Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Joint Story: The Sequel - Chapter 21



Leia arrived at the meeting on time, finding Han sitting in his usual seat, arms crossed in front of him and not looking up when she took her spot next to him.  She almost wanted to apologize, but decided this wasn’t the time or place to do so, so she gave him what she expected he really wanted and instead kept her mouth shut.

“All right,” Ava began.  “Today we are going to take a look at the recordings of your wedding ceremonies.”

Leia’s eyes widened.  Perhaps this would only be used to help some of the couples.

“As some of you may not be aware given that you are off-worlders, we here on Azterri take holorecordings of all of our marriages to ensure that they are performed legally.”

Leia could tell that Han was just as surprised as she was at this revelation. 

“We’ve found that for a lot of couples it can help to be taken back to that moment when they were getting married, to see how happy they were and remember the hope that they held and be reminded that there was once a time when you were in love with that person and you can be again.”

While she was mildly curious what her “wedding” had looked like, another part of Leia was very nervous about what she might see.  She had been drugged, after all, and had no idea what she had really been acting like that night.

Ava dimmed the lights and pulled up the first video.  This exercise might not take so long.  Initially the course had begun with twelve couples, and at this point already three of them had pulled out and decided they could make things work. 

The first wedding they watched was a couple of Twi’leks that appeared to be quite amorous with each other on the recording.  From what Leia could tell though from their involvement with the group, their marriage had started to fall apart when both of them had wandering eyes and it was unclear whether one or both of them had gone off and had affairs.  It was unsettling to think that the couple she was watching, who appeared so happy with one another on their wedding day, could so soon after wind up unsatisfied. 

Next up they watched Kabe and Lohree.  These two seemed to serve as the poster children for divorce.  As Leia suspected, even on their wedding day the couple didn’t quite look right together.  Their vows seemed mechanical and their first kiss was awkward.  There seemed to be no doubt that the two wouldn’t wind up staying together.

“All right,” Ava said after finishing the recording.  “Next we have the Solos.”

Leia’s throat went dry as she wondered what she was about to witness.  Han remained completely stoic, still slouched in his seat with his arms crossed over his chest. 

The recording began with a shot of both Han and Leia, Han standing proudly with a big grin on his face, a little more dressed up than his normal outfit, and Leia suddenly remembered him wearing that on the night they’d gone out.  Hanging on his arm was a woman that looked so elated that at first Leia didn’t think it could possibly be her.  She looked genuinely happy, which was an emotion Leia couldn’t remember having felt since before Alderaan had been destroyed.  Those drugs must’ve had some effect because she knew she wasn’t that good of an actress.

She could see a minister in front of them, a soft-spoken older gentleman who she presumed was about to perform the ceremony.  It seemed incredibly unfair to her that regardless of whether or not she had consciously decided to get married that she was left watching it happen without having any memory of it.  The older man spoke to them, the couple still both wearing the kinds of smiles you’d expect a loving couple to show when they were about to marry the love of their life.  “Have you come here of your own free will?” he asked. 

On the holo Han and Leia looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Yes,” with smiles still on their faces.  Free will?  Where was the drug test? 

The minister read off some more words about the sanctity of marriage and the importance of remaining faithful and a lot of other stuff that Leia now watching really had no interest in hearing about.  It was all just a fa├žade.  The words meant nothing because the people involved were not, in fact, operating under their own free will.  Although she was becoming increasingly distracted by the way she and Han were acting on the holo.  Han looked beyond elated at the whole exchange.  She had been so used to teasing half-smirks from him that she wasn’t used to seeing a full-on smile that wouldn’t quit simply beaming across his face.

She remained pressed up against his side, and she noted that she looked quite nice in the dress she’d worn that night.  It was rare that she got to wear such things, mostly always dressed for battle and in case a quick escape was needed.  If she didn’t know any better she’d think they at least looked like a happy and adorable couple.  Like him or not, she had to admit that the Corellian was incredibly nice to look at.    

Once the minister’s monologue was done, Leia realized he was giving them their vows.  They had turned to face one another, hands joined and staring adoringly into each other’s eyes.  The exchange was completely surreal.  Watching her own face, hearing her own voice say those words it was as though it was some sort of Leia-clone imposter.  Although she was mostly focused on the way Han was looking at her, and hearing him say all of those words about love and eternal bonds.  For some reason it was almost painful thinking that he had truly looked at her like that and pledged his undying devotion to her.  She kept repeating to herself in her head that it was only the drugs.  This wasn’t real.  He would never love her like that. 

Then she was struck with her own words and how foreign they sounded coming out of her mouth.  She was fighting to hold back the tears, angry that what was supposed to be such a joyous occasion was all such a sham.  And having convinced herself that she would never know a love like she and Han were professing to each other on the holo.  She couldn’t.  And surely he hadn’t meant any of what he’d said. 

“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” she heard the minister say on the holo.  “You may now kiss the bride.”

Leia saw her own image enthusiastically pull Han’s head down to hers to share in a passionate kiss.  She had no conscious memory of ever kissing anyone quite like that.  And suddenly she found herself so torn from wondering who those two people were to wishing it was all real.  What was it like to feel that way about someone?  What was it like to have them feel that way about her?  But surely he didn’t really feel that way.  And for him, kissing a woman like that was a common occurrence. 

Out of the corner of her eye she could see that Han still hadn’t moved as he sat next to her.  His eyes were staring coldly at the image.  After far too long the newly married couple finished their kiss and were still smiling at one another.  And while the ceremony was officially over, she heard Han say to her, “I’ve been in love with you since the day I met you.”

“You’re such a liar,” Leia said playfully, still with a big smile.

Han’s face grew serious, and his hands slipped behind her back to pull her in close.  Shaking his head, he replied, “No, I’m serious.  I was then, and am now, completely in love with you.”

Leia suspected her face now matched her reaction on the holo; surprise and awe.  Would a drug really make someone say something like that?  On the holo she heard herself say, “I love you, Han Solo.”  And then she kissed him again, with more fiery passion that she was starting to suspect had led them to the bedroom where they’d found themselves the next morning.  After a few moments, the minister interrupted them.  “I’m sorry, kids, but I have another ceremony to perform now. 

Slightly embarrassed, Han and Leia laughed and thanked the man and walked off, hand in hand, and the recording cut off.  Han heaved a sigh next to her, still staring directly forward. 

“Aw, that was incredibly sweet,” she heard one of the women behind her exclaim.  “You two were absolutely crazy about each other.  What happened?”

Leia could feel her face heating up, having no idea what to say at that point.  Fortunately, Ava answered before she could.  “Don’t worry, you don’t need to answer that.  At least not to any of us.  It might do you some good to try and answer it between the two of you, though.”  She gave them a soft and knowing smile and then moved to start the next recording. 

In the dim light of the room, Leia glanced at Han once again, wondering what he was thinking after seeing their exchange of vows.  Now she was feeling even more desperate to remember what else had happened the rest of the night.  And then she found herself wondering what it would’ve been like to marry him and then take him back to their room to enjoy their wedding night. 

Stop it.  Nothing happened.  And nothing can ever happen.  None of that meant anything.

She was suddenly feeling very unsure of what was real anymore.

Once the next video started, Han got up to leave the room.  She turned to watch him go, wanting to follow but being afraid of what she might say or do.  But a moment after he was gone, his lingering scent hit her.  She had never given much thought to how he smelled… unless for some reason the odor was particularly unpleasant, like after a prolonged mission without a shower or some strenuous and sweaty working on the Falcon. 

But now, when the smell of the combination of his soap and aftershave hit her nostrils, she shut her eyes and was able to see him looking down at her, wearing what she had just seen him wearing in that holo, smiling at her and telling her that he loved her. 

A few other flashes hit her, and she found herself staring directly into his hazel eyes and feeling the love for him she had declared on that night.  Letting herself feel, and telling him all of the emotions she had been keeping inside, and remembering how good it felt to have him say the words back to her. 

She had truly believed what she was saying.  She felt free to express everything she’d kept buried for so long and had forgotten what it was like to openly say that she loved someone.  And then she got a flash of another memory of smelling his skin when she kissed him in that bedroom that she had only previously recalled from the morning after.  It was completely surreal to her to recall the way she had behaved and at the same time it felt completely natural.  She’d wanted him in a way she had never wanted anyone, and he appeared to want all of the same things.

Her heart beat faster when she recalled taking off her dress and watching his eyes rake over her body.  Had something happened that night that he hadn’t told her?  And then she remembered when he threw the blanket around her and tucked her into bed.  He hadn’t taken advantage of her.  Based on the look on his face it had nothing to do with him not wanting to. 

Suddenly she was overwhelmed not just with the images from the evening but with the memory of everything she had felt for Han that night.  It was dawning on her that she had felt that way for a long time, and still now wanted nothing more than for everything that had happened that night.  And to have Han look at her that way every day. 

Wondering if he would even be able to look at her now after everything she had put him through, she got up and decided she needed to see him.  Even if she had no idea what she was going to say.

22 comments:

  1. Wow, Zyra. That's some chapter. I like it. Interesting they had to watch the video and Leia is now remembering. I bet Push will have fun with this. :) Well done.

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  2. Absolute genius chapter. Never thought for a second we would get all the wedding details like that, and especially Leia having to watch it all back, and I think I was as shocked as she was as to how it all played out. The next chapter is going to be quite a ride I think. Brilliant Zyra.

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  3. That was emotional and painful and wonderful. Oh, I hope they pull it together. I'm cheering for them.

    They really do have a love that surpasses understanding by most.

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  4. First off, always excited to see a new chapter of this posted.

    Second, when I first read that there was a holo of their wedding, I was very giddy with excitement, and my expectations for it were blown away by what came next. Reading about Leia and Han watching themselves acting so in love and happy with each other was amazing. And Leia warring with herself over whether it was the drugs or her true feelings were the root of those holo actions was the icing on the cake. No, wait, the icing and sprinkles on the cake was Leia possibly accepting that she wanted to continue how happy and in love that couple on the holo were together. :)

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  5. Thanks for the reviews, guys. It's always nice when you really seem to like a chapter of this thing.

    Though, for the record, this is kind of one of the reasons we won't be doing another one of these. Evidence suggests that not a lot of you really are reading it or just aren't particularly into it.

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    1. Good chapter... I am looking forward to more.

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    2. If I read it over and over again...does that count? :)

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    3. So I'll stop lurking and say.. probably more than you think ARE reading it and are into it. I get all excited when I come to the site and see JOINT STORY across the top. And it does count if we read it over and over again as I've been doing. Can't wait for more! (And please let Han get something out of this... I feel bad for him.. so much patience and angst and Leia is taking him through the ringer.)

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    4. i keep looking for a new chapter being up!

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  6. When I first read this I replied so enthusiastically to Zyra that she had to ask me if I was being facetious. :-)

    I just really, really enjoyed reading them watching their wedding holo and thought it was not only a great idea, but done really well. Great job, Zyra.

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    1. This is true, I did ask her that. I'm not sure I'd ever seen her so thrilled with something I'd written before.

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    2. I don't blame her. It was awesome, Zyra. How happy they were when they got married, what Han said to her afterwards about loving her, Leia warring with herself. Mushy, gushy goodness. :)

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    3. Totally agree, Push was right because it ROCKS! :) And absolutely, you can't beat the mushy goodness. Can't wait for more.

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  7. I usually don't like AU, but I really like this one. You have managed to channel the angst of the movies into this storyline. But will you just get them together already????!??

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  8. Again, a wonderful update! I just LOVE this story so much and can't wait to see what is coming up next!

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  9. I love that it's her sense of smell that triggers the memories! Fragrance is such a direct route to emotion and memory: it worked perfectly for me.

    NOW, on to the real question that that you posed in the chap: what is real and what isn't?

    Or we could just see some action. You know. Either way is fine :)

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    1. Smells always elicit a strong memory response for me, which was why I wanted to use it here to trigger her remembering. I thought it was appropriate :)

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  10. I love that chapter! :) I was thinking about you yesterday and wondering, if there will be a new chapter soon and here it is! :D

    Do you have some particular image that inspired you write that paragraph: "The recording began with a shot of both Han and Leia, Han standing proudly with a big grin on his face, a little more dressed up than his normal outfit, and Leia suddenly remembered him wearing that on the night they’d gone out. Hanging on his arm was a woman that looked so elated that at first Leia didn’t think it could possibly be her. She looked genuinely happy, which was an emotion Leia couldn’t remember having felt since before Alderaan had been destroyed. Those drugs must’ve had some effect because she knew she wasn’t that good of an actress."

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    1. I don't know, it was probably more of an image just from my own head. But there is a picture of them that could sort of be used, if they were actually looking at each other in it. I know it was at the top of one of our blog posts here once, but it's Harrison and Carrie standing outside posing and he has just a white linen shirt on and khaki pants and she's in a very simple, flowered dress, and they are both smiling with their hands behind their backs. I kind of saw them looking similar to that.

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  11. Oh, wow. You've raised the bar here Zyra. Each chapter just keeps getting better and better. I'm so intrigued with where Push will take this! Honestly, I can empathise with Leia so much here, even though I've never been in this situation before (obviously and thank god for that haha) but the way you've written this, her feelings are just so palpable and raw here. I feel as if I'm experiencing it with her. Needless to say, I am so looking forward to doing a celebratory fist pump when they finally get over their egoic B.S and get on with the lovin' :D

    Incredibly well written. Brava!

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  12. I really loved this chapter, Z.

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