.


Epilogue

[two years + several months
after the Victory over Endor]


The Corellian sun was setting behind the mountains in the distance; its waning light was indolent and dusky, a captivating prism of burned ochre and amber-gold, and the remnants of the heady warmth of the day still lingered in the air like a fine silk cloak, settling over her skin with dry, cozy affection.

Leia tilted her head up towards that sinking sun and closed her eyes lightly, feeling her lashes brush against her own skin. She lifted a hand to push her hair back, gathering it in one hand loosely and shaking it down behind her shoulders – it was short again, layered, and naturally curling at the edges, and around her face.

She savored being back here – here, sequestered in these blessedly private mountains, where trees made up most of the wild terrain, where they were alone, and the air hummed not with traffic and Media screeching and conniving political arguments, but only with the musical hum of nocturnal insects and songbirds saying goodnight.

It wasn't the same place Han had brought her after the Battle of Endor. Though that resort had been exclusive, it was nothing like this, nothing like this place that Leia had spent months looking for, something hidden away; at first she'd sought only a trustworthy spot where she could spend her honeymoon, but the search had become something more in the end – and this chalet, this gorgeous structure nestled away from prying eyes, wasn't merely theirs for two fleeting weeks – Leia had purchased it.

She'd purchased it with Han in mind, because Corellia was where he'd been born, and where he'd cut his teeth and bared them and gnashed his way into adulthood and into the Academy; the place where he'd seen brutality and dangerous streets and learned the kind of homegrown honor that would provoke him to save a Wookiee from slavery and help a stranger from Tatooine and bring him into her path like a beacon in the midst of crushing darkness.

She purchased it for herself, for when she needed to escape somewhere and step back from the political fray and be tired or upset or bitter for a few days; a place to just be herself with Han.

She'd purchased it because she had fallen in love with this planet when he brought her here way back then – 'back then;' it wasn't so long ago, but things looked so starkly different than they had. When she'd stood on a similar balcony just after the end of the war, lost in a maelstrom of uncertainty, and she'd ached for Alderaan and home – as the fighting reached its dénouement and crystalized into burgeoning stability, she'd felt herself start to unravel.

Leia crossed her arms, brushing her fingers against her lips, then trailing her hand down her throat to the pendant at her neck, caressing it lightly. She had feared, deep down, even in spite of his confidence that he'd be there even when it was hard, and his sincere and spontaneous proposal, that it would all fall apart – and that it hadn't was – was –

It was something so singularly wonderful.

In the time since Han had whisked her away for their victory leave, the New Republic had codified an unprecedented constitution, which Leia herself had been integral in producing; hundreds of systems had pledged allegiance, Imperial influence had been rendered toothless, an Empire of ash doomed to historical infamy, and Leia felt a sense of belonging in the galaxy that she'd thought was lost when she was nineteen years old.

She turned, blinking in the fading light. The sleeve of her short, silk robe slipped down her shoulder and she left it there, taking a few steps off the balcony, back into the luxurious master bedroom. The lighting within was dim, brightening incrementally as the sun faded and the sensors picked up the change in time – and Leia leaned against the wall just inside the doorway, watching Han sleep.

The lights grew brighter still, and he shifted, first from his back to his side, and then over towards her side of the bed, his hand moving lazily over the sheets as he reached for her. His brow furrowed, and he rose up on an elbow groggily.

She smiled, and reached for the tie of her robe, loosening it, shrugging it off her shoulders to a pool at her feet. She pushed her hair back again, baring her shoulders, so when he opened his eyes and looked around, settling on her, she was a divine sight to behold, framed in muted sunlight, clad only in a matching lingerie confection of emerald green lace.

"Hey."

The word was simple and demure, and Leia followed it with a small smirk, leaning her head against her arm, looking at him through her lashes across the room.

Han stared at her, fixated. It didn't seem to matter that he'd been waking up next to Leia for – years, years? the plurality of the word was strange to behold – it was different now, permanent; she wasn't just Leia standing there looking at him like that, she was his wife.

Leia tossed her head at the balcony behind her.

"I was enjoying the view," she said softly.

Han nodded.

"So'm I," he agreed.

She gestured delicately, waving her fingers.

"The mountains are," she sighed quietly, reflectively. "They're breathtaking."

"What mountains?" Han quipped, feigning innocence, eyes on her. He grinned at her wolfishly. "C'mere."

Leia crossed the room swiftly, crawling up on the bed in one graceful movement – palms on the sheets, her hair falling in her face, followed by her knees, and he caught her by the wrist and pulled her tumbling over onto him with a breathless laugh.

He ran his hand through her hair, catching the back of her neck in his palm and leaning forward to kiss her. The pendant of her necklace hung down over his chest, a little cool to the touch, and Leia felt him draw his hand from her neck to touch it. She drew back to watch him, and stretched out over him, her body aligned with his, thin sheets haphazardly between them here and there.

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and lowered her lips to his jaw, his neck, his shoulder.

He pressed his palm, pendant in the middle of it, against her heart gently. He turned his head into her temple, breathing in and out slowly.

"Leia?" he ventured. "Have I done good?"

She lifted her head, tilting it curiously. She reached up to push his hair back, fingers curling into it loosely. She pursed her lips, silently questioning him.

"Last time we were here," he reminded her gruffly. "It upset you."

"You didn't upset me," she soothed. "I only missed home."

He kept on quickly, like he hadn't been finished.

"I said all I could do was give you a new home," he repeated, and the repetition of his question hung in the air – have I done good?

Had he been able to make life easier for Leia in any way, big or small? He felt like he'd done all he could, done his best, and she was so happy now. She'd been better these past few months than he'd ever seen her, and he'd never known her before the darkest times in her life.

Last time, she'd said – maybe you're all I need.

He couldn't possibly have known then that within the next year, he'd lead a rescue mission that resurrected all the demons she'd strangled with proverbial chains and locked into dungeons, or that he'd be weighed and measured by the imposing figure of her father when the only opinion he'd ever cared to cater to was Leia's. He'd been there while she fought with all of it – her complex issues with Bail's ghost, and then Bail himself, the legacy of Vader, and what it meant to share his power. Had everything he'd done been enough to make her feel like she wasn't homeless, and never would be?

"You did good," Leia said against his lips, closing her eyes.

She kissed him; she rested her elbow lightly on his shoulder, and held her head up with her palm, running her other hand over his chest.

"I did warn you how hard it would be," she murmured, arching a brow in a strange sort of apology.

Han shrugged.

"You think all that was hard?" he drawled. "Your old man?" he rolled his eyes dramatically. "Or what – that Vader hellscape?" he quoted himself sheepishly.

Leia bowed her head, biting her lip, laughing, her head on his shoulder. Han scoffed.

"That ain't hard, Princess – you know what's hard, is making the Kessel Run in – "

Leia laughed harder, sliding her hand over his mouth. He nipped at her fingers and she shifted away from him, only to have him turn to his side and trap her half under him, pulling her back.

"You don't wish any of it had gone differently?" Leia asked, her voice muffled in his arm. She threw her head back on the pillow and looked at him pointedly – surely he would have liked less tears, and less – prejudicial treatment from her family, from the galaxy –

Han shrugged.

"Hmm, yeah," he retorted, arching a brow. "One thing."

"One thing," Leia repeated softly. She cocked her head expectantly, waiting. He leaned forward to whisper in her ear, as if divulging a very deep, closely kept secret.

"I wish you hadn't landed us in a trash compactor," he told her, deadpan.

She blinked at him for a moment, and then narrowed her eyes primly.

"Will you get over it, Princess?" she fired back sarcastically.

"No," Han answered seriously, and ran his hand down her side to pinch at her ribcage gently, tickling her.

Leia shrieked and twisted away, escaping from the onslaught. He snatched her back, and she struggled playfully, kicking the sheets off, grasping for a pillow to smack him with, until in the carefree fray she was pulled against him, her back against his chest, his hand sliding under the hooks on the back of her bra, handling them thoughtfully without unhooking them just yet.

He bowed his head into the dip of her shoulder and kissed her there, trailing kisses back up to her ear.

"You want it honest, Leia?" he asked hoarsely. He nudged her shoulder protectively. "If I could change somethin', I'd make sure they'd never hurt you."

She closed her eyes for a moment, and reached behind her to stroke his jaw silently. Opening her eyes, she had a straight view out to the balcony, where the sun was all but gone, and only its unique, just-before-dark, violet glow was lingering. She took a deep breath.

"I don't think like that anymore," she said honestly.

She paused a moment, and then turned, curled up next to him, face to face, eyes on his. He furrowed his brow, lips turning down in a small uncertain frown, and she lifted her shoulders weightlessly, nodding in silent emphasis.

"I wish Alderaan had never been punished in my name. And," she paused, and licked her bottom lip, "I wish no one had ever laid a hand on me, and that Anakin Skywalker hadn't become Darth Vader." She looked up at him fiercely. "But," she said softly. "I don't spend any time – I don't waste any time – these days dwelling on what I can't change."

She reached up to push her hair back, breathing out lightly.

"It all happened to me, and it's all part of me. What matters now is how I am going to live my life," she stroked his jaw, "with you," she said. She tapped his shoulder.

She looked at him through her lashes, coquettish.

"So, Captain Solo – are you in?"

She asked the question with polish and finesse, the right amount of mirth and innocence, and utterly rhetorical, because she knew he was – they were both in, all in, headfirst and steadfast, indestructible and on the threshold of a world entirely theirs, and Leia knew, without question, exactly who she was going to be in it.


The end.


-Alexandra