I'm not even going to tell you guys how hard it was to go back to this and figure out where to go. I will apologize for how long it took, because I definitely don't feel like what finally came out was worth the wait. But Zyra's harping on me and telling me that something is better than nothing. So here goes. I'm putting a picture up here, well, because I like the pictures...
Han Solo stared at the blank piece of flimsiplast. Never before had something so innocuous felt so entirely intimidating to him. He and Leia had reported to their first day of 'couple's counseling'. After being quickly introduced to several other couples, the pairs were told to write down one positive thing that would come out of them saving their marriages and staying together. There had been arguments and some scuffles, but in the end, all finally acquiesced and were now silently saddled with the task.
Han looked around the room, finding comfort in starind at anything but the blank piece of flimsi. His palms were sweating and he had to constantly fidget in his chair. Each glance at Leia only made him more nervous, she had quickly wrote something down and was now staring at him curiously with that mixture of impatience and curiosity that she mastered so well. Before their arrival this morning, he had been sure that he was prepared for anything this experience might bring. Of course, he had envisioned this. Now thinking on it, he couldn't even recall what he had envisioned. He glanced at Leia once again. Kreff!
He had, of course, thought of several flippant answers that he could write down that would probably gain him a good laugh from around the room. But that look from Leia discouraged him from exploring that path. Curiously, he hadn't found it that hard to come up with some endearing examples as well, but then he quickly dismissed those not enjoying the idea of somehow being vulnerable to Leia's scrutiny. Vulnerable. That was it. That was the feeling that had curled up in his innards and made itself at home. Han was an expert at dealing with lying, cheating and most anything that could be settled with a blaster bolt. But this was unchartered territory. How could he keep his dignity while not encurring the wrath that was the petite Princess seated next to him?
What he needed was a mixture of the mildly flippant and yet cautiously endearing, something that wouldn't anger her but at the same time wouldn't wound his pride. He had thought that in the past he had been walking a razer thin line with her. As a bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face, he realized that all of that paled in comparison to this new experience.
"Alright, times up," the Counselor, who had introduced herself as Ava Klounic, announced as she began to walk around the room and gather up the flimsis.
Han panicked, the only thing that was more distracting than his own beating heart was the feel of Leia's stare boring into him. Quickly he scribbled something down that he hoped no one would be able to decipher and then handed it over to the passing counselor. Breath, sweet breath finally returned to his lungs and he collapsed back into his chair as if he had just finished wrestling a Rancor.
"Are you alright?" Leia whispered out the side of her mouth.
Han kept his eyes straight ahead, too exhausted to meet her eyes. "Just perfect," he grumbled. "You?"
Before she could answer, the Counselor began, "I will now read the submissions out loud. Everyone may feel free to claim the answers as their own or as something they think their spouse would say. I will not force any one of you to own up to your entry. This is meant to be a thought-provoking exercise and I ask that everyone remain civil."
"I just want this to be over," Leia whispered back. If she had noticed Han's tone, she hadn't felt the need to comment on it.
"Princess, for once, you won't get any arguments from me," he whispered back, his mood lifting slightly.
The Counselor eyed the crowd with a look of warning, Leia and Han hadn't been the only ones whispering to each other, when she seemed satisfied she uncrumpled the first piece of flimsi and said, "Let's begin." Ava paused for a moment as she seemed to absorb what she was about to read. She took a moment to survey the audience and then, as if gathering up her wits, she squared her shoulders and read, "If my spouse and I were to stay together I would have more oppotunities to try and kill them. Or to, at the very least, hire professsional help."
A wave of laughter rippled through the room as everyone glanced around at one another, searching for the guilty party. A few couples began bickering and elbowing one another. While a Twi'lek couple, who had been especially vocal, actually came to serious blows. Han hadn't paid much attention during introductions, but by the time he, the Counselor and a few other males, had pried this couple apart, he had memorized their names: Jaxxy and Ferran Mourasend. Jaxxy, a former dancer and Ferran, a small business owner, now sat on opposite sides of the room.
Han returned to his seat and as he did so, mumbled in Leia's ear, "And I thought we would be at the head of the class. That might not be so easy with this crowd."
Leia nodded her head at Han in resigned agreement. He was right. Some of these people genuinely hated each other and for all their disagreements and differences, she and Han didn't hate each other. For the first time she worried that this was going to be harder than she had anticipated or envisioned. And she had never thought it was going to be easy.
The Counselor raised her hands, and then her voice, in order to gain back control of the room. When everyone had settled down, she said, "Wanting to kill your spouse suggests that you do not wish them to live without you. In my experience, this submission could easily be translated to: I cannot bear the thought of you living without me by your side. Or, I'd rather see you dead then with someone else besides me." The last of the fighting and snickering quelled and everyone fidgeted nervously. "Anyone care to own up to this or take a guess at who may have written it?" The counselor pressed.
The room remained silent. Han and Leia exchanged a pointed stare. Leia knew that it was not hers and she highly suspected that is was not Han's either. But she couldn't be entirely certain. Afterall, they were trying to convince everyone that they hated each other.
After several more failed attempts, the Counselor moved on without anyone ever claiming that first comment. The next entry did not get any better as the Counselor read it to the class, "I would at least know for certain that my life could not get any worse."
Once again the room erupted with a mixture of laughter and noxious insults. This time the Counselor got everyone back in line before any swings were taken. She once again pressed for someone to claim the comment. Leia noticed that she hadn't tried to put a positive spin on this particular statement. For the first time, the young woman appeared exasperated. Leia had to give her credit for lasting that long. "I'm hesitant to move on while two statements remain unclaimed. Does not anyone in this room have the courage to claim their own words?"
Leia watched as the ripple effect from that statement traveled across the room. In addition to the proud Corellian that sat next to her, there were some very diverse species present in the room - and one was more arrogant than the next. Finally, a very scary-looking Devronian laid claim to the words. In watching how his spouse reacted, Leia thought that the female was impressed more than anything by her husband's admission.
The Counselor nodded her thanks to the male Devronian and then addressed the class. "Never. The best. The worst. Always. Absolute certainty in something. Has that ever panned out for any of you? There's a reason that sayings become famous. Never say never. You don't know what you have until it's gone." Counselor Ava Klounic paused. "That's what those words make me think of," she finally said and you could hear a pindrop in the room.
Leia wondered how she could so often find herself in over her head.
The next few entries consisted of comments such as "We could keep the house" and "I wouldn't have to date again" and they were quickly guessed and all eventually claimed. Ava then read this, "If we can manage not to kill each other, our lives will at least never be dull."
That was Leia's comment. Her body stiffened in recognition and, as all eyes searched the room, she felt as if she had a beacon blinking brightly over her head.
"Keeping things interesting," the Counselor spoke into the silence. "That's actually one of my golden rules of happiness. Anyone care to guess?"
A few males in the room threw out guesses for their significant others, but Han Solo remained silent. She wondered if he suspected and just didn't want to talk, or if he was totally clueless that it was hers. She had felt that the comment was innocent enough. Truthful but not too revealing. But now that it was out there, she felt an unexpected vulnerability as she contemplated claiming it.
The Counselor's eyes tracked around the room once again before she folded up the peice of flimsiplast and said, "Okay, we'll move-"
"That was mine," Leia blurted out and immediately felt a warmth travel up her neck and face.
"Good, good," the Counselor smiled warmly as she turned to Leia. "And how does that comment make you feel," she asked, speaking to Han.
"Uh, it uh...," Han sputtered as he shifted in his seat.
Leia bit her lip and held her breath. Waiting to find out what might come out of Han Solo's mouth was never a pleasant task.
"It uh, makes me realize that maybe the fighting ain't all that bad," Han finally finished.
Leia's face blanched. What was he doing? They were supposed to be working on getting drummed out of here, not mending their fake relationship. What was he thinking? Did he mean what he had said or was he just playing the game, albeit wrongly? She couldn't bring herself to look at him. Either he had lost track of their objective, which seemed highly unlikely, or he was being honest and...well, she didn't even know what that meant.
The Counselor ran through few more comments, each finding its owner. Finally, she was on the last piece of flimsiplast and the only two people that hadn't claimed what they had written were Han and a male Sarkhai. Which meant that either this next comment was Han's, or that first comment had been. Leia straightened up in anticipation. The Counselor read the note, "I can spend the rest of my life wondering what I did to deserve her." The Counselor paused and eyed the room. "Well, that can be taken in more than one context. Any guesses?"
Leia once again felt the heat rising up her neck and face. The Counselor was right, in one context that comment could be a huge insult, but in another it could be a gigantic compliment. She felt sure that it must be Han's but then couldn't stop an inkling of doubt that it wasn't. If it was his she wondered if he had realized what he was doing when he had written it. Even she had tried to remain ambiguous with her comment, although she hadn't quite succeeded in the way this comment had. She glanced at him, but his eyes remained trained on the Counselor.
Leia shook her head. It wouldn't have been the first time that she had underestimated Han's mental agility. In this verbal volley game that they continued to play - if someone had been keeping score - she felt sure that they would have to be in a close tie. And if she was entirely honest with herself, she might even admit that Han could actually be in the lead. Afterall, finding a decent opponent was what kept the game interesting, wasn't it?
There was some discussion around the room, mostly light-hearted as everyone's spirits began to lift knowing the session was coming to a close. Leia felt her own mood changing as she prepared to switch gears from being Mrs. Han Solo, disgruntled wife, to Leia Organa...whoever she was.
In the end, no one ever claimed the comment, making perfect orphaned bookends of the first and the last. The Counselor urged everyone to discuss what they had experienced both good and bad and wished everyone an interesting evening. And the class was dismissed.
Leia let Han lead her out of the room, never once brave enough to meet his eyes. The fact that this first class, and this simple exercise, had felt so revealing and left them feeling so awkward weighed heavily on Leia. She wondered how they would fair several more weeks and just how uncomfortable the entire experience might get...