In the continuity of my stories this one takes place after "Storm."
The apartment Han and Leia were renting while waiting for Leia's newly commissioned ship to be finished was enormous, and the walk from his office to the kitchen was a welcome stretch for his legs. Leia was sitting on the arm of one of the living room couches with Chewie sitting in front of her when Han walked by. She was combing out Chewie's hair. Han barely gave them a glance. He rummaged through the kitchen for a while looking for something to eat. He finally settled on a sandwich and began stacking meat and cheese and various pickles and vegetables on a baguette he'd cut lengthwise. He wandered back through the living room on his way back to his office. Leia was now sitting on the arm of the sofa with her back to Chewie who was combing out her hair. Luke was coming into the living room as Han was going out.
Luke stopped and said, "Is it just me or is their hair thing kind of weird?"
Han glanced back over his shoulder and watched as Chewie combed through Leia's long locks. "At first I didn't know whether I should be jealous or freaked out or what."
"Fuck it, it's their thing." Han walked back toward his office and could hear Luke muttering "Freakish," behind him.
A little while later, Leia walked into his office. "How's it going?"
Han looked up from his computer screen. "Well, I just got a message from Wedge. The outer skin is complete. I'm going in the morning for an inspection."
Leia nodded. "That's great. Isn't that ahead of schedule?"
"We're about six days ahead of schedule. The Mon Calamari can really put a crew together. How about you? You taking the day off?"
"Sort of, I was up late last night talking to an accounting team. Then this morning I got an angry message from General Nadine about raiding Rogue Squadron."
"He accused me of taking his best pilots."
"How is it your fault his pilots are leaving?"
"That's what I said. I told him, I advertised for pilots; they applied; you hired them. Last I checked we were living in a free galaxy again where people could change jobs."
"Good for you! What did he say?"
"Something nasty about me abusing former ties. Anyway after dealing with that all morning I decided I would take a break."
"Hence your hair date with Chewie."
Leia laughed. "Yes. Jealous?"
"Yes. You never do my hair."
"You hardly have any hair. Besides, my hair bond with Chewie goes way back, don't try to stand in our way."
"Oh, I wouldn't do that." Han said holding up his hands in mock defeat.
Leia laughed again and sat down in one of the heavy leather chairs in front of his desk. "Actually, I didn't come in here to discuss grooming tips."
Han raised his eyebrows. "Okay."
"I want to give you a title."
"A title. I want to give you one."
"Because, people seem to be having trouble with what to call you."
"All people, people who interact with us. The press, our employees, people."
"I see," he steepled his fingers.
"It's just you're not really a general anymore, so General Solo doesn't really apply, and former General Solo doesn't sound good and Mr. Solo sounds, I don't know, weak somehow. I suppose they could say Captain Solo, but that's only of the Falcon, which you hardly fly anymore and you're so much more than the captain of the new ship…"
Han just looked at her.
"I want to make you a baron."
"You want to make me a baron."
"Well to start with, I don't even know what a baron is, but more than that I don't want you giving me some made up title in hopes that it will stop the tabloids from referring to me as Princess Leia's lover."
Leia blushed. She cleared her throat. "Baron is not a made up title. A baron is titled due to exemplary military or other honorable service to a royal personage."
"Last time I checked I wasn't a general in service to you. I served the Alliance. So what would my honorable service to you be, sex?"
Leia stood up. "Fine, I can see this was a mistake. Just forget it."
She walked out the door and he watched it slide shut behind her. He ran a hand through his hair and threw a stylus at the door. "Damn it." He sat there a few minutes fuming then got up and went after her.
"Leia," he said walking into her office. She had her elbows on her desk with her face in her hands.
"Hey, you okay?" he said, switching gears. She looked more upset than their argument warranted.
"Jan Dodonna has asked for an audience with me tomorrow," she said without looking up.
"He actually asked for 'an audience?'"
She glared up at him. "Yes, whether you like it or not, I'm a princess. People don't ask to meet with me, they ask for an audience. Okay? Is that okay with you?"
"What do you mean 'whether I like it or not?'"
"You're right, I should have said 'even though you don't like it.'"
"Leia, I don't care that you're a princess."
"Exactly, you don't care."
"Why is that bad? I thought you liked that I don't stand on all that ceremony crap."
Leia let out an exasperated sigh. "Inside the confines of our relationship, yes, I like it that you don't put me on some pedestal."
"But you want me to start bowing and scraping in public now, is that it?"
"No, I just wish you weren't so disdainful of the people who do."
"What are you talking about? I'm no more disdainful than you are."
"Then I've been wrong too. I can't deny who I am, who I was raised to be."
"Since when are you denying it? Isn't that what building this ship is all about? Isn't that what testifying before the High Court was all about?"
Leia dropped her head back into her hands and began to massage her scalp with her fingertips. "I don't know what to do. I thought I could somehow carve out some special place for myself where I could somehow be a princess without having to be a princess."
"I don't understand."
"I don't know how to say it so it makes sense. I just…I would drop the HRH except that it would be a smack in the face of the Alderaanians who are still alive. On the other hand, I don't have a palace or even a planet, but I have all this money and responsibility and I don't want any of it, but I have it. Then there's you and you're doing a terrific job with getting the ship built, but—"
"—But I'm not royalty and I haven't been very patient with that aspect of your life." Han finished for her.
"No, you haven't." She sighed. "I know it seems stupid to you because Correllia doesn't have a royal family and you don't have any experience with that, but regardless of how you may feel, hell, regardless of how I may feel, this is who I am and it comes with obligations and inconveniences."
"Inconveniences like how awkward it is that I don't have a title?"
Leia looked down at her desk. "Among other things."
"Then make me a baron."
"Make me a baron. Are you going to give Jan his audience?"
"I have to. There is so little of my past left, I can't afford to throw any of it away without at least trying to save it."
Han nodded. "Fair enough. But if talking to him sends you into another tailspin and I come home tomorrow to the same mess I found last time, then I will be tearing him limb from limb. Got that?"
Leia didn't look at him.
"Good." He got up to leave. "Then I'll see you at dinner. I have some calls to make and I'm supposed to be getting interior schematics today."
"Oh, and tonight we should talk about what we want in the way of living quarters on the ship."
He turned toward the door, rethought and turned back around. He surprised her by stepping behind her desk and giving her a quick kiss on the top of the head. Then he left.
They spent the evening relaxing on the couch, curled up together and looking at various designs they could choose for their quarters on the ship. They settled on something large and open with a nice flow to the rooms. Han felt relaxed and content as they settled into bed. He hoped Dodonna wouldn't ruin all that tomorrow.
He left the next morning with Luke to go to the shipyards. It was a twenty-minute flight so it gave him and Luke a chance to talk that they didn't normally get.
"So what's up with you guys? I feel like I haven't seen you in ages." Luke said.
"Well, you haven't been around much. How goes the search for the Jedi Temple?"
"It goes. I at least think I've isolated the general quadrant it's supposed to be in."
"Well, that's something." Han said trying to sound positive.
"Sure it is. It's just not much. So really what's up with you guys?"
"Same old same old. Leia's been working on getting the Alderaanian Corporation up and running. That seems to be going well. I'm working on getting the ship done and staffed. That's going really well. We've got most of the old Rogue Squadron guys on with us now."
"Yeah, except General Nadine is giving Leia a ration of shit about it."
"Does that upset her?"
Han laughed. "Not really."
Luke laughed. "That's Leia for you."
yeah, and she wants to make me a baron."
"She says people don't know what to call me and that this will make it easier."
"Mostly her I think."
"Do you want to be Baron Solo?"
"Not particularly, but if it makes her happy, I really don't mind."
"I don't understand why you don't just marry her. That would resolve this whole issue about the status of your relationship and what people should call you. That's what this is really about you know."
Han snorted. "You're funny."
"Luke, be serious, she's not going to marry me."
"What are you talking about? Leia loves you."
"I know that. But love doesn't have anything to do with it, not where she's concerned."
"Luke, she's royalty. They aren't like you and me. Love and marriage aren't really equated when you're royalty. Love is love and marriage is a merger between great houses"
"Come on. Leia's not like that."
"Not like what? A princess? She most certainly is."
"I know she's a princess. But she's not a snob like that. She loves you. It radiates off her. I can feel how much she loves you."
"Well that's kind of disturbing, but it doesn't matter. She wouldn't marry me."
"Then why is she with you?"
"Because she loves me."
Han sighed. "Luke, don't you ever watch the gossip shows? Royalty have affairs of the heart. They just don't marry their affairs, unless it's in their political best interest to do so. Almost nothing about me is in Leia's political best interest."
"Leia isn't a politician anymore. She turned that life down. Remember?"
"Leia will always be a politician. Just because she doesn't hold an elected office doesn't mean she isn't very powerful. Now that she controls all of those Alderaanian holdings she's a force unto herself. She doesn't need to be elected to a position anymore. She was born into the power she has now."
"So you're telling me that if the right offer came along that would help her politically she'd dump you? I don't believe that."
"I don't believe that either. But she still won't marry me."
"I think you're wrong."
"Fine, there's only one way to solve this. Why don't you go ask her?"
Luke nodded at him. "Fine. I will. You'll see. You're wrong."
"I hope I am."
Across town at the apartment they were all sharing, Threepio was showing Jan Dodonna into Leia's office.
She was nervous waiting for him. She hated being nervous, but she really wanted today's meeting to go well.
"Mistress Leia, Jan Dodonna to see you." She was surprised Threepio hadn't said General Dodonna. She'd have to speak to him about using titles correctly.
him in Threepio."
Jan Dodonna walked through the door. Uncharacteristically he wasn't wearing a uniform. Instead he was dressed in black pants and a blue shirt. Leia noticed his black boots still had a high military polish to them.
He gave a short bow. "Your Majesty."
"Jan." She smiled. "It's good to see you. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I have come to apologize, Your Majesty."
"When I left your retinue, I did it for prideful and foolish reasons. I thought that you had somehow betrayed me by changing. I was wrong Your Highness. I was wrong to judge you, but more than that I was wrong to leave you."
"Please, Your Highness, let me finish. I don't know if you saw me, but I was at your trial. I have never been so ashamed of myself as I was that day. You were so brave. You are a true credit to your people, a true leader. I have been a fool." He dropped to his knees in front of her and bowed his head.
"Jan, get up please. Have a seat."
He did as he was asked and Leia moved behind her desk and sat down, happy for the distance and large furniture between them.
She cleared her throat. "I don't know what you want me to say."
"Say that I am forgiven. Say that I can come back into your service."
"You are most definitely forgiven, Jan. As for coming back into my service…"
"Are you not commissioning a ship?"
"Yes, but I've left staffing up to Han."
Jan dropped his head and seemed to study his clasped hands. "I see."
"Are you sure you want to leave the Alliance?"
"I have already left the Alliance, Your Majesty. I tendered my resignation the day of your trial. I'm ashamed to say it has taken all this time to work up the courage to ask for your forgiveness."
"Don't be ashamed. I'm very glad to see you. I can speak to Han."
"No, Your Highness, thank you, but no. I will speak to Solo. I owe him an apology as well. I only hope he will be as gracious and forgiving as you have been."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Your Majesty."
"Well, speak to Threepio then, he keeps Han's calendar and can make an appointment for you."
"Excellent. Then if you will excuse me."
He stood to leave.
"Jan," Leia said.
"Yes, Your Highness."
"It really is very good to see you."
"Thank you Your Highness, it is very good to see you too."
She smiled at him and then he left. Well, at least Han won't tear him limb from limb, she thought.
Later that evening when Luke and Han returned from the shipyards Threepio informed Han of his impending appointment with Jan Dodonna.
"Great. Any other surprises for me?" Han asked.
While Threepio went over all of Han's messages, Luke went to find Leia. She was in her office.
"Hi there," he said sticking his head in the doorway, "May I come in?"
Leia set down a data pad she had been reading. "Of course."
Luke came in palming the door closed behind him. He sat in the big comfy chair in front of her desk and crossed his legs.
"How did things go at the shipyard?"
"Terrific. Everything looks great," Luke said, "but that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Okay, what's on your mind?"
"Well, Han and I had a little disagreement this morning."
Leia raised her eyebrows. It was unusual for Luke and Han to argue. "About what?"
"Me? What's there to argue about me?"
"Han told me about you wanting to make him a baron."
"I said I thought it would be simpler if you two just got married."
Leia laughed. "What did Han say to that?"
"He did what you just did, he laughed."
Leia nodded. "Understandable."
"Well, I don't understand it."
"He says you won't marry him because marriage is more like mergers and acquisitions with royalty and not so much about love."
"Well, I do love him Luke."
"I know that. He says he knows that too, but that it's not about love. I told him he was wrong. That you weren't like that."
Leia sighed. "Luke, he's right."
"What? How can you say that?"
"I can say it because it's true. Marrying Han right now would make my life immeasurably more complicated."
"So you just live together forever and let the tabloids talk."
"The tabloids will talk whether we're married or not. Gossip is an irresistible force in the universe. You know that."
"So…what? You think a better offer will come along?"
Leia laughed. "Of course not. I have no intention of ever leaving Han. I do, however, think he should have a simple option of leaving me. If we're married he can't do that so easily."
"Han would never leave you."
"I would like to think that, and I know he believes it right now, but we've only started on our public life. It will get a lot more difficult in the months to come."
"Luke, marrying me is an incredible burden. I come attached with a tremendous amount of both personal and professional baggage. I'm not ready to drag anyone into that, especially someone I love as much as Han, any more than I already have."
"But that's just it, he's already been dragged in, willingly. Why not make it legitimate."
"Marrying Han isn't going to lend him the legitimacy to be involved with me?"
"But making him a baron will?"
"Over time, it will make it easier, in the beginning, no. I'm in this for the long haul, Luke. I think Han is too. Don't worry about it. We're okay with where we are now. You need to be okay with that too."
"I just don't understand this."
Leia sighed, "But as long as Han does that's all that really matters isn't it?"
Luke dropped his head against the back of his chair. "I guess."
That night as they got ready for bed, Leia looked at Han and wondered exactly what he thought about their situation. Suddenly, it seemed strange to her that they had never discussed it.
"Han," she said.
He was in the bathroom brushing his teeth. "Yeah?"
"I had a very interesting conversation with Luke today."
"Yeah?" She could hear him getting a glass of water from the tap.
"He wanted to know why we aren't getting married. I told him—"
Han shot out of the bathroom. "Stop," he said so forcefully that she did.
He moved and put his fingers against her lips. "Don't. Unless something is changing I don't want to talk about it. I can live like this, but I don't want to discuss it. I don't want to hear you rationalize it, okay?"
Leia looked at him and was struck by the pain in his eyes. This hurt him. She leaned back from his fingers. "Okay," she said softly.
Han went back into the bathroom for a moment and then came back into their bedroom. He started to pull the sheets back to get into bed but then changed his mind. "Screw this, I'm sleeping on the couch." He pulled the comforter off the bed and dragged it through the room.
"Han!" she let him walk out. Leia sat on the edge of the bed and stared at her hands for an hour. Finally, she got up and walked out into the living room. Why he had chosen to sleep on the couch instead of using one of a myriad of guestrooms she didn't understand, but as she watched him sleeping, she knew one thing. She wasn't sleeping without him, not while they were under the same roof. There was no room for her on the couch, so she curled into a little ball next to it on the floor, gratefully for the thick hand woven rug. She could stand the discomfort, as long as she could hear him breathing, that was enough.
Luke came in well into the wee hours of the morning and was surprised to find Han asleep on the couch, but even more surprised to find Leia asleep on the floor next to him. She wore nothing but a thin white nightgown, which didn't even have sleeves. She was curled tightly into a ball, asleep but clearly cold.
Luke leaned over and shook Han's shoulder. "Hey," he said softly.
Han opened his eyes.
"I don't know what you two are up to," Luke said, "but cut it out and go back to bed."
"What?" Han asked groggily.
Luke indicated the floor next to the couch. Han leaned over and saw Leia. He sighed. "Yeah, okay, I'm sorry."
Luke nodded and then went down the hall toward his bedroom.
Han touched Leia's shoulder and could feel how cold it was. He shook her gently. When she looked at him, he said, "Come on, let's go back to bed."
She took his hand and he led her back to their bedroom dragging the comforter behind them. He settled her in first and then curled behind her, her body like an icicle against him.
In the morning Han awoke to find her sitting up in bed scowling at him.
Great, he thought to himself.
"You're not being fair," she said to him when he opened his eyes.
"What?" he asked, his voice still rough with sleep.
"You're not being fair, not letting me explain myself last night. I know you think you know what's going on with us, but I'm pretty sure that what you think is going on with me is not what's going on with me."
Han looked at the clock. "Leia, it's not even seven o'clock and I'm supposed to follow what you just said."
"I love you," she stated emphatically.
Han sighed. "I know, I love you too, now go back to sleep."
Han had the feeling that if she'd been standing up she would have stamped her foot. "Okay."
"I know it hurts you that we're not…that I haven't made a public declaration of our relationship, that I don't answer that question when I'm asked."
Han could feel his jaw tightening. Why the hell couldn't she just let this go? "Fine, it hurts me. Is that what you wanted to hear? You needed me to admit that for some reason." He moved to sit up.
"No, I just want the opportunity to explain my thinking."
"Leia, I know why you don't own up to us, please don't throw it in my face."
"See, that's just it. You don't know, you only think you know—"
"Fine," Han found himself shouting and getting out of bed. He pulled on his pants. "Go ahead, you're hell bent to tell me, so go at it."
Leia smoothed the sheets over her legs. "Alright. I'm just trying to avoid a big 'fuck you' to the Alderaanians."
That hadn't been what he was expecting. "What?"
"I was hoping to take some time, let you become established as a figure of importance, someone they can trust, someone they are used to seeing next to me all the time, someone they call Baron Solo."
"Wait, we're not married because of the Alderaanians?"
"Well, actually, you've never asked me to marry you, so that explains that. I'm just trying to tell you why I've been avoiding talking about our relationship to the press."
Han sat down on the edge of the bed, his head swimming. "Okay, so you're just trying not to piss off the Alderaanians."
"And that's it?"
"That's not enough?"
He looked at her for a moment. "No, it's plenty. Let's go back to sleep." He pulled his pants back off and dropped them to the floor and slid back under the covers.
Leia sat for a long time watching him. She wanted to wake him and tell him never to doubt her love for him, that it was the only thing keeping her alive. That in the end honor and duty meant little or nothing to her without him. She wanted to point out that in spite of outward appearances that her universe had narrowed to the occupants of this apartment and could further be narrowed just to him. Apparently, he had been right when he'd said she didn't have enough scoundrels in her life, because without this one she couldn't, wouldn't continue living.
She held her tongue though. Held it because she couldn't stand her own melodrama. Held it because she would never burden him with the truth, even though she knew he must suspect it. He was so attentive, so consistently at her side that she knew he knew, but some things are better left unsaid, so she curled up next to him and tucked the covers in around them. Sometimes it was enough to simply be comfortable and warm.