Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me. I'm not making any money off this story. Please don't sue me.
One year later...
Leia had quietly slipped away from Luke's birthday party early. She only went because people would have questioned her absence. She didn't particularly feel like celebrating today, otherwise she would have shared the fact that today was also her birthday, thereby doubling the fun. Instead, she was miserable and wanted to be alone with it. After all, there was no sense in spoiling everyone else's fun by pointing out that today was also the anniversary of the destruction of Alderaan. She was the only Alderaanian on this ship, so no one else took note of the date. Odd how something so dramatically significant to the entire galaxy just one short year ago, could go all but unnoticed now.
She escaped the party through the kitchen, quietly slipping a bottle of wine into the deep front pocket of her field jacket as she went. She supposed she should feel guilty for the theft, but instead she really didn't care...about anything. As she made her way to her quarters, she decided that being on ship was preferable to being on base. The ship at least had the basic amenities and the climate was controlled.
Her quarters were small, standard issue for low grade officers. She'd been offered larger accommodations, but declined them. She wasn't sure why. She had a bunk in the corner, a nightstand by the bed, a small closet, a small bathroom with a sonic refresher, and on the wall over the nightstand a cabinet that held miscellaneous items, including a coffee mug and a water glass. She chose the water glass and opened the wine.
She sniffed it, not much of a bouquet, but it was alcohol, and it would do. She poured herself a glass and sat on the bed and took her boots off. All week her sleep had been plagued by nightmares, worse than usual. They'd slacked off about three months after the Death Star, to being only a couple times a week, then once a week, now they were at a rate of about one a month, that is, until this week when they'd returned with all their original frequency and intensity. She felt like she hadn't slept in days, probably because she hadn't. The wine had been an impulse, an inspiration. She wasn't much of a drinker, her father had frowned on it, taking only an occasional glass of wine with certain meals. What Leia wanted most right now was not to think, and with a few glasses of wine she might actually be able to sleep, a peaceful sleep, the sleep of the dead. She glanced down to realize she'd finished the glass. She poured herself another and thought about getting ready for bed. She'd decided to go ahead and put on her pajamas when there was a knock at the door.
Han stood at the doorway to her quarters feeling like a fool. He shifted the long gift box in his hands and prayed she was home. He'd seen her slip into the kitchen, and she hadn't returned to the party, so he'd gone back to the Falcon to retrieve her gift in hopes of catching her alone. He knocked again. She's probably gone for a walk, he thought. As he was about to leave, the door opened.
Leia stood in the door and looked at him.
"Han." She said.
"Hey, happy birthday," he said, holding out the gift. Something wasn't quite right, he thought. She seemed undone. Her shirt was unbuttoned at the collar, one button too many, and her shirt tail was untucked, and she didn't seem too steady on her bare feet. She was leaning on the door jam in a less than regal manner. Behind her, he eyed the wine bottle on her nightstand and the half empty glass next to it. "Are you drunk?"
"No," she stammered, involuntarily turning to look back at the bottle of wine.
When she turned, Han used the opportunity to slip inside the door.
When she turned back around he was already inside, the door sliding shut behind him. "What...how did you know it was my birthday?"
He gave her a grin. "You told me."
"No, I didn't. I haven't told anyone." She said, enunciating carefully for fear of slurring.
"Well, you told me."
"Oh yeah, when." There was something flawed in this argument but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.
Han set the gift down next to the nightstand and reached into the cabinet and retrieved the coffee mug. "Last year."
"I don't remember..."
"On the way to Yavin."
"Oh." She wanted to sit down, but he'd poured himself a mug of wine and plopped down on her bed. She'd either have to sit next to him on the bed or sit on the floor. She wasn't sure she could get off the floor if she sat there, so she opted for the bed, leaving plenty of space between them. She cursed herself for skipping dinner and then having wine. She felt decidedly tipsy and was starting to get a headache. Having Han Solo sitting on her bed wasn't helping either.
"You know, you shouldn't drink alone."
"I don't. I mean not usually. I mean, whatever, I don't have to explain myself to you."
"True." he smiled, taking a sip from the mug. "I mean, for all I know this is some Alderaanian custom, a right of passage for your nineteenth birthday. You all have to pinch a bottle of wine and drink it alone in your bedroom."
Leia glared at him. "Yes," she said flatly, "it's one of our most revered traditions."
Han laughed out loud at that, and Leia couldn't help but laugh too. It struck her then that he was the only person who could do that, come in on her darkest day and make her laugh.
"So," he said to break the silence following the laugh, "aren't you going to open your gift?" He handed her the long package.
"Sure." she said, peeling the paper from the box. She slipped the lid off to reveal a tapestry. It was Alderaanian by design and depicted the palace at Antibes overlooking the sea.
"Oh, oh, Han, where...it's so beautiful...how did you know...I can't...where did you find this?"
Han smiled as he watched her pull it from the box and hold it up. "When I made that run to Sullus last month I came across an Alderaanian weaver in the bazaar there. I asked her what the most beautiful place on Alderaan was, and she said the palace at Antibes. I asked if she could reproduce it in tapestry, and this is what she gave me when I went back this week."
Leia was trying desperately to choke back tears, but they were starting to slip down her cheeks. Han was starting to regret the gift. She seemed so upset.
"Hey, I didn't mean to upset you..."
She looked at him and smiled, "No, this is the most beautiful...I can't express. Thank you so much. Do you know what this is?"
"It's not the palace at Antibes?"
"No, it is, but do you know what the palace at Antibes is?"
"It was mine. I mean, it's the palace of the crown in waiting. I would have lived there had...well, you know, but it was my favorite spot in the whole galaxy. At Antibes, time stood still and summer lasted forever and nothing bad ever happened, you know. It was just that kind of place."
Han nodded, but he was pretty sure he'd never been anywhere like that. "Well, I'm glad you like it," he said, somewhat embarrassed and not sure why.
She smiled at him. "I want to hang it, right here over the bed. Let's see, I wonder what I can use to hang it, I don't want to damage it."
"Look in the box. There should be magnetic hangers in there."
A few minutes later they were both on their knees on her bed trying to hang the tapestry straight.
"No, no, I think that's got it." Han said.
Leia stepped back off the bed to assess their handiwork. "Perfect," she announced. She moved towards him where he sat on the edge of the bed. She meant to hug him to thank him for such a thoughtful gift, but she was woozy from the wine and stumbled against him instead. He fell back on to the bed with her coming to rest on top of him.
"Sorry." she mumbled.
"That's ok," he said, continuing to hold her in a loose embrace.
"Thank you so much, Han." She said, hugging him. She thought to get up, to move off him, but his shirt was so soft against her cheek and his body so warm beneath her, she wondered if it would be wrong just to rest there a minute.
He knew it was the wine, but he couldn't help but revel in the feel of her lying there on top of him. He lay there holding her for a few minutes, stunned that she hadn't moved off of him, but afraid to push his luck for fear of her getting up. And then he realized it. He listened as her breathing became deep and regular. She was asleep. Unwilling to wake her, he settled back and closed his own eyes, enjoying the feel of her in his arms.
Leia awoke because something was digging into her ribs. She shifted away from it only to realize she wasn't shifting on the bed, but on top of someone. Her eyes flew open. Instantly she was greeted with the sight of Han Solo's chest and a splitting headache. The next thing she realized was that one of his hands was under her shirt half way up her back and the other was tucked casually into her waist band. She was completely unwilling to acknowledge exactly what it was that had been digging into her ribs. She would have been a lot more indignant if he hadn't been sound asleep. Then she looked at the clock, 3:30 am. Oh, no there was a shift change in 30 minutes. She had to get him out of here, she let out a miserable groan against his chest, her head really did hurt. He murmured something back in response to her moan and tightened his embrace.
A wave of panic flooded through her. "Don't panic." she told herself. "This is Han, he's asleep. You've been asleep. Just wake him up and send him home." Then he shifted, his hand slipping further past her waistband and he rolled slightly to his side pinning her under one of his legs.
Then she did start to panic. "Han, Han, dammit Solo! Wake up!"
His eyes popped open. "Hey." he said, his voice husky with sleep.
"Hey, yourself. Come on, get up." She said, somewhat relieved.
He tighted his arms around her, tucked his face into her neck. "What's the rush?" He mumbled.
She squirmed in his embrace. "I don't want people talking. The shift is going to change in a little while."
"So let it change, I'll leave after."
"No! This looks bad."
"Who cares how it looks." He slid both hands under her shirt, started to shift more fully on top of her. "Better yet, let's give'em something to talk about."
That was the last straw for Leia. As he moved over her, she pushed hard and almost fell, backing out of his embrace and off the bed.
That woke Han up completely. "Whoa..."
"Great," Leia grumbled, "just what I need, a repeat of last year."
At first he didn't understand what she meant, but then he saw the fear in her face, and a dark realization hit him.
"Please, Han." she interrupted him. "You need to go now."
"But I wouldn't..."
She couldn't look at him. "Please, just go."
"Yeah, okay." He got off the bed, but when he got to the door he turned around. She still wouldn't look at him. "You know I would never hurt you."
She wanted to say yes, she knew that. She opened her mouth but found no voice, so she just nodded.
And then he was gone.
She slid down the wall, cradled her head in her hands, and started to cry.
Han wandered around the ship for two hours before he finally found himself back at the Falcon. The shift had changed at 4:00, but by that point he was nowhere near her cabin. Well, at least he'd done that right, he thought.
When he walked up the ramp Chewie greeted him with Good morning. Where have you been all night? Chewie was standing in one of the floor compartments.
"What are you doing up at this hour?" Han said, unused to looking down at his towering friend.
I'm always up at this hour, you're just never up to notice.
"Whatever. I'm in the 'fresher," he said, starting to walk away.
Did you find the princess?
"Yeah, I found her alright."
How'd it go.
He started to say he didn't want to talk about it. Started to tell the wookie to mind his own damn business, but instead he said, "I made an ass out of myself Chewie, and now she'll probably never want to see my face again."
So, what happened?
Han flopped down on the deck and let his legs dangle over the side of the compartment and told him, everything from beginning to end. "I swear, Chewie, I didn't know. It never occurred to me, it probably should have, but I don't know. It's not like I sit around wondering exactly what they did to her, you know, it's not the kind of thing I wanna think about. Man, I can't believe I'm so stupid. Why didn't she say something."
Well, I don't know about human women, but that's not the sort of thing a wookie woman wants to talk about.
"No, you're right. It's the same." Han lay back on the deck and stared at the Falcon's ceiling. "Dammit, Chewie. What am I gonna do?"
Maybe you should go talk to her.
"She's not gonna want to talk to me, trust me. Maybe this is just a signal that it's time for us to get out of here. I mean, I'm already in way over my head with Jabba. I shouldn't have wasted this last year hangin' around with these people anyway. Come on, I'm no freedom fighter. What am I doing here?"
Chewie gave a non-committal grunt.
"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Han wanted to know.
Chewie shrugged innocently.
Han glared at him. "Look, I don't care what you think, even if her life had been peaches and cream up until now, there is no way anything is gonna come of this. She's a princess, as in royalty, as in very far away from what I am. She doesn't want me, so why should I hang around here waiting for the Empire to show up. I'm a business man. I fly, I buy, I sell. I have no business running supplies for lost causes."
So, if she doesn't want you, why did she sleep with you last night?
"Please, Chewie, I'd hardly call it sleeping with me. More like passing out on me. She was drunk and exhausted. She looked like hell, she probably hadn't slept in days. This time last year her whole planet disappeared, family, friends, everything. I can't even imagine what that must be like. Last night had nothing to do with me. It could just as easily have been Luke, hell, it could've been you."
Chewie gave a lascivious growl.
"Watch it." Han growled back.
"Oh the hell with it, what's done is done. I'm gonna jump in the 'fresher. I can't think about this anymore right now."
Leia's head was pounding, so she pulled herself off the floor and went for aspirin. She had to rinse the wine residue out of the water glass, before she could swallow the pills and attempt to rehydrate herself. After her second glass of water she felt considerably better. Physically, anyway. She hated what had happened with Han. She hadn't meant to imply anything by what she'd said. She hadn't actually meant to say the words out loud even. He'd sounded so hurt when he left.
She pealed off her clothes and stepped into the sonic stall and lamented for the billionth time not having a water shower. She wanted to explain to him, make him understand that it wasn't him, it was her, more than that, it was them and what they'd done to her. Dammit, she thought, why am I worrying with this. Do I even want this? She rested her head against the side of the 'fresher. She could still feel his hands on her. She could still feel the warmth of lying in his arms. How long had it been since someone had touched her, just touched her? Ages it seemed. The Organa household had been an affectionate one. Hugs were in abundance. Father always kissed her good night. She missed the way he would put a steadying hand on her shoulder when he felt her temper to be getting the best of her. Even the servants would fuss over her, braiding her hair, patting her cheek. She missed it, she missed the contact, the attention. But was Han really the one she wanted giving her the attention she craved? After all, these were no longer the chaste touches of family and friends. Han's touches were decidedly intimate. Intimate in ways in which she had no experience, or rather, no good experience. Leia turned off the 'fresher. He can't even commit to the rebellion, how am I supposed to expect him to commit to me. For that matter, he's yet to say one concrete thing to indicate his feelings for me are anything but physical. As she stepped out of the 'fresher she caught a glimpse of the tapestry hanging crooked on her wall. Well, that was certainly concrete. Maybe she should talk to him. Not to go after him, not to start anything, but just to clear the air. After all, he was a valuable asset to the rebellion, and it would be a shame to lose him over something so inconsequential.
Han stood in the 'fresher and let the water pound over his head. He blessed Lando for the billionth time for installing an actual water shower. Sonics were installed as well, but sometimes a man just needed to soak under real water. He let his head rest against the side of the stall and let the hot water ease some of the tension out of his shoulders. Why did it have to be this way, he thought. He could think of a dozen women off the top of his head, that he could have with half the trouble and twice the return. On the other hand, Leia stirred something in him that none of the others did. Just spending time with her could make his whole day, unless she was angry, or he was. Dammit, that woman could make him more angry, faster than anyone else he'd ever known. Still, she could diffuse that anger just as quickly with a smile, or by touching his arm. He could still feel her skin warm beneath hands last night. He could still smell her hair. Then he remembered what she said, could still see the fear cross her face. Then he flashed on a year ago, how battered she'd been beneath his hands as he'd wrapped her ribs. A taste of bile rose in his mouth and he had the overwhelming desire to take his blaster and walk onto an Imperial base and kill everyone he saw. He put his palms against the stall. Get a grip, Solo, he thought. He wasn't sure why it bothered him so much. After all, he'd been in the Med Center on Yavin. He knew in the grand scheme of things that far worse had happened to her on the Death Star. He had heard them say extensive nerve damage, heard them say system failure. He knew she'd been heavily drugged. Still, the other seemed so...personal. Not inhuman, passionless torture by some mindless droid, but violent and personal, and painfully human. He reached up and turned off the shower. These thoughts were only serving to blacken his mood even further. Chances were they'd never get past this. Chances were, she didn't even want to, at least not with him. The sooner he accepted that the better.
She went to the bridge first, to check her inbox, check the meeting schedule and pick up the duty roster. She'd made her final suggestions yesterday afternoon and just needed to pick up the assignment list and post it for the contract pilots. Suddenly, she had an excuse to talk to Han. There were no morning meetings scheduled, so she picked up the list and went to out to the hanger bay. Ensign Rinker stopped her.
"Did you want me to post that for you Your Majesty?"
"No, that's okay ensign, I'll take care of it, I'm headed out that way."
Stepping off the bridge and into the elevator, Leia took a deep breath. She couldn't think of a single thing to say to Han that didn't sound weak or stupid. How did I ever get myself into this, she thought. What could have possibly possessed me to let him in the door? Unfortunately, she still didn't have any answers when she found herself walking up the Falcon's entry ramp.
Chewie was fitting the deck plates back in place when Leia walked in.
"Hi, Chewie." Leia smiled, temporarily relieved it wasn't Han. "I thought you guys might want first crack at the assignment list."
Chewie nodded his head and grunted pointing toward the back of the ship where the cabins were. Leia's wookie wasn't very good but it was clear he thought she should show it to Han.
"Okay, thanks." she smiled, vowing once again to try and learn the language. She would have brought Threepio with her, but Han hated that droid, and frankly, he got on her nerves as well. No sense stalling, she thought, and headed towards his cabin. Maybe, I'll just show him the list and breeze through this as though nothing ever happened. I'll just let it go, all's well that end's well.
The door to Han's cabin was open, so she walked right in, only to be greeted to the sight of him zipping his pants on. He was shirtless and bare foot and his hair was damp. He was obviously right out of the 'fresher. Leia blushed.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were getting dressed."
Han reached for his shirt, "That's okay." he was surprised to see her there. He slipped his shirt on but didn't close it.
Before he could say anything Leia plunged ahead. "I thought you might want first crack at the assignment list." She said, handing him the datapad.
"Sure, thanks." he said as he placed his thumb next to a Ferrum turn. "I'll take the Ferrum trip." He handed her the pad.
She tried not to stare at his chest as she took the pad back. She pushed back the memory of lying against him. "Fine, well, thanks." she said, as she turned to go.
"That's it?" Han said, already kicking himself for saying it.
Leia sighed, somehow she knew it wasn't going to be that easy. She turned around and looked at him, still not knowing what to say.
There was a moment of silence between them. A long confusing moment, then Han said, "Look, I'm sorry about this morning."
That snapped Leia into focus. "Don't be," she said, a little more shortly than she had intended.
"But..." he started to say something, but stopped, he wasn't really sure how to respond to what she just said.
"Listen, I don't want or need your pity. Just because I don't want you wallowing all over me when I'm tired and hungover, doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me. I'm fine." she said through clinched teeth.
"I didn't say you weren't," he said, taken aback by her sudden anger.
"You didn't have to."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Han was starting to get angry now too.
"It means I'm sick of this! I'm sick of people giving me that look and walking on egg shells around me! I can't stand it! Now, you're going to be like the rest of them, because you think you know something. You don't know anything! I just want my life back." Leia put her hand over her eyes. She felt suddenly lightheaded from the outburst.
Han stood there for a second. He didn't even begin to understand what just happened. He saw a tear slip from beneath her hand.
"Nobody ever touches me anymore." She whispered.
Han found himself moving toward her, praying he was doing the right thing. He slipped his arms around her and tucked her head under his chin. She stood stiffly in his arms for a moment and he almost backed away, but then she quietly rested her cheek against his chest, and he let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
Leia stood there leaning into him. His skin was so warm and the hair on his chest was so soft. She knew he would blow it any second. She knew he would make some lame comment or suddenly run his hands over her ass, something. She stood there waiting for the inevitable, but it didn't happen. Instead he just held her, not too tight, not too loose, perfect. She let herself enjoy it, but didn't return his embrace. Then it occurred to her that the ship was open, the door was open and that Han was popular, well liked, people stopped in to see him all the time. She moved out of his arms and pulled herself up to her most regal bearing. She opened her mouth to say something, but Han stopped her with an index finger to her lips.
"Shhh," was all he said.
"I have to go." She whispered.
He gave her a slight smile, one corner of his mouth up turning. "I know."
She turned and walked away.
"Hey, Princess," he called after her, "you think we could do dinner sometime, now that we're sleeping together."
She spun around, cheeks ablaze, but then she saw his grin. He winked at her.
She grinned back. "Maybe." She said nonchalantly. "Maybe."
She could hear him laughing as she left.