“Whaddya say, Sweetheart,” Han broke into her thoughts as he barged noisily into the Falcon's lounge. “It's on the way the home.”
She'd left him to do the flying himself. Retreated from his side in the cockpit, saying she was tired and wanted to lie down. It was a good excuse, one he couldn't argue against. “On the way?” she said skeptically, though she did note Han's use of the word 'home'. “It's not anywhere to stop, Han.”
“Sure it is,” he argued.
“How can someplace that no longer exists be somewhere to stop,” she wondered acidly.
“It's the Graveyard,” Han said evenly. “It's the planet that doesn't exist, but the Graveyard is a bona fide place. On star charts and everything.”
“That's because the star charts have to acknowledge that Alderaan used to be there,” she said.
Han nodded thoughtfully. “Just so pilots know the change is not a misprint.” He noted her darkening expression, and waved a hand nonchalantly. “Sure, history, too. Cartography and exploration. You been back at all?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Me either. We should go pay a visit. Let 'em know what's been going on.”
Leia's eyes narrowed in disbelief. “Pay who a visit. Tell who?”
Han's voice took on a narrative tone, “You know, on Corellia, there's a tradition. Started before the large nectar farms, when people lived dirtside and had their own nectar hives.”
“Nectar bugs were valuable and important. And no one wanted a hive to just pick up and leave.”
“What would make a hive leave?”
Han shrugged. “People thought they'd leave if something changed in the house. Like if the master died.”
Leia found herself unwillingly interested. She knew why Han wanted to bring her to the Graveyard, but she said, “That sounds like typical Corellian superstition. I'm sure it was a scientific factor that caused a hive to leave.” All of a sudden, however, something connected. She remembered touring a nectar farm with her father, long ago, and marveling at the colorful ribbons wrapped around the hives that seemed to serve no purpose. She'd just assumed it was Corellian self-expression. “Is that why the hives are decorated?”
Han nodded, pleased. “Yeah. If there was a party or a holiday, you dressed them up, too.” He frowned down at her, picking up the flimsi she had not been reading at all. “'The Essence of Being',” he read, and tossed it back down. “How do you read this crap?” and before she could open her mouth to answer was back on the nectar hives. “You're supposed to keep the nectar bugs informed. Treat them with respect, like a member of the family.”
He reached out a hand, pulling her in for a squeezing hug once she was standing. Since her face was pressed against his chest and she wouldn't have to see his eyes, she muttered, “I know why you want to bring me there. I know you so well.”
“Then you oughta know yourself by now,” he rejoined, the teeniest of reprimands in his voice, and keeping one arm wrapped around her shoulder, led her to the cockpit.
I should, she thought. I do. And yet-
They were already here. He'd brought them out of hyperspace, left the space lanes, and set them adrift in the Graveyard. Leia glanced at the console and saw Han was cautious against getting hit by the fast-moving rocks, and had raised the shields. She sent him an accusing look; ''whaddya think, Sweetheart', my ass, and found he was smirking at her. He'd never intended to negotiate with her. Stubborn man.
With a stubborn wife. Who'd been quietly panicking now for two months, barely able to admit the time they talked about was here and she couldn't say it out loud.
“Here's your essence of being,” Han said, sounding awed.
She had never been to the Core like this. She'd traveled directly to one planet or bypassed it completely in hyperspace. It was clustered with numerous features, colored twinkles of distant stars, the steady brightness of light passing through planets made of gas or rock. She'd never just seemed to float within it, a guest of a star system. Her sun, the one she looked up at from Alderaan as a girl, was blazing near by, and the Graveyard swirled in constant movement..
“It's beautiful,” she breathed in wonder.
The Graveyard was remnants of the planet Alderaan, little bits of rock. They were the planet's core, Leia reflected, or maybe the mountains. Could there be a piece of brick or stone from a building? Ash even, or bone. Something to indicate the great variety of plant and animal life, of the billion humans.
The little bits of rock floated in silence, and soon all of them would be pulled into gravity and leave the area of space where they came from, and that would be the end of the Graveyard.
“Existence,” Leia pondered aloud to Han, “is out here, don't you think? Life and Death. Creation and Destruction.”
He rubbed her back. “You're just- scared, I think.”
She made no answer but watched the movement of the rocks. They moved fast, directionless, but it was oddly peaceful. “The Graveyard was created,” she said. “A marriage, of the Death Star and Alderaan. Existence is Void and Birth.”
Han stood behind her and leaned her back against him, his arms crossing her front. “It's more than that,” he said patiently.
She craned her neck back to see him, found only neck and throat. “Are you sure?”
“First there was just me, and just you, and then there was me and you, and something had to come from that, as a result, you know?”
She smiled slightly. “That's a nice way to see it.” She envied him, hoped she hadn't hurt him.
Her sun still shone on the remnants of her planet, and every once in a while a rock glittered in the light. “Do you think the Graveyard is beautiful?” she asked. They were all different shapes and sizes, and maybe composition, too, she thought. That's why some reflected light and others didn't.
She thought it might be beautiful. Somehow. It was awful, what it was, what it meant; but it was also its own thing, and it existed where other things didn't, and maybe that made it beautiful.
Han lifted his shoulders a little and his warm hands over her abdomen moved the slightest. “Space is beautiful.”
Yes, her lips moved to answer but her voice didn't come out. She nodded once because she knew he couldn't see her lips. Han, consummate pilot, loved space. Not what there was on a star chart, where systems were organized by suns and each planet and moon had a name. Not by the space lanes that told him where to fly. The part that didn't belong to the beings of the universe. The unnamed, the infinity, the promise and the damnation. The godness of it all. And Han Solo was not a religious man.
“You know,” Leia began, beginning to offer an explanation, “I'm new at this existence thing. I'm pretty experienced with the Death part. Really good at ending existence.”
“Doesn't really end, though.” It seemed his voice issued from his heart, where her head rested against his chest. “Just changes.”
“Mm,” she sighed with a quiet nod. He was right. Alderaan had died, and she would never have thought that something could rise from its ashes, have its own beauty, its own purpose. “It's a horrible name, Graveyard.”
“What would you call it?”
“I don't know. I'm going to have to think about that.” She put her hands over Han's forearms. “I just- Han. I worry I'll go into the void. I don't control anything anymore.”
“Leia. Look out there. Are your parents out in the void?”
She wanted to say, well, technically yes. Bail and Breha were dead. They didn't exist anymore. They died on Alderaan, which gave birth to the Graveyard. “Well, te-” but the words died on her lips. For she felt them, in her, a part of her, just as Han's story of the nectar hives was ingrained in him.
There was a timelessness out here. Nothing was afraid. It merely was, and it waited, when it might become something else. Beings of Essence.
All the things that loomed large and terrifying dwindled to insignificance. Han was right. She was scared. And that wasn't the end of the world.
She was Leia, one of innumerable human women who graced the galaxy with their lives. Many came before her, and others would follow, some carrying stories of nectar hives and memories of Alderaan's sun. Right now all that mattered was Leia and Han, that cursedly virile husband of hers – she smiled. “What?” but she shook her head. There was just him, and her, and the essence of their union. Which would have a being.
Han bent his head to kiss her neck. She tilted it to the side, and gooseflesh rose all over her neck and arms. “I love you,” she told him and he nodded into his kisses.
Would he think to take it farther? Would she let him? Sex in front of the Graveyard…
His lips were on her neck, warm and soft. "My mother would disapprove," she told him and felt him smile.
"She can watch," he murmured.
His tasteless sense of humor no longer shocked her but she whacked him lightly. "She would not want to watch," Leia insisted.
"She's not doing anything else," Han's mouth was at her ear, his breath warm and wet.
Which rock are you, Mother? Leia wondered."I never got to introduce you to my parents," she told Han wistfully.
He lifted a wrist that was down by her belly button. "Hi, I'm Han," he waved at the Graveyard, and a laugh escaped Leia before disapproval took over.
"You're so terrible," she said huskily.
"I am," he agreed dreamily and she roamed her hands again up his forearms, feeling strength and firmness.
Rocks floated all around them and she greeted them with her eyes. "It's not like a nectar farm, you know,” she pointed out to Han.“It's not like they can leave."
"But they'll be unhappy with you." Han pulled the neck of her shirt down and added kisses, speaking nonsense. "Put a curse on your house."
"The house of Organa," Leia murmured. "It stood for centuries."
"You're an Organa." Now his hands were under her shirt, roaming freely, warm and solid. "Still stands."
The Graveyard was for remembrance, Leia thought. Life and death.
"Will keep standing," Han added.
And it stood for renewal. Han circled around her and got to his knees, lifted Leia's shirt and spanned her whole middle with his two hands. "Tell 'em."
Leia nodded, reading so much in Han's fingertips. There was need, his and hers, and a bond, and – a lump rose in her throat, realizing how unfair she'd been to him – delight.
She put her hand on the top of his head. "Mother," she said, and stopped. The words were so new. "You're going to be a grandmother."
Han smiled against her belly. He kissed it and moved his hands all over, from her ankles to her breasts.
She grabbed onto his hair, feeling her center begin to pulse, life hammering away, even here, in the Graveyard.
"Tell your father we're married and all, so it's legit," Han said, reaching under her skirt and pulling down her panties.
She lifted his chin, smiling. "Would you be worried about that? At the same time you're pulling down my underwear?"
"Hell, yes," he declared.
"He'd come around," she told him gently.
"Like you," Han said. He returned his attention back to her body.
She nodded. "I'm sorry."
He looked up. "Don't be. I'm scared as shit, too. But it's happening to us together, so you know," he shrugged.
His head barely grazed her breasts, and she enjoyed the view of him below her, his brow, his eyelashes, his boyish appeal. Things she rarely got to see. Like the view from the Core, and the Graveyard.
They made love in the cockpit, tender and deep. For Han sex was like speaking a language, Leia thought, or telling a story. He could be playful, making her shriek with their acrobatics, or solemn, or desperate and clinging. He treated her body now as if it were brand new, recognizing the life within, confirming to it their love and connection. Her climax built slowly, and she thought in its own way it was like a birth, even the birth of the Graveyard, released when all the pieces were finally in place.
Sex with Han was confirmation of all things real. Fear was for something you couldn't know, didn't have, and he had a way of centering her, shrugging away the unknown.
They recovered in the over-sized copilot seat while the Graveyard surrounded them. The place knew life and death, but there was no fear here. The Graveyard knew it all.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Han said, out of breath, and Leia laughed, suddenly free.
"Which; the sex, the Graveyard or meeting my parents?"
He smiled. "The announcement." His eyes were happy. "Coming to acceptance."
"Father," Leia raised Han's limp wrist. "This is Han. We're going to have a baby."
"Hi" Han said exhaustedly. He kissed Leia's cheek.
"Bring me back," she told him. "After the baby's born."