The Challenge: In Tatooine Ghost, Han and Leia talk about how they've already discussed that Leia doesn't want to have kids, and that Han's accepting of this. Write out this discussion and how they resolve the issue between themselves. The time period of which this takes place is completely up to you.Set one week before the wedding…
Spoilers for TG, vaguely for COPL and Renewal.
Objects of Contemplation
Leia looked up from her perch on the wide conform sofa, watching the disbelief spread across Han's face as he entered their apartments. The living room was a disaster area. Boxes and crates, piled chest -high, were stacked along the far wall. Packing material was strewn across the floors.
"Uh…" Han spun around twice. "I'm afraid to ask."
"I'm deciding which wedding gifts we should keep."
"These are all ours?" Disbelief turned to concern. "Does security scan these things?"
"Very thoroughly," she replied. "Don't worry, I'm only organizing them." She began pointing to the various groups of items arranged around the room. "Those I'm donating to the Survivor's fund to be auctioned. Those are going to museums. Those are simply…" She flung up her hands in exasperation. "Either completely ridiculous or completely inappropriate." She pointed to their caf table. "These are the maybes."
"Didn't you say you studied art before politics?"
"You know very well that I did."
"So, the part of you that secretly wished you became a curator or art dealer…" Han's face brightened with amused understanding. "Oh I get it. You're living out a fantasy right here in our living room."
"Indeed." Leia flashed him a smile. "You didn't think you starred in all my fantasies, did you?"
"As long as no exotic looking sand-caster is going to come in here and sweep you off your feet." Han observed the sinuous spiral of blackened metal positioned in the centre of the caf table, one that Leia had been studying for the better part of twenty minutes. "Do you like it?"
"I'm contemplating it."
"It looks familiar to me."
"It should. It's a small reproduction of The Lovers."
"Then it belongs in the bedroom."
"Great minds think alike." Leia smiled flirtatiously and pointed toward the stony panel lying in the middle of their living room floor. "What do you think of the Flatsculp?"
"Is it a landscape or the artist's self-portrait?"
"If it's as heavy as it looks I think whatever wall you hang that on needs titanium supports." Han picked up a darkly mottled kriin-wood box, onto which was carved Alderaanian script. He gently cracked the lid. Inside, the dried petals of a seemingly ancient flower rested in a specially curved hollow. "What's in here?
"It's for good luck."
"Then I like it." Han set it on the caf table. "We should definitely keep it too."
Leia chuckled. "It doesn't bring that kind of luck."
"Are you saying there's more than one kind?"
"Inside the box is a dried arallute. According to old legends on Alderaan, if a woman found an arallute in her garden, it meant she would soon be with child. If she picked it and put away in a drawer, by the time her baby was born the petals would have hardened around the seeds and become a baby rattle."
"Then it's a fertility totem." Han furrowed his brow. "Or it used to be."
She cleared her throat. "I suppose you could say that."
"We should still keep it." Han leaned over the back of the couch and slipped his fingers beneath the loosely bound knot of hair, running his fingers over the base of her scalp. His thumbs danced up and down the muscles along the back of her neck. "But I don't really think we need it."
"Neither do I."
"I'm selfish and want you all to myself, but I know how you felt last year," he added, kissing the crown of her head. "We don't have to wait if you don't want to."
"We don't have to hurry either," she said.
"Of course not." Han eyed the pile designated 'inappropriate' with a mischievous glint in his eye. "I'm dying to know. What did the Zeltrons send?"
Although the rest of their suite was barely furnished, their bedroom was a sanctuary, a nest from which to observe the world. Cool air filtered through the ceiling fan; the large windows were set to filter out the lights and sounds of Coruscant's traffic. Not long ago, Han had splurged on a Wookiee-sized bed with fitted Ramordian silk sheets. It was heavenly, usually.
That night, she couldn't sleep. She lay wide-awake beneath the covers, snuggled up against the geo-thermal source of heat that was Han's sleeping body.
It wasn't that she didn't want children.
But, she was Anakin Skywalker's daughter. The knowledge that she could bring another human being into the universe with a power so great that one step down the wrong path could affect the lives of millions terrified her. When she envisioned children, she saw a pivotal fork in the road; one path guided her toward a happy future with Han, with a family she loved and cherished, children who internalised all of the good things she would try to instil in them. The other path was uncertain and flooded with the dark side. Only, from where she stood, both paths were identical and without any indication of which to take, it was simply wiser not to start down either one.
This was a conversation she'd planned to have with Han after the wedding, but after today, she didn't feel as though it could wait. If he was willing to spend the rest of his life with her, he deserved to know this up front.
She gently nudged his shoulder. "Han."
"Mmm," he murmured again, except his hands caught her about the waist and yanked her tight up against him, in what was for them, a familiar nighttime ritual.
"No." She squirmed out of his grasp and rolled over, putting space and blankets between her body and his. "I need to talk to you."
"Now." She swallowed and wet her throat. "I don't plan to start a family with you."
"This is what you're all worked up about." Han yawned. "We can wait. Who said we had to start right away?"
"I mean ever." She waited until the subtle shifts of his body indicated that he was fully awake.
"Ever. With the power that runs in my blood, in my family, I can't risk bringing another Darth Vader into the galaxy."
"What about Vader?" Han asked boldly. "What about you? What about your mother?"
"Despite Luke's best efforts to learn more about her, we simply don't know who she was."
Han sank back against the pillows. "Is there something wrong with my genes?"
"No! I'm certain you have excellent genes. In fact, if I could figure out a way to bottle your genes and make sure our potential offspring would be more you than me, I would."
"But…" Han fingered the edge of the pillowcase. "You're assuming your genes are more powerful than mine."
"I believe the Force has a will of its own." Leia blew out a long breath. "Just as I believe that Anakin Skywalker's mother once cradled him in her arms believing he could never hurt anyone."
"Maybe she didn't. Maybe that was his problem."
"Maybe." Leia leaned onto her right side and stroked an unruly lock hair from his forehead. "But then again, you turned out all right."
Han caught her hand. Even though she could barely see it, she could sense the familiar stoniness washing over his face; it arose whenever she brought up the elusive – or perhaps as she suspected, painful - topics of his past and childhood.
"Don't change the subject," he said. "I thought you said you wouldn't let your feelings toward your father stand in the way of children."
"This isn't about my father," Leia protested. "It's about the future."
"You meant it's about our future."
"Of course it's our future."
"Then why does it sound like you're making decisions about our future without me?"
"I'm coming to this marriage with issues."
"I know all that."
"Than you know I can't bear to face that kind of guilt again, not during my lifetime."
There was just enough light to catch the subtle shift of Han's jaw. "That wasn't your fault."
"Maybe it wasn't," she said softly. "But I must live with it every single day." She rolled onto her back again and rested her head on her pillow. "I'm not saying I don't want to be a mother or that I don't think you wouldn't be a great father," she added softly. "We can still be parents. We can adopt. We can even adopt from Corellia if it would please you."
Han was quiet for so long that she thought he had fallen asleep, but then she felt the covers shift and his breath against her bare shoulder. "You've put a lot of thought into this."
"You carefully mapped out this entire conversation ahead of time."
Leia opened her eyes, blinking at the darkness. She heard the abrasive accusation in his voice and wanted to insist he was wrong, but he knew her too well. They'd had this conversation over a dozen times, in her mind.
"Your mind has been made up for a while now, hasn't it?" he asked.
"It took you four years to agree to marry me," Han interrupted. "Don't expect me to believe you woke up yesterday and decided you never wanted children."
"I needed to sort this out on my own," she said carefully. "And for the record, you didn't ask me to marry you until last year."
"You made me ask you twice." The bed creaked and tilted as Han swung his legs over the side. "I'm gonna get up," he said, switching off the window's filter settings. "It's nearly dawn."
Leia punched his pillow and stared out the window at the flashing lights of the never-ending stream of Coruscant traffic. After a moment's reflection, she untangled herself from the clinging sheets and slipped into a robe. First things first. The reference to the whole Hapan incident and Isolder had been bitter, as usual. She'd spent hours soothing ruffled feathers these past few weeks.
Han was in the kitchen, setting up the caf distiller.
Leia walked up behind him and slid her hands around his waist. She pressed her lips against the bare skin just below his shoulder blade. "Letting you go would have been the greatest mistake of my life," she said. "You know that."
Han reached over and activated the distiller. "Maybe this is your version of pre-wedding jitters."
"I'm not having jitters about marrying you."
"But you are having second-thoughts about marriage." Han turned around and folded his arms across his chest. "In the general sense of the word."
Leia sucked the fold of her cheek between her teeth and considered the question. "Yes," she said, finally.
Han stared at the distiller until she thought he'd forgotten they were having a conversation.
"Say something," she prompted.
"Well… what do you want me to say?"
"That you understand."
"I don't." Han shook his head, eyes burning with the intensity of a Chiss warrior. "If I wanted to repaint our apartments Tatooine gold, I would ask you first. If I decided to trade the Falcon in for one of those new personal Starwind-class pleasure yachts – not that I ever would – I would talk to you first. If I never wanted children, I would bring it up."
"Deciding not to have children isn't like repainting our apartments," she replied.
"That's exactly what my point."
"May I remind you that you've never brought up wanting children either," she said pointedly.
"I never said I didn't."
Leia stepped away from him, saying, "The wedding is in five days." She had to play hardball; she couldn't afford not to pursue this. Somewhere down the line, Han potentially had the power to change her mind, and she might, because she loved him. Right now, in order to gain the advantage, she had to win this. "If you can't respect how I feel…" She took a deep breath and told herself there would plenty of time to make up later. "Well, I guess that's my point."
Han found it difficult to do anything but reflect on Leia's words during the day. He was upgrading a few systems on the Falcon in the reconditioning bay, and while his hands toiled his mind wandered. The Falcon needed to be in tip-top shape for their honeymoon. They were planning a low-key escape, preferably without comlinks and bodyguards and politicians or the Holonet-access but they hadn't decided on a resort or a planet for that matter.
Maybe their inability to select a honeymoon destination was symptomatic of something greater.
By mid-afternoon, he realised the issue of children wasn't what bothered him. If Leia were physically incapable of having children, they wouldn't be having this conversation. Hell, he wasn't all that sure he was cut out to be a father. Being a husband was going to be challenging enough.
Though Leia might have convinced herself she was discussing the issue with him, for all practical intents and purposes, she had made the decision without him. He resented being left out in the cold like that. Additionally, marriage meant making her happy – and Leia wanted children and he knew it. Just like that, in one fell swoop, she was yanking away something he had wanted to give her.
Han's anger had long since passed when Leia came to collect him. Instead, he was contemplative and introspective.
He expected her to start talking, but instead she took his tools out his hands and grasped them in her own. "Will you come with me?" she asked. "I want to show you something."
She grasped his hand all the way to their suites. The latest delivery of wedding gifts had arrived. Propped up against the repulsor-sled was a painting. "I wanted to show you this," she explained.
The painting was of a woman. Her body was painted in shades of red, etched over in charcoal. Nude, she held a staff in one hand. Her body faced the viewer but her face was turned away, hidden beneath a veil of dark brown hair that tumbled over her shoulders and down her back. The painting was unfinished, perhaps initially a rough sketch for a larger work. What was more; she bore a striking resemblance to Leia. It wasn't Leia, but based on her height and build, the size of her breasts and curve of her waist, the slight curve of her jaw-line, it could have been. Han gently tipped the painting forward, hoping to see an artist's name on the back, but it was blank. Still, there was something familiar about it.
"Careful," she warned. "You're touching a Venthan Chassu original."
Chassu was a Corellian painter. Very few of his works were sold outside the system. Suddenly, Han knew why the painting was familiar. "It's not my first time," he said, tipping it back.
Leia arched an inquisitive eyebrow.
"I've handled every painting from his Gold series."
"Those were stolen years ago. You couldn't possibly have-" Her eyes went wide. "You didn't!"
"No." Han shrugged sheepishly. "I was just involved in the transfer-"
"-after the heist at the Coronet City Museum?"
"Yeah. I smuggled them from Chorax to Ord Antalaha and then-" Han wiggled his fingers through midair. "Then I went on my merry way."
"Where are they now?"
"I was paid not to ask questions."
Leia shook her head in disbelief. "Han Solo, if you know the answer to one of the galaxy's greatest art mysteries in the past several decades, then I… Why, you have to tell me."
"Well," he said. "We might be able negotiate a deal – depending on what you're willing to trade."
"I know how your deals work." Cheeks flushing, Leia shrugged her shoulders. "What do you think of it?"
"I'm wondering who would give us a Venthan Chassu original."
"I already checked. The sender chooses to remain anonymous."
"It's not anyone I know. Anyone who knows me would send private stock whiskey and cigars."
"I've noticed. Have you looked in our storage room lately?" Leia rubbed at her forehead. "I have no doubt this is from someone I know personally."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Every gift you and I accept which isn't from close friends and family must be declared. It's not an official legislation, but if a planetary government sends us something of… well, obscene value and we accept it-"
"-Somewhere down the line, if they want a favour, it could look like bribery."
"Exactly. Frankly, everyone I know personally has ties to a state government. Since Chassu died, the value of his work has increased exponentially." Leia's gaze returned to the painting. "This is priceless."
"It sounds like someone really wanted you to have it." Han spread his fingers across his mouth. "It's beautiful. She looks like you. Anyone who steps foot in this place will assume it is you."
"I know." Leia grinned conspiratorially. "Perhaps it belongs in the bedroom too."
At the rate they were going, they were going to have a small gallery in their bedroom while the remainder of their apartment remained completely under-decorated.
"I think we should keep it," Han declared, noticing that at some point during the day, the kriin-wood box had been moved from the caf table to the 'to keep' pile. He wiped the grease from his fingers onto his pantleg and picked it up.
"It belonged to a woman who moved offworld long before I was born," Leia explained, stepping beside him. "She's kept it all these years."
He considered how ironic it was that markets and trade federations decided when something was of value. "You changed your mind."
"Just about the box," she said quietly.
Han let his gaze linger for a moment. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
She looked away from him and shook her head, hard enough that he knew she was close to crying.
"You felt differently last year," he prodded gently. "I know you did."
"I was being foolish." There were tears in her eyes when she turned back. "I don't have the luxury of reflecting on how this decision affects me personally. This is greater than both of us. You have to understand that."
In his own way, Han knew that he did. He regarded the unfinished painting again. Maybe Chassu had gotten this far, picked up his brush and realised that the work was perfect as it was. Maybe he hadn't wanted to ruin it by doing what people expected. "I can live without children," he said.
"Do you mean that?"
"Yes," he said, smiling down at her, although, for the first time during their tumultuous relationship, peace between them left him feeling hollow inside.
Tatooine Ghost: Interlude
(Between Chapters 9 and 10)
Temperatures dropped drastically on Tatooine overnight.
Leia knew that, and she was trying not to imagine Han shivering and huddling down in the sand. Instead, for the better part of an hour, she'd been lying on a makeshift pallet in the old slaver's hut in Mos Espa, imagining how Han had looked as a boy. A son would be both of theirs, but in her mind's eye, she envisioned a dark-haired child with a sparkle in his eye and a love of anything fast. She knew she could gather him into her arms and give him the life his father never had.
Han hadn't known how close to the mark he really was.
Or, she considered, maybe he did.
The pangs of regret when they made love - that nothing would ever come if it - had been worsening for months now. Lately, the longing was so intense she felt as though it would drown her.
We'll talk about it, she thought, and her heart started beating faster with excitement.
And then she remembered the cold, and the long hours until morning.