Thursday, February 21, 2013

Joint Story: The Sequel - Chapter 16

Chapter 16

“Hey, we’re all gonna go grab a bite to eat. Wanna join?”
Han looked down at Leia. "Up to you."
She paused. The meeting had actually relaxed her and she felt a bit adventurous. It wasn't often that she got to dine out anymore and as good a cook as Han was, even he had his limitations.  Finally, thoughts of another night cooped up in the small lounge of the Millennium Falcon flitted across her mind and she answered with a casual shrug of her shoulders, "Okay."
The motley crew of estranged couples had commandeered a large table at a local pub. When they had arrived the atmosphere had been that of a quaint restaurant with low lighting and mood music. After their meal and as the night wore on, however, the music’s tempo and volume changed and some empty tables had been moved to give way to a dance floor. The previously barren bar at the far corner of the establishment was quickly filling up with rowdy patrons ordering pitchers of ale and smoking herb sticks that filled the air with pungent scents and a smoky haze.
Han and Leia sat next to each other while the chairs surrounding them were vacated by couples getting up to dance, mingle or otherwise distance themselves from one another. Just as their waiter set a tall glass of wine in front of Leia and a mug of Corellian ale down for Han, Leia heard a familiar voice from over her shoulder.
"I'm stealing your husband from you. You don't mind, do you?"

Leia looked over and found the tall blond from the meeting, Lohree, with her hand resting on Han’s shoulder and a wide smile plastered against her face. Her lipstick was freshly applied and it was evident that her perfume had been also as a pleasant aroma emanated off of her competing with the smokiness of the bar air. Leia looked down at Han and instantly read the look on his face. He was praying for a rescue, his head barely shaking back and forth in silent protest.

Her first inclination was to give in and save Han from this apparent predator as part of her felt a pang of jealousy at the thought of someone else dancing with him anyway. It was the mischievous part of her that won out, however, as she nodded an affirming 'yes' to Lohree and worked, quite unsuccessfully, at hiding the triumphant smile from Han as he begrudgingly rose from his seat and followed Lohree to the dance floor.

Watching the couple depart, Leia took a sip of her wine. The thought had been that the bold move would negate the unwanted feeling of possessiveness that had come over her, but, as with most of her clumsy attempts at besting herself, it quickly blew up in her face when Lohree slung her arm low around Han's torso and Leia felt a red hot heat blossom in her belly and spread up her neck and face. Her triumphant smile was all but forgotten and the pleasant mood of the day seemed deadset on following it wherever it had gone.

The next several moments were spent in a constant battle between Leia and her eyes as she tried in vain to look anywhere else but at Han and his dance partner but yet succeeded only in finding them every single time. She took a long, slow sip of her wine. Lohree was taller than Leia and as they danced and she lifted her head to speak to Han the distance (or lack of it) between their lips made it look way to tempting and easy for Han to tilt his head only slightly forward and kiss her. Not that Leia thought Han would, but the thought was there all the same. And as easy and tempting as it looked, Leia knew - or at least strongly suspected - that Lohree would not have a problem with the current situation unfolding in just that sort of manner. Leia gulped the last of her wine down in one large, unPrincesslike swallow, hoping that the warm liquid would push the conflicted feelings crawling up her throat right back down into the depths from where they had come from.

"My situation must look wholly pathetic to young eyes such as yours."

The statement came from over Leia's left shoulder and was accompanied by someone filling her empty wine glass. It was Lohree's estranged husband, Kabe. Leia found her voice as he slid into the chair next to her. "Thank you, and no, not at all."

"You’re being polite. I appreciate it, but it isn't necessary."

Leia studied the older man thoughtfully as he found the same couple on the dance floor that she herself had been watching. She knew how she felt, unjustifiably as she had no real claim to Han, but this man had all the justification in the worlds to feel choked by possessiveness. This man wasn’t playing a game. All of a sudden she and Han’s situation didn’t seem so intolerable. "It's not politeness but self-preservation," she finally replied as she took a sip of her wine. "It seems we are all in the same situation so if yours is pathetic than so would be mine." The words weren't entirely true, but she wasn’t about to belittle the man further by telling him so. The older man relaxed his shoulders and smiled and Leia returned the smile knowing that her words, at least, had had the desired effect.

"To love and marriage," he replied with a lift of his glass.

Leia lifted her own glass and clinked it against his as she returned the sentiment.

"The pair doesn’t get the respect they deserve," Kabe said thoughtfully, his eyes on the dance floor.

It took a moment for Leia to realize what he was speaking about - their toast to love and marriage - and not about what he was currently staring at - his wife dancing with Han.

"I worked hard all my life," he continued into Leia's silence. "In my studies when I was young and later as I grew into a man. People called me driven, dedicated and ambitious. I had clear goals of what I wished to achieve, to realize during my lifetime. Honor and responsibility were my partner to get me there."

Leia watched him as he spoke and couldn't help but think of her own ambition-driven childhood and life.

"I was a fool," Kabe whispered wistfully as he finally dropped his gaze down into his drink.

"You seem very successful," Leia responded. She recalled what she had thought of him as he and his wife had done the demonstration earlier. Pity and perhaps a tinge of distaste or disappointment that he seemed to have been a man that had married for looks.

"I am," he answered proudly, his chest inflating a bit before one long exhaled breath drained him of all that pride. "I did everything I set out to do and more." He took a sip of his drink and let his eyes travel back to the dance floor. "But it turns out that honor and responsibility make damned lonely partners."

An uneasy feeling crept back up Leia's throat until she swallowed awkwardly and looked out to the dance floor, easily finding Han.

"Does he make you laugh?"

The question caught Leia off guard and when she looked back at Kabe he hitched his chin out to the dance floor, indicating that he was speaking about Han - her estranged husband. Her eyes dropped for a moment of introspection but when she looked back up at Kabe she answered honestly, "Yes, he does."

"Does he care about you? Can you talk to him? Do you trust him?"

She drug her bottom lip gently across her teeth while her eyes traveled back out to the dance floor. "Yes, on all accounts," she whispered.

Kabe leaned toward her. "Then stick with him. Forget all this divorce stuff. Life is too short to assume you'll find someone else that does all of those things." Before she could protest he continued in earnest. "I always thought they'd be time. My personal life always took the backseat to my business and my obligations. And now, now that I have everything, all the money in the world to buy whatever I want, I can't buy the one thing that I want...the one thing that I need the most." He looked back out to the dance floor and Leia suddenly felt very pensive. "She's not a bad person,” Kabe continued. “I knew she didn't love me, that's not her fault. I thought I had enough money to keep her happy, in that way I failed us both. She thought all she wanted was money but the more I gave her the more she found that it wasn’t enough. When she finally leaves me, she'll probably fall in love with some schlep living on a shoestring budget and find that she's never been more happy. That's the thing about love; it's got a never-ending bank account."

Leia contemplated his words. There was a time in her life when she would’ve been able to work at love, to interview her suitors and to date them. That time had been ripped away from her. Even if she wanted to she was in no position to participate in that social dance. The night before she had confessed to (a probably sleeping) Han that she was attracted to him. But did that attraction equal love? She certainly didn't feel ready to connect those dots. However, if she never acted on the attraction (save one drunken night) then whatever came of it would never get a chance at a breath of life, be it love or heartache or what-have-you. Maybe whatever she and Han had been doing was as close as she would ever get to dating someone, getting to know them, and falling in love. The train of thought wasn’t altogether uncomfortable.

Leia closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead, the wine was taking its affect on her mind - fuzzying her thoughts. The Alliance, Alderaan, the Empire. All those things that usually took precedence in her life came clawing their way to the surface of her thoughts, clamoring for her drunken attention. But Kabe's speech echoed its warning. The Alliance, Alderaan and the Empire would make fairly lousy and lonely partners somewhere down the road. Hells, they made fairly lousy and lonely partners now.

"You alright?"

Leia opened her eyes to find two concerned hazel eyes looking down on her. Han had returned from the dance and Lohree was sitting stiffly next to Kabe already pouting about something. "I'm fine,” she replied. “I think I just need some fresh air."

Leia stood and made to walk to the door as Han grabbed her arm at the elbow saying, "I'll come with you."

She felt grateful for Han's assistance as she made it through the crowd, her vision hazy from the alcohol and the smoky cantina. It was a shock to her senses as they entered the cool, dark nighttime air of the city street. They walked past the crowd of people waiting to get in and finally snagged an empty alcove that belonged to a closed business next door. Leia leaned gratefully against the sturdy wall of duracrete.

"You need to sit down?" Han asked fidgeting.

"No, I'm fine. I just had to get out of there." Recalling her hasty exit, she then added, "I should've told Kabe we were leaving. I didn't even say goodbye."

"He'll get over it. He has his hands full, I'm sure."

Han's posture was rigid and his eyes were never fixed on one place for too long. It took her several moments to comprehend it. He didn't like being out like this in the middle of the night, not with her feeling woozy and his back to the street and no Wookiee backup anywhere to be found. He was always taking care of her. Thinking about the situation, the risks, even when she wasn't. Like, perhaps that night that had started all of this. How many other men would've left her with her dignity, much less her virginity, in tact when thrown into the same situation? Why did he do that? Her brain wrapped itself around that question, toying with it and absorbing it. The fogginess started to give way to a pleasurable warmth that she secretly associated with Han Solo.

"Have you ever been in love?" She asked him.

His alert demeanor gave way to shock for just a millisecond, and then he squared his shoulders and said casually, "Once or twice, I guess. Never really thought about it."

She studied him carefully, he was a perfect contradiction to her in that she liked to believe that she had him all figured out but didn’t understand him at all. She sighed, her head dizzy and then what would have usually remained repressed somewhere near the tips of her toes came out unbidden. "What do you mean you've never thought about it? Either you have or you haven't."

"Well,” he stammered. “Have you?"

She stared at him for a moment, and then answered simply, bravely, "No."

"Hmph," he answered, plainly intrigued. "I thought a Princess would've had her share of suitors."

"Perhaps," she replied, ignoring the slight slur of the syllables. "But I've never said the words. I've come close to wondering; thinking possibly but...never quite convinced enough to commit to it."

"That doesn't surprise me."

"Why do you say that? Wait, no, you're drawing me off subject. We're supposed to be talking about you. Have you ever said the words?" He smiled down at her, seemed...amused. The fogginess was lifting off her brain, yet she allowed it to hover there to her advantage. She found Han most pliable when he didn't think she was at the top of her game.

"Yes, I've said the words, once or twice, just like I said."

"So, you've been in love." 

He shrugged his shoulders and his eyes got that distant look. She thought a moment of what she wouldn't give to take a ride to where those thoughts were going. "Like I said, I guess," he replied, his gaze coming back to meet hers. "Looking back, now...they were probably just words. Wishful thinking."

The thought of a Han Solo that would wish to be in love made her insides flutter. "No, you can't take it back now,” she argued. “You were in love, just...maybe not the forever kind." Her own words sounded childish and idealistic as they came out of her mouth. She thought, as she pressed her hands against her lips to suppress a giggle, that perhaps the fog hadn't completely lifted yet.

"You're drunk," Han finally stated the obvious, but the fact seemed to sour his mood instantly and greatly as a solid wall of seriousness slammed down between them.

"I'm not," she argued as she drew in a deep breath of the nighttime air. "Just...liberated," she finally said, because that was how she felt.

"We're getting you some coffee," Han replied quickly as he took her once again by the elbow and began to lead her down the street.

"Han Solo, just because I'm talking about feelings and love, doesn't make me drunk," she pouted as she walked two steps behind his quick pace. “And why did you have to dance for such a long time with that floozy?”  Clearly she had no control of her tongue at this point, she thought - all at once embarrassed.  I had better steer clear of Han's mouth, then...  That thought brought another round of suppressed giggling.

Han continued walking, perhaps more quickly and she heard him mumble something along the lines of 'just like the last time'.

"Wait," she said, yanking her arm free from his grasp. "What do you mean just like the last time
Why don't you ever tell me what happened that night? Don't you think I have the right to know? Don’t you think I should know what I did? Did I-?" She stopped, not entirely sure that she wanted to know the answer should she decide to ask the question, but then pressed on, "Did I say that? That night?" Leia held her breath as she watched Han process her question and calculate his response. She waited eagerly hoping that if perhaps her subconscious self had already drawn the conclusion and conjured up the nerve to talk about love with Han Solo then it would make it that much easier for her conscious self to catch up. Maybe.

Han dropped his hand down from where he had been holding her at the elbow and let out a long, deep breath. He looked around a little bit before his eyes finally landed back on hers and he seemed ready to speak. Leia curled her toes inside of her shoes, preparing herself for whatever earth-shattering news Han Solo might finally be ready to deliver to her. She watched as if in slow motion as he opened his mouth to speak.
"I'll tell you everything you want to know about that night."
With a thud in her belly that was her heart, Leia opened her mouth to reply, but he pressed his finger over her lips to silence her.

He continued, "When you're ready to talk to me about it without being inebriated and in the light of day."

The muscles in her face relaxed as disappointment crawled across her face. Her first inclination had been to argue, but she was sober enough to know that she wasn't quite sober enough to win that argument. And there was something in his eyes that stopped her, too.  It was not the normal sparkle of mischievousness that both enthralled and infuriated her but a gleam, a hard shine that dared her to look further but only succeeded in forcing her to turn away.  Han waited in silence as she accepted what he said and then took her arm again and started walking in silence. 

The buzz of a headache began to twist inside of her forehead, yet even in her foggy state, something nagged at her about what Han had said. And in the light of day. She looked up at him, studying his profile as he guided her down the street, his jaw tightly set and the lines of his face more angular than usual. Had he heard her the night before? And if so, why hadn't he said anything? 

She looked back toward the spaceport coming into view ahead of them. Each day since they had been there seemed to prove more interesting then the next. When Han finally let go of her arm so that he could punch the access code into the Falcon, she briefly chanced wondering what tomorrow could possibly hold in store for them.


  1. You guys have taken a delightfully absurd premise and made good on it! I'm loving every entry in the series, and now that comments are easier I'm going to tell you so!

  2. I had decidedly mixed feelings when I read this at first, but the developments you've made pushed me well over into the 'like' side. Interesting perspective, well drawn out and when needed, very, very funny.

  3. Hmmmm... we just made commenting super easy and still nobody comments on these. Do you people not like the joint story?

    Well, I really liked this, anyway. I enjoyed finally venturing off out of the counseling sessions and bringing in some other character interaction. And of course Leia's jealousy and the conversation she had with the woman's husband and how it got her thinking of Han a bit differently.

    And I love that we are getting closer to Han telling her about what happened that night but not wanting to tell her when she's drunk. He is a very patient man! Anyway, really enjoyed this.

  4. Sorry for the late comment, but you know I won't let you down...

    Anyway, another fab chapter. I had a sneaky suspicion that the blonde "floozy" might be making another appearance. Love how Leia is slowly but surely falling for him, and her trying to push back her jealously was great. I have a feeling things are about to turn very interesting as we get nearer to the truth of what happened that night. Can't wait to find out. Brilliantly written as always, Push.

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  6. I am about as crazy as Leia to hear what happened that night! Agreed that you have taken a bizarre premise and turned it into a sweet little story. More, please, and soon!

  7. Sorry for the late comment. Didn't have a chance to read it yet.

    Curiouser and curiouser. I like it. Leia being jealous is cute. And I was wondering if the blond would make another appearance. Maybe Kabe has a point and perhaps Leia is making things more difficult than they need to be. Nice job!

  8. Surely, I love this as much as I've been loving the entire series, Everytime that I see a new chapter posted, I can hardly control my excitement.
    I loved jealous Leia, and Leia realizing she was jealous. I loved drunk and verbally open with her feelings Leia. I love Han being protective of her in the city at night. I
    loved Han's slip about remembering their drugged wedding night and Leia wanting to know what happened.

    But my favorite part is what comes of her interaction with Kabe:
    "Does he make you laugh...Does he care about you? Can you talk to him? Do you trust him?"
    Maybe whatever she and Han had been doing was as close as she would ever get to dating someone, getting to know them, and falling in love...The Alliance, Alderaan and the Empire would make fairly lousy and lonely partners somewhere down the road.

    It speaks so much of their deeper relationship, that they are people who trust, take care of and have fun with each other, that they are friends and potential lovers.

  9. Really liked this chapter, I enjoyed Leia's conversation with Kabe. Now I just really want to know what happened! Damn Leia, why'd you have to be drunk? ;)

  10. I was on my way to bed when I saw this update!

    AH! This is SO good! I always squeal a little bit when i see a new chapter posted. I think my boyfriend thinks i`m crazy...

    Anyway! This has to be my favourite line:
    "Her first inclination had been to argue, but she was sober enough to know that she wasn't quite sober enough to win that argument."

    I've been there. I think, perhaps, we've ALL been there.

    Awesome awesome awesome!

    And, I must say, i keep getting very happily distracted by the current background pic. It makes me forget what I'm doing. *Swoon*

    But now I really do have to go to bed. :)

  11. Sorry for the late comment. For some reason I didn't get the usual email telling me of a new post. Then I read this and thought that it seemed to jump a bit- the story so I check and realise that I missed the chapter before this one. I subscribed again and hopefully it will work but if not I will regularly check the blog. Anyway...
    I really enjoyed this update! I feel like follows the previous chapter nicely what with the blondes reappearance. I also liked Leia talking with the blondes husband. And that chat (not to mention outright jealousy) causing Leia to confront Han. I was so eager to find out what happened that night and so disappointed when Han didn't tell her. I didn't realise that there was more to the story of that night. Just like Leia I eagerly await finding out "what tomorrow could possibly hold in store for them."
    Great job as usual, Push!

  12. I finally figured out how to comment love this story.

  13. I suddenly quit getting update emails so here I was thinking y'all had been so quiet and really there was all this stuff I was missing!!!!

    loving this joint story and it flows so well.
    I liked the line about what she wouldn't give to take a ride on his thoughts.

  14. Oh man, I really look forward to more!

  15. A lurker popping out to say how much I am liking this story. In this chapter especially, I liked how we get a fleeting but insightful look at a side character like Kabe; the section gave him and Lohree some real dimensions in just a few short paragraphs but never lost its focus on Leia and Han, showcasing Leia's ability to make people comfortable (her comment to Kabe), her relationship to Han (making her laugh, etc.), and her feelings about the Rebellion.

    I must, say, though, the chapters are unforgivably short. (j/k :-) But if you are wondering why you keep getting so many hits on the main page, it's because I'm looking for updates.)

  16. Sorry I'm late for thanking you for the comments! It was a busy weekend and a horrible Monday yesterday. I'm glad you guys are still enjoying this story.

    It's a bit of a challenge writing this joint story like this. Continuity is a bear for one thing but it is also out of the realm of what Zyra and I both see as "the real story" of Han and Leia so it's exciting yet intimidating at the same time. How far do we go or can we go and still remain in character?

    Anyway, it's good to hear that you guys are still following and enjoying this. I can't wait to see where this story goes next!

  17. Gods, I think I've found a goldmine.

    This blog is brilliant, as are the authors that contribute! It's not often I find a story that stirs up such feelings in me, I'm on the edge of my seat with anticipation and I just love where this is going. I couldn't think of two better authors to create such a story. I'm just going to sit in a corner of the internet, waiting (semi) patiently for the next (no doubt, excellent) instalment.

    1. If any of you want to know tricks for getting us to want to write/post more, this is a good start :)