In Limbo

By JoJo

Art by Liz


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I t was over. The battles were won, the surrenders accepted, and the celebrations had subsided. Life had returned to its usual monotony, having only somewhat realized that freedom had been won.

Life on Coruscant was no exception. The air seemed no different than it had before, even with scores of New Republic politicians flooding the halls, heralding the new era of freedom and prosperity that their glorious constitution would bring. It would be the greatest document since the Jedi Creed. Palpatine could never exist again.

The citizens shrugged and went on with life. They were weary of politics.

She studied with resignation the line of battle fatigues hanging in her closet. Her hands ran over them--the fabric of each told the story of time. There was one for the swamps and one for the ships. One for the snow...and over in the corner, was a dress uniform for the times they could be fancy.

And the one with the burn across the sleeve.

She didn't need them anymore. Han had thrown his in the incinerator--as if he ever wore a uniform anyway--and offered to do her the same service, but unlike him, Leia didn't have any normal clothing. Han's shirts didn't count.

They had come to Coruscant with the other heroes, chock-full of ideas and fresh out of clothes. So for the first time in years, Leia was allowing herself the luxury of shopping, an activity she had considered almost sacrilegious during the war.

The door chimes rang, announcing Han's arrival--late, as always--and she went to answer, deactivating the door locks with an anxious flick of her wrist.

"Hey, sorry I'm late." He kissed her softly on the forehead in greeting.

She stood up on her toes and pecked him on the mouth as she reached for her only jacket without rank insignia flashing on the breast. "That's all right. Ready to go?"

They walked hand in hand around the square, stopping at various stores and buying an outfit or two every so often. They had collected their pay two days ago. Money was not a problem. Yet.

"It's amazing how everything looks the same," Leia said upon leaving a store. She could still see the endless structures reaching toward the horizon, without a single scorch mark or blaster scar marring the walls. The sun glazed the perfect spires just as it had in her forgotten dreams. It was unreal.

"Did you expect something else?" asked Han, offering his arm and taking one of her bags as she gazed across the untroubled square.

"I guess..." Her eyes lowered to the polished stone walkway. "I guess I wanted it in ruins. Just so I'd always be able to remember that what we fought for was worthwhile. But when I'm here, it's almost as if there didn't need to be a rebellion."

She didn't mean it and Han knew that, but it created a silence between them for several moments. "Well, you used to be able to see the Jedi consulate from here, and now you can't," Han said. "So there's something." He raised his arm to hail a passing cab. "And there used to be a heck of a lot more non-humans walking around."

Leia nodded. "Yes, but sometimes in the Senate's as if nothing has changed. Can't you feel the bureaucracy building itself up again? We haven't even gotten the constitution written because we can't agree on the introductory paragraph." She stopped to signal another cab. "So it just seems as if the Republic never left. There's talk, Han. Maybe we shouldn't have a Republic anymore. We could just manage as separate worlds."

A cab whizzed past, already occupied.

Han shook his head. "It'll never happen." He smiled reassuringly, because she looked tired. Everyone was tired now that the war was over. Sure, sometimes peace invigorated a person because it meant that fate could be altered and dreams might come true. But life had turned Leia into a pessimist, and a pessimist was a hard thing to be when the future was uncertain.

For years they had been fighters, sharing a common goal and a common way of life with little need for change. But that was gone forever--with any luck, at least. So what did a warrior do without a war?

He led her into the club, possessively holding her hand as if to discourage anyone from taking an interest. They asked for a quiet table in the back, and as they walked through the restaurant they wondered whether anyone could see again the youth and enthusiasm that had not graced their faces in years.

It was a quiet restaurant overlooking Monument Plaza, where an observer could see workers tearing down the statues of Imperials and clearing the way for eventual memorials to Alliance heroes. All around the square lights glowed like stars and reminded wayworn travelers of the lull of space.

Han glanced out the windows occasionally at this view and remembered the old days, when the Falconwas his home and the glare of lights made him want to return there. But in the old days, Leia hadn't been by his side.

She was far away as she looked out the window, leaning her chin on her hand. The new dress she wore sparkled against the lamps, illuminating her melancholy face.

"What's wrong?" Han finally asked, feeling uncomfortable without her hand covering his.

She shifted in her seat and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Nothing. Just thinking."

"Well, that clears everything up just beautifully." He was too sarcastic, and he amended himself. "Sorry."

"Don't be," she said. "It's just that I used to come here before the war."

The war again.She always mentioned it as if it were an old friend she missed.

He smiled, choosing to keep the conversation light. "I used to hearabout this place before the war." He recalled sitting in bars and laughing his head off with Chewie, poking fun at all the pompous upper-class people that ate in restaurants like these.

"And now you've come to see if what you heard was true?" she teased.

"Well, someone once told me that I couldn't afford anything on the menu, but obviously he was lying."

Leia chuckled softly, seeming to enjoy Han's rarely demonstrated charm. He sometimes used it in places that offered possible temptation for her to run off with a gentleman. And sometimes he just used it to be unpredictable. Well, tonight she seemed to have some surprises of her own.

"Han? Tell me honestly what you think." She paused for effect before continuing. "Mon Mothma offered me a position in the new government today."

There was a slight lull as Leia awaited a reaction and Han expected more explanation.

"What kind of position?"

"I don't know yet, because we haven't set up the new government, but it should be something with influence." She returned to staring out the window while her fingers played nervously with the hair behind her ear. It was a girlish gesture that compelled Han to offer advice and support.

"You think she'll make you a senator?" True, senators were elected, but with Alderaan gone, the situation might be different.

"Who would I represent?" She'd misunderstood Han's thinking, didn't want to understand.

His hands moved expressively above the table, as if to ask how she couldn't know. "Well, the survivors--" he started, halting quickly when he noticed the black look in Leia's eyes.

"That's not really in the cards right now. I represented Alderaan once before, and I don't think the survivors would want me to do it again."

How was a person supposed to reply? Sure they do, they just don't know it?They'd discussed the subject endlessly since their first meeting. Leia would probably never stop blaming herself; that wasn't the issue. She still needed a job.

The waiter appeared and was about to rescue him from the necessity of an immediate answer, but Leia promptly sent him away.

"Look," Leia said. "Could we just focus on the offer? I don't feel like getting into Alderaan tonight."

Instinctively, Han opened his mouth, prepared to unleash some vicious retort--but he was out of practice, and Leia wasn't in the mood, so he resisted the temptation. But he could see they were on that question again...the question of where to put a warrior.

"Are you going to take it?"

"Should I?"

Well, he had run himself into another dead end. What did she want him to say?

Leia continued. "It'd be a great opportunity. I might end up chancellor someday...or whatever the title will be."

"Then go ahead and take it," he said.

"But do I really want to be in politics forever? It was different before--I had a cause." She sighed and cradled her head in her hands. "I'd only be like everyone else, shouting across the Hall at the top of my lungs just for the sake of a bill on taxation or spaceport docking."

"Then don't take it."

She exhaled in obvious frustration. "But what do youthink? This can't be my decision alone. You're in my future, too."

Han sighed before gazing into her exhausted eyes. "All right, if you're worried about being a politician, I'll say you shouldn't be. But if you're worried about being a bureaucrat, I'll say you'd make a pretty lousy one. All governments require a certain degree of bureaucracy...but then, you might be the one to control how much." He moved his hand to rest it by Leia's. "That's what I think. It's still your choice."

She smiled at Han's eloquence, the eloquence of a man speaking from his heart. But she was so tired of making decisions and wasn't even sure of her options. Where was beloved simplicity? "I don't know." She spoke in a whisper, as if unsure of her own voice. "I just don't think politics are in my future anymore. But then, what can I do?"

Han's brow darkened in thought. "You could train to be a Jedi."

"No," Leia chuckled. "That's Luke's territory."

"And those lightsabers are dangerous," he joked, enjoying their game. His brow furrowed as he searched for another possibility. "You could be a smuggler. I'd even lend you the Falcon."

Her eyes widened in mock surprise. "Oh, I'm flattered, but no."

"You could marry me."

It shocked them both. Perhaps Han most of all. The words had left his mouth before he could stop them, but he didn't cringe or protest that he wasn't being sincere. True, he had delivered a proposal by complete accident and in the most unromantic manner possible, but he wouldn't give his shirt if he could take it back. It had never been discussed, but he saw--even in the rashness of the moment--that thiswas the best choice of all.

"Han, be serious," Leia said in a pathetic tone, although she didn't hide her surprised expression. She was still trying to decide her future, and a facetious proposal wouldn't help things.

Even though he was nervous, Han grinned confidently, the way a person might while betting on a high-stakes sabacc game. "I amserious. Why not? We could get married and plan our lives around that." He looked up to gauge her reaction, half expecting another inquiry as to his true intentions.

Leia had watched his eyes as they settled into the realization of everything he had offered and she discovered that he truly loved her more than his trophied freedom. With eyes shining, she took his head in her hands and kissed him tenderly on his lips. "Then I accept. When's the wedding?"

"Haven't decided yet."

Leia glanced out the window once again and saw the evening traffic soaring over the construction scaffolding of Monument Plaza. She took in the thick red sunset and greeted it with a contented half-smile. "We'll see what comes."


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