AN: I wouldn't be here if I owned Star Wars, would I? Well, here's a little challenge fic for your enjoyment. Oh yeah, and to those of you who've read my big story, "My Mother," this one takes place in a separate universe from that one, even though both stories have similar subject matter. Meaning, in this story, Naboo is part of the New Republic, Pooja is already a senator, and Padme is dead (and staying dead, sorry).
"Face Without a Name"
Large, brown, sad eyes...
Yet despite their sadness, they seemed to envelope her in their comfort...
A smooth face...a pained smile...
Dark brown hair...
A high, gasping, and yet pleasing voice calling her name...
Leia's eyes opened, slowly, hesitantly, yet undoubtedly awake. Awake...pulled away from that face, back into the real world where that face didn't exist. She groaned, squeezing her eyes shut as she rolled to her back, trying to make out that face in her conscious darkness.
She had seen the face before...countless times. The eyes came to her nearly every time she fell asleep, it seemed. Even on mornings when she couldn't remember what she had dreamed, a subconscious sense seemed to tell her that the woman had visited her again.
Her husband snored next to her, inches away from her ear, making her groan again. What made Han worthy of sound sleep that wasn't plagued by dreams of unknown and yet familiar faces? Her head turned to face him, his slightly-open mouth, his mussed hair, his scrunched eyelids. So peaceful, unlike her.
She inched her way out of bed, attempting to drive the face to the back of her head like she had on countless other mornings, but somehow today she was unable to do so.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Coruscant had never felt like home, Leia thought sullenly as she stood by the large window in her living room, watching the speeders dart back and forth to who-knew-where. This wasn't home. Home was a place where people were content, not rushing all over the place.
Actually, no place had felt like home since her planet's destruction. Perhaps it was to be expected, but if her true home was dead and gone, what was she to do now? Was she to live the rest of her life as a wandering soul, forever searching for something lost?
She might have thought marrying Han would rid her of this feeling, this...emptiness. Maybe sometimes she even was able to fool herself into thinking that her marriage had indeed succeeded in eliminating it. But no, mornings such as this stood as very solid proof that the emptiness still existed. Even Han couldn't eliminate it.
She shivered, pulling her robe around her chest. It was nearing four years since the destruction of Alderaan. Four years she had been homeless. Had she ever cried about it? Had she ever allowed herself to grieve the loss of her home?
Why couldn't she remember?
Her mind rushed through memories, thinking that she had to have cried at least once in all this time, yet she couldn't recall any specific time when she had, couldn't remember even a single tear shed for her planet.
When was the last time she cried, anyway?
She pinched the shaggy carpet with her toes, closing her eyes, her body tensed, trying to produce a tear, a sob, anything...but nothing came. Not even when she pressed Bail and Breha Organa's faces into her mind, not even when she imagined herself walking down the halls of her old home. It was as if she had forgotten how to cry.
Her eyes opened, still dry, still void of emotion, still empty, nothing blurring her vision except her own mind, which proceeded to eliminate everything from her focus except a stack of papers on a table. Blank, white, empty...waiting for something to appear on them, something to make them meaningful...
She picked up a sheet.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Han yawned, stretching his arms behind his back, cracking his knuckles. After a moment or two of sitting up in bed thinking of nothing except going back to sleep, he suddenly remembered the joke he had prepared for the night before. His lips curled upward, eager to see how Leia reacted to it. In one swift move, he slid out of bed, pulled on his robe, and dashed towards the living room.
He expected to find his wife pacing around the room, fully dressed in one of her fine senator outfits except for stocking feet, an angry look on her face at the discovery that her shoes were missing. Instead, he found her still in her robe and barefooted, staring blankly out the window, a piece of paper dangling from her left hand.
"Leia?" he asked.
She said nothing, she didn't even acknowledge his presence. The back of her head remained pointed in his direction, as if trying to tell him to go away. Her only movement was a tiny shaking of the paper in her hand.
Han slowly tiptoed up to his wife until he was standing right behind her, but still she did nothing. "Uh...Leia?" He cleared his throat. "Hon...have you seen your shoes today?"
"No," Leia said vaguely, not looking at him. "Why, are my shoes missing?"
Han gulped, beginning to think this wasn't the best morning for a practical joke. "They might be...why don't you try lookin' for 'em?"
"Maybe later..." Leia said in that same distant voice, still refusing to show him her face.
Han placed a hand on his wife's shoulder, which again received no reaction. "Something wrong?"
"Nothing that should concern you," Leia responded. "Except maybe for the part about my shoes missing."
Han sighed, beginning to stroke her shoulder with an intimate tenderness. "Okay, I hid your shoes. No big deal - I just wanted a little extra time with you, that's all."
"That was childish," Leia said with a very noticeable lack of real interest. The paper in her hand crinkled slightly as she pinched it.
Han's hand slowly slipped off her shoulder, moving downward until his fingers could brush the paper. "What's this?"
Leia's hand abruptly shot up and pressed the paper to her chest. "None of your business."
"Well if it's none of my business, why can't I see it?"
Leia swallowed, finally turning her head to face him, as hesitantly as a small child meeting an intimidating stranger. "There's...there's no reason for you to see it." Her eyes seemed to be looking at something far away. "I'm...I'm going to work."
"Your shoes are in the cabinet under the kitchen sink," Han mumbled, feeling a slight bit of disappointment that his joke couldn't be enjoyed.
As soon as Han spoke, Leia immediately began walking towards the kitchen in quick, even steps, dropping the paper in the process. It floated lazily to the floor, as if teasing Han to take a look. Although he hesitated for a moment or two, he quickly succumbed to his curiosity, bending over, picking up the paper, and then raising his brows when turning the paper over.
It was a crude sketch of a woman's face.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Leia's office in the Senate building had never felt like home any more than the rest of Coruscant did. Perhaps it was the place that felt less like home than anywhere else. Here she had to be Senator Organa Solo, whose life was devoted to her New Republic. Senator Organa Solo, who knew how to solve any problem. Senator Organa Solo, who always had to be devoid of any kind of emotion. Senator Organa Solo, courageous, hard-working, sharp-minded, endlessly available to her fellow politicians.
Never just a regular human.
What, she often wondered, was it like to be normal? To be allowed to feel, allowed to make mistakes, allowed to do things for herself?
The buzzing of her intercom jolted her out of her thoughts like an alarm waking her from a deep sleep. Her hand automatically reached forward to push the button on her desk, regardless of whether or not she actually felt like talking to anyone.
"Senator Organa Solo," she said in a dull voice. "Who is it?"
A high, nearly unfamiliar voice answered. "Senator Pooja Naberrie of Naboo. May I come in?"
Leia's eyebrows involuntarily raised, her emotional stupor dissipated by a tiny bit by curiosity. Why would the senator from Naboo want to see her? They never worked together, only seeing each other during meetings. She tried to picture a face that went with the name Pooja Naberrie, but found that she couldn't remember what she looked like.
"Come in," she said, her voice betraying nothing, as cold and professional as it had always been.
A woman who appeared to be somewhere in her early thirties with light brown curly hair and a deep blue dress seemed to almost dash into the room and up to Leia's desk, barely pausing to make a slight curtsy. "Senator Organa Solo, I'm honored."
Leia quizzically raised an eyebrow. "What are you so honored for?"
The Naboo senator looked at her with large, round eyes, her pudgy cheeks betraying a hint of blush. "To be talking to you. You're probably not aware of this, but I'm a strong admirer of you and everything you've done."
Leia's teeth ground behind her lips. Hero worship, another thing that separated her from normal people. "So...you just came here to say hello?"
Senator Naberrie grinned slightly. "No...no." She began fanning herself with her hand. "No...gosh...actually...there's a very important reason I'm here."
"Well have a seat," said Leia, gesturing to the chair in front of her desk.
Pooja obeyed, breathing deeply, as if trying to gain the courage to reveal an uncomfortable truth. "Senator...I've come to extend you an invitation."
Leia's forehead stretched, as if she were looking at someone who wasn't right in the head. "What?"
"I'm visiting my home planet of Naboo soon," Senator Naberrie continued. "And well...I was wondering if you and your brother and husband would like to come with me."
"Luke's away," Leia said, trying to brush off this strange invitation lightly. "He's on a mission to recover old Jedi artifacts."
Senator Naberrie's face fell slightly, but not enough to completely eliminate her smile. "Well, what about you? And your husband?"
"Well...I guess we could come."
"Great!" Pooja exclaimed, her smile becoming full again. "I'm leaving in two days - I can take you in my ship."
Leia felt as if she had just been tricked into taking a mission she didn't want. "I guess...maybe...but why are you inviting us to your planet anyway?"
Pooja's smile grew so wide it nearly touched her ears. "You'll see."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Han was lounging barefoot on the sofa, sipping some white foamy drink from a tall glass when Leia got back to their apartment. Before he even had the chance to greet her, she came stomping up to him, grabbing the glass and taking a long gulp of the creamy, tangy beverage before handing it back to him.
"Uh...Leia?" Han asked, wrinkling his nose at the foam sliding down the side of his glass. "Bad day at work, I guess?"
"Depends on what you'd call a bad day at work," Leia said huffily. "We've got an unexpected vacation, you might call that good."
"What??" Han nearly spilled his drink at the revelation. "What are you talkin' about?"
"I'm talking about the crazy senator from Naboo inviting us to her home planet."
Han's lips curled to the side. "Naboo? Ain't that the planet the Emperor came from?"
"Yes," said Leia, flopping down next to him, shaking the cushions.
"Then why the hell are we goin' there?"
Leia raised an eyebrow at him. "We're getting a vacation - why would you complain about that?"
"Depends on what the vacation includes," Han muttered, taking a long gulp of his drink. "Anyway, you dropped this when you left." He pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and flattened it out to let his wife see what was on it. "Do ya happen to know who this is?"
Leia's heart jumped, the memory of this morning suddenly returning to her. Her hand shot out and grabbed the paper, nearly ripping it as she yanked it out of her husband's grip. "You weren't supposed to look at this."
"And since when does that stop me?"
Leia growled, letting herself stare at the picture for the first time since drawing it. Despite the smudge marks and the cross-out lines, the face from her dreams seemed to be jumping at her with its narrow eyes, smooth dark hair, and full lips. "This...this is nothing," she mumbled.
"Seems like a pretty big nothing," Han replied. Leia imagined that his eyes were probably rolling, but she lacked the ability to look at him. After several moments of staring at the lines until they blurred in her eyes, she slapped the paper down on her knee.
"If you must know," she muttered, unsure why she was telling him, "it's just someone I've had dreams about, that's all."
Han's teeth brushed his chapped bottom lip. "Are you serious? How the hell do you remember her well enough to draw her?"
Leia closed her eyes, shaking her head. "I guess it's because I've seen her a lot."
Han whistled. "Wow...what I wouldn't give to be able to draw some of the women from my dreams..."
Leia's face shot up, glaring at him and seeing that he was grinning. "That had better be a joke."
"Course it is, sweetheart." He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Not that you can control who you dream about, though."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
There was little dialogue on the flight to Naboo. Pooja talked of various sights to see on her home planet as she and her two passengers sat around the game table in her ship's lounge, but neither Leia nor Han paid much attention. Han seemed decidedly uncomfortable, whether because he was traveling with a stranger or just because he wasn't used to being a passenger, Leia wasn't sure.
"It's winter there now," Pooja was saying awkwardly. "Very pretty."
"That's nice," said Leia, her mind wandering far away from the ship, returning to the face from her dreams, flinching at the idea that Han now knew about it.
"And my sister's having her baby shower," Pooja continued. "You're both welcome to come."
That statement finally got both Leia and Han giving their full attention.
"Sister??" Leia exclaimed.
"Baby shower??" Han exclaimed, gritting his teeth.
Pooja sighed. "You don't have to come if you don't want to, but it would mean a lot to both of us if you did."
Han's hand came slamming down on the table. "So ya roped us into visiting your planet just so you could invite us to a baby shower? What the hell kinda scheme is this??"
Pooja swallowed several times before speaking. "It's not a scheme...exactly."
Han sneered. "Exactly?"
The senator clenched her teeth. "Look, it's really, really hard to explain - you'll have to trust me on that. I know it's difficult, but I'll tell you everything at the baby shower. I promise."
Both Leia and Han's eyebrows went up, but before either could speak, the ship's young pilot came striding into the lounge.
"Senator," she said, "we're coming in on the Naboo system and should be landing shortly."
"Very good, Captain," Senator Naberrie replied before turning back to her guests. "My sister's heard a lot about you two..."
"Who hasn't?" Leia muttered.
Pooja ignored her. "...and she'd really like to meet you. You don't have to bring a present or anything - it would just mean a lot to us if you showed up."
Leia sighed, feeling that the senator was going to press the matter until she gave in. "Well...I guess we could..."
"Thank you!!!" Pooja exclaimed like a child being told she could have dessert early.
Leia ground her teeth behind her lips, feeling vibrations in her mouth. What had she gotten herself into?
AN: This was originally going to be a oneshot, but then it got really long so I decided to split it into chapters. It will probably be in two or three parts. Anyway, I know I haven't been here lately, but there should be a new chapter of one of my longer stories coming soon, so keep looking.