Renewal: Chapter Twelve Rated R
Ivy

Niras Alia Qu’aristoff. Born in 09846. A native of Yashuvhu. Palpatine’s personal assistant from 09873-09877, an acclaimed speechwriter and political spin doctor. He’d been instrumental in drafting Palpatine’s Doctrine of High Human Culture and was now preserved for time immemorial in the archives of the Imperial registry. His tenure as an aide to the Emperor had ended the same year Darth Vader emerged as a rising power (a fact which registered no surprise). That was it. So short, she memorized it in one shot. There were a few fuzzy holo images of a man whose face she couldn’t make out. She could not discern whether he bore any resemblance to Sarin.

Either Niras and Sarin was the same person, or there was a connection between them that went beyond being born on the same world. Brothers? Naming traditions?

Maybe they hadn’t needed Sarin for their experiments after all. Maybe they’d had a volunteer.

There was definitely a connection between the Outer Rim planet and the Emperor, plausibly inspired by someone close to him.

Leia considered the possibilities while wandering across the library grounds. The library itself had turned out to be only a few blocks from Jai and Dirk’s inn. Along with a carefully prepared message for Airen Cracken, she’d left the pair with her sincerest thanks and gratitude, and then spent the morning sifting through the archives while Han picked up supplies. Although she’d been given strict instructions to stray no further and to wait in the lobby until he returned, the sun was brilliant and inviting at the peak of Elrood’s High summer. It looked perfectly safe and secure to her, and if she was going to wind up cooped on a ship for the next little while it seemed not all that selfish to soak in as much fresh air and sun as possible. Any grumblings about disobeying orders would be worth it. Han was late, besides.

There was only a handful of people in sight. Many reclined on the well-tended white lawns, eating home-brought lunches. A few had apparently purchased the flaky pies the vendor on the front steps of the library was selling. There was a lethargic reader napping with his datareaders draped across the bridge of his nose. A young couple kissed and rolled on the manicured grasses as though they were alone; the ruddy-cheeked girl kept dodging her face and laughing while her companion caught her hair and pulled her back.

The grounds were surrounded by gardens of native flowers and creeping vines, pathways crossed with stone benches and fountains. Feeling in need of an old-fashioned cheering up, Leia walked aimlessly through the rainbow of nova roses, commelinas, anagalisses and towering solarflowers. Avian life cheeped and squawked off in the distance. Tidewater winds carried the scent of salt in the air, clung to her skin like a saline aura.

The gardens also nestled groves of black petalled zinthorns. Their layered leaves shrank back inside the patchy shadows cast by braver fauna, lily-livered, shriveling and quivering in direct sunlight. They were perennial, hearty, durably in bloom, peppery scented and fragrant in the off-seasons -- so long as they had their shade. She curbed the urge to trample the ones straying over the edge of the path. It wasn’t their fault. Palpatine had designated them the Empire’s official flower, and how like him they were: nothing more than a symbol of a dying reign. Strange to assess a world’s political leanings by the flowers tended to in their gardens, but one could.

If she ever had a real home again -- if there was any such thing -- she decided she’d like it to be near the ocean. Having a real home was an idea, a notion, a dream she seldom permitted herself. At any rate, she frequently wondered how plausible that was considering her work grounded her to Coruscant. It would be as destiny willed it.

Sighing over the thought, she made her way around a fountain after yet another quick perusal of the streets for Han.

A woman sat with her face tipped forward, crooning low over her lap. Leia strained to see.

The sight, the realization stopped her dead in her tracks. On the woman’s thighs rested an infant, so small it barely seemed to take up any space, wrapped in folds of a pale green receiving blanket. The threaded needle that bound her flesh and feeling was drawn tight, rent all that was partially healed open anew.

It didn’t help that her brain was saying, you were only nine weeks ...

Because most mothers wouldn’t feel their unborn children, not until far later along in the pregnancy, not the way she had been able to. It set her apart, cursed her, and blessed her. The ache in her womb resonated keenly, as though it sensed her proximity to a newborn. She sagged onto the bench across from them and swallowed a lump.

The woman leaned down, grasping tiny outstretched fingers, murmuring in an unfamiliar language. The infant had a crown of dark hair. Leia wondered if it was a girl, and swallowed lump after lump in rapid succession.

Gone, gone, and better when it happened then later because otherwise Vader would have had one last posthumous victory and it would have hurt a thousand times more later and there was nothing you could do ...

Her force sense reflexively reached inward and touched nothing. Turning it away, she stretched outward, focused on the gurgling infant, sensed an innate sort of happiness for which there were no words and it didn’t matter. She could feel the mother’s happiness too, felt a new emotion seize her, clamped her teeth together.

You were lying when you told Han you’re still the same. You’re not.

No one ever recognized change, not until later.

"Princess Leia Organa? Is it you?"

The infant wailed. She wasn’t paying attention in the slightest. "Yes."

* * * * *

Elraden’s policing forces had appeared, from the looks of it so far, rather lax. This came as no surprise to Han, who was intimately familiar with law enforcement across the galaxy. Patrolmen in the Outer Rim were generally at the bottom of the totem pole, the dumbest of the lot, nothing like the Espo’s in the Corporate Sector. They patrolled in pairs, sporting knock-offs of the local stormtroopers armor, which looked unbearably hot and probably explained the several he’d seen lounging in the shade while on duty. It was enough to lull anyone into a false sense of security, but he was sharp enough to remain wary and so was Leia.

Therefore Han wasn’t eager to believe what he saw as he neared the library.

The fracas caught his attention a block away. That and the waiting Elrood Security Transport with the stormtrooper behind the controls. A sickening thud slammed the bottom of his gut. Imperial stormtroopers didn’t regularly leave the Starport and that meant only one thing.

They’d been notified that a person of interest to them had been located.

Han immediately grabbed his blaster and ducked behind a rusted red trash receptacle. Two patrolmen were hauling Leia toward the waiting transports. Her arms were in binders and she was trudging at a slug’s pace toward the passenger side, resisting rough jabs and orders to step it up. A second stormtrooper was loitering by the open door, though he could only see his head above the transport’s roof. Unfortunately, from his side of the street, his vantage-point was constrained. Most of the security team were blocked or partially blocked by the transport. Additionally, he was too far away. Even if he tried a sniper attack, he would probably only get two shots, leaving one man standing to heave Leia into the transport before he could reach her. Though he could see the driver’s helmet through the window, the glass was probably blaster proof, so trying to incapacitate the driver wouldn’t work. None of his ready options were practical, nor was taking a roundabout dash to find a better position. There wasn’t time and the commotion was attracting a lot of attention they didn’t need to top it off. Han swore under his breath, made his analysis and weighed his options, did the math and found the results weren’t to his liking. It suddenly seemed more prudent to blend in with the crowd of a dozen and wing it for dear life.

Unclipping his blaster and packing it carefully away in their travel bag, Han hoisted the strap over his shoulder. Then he ran across the street and began waving frantically at the cortege. "Hey! Hey! Where are you taking my wife?"

The crowd parted, freshly curious as to who would have the audacity to run hollering into the arms of the authorities.

One of those voice automated helmet speakers responded. "She’s under arrest."

Leia’s eyes were wild. She’d put up a fierce struggle. Her shirt was torn clear across one shoulder and her face bore a red streak that was evidence of a hard slap. To her credit, one of the men was limping badly. "Uh ... Honey, what did you do now?"

"These ... these gentlemen are under the mistaken impression that I’m someone else."

"They are?" He did his best to keep his gaping to that of a frantic husband about to watch his wife be hauled off due to a case of mistaken identity. The transport’s interior was equipped with restraints a Wookiee wouldn’t be able to break out of barehanded. He couldn’t let her be forced inside. If she was and they took off ... the odds were looking worse.

"You know ... " Leia replied, "Her."

Gee, and who could that be? Seeing no other option than to go with the flow, he sighed, grievously. "Ahhh ... the Alderaanian Princess routine again. This happens to her all the time. They just look an awful lot alike. She probably thought it was me." He talked fast. "I call her that sometimes. It’s a joke between us. I mean, what would she be doing on Elrood? Take a look around."

The stormtrooper shook his helmet. "She identified herself to the authorities when they approached her."

No she didn’t. "Oh, but she’s prone to delusions," he muttered, taking another step
forward so that he was between the party and the transport. "A regular 10-96."

"This is a big mistake," Leia warned. "Captain Sal and I were just married here. We’re on our honey-" The explanation was lost. While she was speaking one of the patrolmen had peeled off his gloves and begun a lazy search of her person, sticking a hand where it had no business being. She screeched, "Get your filthy paws off me," and drove her heels into the shins of the stormtrooper behind her.

Her captor bellowed and wrenched her left arm up in an unnatural position, grabbing her hair and snapping her head back in the same motion. The new pose had Leia up on her tiptoes and compliant to avoid having her shoulder dislocated. "You behave," he snapped.

"Look ... there’s no need for all this ... " Solo tried to stay calm, tried not to watch what they were doing -- where those hands were going. "This is all a big mistake like she said. There’s no need to-"

The Telltrig glinted in the sunlight. "What have we here? This doesn’t look like anything you should be needing on a honeymoon." Two blasters turned his way. Suddenly, Han, the concerned husband, became of great interest to them. "Sir, can we see your I.D."

He gulped, wishing he’d gone with his first instincts and made his debut as a sniper. His only consolation was that they hadn’t recognized him yet, but they would eventually, and then he would have only two choices. Surrender, go with her, and hope they’d have a chance to escape on the way to their headquarters, which wasn’t going to happen. Dying on the street seemed preferable to what would await them at their headquarters, and two against four was better than two against a garrison. And, Han thought, you’ve always said you preferred a straight fight. He said, "Yeah I’ve got I.D."

"Let’s see it."

He reached casually into his bag, fingered the trigger on his blaster.

From the gardens came a godsend, a critical onlooker. "Look at what he’s doing to that girl. And he’s twice her size." The lament caught the trooper’s ear, who eased his grip on her arm.

"My wife has an awful temper," he encouraged boldly. "Don’t you, Honey?"

Leia met his eyes, blinked, brought her heels up again and slammed them back.

Han discharged a volley of blasts at the Elroodian patrolmen and dove behind the transport. Red streaks of blaster fire sizzled past where he’d been standing. Old pilot reflexes kept his attention focused while he flipped to the other side, expecting the driver to break out firing. He heard a slew of streaming maledictions erupting from Leia and her captor; the sounds of ensuing pandemonium as the crowd shrieked and began to scatter to avoid wild fire.

When no one exited he bent low and made a foot count beneath the belly of the transport; one pair of gleaming military style boots and Leia’s. Through the din he could hear the driver calling for backup, reporting two men down, and through the haze of smoke he could spy the two bodies. Generic mass produced plasarmor was worthless against a well-modified Blastech. Good. Two to go.

Their voices were panicked. "Did you see where he went?"

"Check your side!"

"Go ahead and pull that thing," she was daring.

"Did he run?"

Another pair of boots stepped down, paused, turned around. Han held his breath and slid the shredded travel bag off his weapon. That’s right ... look under here to see if you can see my feet ...

"You know what?" Leia furthered. "In the Core we refer to the Imperials stationed out here as the Empire’s little minions. Not cut out for any line of work that involves the mental capacity of a five year-old."

"Shut her up!"

The boots stepped away from the transport, but not far enough for Han to get a clean shot from his angle, not any higher than his knees. Damn. He wasn’t sure if Leia was trying to incite them to murder her outright or what.

"Did you even graduate from the Academy on Carida?"

"I mean it."

"Pardon me," she snickered. "I’ve always wondered where they sent the ones who flunked out first year."

Either the stormtrooper wasn’t too quick on the uptake or he was really trying to ignore her. Everyone’s feet appeared glued in place. "How long ‘til they get here?"

"Any minute now."

His cue. They were cowering with their prize like a pair of children. Whatever these two idiots were doing, they obviously weren’t trying to secure the scene and he couldn’t afford to wait. Sucking in a hard breath, and flinching inside, Han fired at the knees. There was horrible guttural oomph, and then a visceral scream that had no beginning and no end.

Promptly, trying not to let his breakfast get the best of him, he charged around the back end of the transport.

Unfortunately, the remaining stormtrooper had anticipated his choice of direction and met him with a carbine in the gut just as he rounded the corner. His only consolation was the fact that his own blaster was likewise jammed against the stormtrooper’s armor. The perilous position left the two men glaring at each other with their fingers ready. They froze, and then each carefully took a slow step back.

At the nose of the craft, the disabled man was writhing in agony, incapable of coherent sounds much less the retrieval his weapon. Leia was sprawled sideways in the gravel, trying in vain to hop her legs back through her hands. From where he was standing he could see that the binders had been wedged so high up her forearms during the squabble she was virtually helpless.

"Drop that and put your hands up," the Imperial ordered.

"Drop yours," Han returned.

"Do it or I’ll fire."

"So will I."

"Do it!"

Han clicked the release. Time stretched interminably. The bloodcurdling screaming continued in the background. Leia was still trying to scramble to her feet. "No!"

It was almost funny: at this range, both of them were going to die. He couldn’t see the man’s face through the heavy visor to see his expression, but he could almost hear the opening bar of Deeply Religious’ How Do They See Anyway. The sun beating down on them calmed him in an abstract way. Bounty hunters and other scum dwelled in the dark. Space travel, battle -- all those dangers were surrounded by darkness. On a beautiful day when the air smelled this good, death seemed untenable.

The stormtrooper buckled, heaved his sidearm into the street. "They’ll lockdown the Starport before you make it to your ship when I tell them-"

The dormant stirrings of Han’s conscience wished the man had kept his mouth shut.

* * * * *

Leia washed her face and shed her soiled and torn clothing. Her cheek smarted. Her shoulder was throbbing. On closer inspection her wrists were starting to swell, ligature marks formed purplish half circles on the outside. She’d been trying so hard to free them, to stall, to do anything to buy herself time until Han arrived, and she hadn’t been sure at all that he would be able to pull off the rescue he had. Her self-loathing had reached an apex beyond all previous levels.

None of that had needed to happen. None of that should have happened. She’d been picked up like an amateur in a public place and almost gotten them both captured. She did know better than wander in an open space without watching her back. If someone called your name, you ran without looking behind you. You didn’t say, "Oh, hi."

The taxi ride to the Starport had stretched out interminably. Han had mumbled a string of filthy expletives while he picked the lock on her binders -- not easy in a moving vehicle, nor while he was shouting at the taxi driver to get a move on. At the Starport he’d handed the driver a fistful of credits, offered a second for the shirt off his back, and ordered Leia to put it on over her torn clothes. The binders were shoved beneath the seat.

Right at that moment, the crippled stormtrooper had probably been moaning his story and alerting the entire planet to their presence. He would never walk again -- not on his own legs, and Leia doubted they’d provide top medical care for a stormtrooper who’d broken the laws drilled into his head during his tenure. You are expendable. Your life is secondary to your service to the Empire.

To their relief, the Imperial squadrons inside the Starport had not been alerted yet. No one stopped them when Han handed in his registry chip. They were escorted to the Falcon by the very same officer who’d checked them in, who said he hoped they’d enjoyed their stay and would return for anniversaries and such like all the other tourists. Han smiled and gritted his teeth until they were on board, kicked the crates of pre-loaded supplies out of the way, gave Elrood his lasting well wishes.

On board, he snapped that he hoped Jai and Dirk had reliable enough credentials if they ran a city sweep.

The mother, upon seeing the authorities, had given her a scathing glance, as though she were a petty criminal, hastily grabbed her child and run off. Then the binders had snapped shut.

This doesn’t happen to you, she thought. Leia Organa does not let herself get distracted and taken into custody by imbeciles. Han would never have allowed himself to be distracted. Luke would never have allowed himself to be distracted. Luke would also be offering his cursory, ‘what’s over and done with is not worth kicking yourself over.’ It was one those things he said -- though he wasn’t as dedicated to applying it to himself -- but it would have helped. She missed him terribly.

A search of Han’s meager wardrobe turned up no more of her own clothes, save white robes. They were all torn or in the cleaning unit. She donned a grungy pair of fatigues and one of Han’s old pullovers and started the sani-steamer. Then she sat on the floor with her head between her knees, trying to control the rapid let-down of adrenaline in her system. It wasn’t until some time after the jump to hyperspace that she worked up enough courage to seek him out.

She found him at the engineering station with his techaide. It was a healthy sign. Fine-tuning was his euphemism for cooling off mode. "Han," she murmured softly.

"You." He paused, though his arms remained aloof with the techaide. Then he said, "I’ll ask you once."

"Ask me-"

"You know what? If I didn’t show up when I did, I would have had no idea where they’d taken you. There are three Star Destroyers in this Sector. Right this second ..." The beeping of the techaide erupted into a shrill tone. It wasn’t an opening to speak. Han adjusted whatever it was the device was screeching about. "Right this second they’d have you on your way to visit the Sector Moff for a Q-and-A session." He shook his head angrily. "You’ve spent five years running from the Empire Leia. You know the drill. You know better than to wander around brain-dead without watching your back. You don’t answer if I shout your name. So just ... please tell me you didn’t."

He had heard the stormtrooper loud and clear then. "I can’t."

"Then what happened down there?"

"I ... I fucked up."

"You fucked up?"

"Yes."

"Give me a better reason than that," he growled. "That’s pathetic."

She was tempted to make one up. A fainting spell. I woke up and there they were. "I don’t have one."

"Bless the stars they were lousy shots."

"Or that you’re a good shot," she said quietly.

"A regular master marksman," he told her flippantly. "Pull another stunt like that and I’ll end up a legend. A deceased legend."

Han didn’t even the decency to turn around. Livid, she choked back a sob, bridged the few steps between them and pummeled his back with her fists. "What about the stunt you pulled?" she shouted. "What the hell was I supposed to do if he didn’t fall for your bluff? That stupid, stupid stand-off of yours-"

Han spun around and snatched her wrists. The techaide clattered across the floor. "You were supposed to get up and run."

"How?" She never would have found the strength to stand. She would have still been there when backup arrived and she wouldn’t have cared. "How was I supposed to run?" she wailed, using her elbows to attack him.

Han tightened his grip and shoved her back to arm’s length. "Will you calm down? We’re all right. I’m all right! Now calm down!"

"It was my fault, not yours. You shouldn’t have taken that kind of risk!"

"Leia, look at me. I’m all right, see? No one got hurt. We got away."

By then, Han’s face and jacket were a watery blob of colors. She stopped struggling. "It was my fault. You shouldn’t have done that ... he might have shot you and then ... "

"What else was I supposed to do?"

"I don’t know."

"Leia ... " There was no malice or derision, no chastising. "I didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t about to leave you there." He released her wrists and she stepped into his arms and leaned her forehead against his chest. "Though honestly I don’t know whether to yell at you or hug you so hard I break every bone in your body. I’m pretty near going with either."

She hugged him as fiercely as her aching shoulder would allow. "Well the same goes for you." Then because she’d been too shaken to say so before, she said, "Thank you for coming after me."

"What else was I gonna do?"

"I don’t know ... but thank you. I don’t know what I would have done if you didn’t."

"I mean seriously," Han explained. "What would I have told you brother? Oops, sorry, I lost her on Elrood. Yeah, yeah, I could’ve tried to rescue her but she told me to go away. You know how she is. Plus the food service in those new customized prisons cells puts my cooking to shame."

"No it doesn’t," she told him.

"And then your brother would have said, ‘well what about those iron benches they call beds’, and I would have had to go on about the new and improved deluxe sleeping quarters ... And then, ‘say Luke, did I tell you about the new freshers? They got rid of the hole of in the corner ... "

She tried in vain to stifle her giggling.

"Oh, oh, oh," he teased. "I hear a happy sound."

"Stop ... stop trying to be funny. This isn’t funny."

"Is someone being funny here?" he asked in mock disbelief. "It’s not me, I swear. I would never do that."

"Yes you would. That’s exactly like you."

"Then you’ve got me." He began rubbing her back. "Though I’d say you’re the one who gives new meaning to the expression ‘royal pain in the ass.’ I thought they were going to knock you upside the head and haul you in unconscious."

They both laughed this time. She felt off-kilter, calm and profoundly disorientated all at once, hyper-aware of his hands on her back. His legs were very warm where they touched hers. Impulsively she stood on the tips of her toes and pressed her mouth against his collarbone, inhaled the scent of masculine sweat, tasted salt. Then she slipped her hands beneath his shirt, ran her palms over his ribs, over the muscles of his lower back. His skin felt sleek, hot, and smooth to the touch.

Han made a strangling sound deep in his throat. "Um ... you know your whole speech yesterday," he exhaled laboriously, quite possibly going against every hot-blooded Corellian instinct coursing through his veins. He exhaled again. "This isn’t helping. It really, really isn’t."

Evidence of what this wasn’t helping was already digging into her stomach. She didn’t shift. Instead she slipped one of her hands behind her own back and caught his. Then she guided it over the curve of her hip. She didn’t want to let him go. It didn’t need to be more complicated than that unless she permitted herself to start thinking and if she started thinking she was going to break down. She didn’t want to. All she said was, "It’s okay."

"And you don’t owe me this either. Whatever you’re thinking."

"I know I don’t owe you this," she replied.

"Oh then." The mirthful tone remained in his voice. "Where’d you find this?"

"This?"

"You’re wearing my shirt?"

She failed to see how that was relevant and peered up. "Do you mind?"

"No. I like you in my clothes." His eyes were smiling and dangerous and his hands continued their almost incurious study of her shoulders beneath her own. "Course," he said slowly, leaning down to nuzzle the side of her throat, "I like you a whole lot better with them off."

The sensation of his teeth and tongue dizzied her, made her feel lightheaded, pooled in the pit of her stomach. "You do, huh?" she managed.

"But I thought you knew that."

He kissed her and every sense drifted to his tongue stroking hers, his lips, the scruff of his chin scraping her bare skin. Something hard thwacked the back of her head -- or she tripped, she wasn’t exactly sure -- but suddenly her entire body was compressed between the wall and his torso, and his hands had found their way beneath her shirt. Something pointy jabbed her sore shoulder but it barely registered. Ragged breathing muffled the sounds of the ship like white noise, her own moans and the low growls Han was making in the back of his throat.

They were on the floor and she was beneath him while her brain was still trying to process how they’d gone from up to down. They fought to undress each other while their hands continued their frantic exploration. He sucked at the skin on the base of her neck, cupped her breasts while his tongue intermittently found her mouth. He dragged her fatigues down and swung her legs apart at the knees and over his head, covering her body in one swift movement. She locked her legs around his back and held her breath, felt her body yield to him. His entry was sharp and intense and beautiful. Waves of anticipation washed through her, fueled unintelligible responses.

Han groaned and pressed his face into her hair, slid in and out, gently at first. After a few moments he increased the tempo, spooning her bottom in his hands and lifting her, so that he was never really withdrawing, but driving into her with such force that at first she was whimpering from both pain and pleasure. There was no rhythm, no cadence, only a desperate sense of urgency escalating and devouring them whole. She sank her teeth into his shoulder and strained to meet him, felt him stroking the inside of her thighs.

Time stalled while everything else erupted into a blur of flesh and mouths and touch. Her fingers and toes began tingling. The ceiling over her head seemed impossibly hazed over, disorientating. Within her, she could feel the shattering of everything tangible and real, little spider webs spreading in every direction. She closed her eyes and held on for dear life, felt as though she were floating, detached, adrift in a nether realm not of his creation or her own, and that any second now the circle would feed itself, knew when it traveled to the center she would break and disintegrate.

The orgasm bordered on violent. Her entire body convulsed; distantly she heard herself making shrill cries, felt her inner muscles contract around him. It was powerful enough to bring him with her, and after a few more thrusts he collapsed on top of her.

They lay joined until he softened and slipped out. He kissed her face. He called her sweetheart and baby and beautiful, every term of endearment that had belonged to her in the past, as though she had re-earned them or been reborn on the polished hull plating. She thought she never wanted to get up.

Gradually she became aware that the floor was cold against her back, that Han’s body was warm and sticky against her own, that her teeth were chattering and she was shivering, though not from chill. Han’s hipbone was hurting her pelvis and she wanted to close her legs together to contain the spasms rippling through her. Her feet refused to cooperate. Han felt her trying to move and swung them both up, shifting his legs until she was sitting in his lap. Her cheeks stung from the mixture of tears and their sweat so she wiped her face against the hair on his chest.

They stayed that way for a long time.

Han was oddly quiet. "I didn’t hurt you," he said finally.

"No," she said. He hadn’t, though she’d never seen him that unstrained, felt him handle her body so roughly. "I feel ... good," she added, because she did. She also felt sated, drained, euphoric, sad -- all jumbled together.

He kissed her cheeks again and began massaging her calves. "You feel amazing."

"So do you." She reached behind him and caught a handful of bunched-up and twisted inside-out fabric swathed around her boots. "Um, how did you manage to do this to us, Solo?"

He shrugged sheepishly. "Spur of the moment inspiration." He wriggled his hips and brought his knees up. "To tell the truth it’s beginning to feel kind of kinky. You can’t get up unless I let you."

"Neither can you."

"Nope."

She leaned back against his knees, supported by his arms, and closed her eyes. It reminded her in a strange way of the mother and child that she’d seen in the gardens, laying there helpless and unable to move. If she stayed still Han would keep touching her, and she would stay feeling like this. Maybe it hadn’t been the mother she’d been envying after all.

"Leia." Han stiffened. "I forgot to ask you-"

"There was a shot for that too," she murmured. "I can’t ... I can’t ..." Risk getting pregnant for at least a year. That’s what Tryll had told her. That her natural reaction to losing a child might be to want to conceive again, that she might not think rationally, that her womb needed time to heal. It had been a precaution. "I won’t."

"Good then."

He sounded relieved. That hurt. Both, she thought.


To Chapter Eleven | To Chapter Thirteen

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