AN: Alright fellow shippers, this is a taste of the enormity which has been consuming my poor bedraggled brain for the last few months. I LOVE this new story - but I promise to finish Future before actually posting this one for real. But I got a little excited and had to share. fair warning, it might undergo a few more tweaks and edits before finally hitting the "big screen" but i wanted to get a feel for it. I hope you love it too. :)
Parallel - by Zolo77
"Another?" Han asked, leaning down behind her, running a hand lightly down her throat, tipping her head back with the side of his thumb. His nose trailed slowly down hers and he kissed her, delaying any response.
The party had broken up well over an hour ago. And now, with the children fast asleep, they finally had the rest of the night to themselves. Leia had started the long cleanup process when Han had returned from the bedroom, a small navy box in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. He had herded her gently away from the momentous mess littering the kitchen, with the promise that it would all still be there in the morning. The place was a disaster by any standard: balloons, streamers, empty glassware and small white china plates strewn across every available surface. But he was right – it would keep.
"Mmm... please." Smiling lazily back at him, Leia curled her bare feet under herself and settled further into the deep-set sofa, listening to a mid-rim soul band coo softly around them from the in-ceiling speakers. The heels she had bought especially for tonight had been discarded hours ago, kicked off somewhere in the dining room - locating them was another task for tomorrow.
Han leaned over her then, picking up the discarded wine glass off the dark wood side-table and placing a kiss on her bare shoulder. Tilting her head to the side to encourage the gesture, she pulled her hair across her neck, gathering it away. They hadn't been like this for a while. Hectic schedules, coupled with the ever growing commitments and complications which came along with raising three small children, meant they had learned to cherish moments like this. Moments which, as both of them would attest to, came around far too seldom.
The living area they sat in was a large one, and secretly the reason Leia had pushed to buy the apartment in the first place. With room enough for three growing children, two offices and the master bedroom complete with a large ensuite which was tucked away with grandeur at the top of a curved staircase. But to Leia, the openness of the living space, with the full length windows and conversation pit complete with a built in holo projector and in-ceiling sound - which opened out to the dining room and kitchen, added something to this space which no other home had offered. Han had been pulled in by the large balconies, one on the main floor featuring sliding glass doors which opened seamlessly to an enclosed outdoor lounge and the smaller private deck off their bedroom – which in this particular district was something few apartments had. His insistence their children (and himself) be able to actually get outside on a daily basis was paramount. The large soaker tub in the master ensuite helped seal the sale further.
The memory made her smile. Their first home. Well, as a family at least, the unwelcoming ultra-modern bachelor pad they had landed in after the liberation hardly counted as a "home". She had been nearly desperate to leave the overwhelming feeling of confinement and utility for the comfortable, welcome openness their new apartment held.
Clinking glassware could be heard over the soft sultry jazz now playing overhead. The hi-ball and wine glasses were a strange memento as well, bought before they were even married, at an auction several levels down on Coruscant. They were also rather Imperialist in design, but Leia had loved them. Handcarved and label-less; from an unknown artist in one of the colonies, the set was simple in design and every glass a slightly different size. Often commented on by guests, the glassware had become an unintended conversation piece.
The bar was set against the full height transparasteel wall which ran the full length across the back of the living room, it offered a breath taking view of the city as guests helped themselves to any number of fine reserves which Han had collected over the years, and was secretly very proud of it. The bar itself was antique of unknown heritage. They had picked it up off-world and lugged the damn thing back with them. Bought originally to be the centerpiece in Han's office, they had managed to drag it into the living room and there it was staying – at least until his office was finished.
It was a bit eclectic, Leia thought, as she watched her husband pour from decanters they had received as wedding gifts. She smiled, biting lightly on her lower lip, thinking of their wedding. They had left straight afterwards, desperate to get away. Returning, weeks later, to chaos. Gifts has taken over, cluttering the apartment, piled everywhere. It had taken them days to organize, open and catalogue everything. Having not bothered to register – on top of not really having the time - they had received a fairly bizarre assortment of gifts, most of which they kept; among those were the various bar pieces from all corners of the galaxy as well as a strange metal sculpture, they had wrongly believed to be an ornament, until their first anniversary when the thing lit up and started to chime at midnight, the noise reverberating around their small bedroom; scaring the daylights out of both of them – it now lived in Han's unfinished office.
Tonight though, despite the beautiful lights of the city glittering around them and the hypnotic stream of traffic across the sky, Leia appreciated a far greater, private view. Han stood in front of the bar, tall and sure, white tailored shirt cutting a sharp contrast against the lights of the city laid out before him. He had been relaxed that evening, and after the last few challenging weeks, it was a nice break for both of them.
"Wine?" He questioned, breaking the spell, not looking up from his task.
Leia shook her head, "No, Whiskey Sweet, I think."
"You sure?" he asked, setting his tumbler aside he reached under the cabinet and produced an unopened small glass bottle filled with a slightly murky, dark plum liquid.
"I don't how you can drink this, it's terrible," he replied, sauntering over to her, offering the glass with a smirk. Taking the drink, fingers tracing lightly over the hand carved etching on the face of the tumbler, she smiled at him.
"Happy birthday, Sweetheart." He whispered, lightly touching his tumbler to hers.
"Thank you, tonight was wonderful."
"Good. That's what it was supposed to be."
Leia took a shallow sip of her drink and tried not to pull a face. He was right, it really was awful.
Glancing over to find him watching her, she made a face and shivered dramatically. Han laughed, scooping her feet from under her and gently placing them on his knees, pushing the gathers of fabric aside, clearing way for his hands on her calves.
"This is so bad. Can I have a sip of yours?" without answering, he offered her his drink.
"Let me make you something else."
"No, it's fine. It won't feel like my birthday without it."
It was a small, inside commentary which had started shyly a long time ago. Well before they thought of themselves as having secrets with each other.
They had been holed up in a dump of a town, on a backwater beaten up planet, waiting for an answer from local government officials on supplying for the Rebellion when Han had strolled into the living area of the small, trashy hotel room they were sharing, darkly dressed, blaster at his side.
"You're leaving?" Leia asked, annoyed with herself that her voice sounded slightly panicked.
"Yeah, seeing as it's only 2200 and we don't have to be anywhere tomorrow, I figured I'd get some air. Don't open the door to anyone; I have a key. I mean it, Princess. No one." She curled herself into the corner of the large threadbare sofa and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and rolled her eyes at him.
"Hey, I mean it. This isn't exactly the best part of town." Han took half a step towards her, uncertainly flitting across his face.
"I'm not a child, Han. I don't have to be left alone in a hotel room with specific instructions and a code word. I'll be fine. Go. Have fun." she made a flippant gesture of annoyance with her small hand and bent her head even further over the book she was pretending to read.
He stood watching her for the span of several heartbeats, Leia could feel herself tensing, a warming blush crawling up her chest towards her throat. That always happened when he studied her, it was so annoying.
"Come with me."
Her head snapped up so fast she saw stars. "What? Come with you where?"
"Out. Could be fun. Like I said; we have nothing planned tomorrow, might as well go blow some steam and check things out."
That was the last thing she had expected, and it threw her off guard, and besides that, she hadn't really ever been the type to 'blow off steam'. She clung to her book staring at him, frantically trying to quell the warmth with had now certainly reached the base of her throat. "I'm not dressed. I haven't showered, you should just go. It'll take me a while to get ready."
"I'll wait. Go, go get changed. Take your time." Han turned toward the comm installed next to the door, and pressed a quick code. Leia sat watching him in dumb silence. "What are you doing?" she finally asked.
"Ordering a drink. You said you'd be a while, right?" This was all becoming too familiar, too comfortable, she thought as she watched him kick off his boots and fall causally into the large chair opposite her. This was very 'couple-ish' and she wasn't sure if she was comfortable with it. But, she thought, as she stood slowly and turned towards her room, if he was able to be friendly, then maybe this was a good idea, the alternative was a very long assignment and she didn't feel up to fighting with him any more than they would normally. "Wait, you ordered a drink? How is that even possible? We can't get them to bring us fresh towels." She spun around at the door and quirked her head at him.
He laughed at her expression, "Trust me. This place has more alcohol than it does clean laundry. And they'll do pretty much anything to make an extra credit or two. Now, go! We're losing daylight." He dismissed her with a smile and a quick gesture.
It hadn't taken her as long as she thought it might. Han had only gotten through half a glass of cheap whiskey when she emerged from her room; makeup dark and dramatic, hair pulled up into a messy pile, clad darkly as well, black slim leggings and boots with a loose deep green sweater over the only black camisole she had.
He caught her eyes and held her gaze a heartbeat too long, downed the rest of his glass and stood. "Ready?" she merely nodded, following close behind him.
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, she thought for what must have been the hundredth time, as she caught their reflection again in a darkened window of a closed shop. They made an attractive sight, she admitted begrudgingly to herself. His tall, self-assured swagger complimenting her small frame nicely. "Here." He interrupted her musings, placed his arm around her shoulder and steered her into a smoky doorway off the street. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim. Han didn't seem bothered and ushered her into a booth in the back corner, catching a busty server by the arm and ordering something quickly as they passed. Leia tried to shrug out from under him, panic starting to creep its way into her mind.
"I said I'm fine," she snapped, instantly regretting it. They were getting along, and now she had ruined it.
"Okay." Han drew his arm off of her and placed both elbows on the table, jaw twitching as his eyes scanned the bar. She knew he was checking exits, he always did. Force of habit, she knew.
"Sorry." She whispered. Han didn't reply, simply nodded and kept his eyes away from her. At that moment, drinks appeared in front of them and she grabbed hers, shuddering slightly as she took a large gulp of the bitter liquid.
They sat in silence, growing comfortable with each other, watching the scene around them buzz and flow. An endless throng of beings - mostly alien - skirt around them.
"I need another. Same for you?" Han broke the silence, watching her with a look she couldn't quite place.
"Yes, please. No actually I'll have a Ruusan Ice Wine, if they have it."
"You sure? Have you ever had it? It's vile stuff. Really, you should get something else."
"No, it's fine. That's what I want. And yes, I have tried it; quite a few times actually." Leia started tracing invisible patterns in the rough wooden tabletop.
"Lady, you get stranger and stranger the more I get to know you." He remarked, signaling the server over again. She smiled quietly, perhaps the evening was saved, small spat avoided – or at least forgotten for now.
"That's rich, look who's talking."
He laughed then, a handsome rich laugh which forced her to look up at him. He looked so different at that moment, younger, less cynical and almost – free. Compelled by something but not knowing what exactly, and expanded her story.
"It was my sixteenth birthday; my friend Winter and I wanted to celebrate, so we snuck into the galley after the staff had gone to bed, broke into the liquor cabinet, but we didn't know what we should take, so we simply choose the closest bottle. It turned out to be that. It was horrible, but we drank it anyway since we really didn't know any better.: She stopped and smiled. She hadn't let herself think about Winter very much. Or her life before this. What was the point really? Everything was different. Gone. Han sat quietly, smiling as well. "Anyway,: she continued, "I left shortly after that to take my seat at the senate, but for my seventeenth birthday, Winter sent me a bottle as a joke. I never got around to drinking it. It was left in my apartment on Coruscant. Then, well -" she looked away from him without finishing. They sat in silence for a moment as a tired looking server dropped two glasses on front of them and gathered the chips before stalking off.
"Have you heard from-" Han asked quietly, sliding the small glass of wine to her.
"No. I don't know where she was when... when it happened. I desperately hope she was off-world. But I might never know."
"I'm sure when the war is over, you'll find her."
"If I last that long, maybe." Leia said quietly. She offered him a small smile to his silence and lifted the glass, inhaling its offensively sweet smell.
Nothing more on that subject was said. He didn't bring it up again, and she had forgotten the exchange took place. It wasn't until several months later, Han and Chewie had gone on a stockade run with a few members from Luke's newly formed Rogue Squadron, when a strange box appeared in her room. It was wrapped simply. Curiosity finally got the better of her late that evening, after hours of staring at it. Ripping off the packaging she found a bottle of Ruusan Ice Wine. She knew immediately, even as she picked up the card and read the familiar hurried-slanted scribe, what this gift meant.
For you and Winter. Don't give up.
PS - Everyone hates Ruusan wine - call it Whiskey Sweet - it sounds better and at least people wont know you drink that stuff.
PS - Everyone hates Ruusan wine - call it Whiskey Sweet - it sounds better and at least people wont know you drink that stuff.
She had kept that bottle with her, it had been packed in her luggage during the evacuation of Hoth, and after being reunited with the fleet she had stared at it night after night. A reminder of two people she had loved, two people which the Empire had stolen from her. Two people she would devote her life to finding again.
It had taken years, but she had finally shared that bottle with Winter.
"Hey, you awake?"
She laughed, and nodded. "Just thinking."
"Oh, that's alright then." He smiled. "I have something for you." Han whispered into her ear after a moment.
"There's more?" she asked, Han simply hummed an affirmative sound, making her giggle. He shifted slightly and picked up the small navy box she had noticed early from the table beside him.
"There's always more. Here, happy birthday."
Leia took the small package from him, tracing the velvety feel of the box several times before lifting the top.
"Oh, it's beautiful."
"It reminded me of you."
xXx"Thank you for today, it was perfect." With the lights of the city hidden behind the darkened wall of glass behind them, and a trail of clothing strewn up the staircase, Leia turned in his arms and staring up at the dancing points of light created by the candles on the bedside table.
"Good. That was the idea."
"Although, I think next year we need a bigger cake. There's hardly any left over, and Luke called dibs on the corner piece."
"He can't call dibs, it's your cake."
"Well, it's his birthday too, I guess. Although, I might eat all of it for breakfast. Then I can apologize later."
"Sounds very 'Solo' of you. I approve."
"I thought you would."
"So, what did you wish for?"
"I can't tell you! If I do, it wont come true."
"Fine," she sighed, leaning closer to him, fingers playing across his chest. "I wished for what every woman wishes for on her thirtieth birthday: I wished to be twenty-nine again."
"I've never understood that. What exactly is wrong with being thirty?"
"I'm not sure. It's not even that old, really." She looked up and scrunched her nose at him playfully. "I mean, it's not forty. Forty's old. Isn't it?"
"Excuse me, are you saying I'm old?" he turned quickly, pinning her under him and winding a hand loosely through her hair, massaging her scalp softly. Her eyes closed slowly and a contended sigh left her. "I'm saying you're mine." she whispered breathlessly.
"Yes, I am." And with that, he leaned down to kiss her again.
"Leia?" he breathed into the darkness.
"What did you really wish for?"
"What?" Han asked again, already knowing the answer. She buried her face into his shoulder, and breathed deeply.
"Alderaan. I wished for Alderaan."