Everything had been broken in his life, except the bud of his flower. She outshone the rest of the garden, and was the closest illustration of perfection he had ever seen. Her soul was flawless, untainted by what had torn at a galaxy demolished by evil. Nobody would touch his sacrifice, or understand her - his perennial flower - like he did. All he could ever taste was this moment, and the passion that had driven him to her core. Life was so insignificant compared to the power of love - a memory hissed by fog. It didn't matter that he had sold his life to the Dark Side for the touch of the purest light imaginable. The Galaxy wouldn't understand what kept Leia Organa, but Han would.
He was the second piece of the puzzle. He was the block she owned.
Her lips locked with his for the last time, her head bending to deepen the gift. Han's eyes stayed closed the whole time, hanging on the command of a woman. Skilfully grinding her lips against his, she enflamed his senses, and all too soon the kiss ended. When she drew away from him, his lips were dry and swollen. A moment later an onrush of air skimmed across them, creating a tingling feeling. His form shivered, both at the loss of her warmth and the breeze. In all these years, she hadn't lost her element to stun him.
"Goodbye, Han," she said, walking away. Her footsteps were the only sound in the complex, and almost deafening to his ears. Ultimately those were the steps that would draw the divide, and finish the story. Though, their story would never have a happy ending, and no matter what Han did, he doubted his love for her would ever change the universe he was now exposed to. It had never mattered how strongly he felt for her, they could not be joined, or acknowledged as more than once friends. The name, Solo, had been respected, and now lay in disgrace - devoid of honour. An Organa needed honour.
His eyelids remained closed for seconds, until he was absolutely sure that Leia had vanished from his line of sight. He knew this was really goodbye - no unfinished promises, no fragments of passion, no secret meeting, and no new missions. The personality of the old Leia he knew had evaporated the moment she had kissed him, replaced now by the determination of a Princess and a Queen Mother.
His last link to his past was severed. He wasn't a general of any Rebellion, or the husband of a Leia Organa Solo. This was the birth of his new life, and he only had a moonlight blue flower to show for it.
But this time, he intended to live his life.
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