This takes place between chapter 42 and 43 in Timothy Zahn’s novel Vision of the Future.
Stumbling on Carpet Lumps
“Home, at last!”
“Hey, that was my line!” Han retorted and gave his wife a lopsided smile. “Even if it’s not really Home yet. Not with the kids still at Kashyyk.”
Leia smiled. “Can’t argue with that.”
She kicked her shoes off and voluptuously dug her toes into their white rug carpet that covered the floor in their living room. Home! And the kids would come tomorrow! And soon there would be peace in the galaxy too!
Those terrible threats that had clouded the sky were gone. In a few weeks the Imperial Remnant and the New Republic would sign a peace treaty. She, Han, Elegos, Karrde and many others had fought a desperate and brave fight to maintain the stability and they had succeeded beyond expectation.
On the top of that, when she and Han had arrived to Coruscant only half an hour ago, Winter had told them that Luke and Mara Jade had returned safe and sound and with another important brick to peace and stability: the Caamas document.
Leia smiled at herself when she thought about her brother. Once again he had followed his own head and decided to go off on a mission she would herself had ranked as less important. When she had heard of it, a few weeks ago, she could have bitten his head off. But it seemed that once again the Force had been with him!
Han cleared his throat behind her. “Listen, I know it’s nice to be home and all that, but…”
Leia smiled to herself but didn’t turn. She could guess what would follow. “But what?”
“Don’t you think we should see to your brother. That he’s all right and all that?”
Leia’s smile broadened. “Winter didn’t mention anything about bacta treatment so I guess he’s just fine, but if you insist…”
They had a good laugh while hurrying towards Luke’s apartment. It seemed almost incredible that Luke would be back from a mission in one piece.
“Must be Mara’s influence!”, Han asserted.
Leia stretched out with her senses. “Han, I think he’s still sleeping”
Han glanced at his chrono. “Well, we’re early all right. We’ve been a bit out of sync when compared to Coruscant time, and have been that way for the entire trip. We should have slept longer the last mornings.
Leia giggled. “Never mind that. Let’s wake him up. I bet we can manage to scare him!”
“Are you mocking the Great Jedi Master, Han teased good naturedly. “Of course we can scare him!”
Some problems emerged when they reached Luke’s apartement, not because of the locked door, since they naturally had the code, but because they had both started to giggle somewhat uncontrollably. Han made faces at Leia and she had to keep her hand over her mouth not to laugh aloud. They crept the best they could through the entrance, then past the living room and towards Luke’s bedchamber. The door was open and they could see the mild, dusty morning-light of Coruscant streaming in through the curtained window.
Leia and Han glanced at each other and grinned. Han held three fingers up in the air and simultaneously they took the three last, long steps to the door and opened their mouths to shout.
But there was no shout. Their mouths remained open but not a sound came out.
Luke’s bedroom used to have a narrow cot, but now it was replaced with a large bed that almost filled the room. In the bed, peacefully sleeping on his back and naked, lay Luke. Curled up in his arm, lay an equally naked Mara Jade with the red hair surrounding her like a soft cape. Mara’s head was resting on Luke’s shoulder and his arm was protectively around her. Most or the bed linen was in a disarray on the floor. Mara was lying quite modestly though, lying on her side with a leg draped over her lover, but Luke was a totally different affair. He was only covered where Mara did it for him and that was about only the left side of his body.
Leia gasped and backed up. Han stared a few seconds more, but then turned quickly and noiselessly pulling Leia with him. He didn’t release her before they were back in the corridor outside the apartment with a closed door between them and the couple.
“Did they wake up?” Han groaned.
Leia swallowed loudly and streched out with her senses. “No.”
“Thank the Force!” They reached their own quarters before either of them could find out anything more to say. Then Han began to laugh.
“I can’t believe this! We’ve just snuck in on a Jedi and an ex-imperial assassin and came out alive again! How they were sleeping!!! Those two have obviously found much more than the Caamas document!
Leia had sunk into the sofa. She pressed her hands against her still burning cheeks and tried to get control over her feelings. “I’m so.. It’s so embarrassing! And it’s incredible, Han” She looked at him worryingly. “Do you think it’s serious?”
“Well, it sure looks like they had some serious fun…” Leia moaned and wrung her hands but Han just sat there grinning. “Luke and Mara Jade…well, well…” He glanced appreciatingly at his wife. “It seems that we can’t reach your brother for some time now. Perhaps we could take up some inspiration and…”
Then he saw her face and realized that Leia was in no mood for fun at the moment. She was pale, upset and deadly serious. “I’m thinking about them, Han! Do you think they are in a serious relationship?”
“I know the kid can be reckless at times, but I doubt even he would have the nerve to bed Mara Jade and then ask her to sod off the next morning.” Han tried to lighten the mood.
Leia moaned. “I didn’t think of Luke! Of course he thinks it is serious!”
Han cocked an eyebrow but Leia went on. “If Luke goes to bed with somebody, then he’s in love. I know that much! But I was talking about Mara.” Leia clenched her fists. “If she breaks his heart, I’ll kill her! I swear!”
Han looked at his wife for a long time and there was something surprisingly mild in his eyes. Embarrassment, worry and even jealousy would be quite natural reactions for a sister after catching her brother with a woman. Along with amusement and joy of course. But he knew that Leia’s feelings were much more complicated than this. Far more complicated. And always had been for various reasons. Was this the time to finally try to sort out those mixed, knotted feelings? And what would the consequences be?
He took a seat beside her. “I don’t think that Mara goes to bed with people just like that. She’s always been very controlled you know. And I certainly don’t think she would do that to Luke. After all she’s always had a soft spot for him. She wouldn’t …” He paused and thought about it. He had to choose his words carefully. “She’s fair. Always has been. You have to give her that. Even when she wanted to kill him she told him first, remember. She can be hard and cold towards other people and their feelings but that’s not the same as playing with them! My opinion is that if she’s sleeping with Luke it’s because it means something serious to her as well.”
Leia shook her head in disbelief. “Han it’s just not true what you’re saying. Don’t you remember Mara and Lando?”
“Oh, that story. Well… Luke isn’t exactly Lando…” Han hesitated. Then he made a quick decision. “Leia, that was all a hoax.”
“What?!? Where..? Who told you that?”
Han made a face. “Lando himself.” He stretched his feet out and onto the caf table but Leia was too upset to notice. “I got pretty curious when I heard about it, you see, and one evening when Lando and I were alone, out, and untidy I pushed him on the matter. He wasn’t much for it, but finally he admitted that the romance was pure fabrication. It had to do with something Mara was working on for Karrde. Lando went into it to get her on the hook. She had to play along to get a plausible cover story but was furious when the story slipped out to the public. Lando on his behalf wasn’t pleased with me getting to know the truth, and I promised to keep my mouth shut.” He made another face and looked at his wife. “Well, so much for that promise…”
There was a long silence while Leia digested Han’s words. Han studied his wife who was absorbed in thought. She bit her lower lip and her eyes were even bigger and darker than usual.
“It’s just that it has gone wrong so many times for Luke”, she finally mumbled. “And then he stands there feeling terrible. And won’t let us help.” She shot Han an embarrassed glance. “At least he won’t let me help him…”
And there we have the problem, Han reflected. He laid his arm around her shoulders.
“Sweetheart. I don’t think you should be so worried. I wouldn’t be surprised if we could hear wedding bells in the distance…”
His wife sighed a little. “You’re probably right…” She still didn’t sound relieved.
Han wondered how he could dig a little deeper. Perhaps he should just ask? “Is that what worries you? If they would go and get married?”
Leia shrugged. “Not really no. Well, yes. In a way. I know, of course, that there will be a terrible fuss. The New Republics poster boy marries the Hand of the Emperor…Actually, it couldn’t possibly be worse! Just imagine the headlines!” She gave him a wry smile. “But on the other hand I’ve always feared what Luke might drag home. I realized long ago that it either would be some stupid tart that I couldn’t stand, or then he would find someone that would make a scandal! It couldn’t possibly be anything nice and in between.” She managed a laugh. “And to be honest, I definitely prefer the scandal!”
Han chuckled. Leia had a good point. She knew her brother all right. But when had she come to that conclusion? She had never talked about it. And not about something else either, he mused. “You’re thinking of somebody special?” he asked aloud.
Leia rolled her eyes. “You want a list?!? Well, that Gaeriel-girl, for instance. I never liked her in the first place. Even if I shouldn’t say it, now that she’s dead and died for our cause on the top of that! But then there was that bitch Shira Brie! And Dani!
“Dani? Oh yes, the zeltron! But they weren’t lovers, were they?”
“No, not according to Luke. But really! The way she drawled after him when you were frozen in carbonite! It was outrageous!!!”
Han hide his smile. Leia was pretty funny the few times she started badmouthing people. She could certainly get herself spun up.
“Then there was Jem. She was sweet, but she sure was something for herself as well. Not to speak of Teneniel Jo!
“They weren’t lovers either” Han pointed out.
“No but Teneniel chased him all the same until she realized that Isolder was less resistant to her charm. Seriously, Han! I wouldn’t have wished him to fall for any of those girls!” Leia’s conscience must have stung immediately after uttering the words, because she winced. “But it was so sad for Luke! I really wished for him to be happy!”
Leia shifted uncomfortably, aware that something else was hidden in her words, but even she was not able to detect what it was. She was however getting too worked up to be able to stop just yet. “Well at least Luke himself rejected many of them or gave them up. Callista was, however, completely another matter.”
Leia hesitated. “I did like her. Perhaps…I …even talked better with her than Luke ever did. If she hadn’t left him, I would have wished their relationship to become something. But none the less, she ended up hurting him more than anybody else!” She sighed heavily. “Well anyway. Callista would have been a scandal, and I was preparing to face it at that point.”
“Why would Callista had been a scandal?”
“Han! Give it a thought, will you! She took over Crays body! What if Crays family had sued her or something! Or if the holopress had found out about that story! Nobody in the entire galaxy would have understood such a thing, but they sure would have condemned it. It would have cast a shadow over the entire Jedi academy! Perhaps it would even have caused irreparable damage to the reputation of the Jedi?” Leia made a face. “Luke never gave it a thought of course!”
She was silent for a while. “And clearly, in that perspective, Mara is much, much better. She has a past, we know that, but we don’t know much more of it than she has told us herself. I know that the Bothans have been through everything to track her down, but they have found nothing. Fortunately! She has truly worked in the shadows, as she, by the way, says herself.”
Han thought about it. “But what if the Bothans, or somebody else, would find anything?”
Leia set her jaw. “Mara has clearly shown that she is on our side now. Even more, she has proven she can be trusted. I consider her to be a friend! And perhaps, with this peace treaty, this could be seen as reconciliation with the past. A union between the former Empire and The New Republic?” The implications of her last statement seemed to lighten her mind a bit.
Han shook his head. Forever a politician she was, his Leia! “So you prefer the scandal?”
“And you think that Mara’s good enough for your brother?”
Leia gave him a quick look. “Han, it’s not my task to decide in that matter.”
“Well, no. But that doesn’t keep you from having your opinion!”
Leia winced. “No it hasn’t.”
Han nodded pensively. “I thought as much. There’s a lot of things you and Luke never really have talked about, isn’t there?”
Her voice was tiny. “Yes.”
They sat together in silence for a while. Then Han took the bull by the horns. “Listen, sweetheart. I know that you chose me before you knew Luke was your brother. And I’ve been living high on that all these years. And I’ve done so even though for a while I believed that you had made a mistake and shouldn’t have to stood by your choice. But I’ve never, in all these years, really asked you why.
Why did you choose me, Leia?”
Leia closed her eyes. “I’ve never really tried to ask myself that question, Han.”
She seemed very small sitting there with her hands clasped in her lap. “Probably because I was afraid of the answer.”
Han kept silent. He knew he was hitting the bull’s eye. He wondered if things were as bad as Leia was afraid of. How could they be? Or was it just bewilderment and suppression that had gathered and threw shadows that made the unsaid much more terrifying than it was. But he didn’t want to push her. The box was opened, and Leia was a far too sincere person to let it be. Whatever it was, it would soon be out in the light.
Han took Leia’s hand in his and she answered with a grateful squeeze. They sat quietly together for some time.
Finally Leia broke the silence. “What are you thinking about?”
“The stuff we’ve been talking about. I asked you earlier if Mara’s good enough for your brother, because I know how protective you are about him. And he about you, for that matter.” He flashed a grin, but quickly turned serious. “But I was thinking that the reversed question might be as relevant.”
Leia shivered a little. “The reversed… If Luke is good enough for Mara?
“Mmmh. I thought you were wavering a little there.”
Leia closed her eyes again. When she opened them she looked straight at Han. “I am.”
She was deadly serious, and it struck Han that last time he had seen her look as guilty was the first time she was confronted with being Darth Vader’s daughter. He tightened his grip of her hand and waited for her to continue.
“You know that I’ve always…loved Luke. Always! There was that special bond between us. And he was so caring, so eager and so ready to give everything up for what he believed in.”
“And for you.”
“Yes, for me too. He put me on a pedestal. And there I was. I saw the both of you, and I saw different things in you. You treated me like I was any girl. Well, you tried to at least. It irritated me, and I kept to Luke, just for that reason. But his way of treating me irritated me too. After all he was the Hero of the Rebellion from day one, and as much of a symbol as I was. I wasn’t better than him just because I was born royal. And then it turned out I wasn’t even that. It was… embarrassing. I had”…she swallowed but went on bravely. “I had troubles taking him seriously, Han! Not because I was royal but because he treated me that way when he didn’t have to. I belittled him! I really did! He was so much the peasant, so eager, naive and grateful. I only had to smile to make him happy. And I felt bad about it!” She stared unseeingly before her. “I still feel bad about it.”
“But you looked down at me too. Just for different reasons. Do you feel bad about that?”
Leia thought about it for a while. “Not really, no”, she admitted.
“Well, because I was wrong about you, I guess.”
“You think? You thought me to be a self-satisfied, indifferent dare-devil who only cared about money. And I am.”
Leia had to smile. “But you do care about other things than money.”
“Because I have enough of them now, yes.”
They both laughed.
Han played with Leia’s fingers but turned serious again. “You belittled Luke because he had his faults. And so what? Luke was a pain in the ass in those days. He can still be! But you stand him anyway. And after all he has his good side too. I’d even say that some of those irritating features are among his good qualities. That spirit of self-sacrifice you mentioned. And the frugality. That’s Luke in a nutshell. He’s so kriffing humble it’s bad for himself. But at the same time he can be arrogant and super egoistic. If he thinks he’s right, then nothing in the galaxy, not even you, can make him change his mind. That’s a kind of arrogance too. But I don’t think that’s the problem here. Everybody has faults. But to love someone is to accept them with their faults.
“I can see you are ashamed about some things here Leia. I’ve seen it all these years and often wondered about it, but I figured you and Luke would sort it out yourselves. But you never did. And I didn’t see to the core of the problem, so I just kept my mouth shut. Now we’re closer than ever to the answer.”
“There is one? What is the question then?” Leia looked sceptically at Han.
“Perhaps there are many questions. And perhaps that’s not important at all. Perhaps the problem was that suddenly everything just was locked up and you would never talk about it.
“You wanted to love Luke but you loved me too, and that confused you. Then you realized you really loved me and then you couldn’t love him. Then suddenly he was your brother and you could love him but then you couldn’t talk about how everything had been because you were suddenly siblings and siblings don’t talk about stuff like that.
“You know what you should have done? You should have had a talk about why you chose me and he should have been angry with you and called you stupid bantha and faithless twilek. And then you’d made friends again and the whole thing would have been over with!”
Leia glared at her husband. ”How could we? You were frozen into carbonite, when Luke figured out I loved you. He was your friend and wouldn’t take advantage of you being away. And I didn’t want to provoke anything by bringing the subject up. Besides I didn’t understand what I was feeling and didn’t want to fan the fire. But we found our own way to deal with it. We became like brother and sister before we knew we were.”
“Precisely! And that’s the problem. You never really crossed swords!”
“But we have since!”
“I must agree to that.” Han couldn’t help but laugh. He had but all too vivid memories of the Skywalker siblings arguing.
“But I still don’t get it.” Leia wondered. “What is the problem?”
“Well, basically that you dumped him. On grounds that were incomplete. And you could never talk about why. Have you ever really thought it through yourself?”
Leia swallowed a lump. “Well, I guess I haven’t”
“There you see. And after all that, he somehow became the one that wasn’t good enough for you, and by extension, maybe not good enough for any other girl as well. And because you love him you wouldn’t think the thought to its conlusion. And therefore you’ve never really sorted anything out.” Han scratched his jaw. “I guess that the fact that he’s had a terrible luck with ladies has only confirmed to you that he’s not good enough. And then the whole matter has become inflamed. That explains it Leia. I’ve wondered many times why you’ve reacted so stiffly every time he has burned himself. - And your reaction has made him withdraw from you. He has talked with me instead -.”
Leia’s eyes were suddenly filled with tears. “And then, once again, I couldn’t give him what he deserved. I’ve always felt I should somehow acknowledge him. That he is good enough. But I haven’t been able to do that. And I’ve felt so ashamed. Because he is good enough. He’s better. I know that, I can see that, and I know the girls of the galaxy can see that. He’s just so…” She shook her head helplessly. “It may be stupid, but if he only had slept with girls occasionally, I had felt much better.”
“Why is that?”
“Because then I wouldn’t have been the only one left to prove him worthy.”
Han smiled wryly. “You women are too complicated for your own good. And now you’re afraid that Mara would dump him because he’s dull in bed or something? Or not well equipped enough?”
“Yes, yes, that’s what you’re thinking. I know you. And you’re right. It is stupid! Leia, you saw Luke and Mara today. Did she seem unsatisfied?”
Leia tried to find a facial expression that would tell her husband that she did not discuss such things, but she failed. “No”, she finally admitted. “They looked very happy. Both of them.”
“Exactly. And was your brother badly equipped?”
“No? Leia, - I’ll tell you something now about Luke Skywalker that very few know.
The first years in the Alliance he slept with, well, about some 10-20 girls. And I think none of them dumped him. He was just so nice and sweet to them that they kept their mouths shut instead of gossiping about it. Maybe he was good in picking girls that were nice themselves. And Luke himself was of course discretion personified, so no one ever found out. Especially not the other girls. They probably thought they themselves were the only one who was allowed to comfort the brave and lonely First Hero of the Alliance.”
Leia’s eyes had taken the size of teacups. “You’re making this up, right!?!?”
“And he… He took advantage of the situation? He played at it?”
“Not at all. Luke’s a nice guy. And strictly brought up too. But we were at war, remember. And there were constantly girls throwing themselves at him. He turned most of them down, really, but some of them were too nice for him to manage to do it. After all, you know, Luke’s always been able to see the good sides in a person. And some of these girls had some very good sides.” Han chuckled. “Besides he was only nineteen, twenty years old and straight from the farm. How was he supposed to handle all that attention? You should really ask who took advantage of who here. He came to me to talk about it. Not to brag, mind you, because he’d never do that.”
“But, why didn’t any of those affairs become anything more?”
Han shrugged. “Well, after all he was already in love with the loveliest girl in the galaxy. He was also scared to death that you’d find out. If you ask me, you’ve only had two serious rivals my dear. Callista, and now it seems, the lovely Miss Jade. And besides, those two are the only ones in the running.” He smiled his lopsided smile. “But only just, princess.”
Leia smiled back, and for the first time since they had returned, her smile reached her eyes as well. “That sly boots! Behind my back! I’d never thought that! What about later?”
“Well the kid became a Jedi and I got the impression he didn’t think those two things suited well together. Besides I think it didn’t give him enough after all, since he never really felt anything deeper for those girls. He was always stressed about how the girls felt afterwards, so actually I think that the cost-benefit-analysis was in favor of no hanky-panky. I don’t know, maybe Jedi have other ways of relaxing? And after all he got a new right hand.”
“Han!” Leia giggled. She certainly saw her brother in a new light today.
She thought about it for a while, and turned serious again. “He was incredibly unlucky though! I mean, there was Shira, who he shot down himself. Mary, Gaeriel and Jem all died and Callista became a shadow of her former self.”
“And yet the Jedi say there is no luck, there is the Force.”
“You mean…?” She stared at him, not believing her ears.
“No I don’t mean. You know I don’t believe in that hokey stuff, remember?” His smile wasn’t entirely convincing though. “But seriously, Leia. Someone, like Callista. I don’t think she was big enough to see the kid as he deserves it. Not in the end anyway.”
“Of course not. Then she would never have left him, would she?” Leia had lightened up again. “Don’t you think we should contact them? Surely they must be up by now? Luke will begin to wonder if we don’t contact him as soon as we arrive.”
Han grunted. “To me, he looked like he’d been “up” most of the night. Give him a break, will you…”
“Captain Solo!” Leia shook a warning finger in front of her husband.
“C’mon!” Han teased. “To make Mara Jade sleep that sweetly… auch! But sure he has a lot of energy, your brother… you think he’s “up” again? Auch!! That hurt!!! Ok, ok, if you insist…” He slipped out of the sofa to avoid more slapping, but smiled to himself when walking towards the holocom. The matter had been aired and it hadn’t been at all as bad as Leia had feared. Now she was her energetic self again and the longing to talk with her brother was clear.
It didn’t take long before Luke answered the call, but he was still bare chested and his hair was tousled.
“Hi! Leia! Han! It’s so good to see you!”
He smiled that irresistible smile of his. Leias heart took a jump of joy when she saw her brother. As he stood there with his big blue eyes blinking and his hair in all directions he still reminded her of the eager young man that had come running into her detention cell so many years ago.
“Hey, Kid! Good to see you too. And good to see that you’re still in one piece. How is it going?” Han answered.
“Fine!” Luke’s smile was only marginally broader but his gaze shifted unwillingly a little, supposedly towards someone standing just outside the range of the pick-up. “When did you arrive?”
“Now, this morning. We decided to let you sleep. Winter said that you and Mara had a hard trip but that it was worth it.”
Luke’s face didn’t give anything away. “It sure was. We found the Caamas Document, but perhaps Winter told you that?”
Leia opened her mouth. “She did. It’s just so great! But how is Mara? You went after her because she was hurt? Was it bad?”
Luke blinked. “Mara’s just fine.” He grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, I lost the thread there. I had forgotten how it all begun. It was false alarm, at that point at least. Later it got quite rough.” He shrugged. “Actually there’s quite a lot to tell.”
“Shouldn’t we get it over with, then?” Han suggested. “Are you coming here or should we come there?”
Luke threw a quick glance to the side. “Uh…I’ll come there. I just need to take a shower.”
“You’ve just woken up? But it’s nearly midday?” Han couldn’t help pushing his friend a bit.
“Weeell…Sometimes it can be nice to stay in bed for a while…” There was a mischievous smile in Luke’s eye, but again, only detectable if you knew to look for it. Leia understood that her brother used the opportunity to tease Mara a bit while talking to her and Han. If she knew Mara right, the redhead was about to explode for the sake of staying hidden. Either that or then she was terrified for what their reactions would be.
Great brother, she thought. You’ve chosen a woman with teeth. Show her you’ve got some as well.
Why had she always been so worried for him? He could manage all right. And besides she had always needed his help as much as he had needed hers.
Luke took a breath. “See you in a while then. By the way, I’ll probably bring Mara with me.”
“Sure. No problem. Then maybe we can get the whole story”, Han responded.
Luke’s eyes narrowed slightly and he looked closely at his friend. “The whole story? You’ll get it…”, he promised. A slight smile tugged his mouth.
“Great! See you soon, kid!”
Leia looked at her brother and suddenly her heart flowed over. “Luke. I love you!”
He turned his eyes to her and the small smile broadened to a full one, a smile that lit his face and her heart with its bright light. “Love you too, sis! See you both shortly!”
Han closed the transmission and looked at his wife. “Everything ok?”
Leia thought about it for a while. But there was no doubt about it. She put her arms around him and smiled. “Never better!”
© 2007 Kataja