It was late and Chewie was at watch. Han was working in the central core and Leia was working on some wiring in one of the access ducts. Two days ago the fuel monitoring system had a system failure that resulted in a small fire. They had all been working overtime to repair it. Leia was replacing a board for one of the microprocessors that handled fuel efficiency. She was wiring it according to a schematic Han had given her yesterday. Next thing she knew, the whole thing blew.
Han heard the pop from where he stood. He lifted his head up out of the core to see Leia flat on her butt. "Are you okay?"
She shook her head to clear the shock of being knocked back. "I am, but the board is trashed now."
Han pulled himself up on to the deck. "What do you mean trashed?" He went over to look at where she'd been working. "What is this?"
"It's what's left of the board I was replacing."
Han wiped a grimy hand across his face. "This isn't the board I asked you to replace."
"What are you talking about? It most certainly is."
"I said the fuel efficiency board. This is the intake modulator!" He shouted.
"Not according to the schematic you gave me."
"Schematic! What schematic? That's a rough outline! You know the Falcon is rigged, if you weren't sure why didn't you ask me?"
"I thought I was sure." Leia was trying to stay calm, but she was starting to get angry too. How was she supposed to know all the stupid nuances of his stupid ship?
Han slammed his fist against the bulkhead over her head. "Damn it, this is going to take hours to fix."
Leia flinched at his sudden violence. The fact that he'd momentarily frightened her made her furious. "Hey, it's not my fault this ship is held together with spit and grime!"
Chewie could hear the argument from the cockpit and decided to wander out to investigate. He knew Han had been up for almost 40 hours, and his temper wasn't to be trusted when he was that tired.
Attacking the ship was a bad idea. Han saw red, which matched the color of his face. The veins in his neck were corded and stood out with fury. "Oh, yeah, well maybe if I hadn't wasted the last two years doing charity work, I might have enough money to fix her!"
That pushed Leia's rage button. "Oh, well, I'm sorry you WASTED the last two years too, but not nearly as sorry as I am about WASTING the last week, and the next month. If this stupid ship ever worked we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place."
Han. Chewie said.
Han ignored him. "Yeah, well if I hadn't had to pull your sorry ass out of the command center then I could have been off that ice ball long before it would have mattered whether the hyper drive was working. I should have just left you for Vader!"
Han! Chewie roared.
Han spun around and shouted at the giant Wookiee, "What? This is none of your business!"
Chewie bared his teeth. I'm making it my business. You're tired. You're saying things you don't mean.
"Just stay out of it." Han turned around to say something to Leia, but she was gone. "Shit." He pounded his fist into the bulkhead again.
You should go talk to her, and then you should both get some sleep. Chewie growled softly.
"Don't tell me what to do. Besides I have to get this fixed. We're adding on to the trip for every day this isn't working."
Threepio can take my watch. I'll work on this. You're too tired to be doing this, you'll start making mistakes too.
Han could see the wisdom in what his friend was saying. "Fine, I'll be in the hold."
"I can't talk to her right now, Chewie, and I'm too wired to sleep. Just give it a rest all right. I'll talk to her, it'll be okay, don't worry about it."
But Chewie was already worried. He'd seen the stricken look on Leia's face, which Han had missed, when he said he should have left her for Vader. Chewie knew that Han hadn't meant it, and he was pretty sure that Leia knew it too, but something about the look in her eyes told Chewie it was a very damaging remark and that Han should set about repairing their relationship as soon as possible.
Leia could feel a familiar numbness settling over her. She wasn't exactly sure what caused it, but whenever something reminded her of her time on the Death Star, the numbness came. It felt like a heavy blanket wrapped around her. It muffled the outside world, and left her in a muted, safe place by herself. The nausea that accompanied the numbness always sort of surprised her. Why she should need to empty the contents of her stomach when she felt otherwise numb to the world always befuddled her. Nonetheless, it happened every time. She flushed the toilet and moved to rinse out her mouth at the sink. She brushed her teeth mechanically after that. This was the routine, the ritual. It was like this every time. This was nothing new.
She was tired now and a little shaky. She'd had more sleep than Han but only marginally. She looked at his bed, a few minutes ago she had thought of it as their bed. Now it was back to being his. She thought of going to the crew quarters to lie down, but she didn't feel like going that far. Besides, she told herself, he didn't mean what he said. He was just tired and angry. She went ahead and lay down on his bed; she pulled the covers over her as she was. She was asleep almost instantly.
Han stormed down to the hold, furious at Leia, more furious at himself. He stomped over to where they kept the spare parts and was confronted with her handy work. Several days ago, he'd asked her to do an inventory. He was mostly interested in food, water, and medical supplies, but she'd inventoried the spare parts as well. In the process she'd straightened them out, catalogued them and put them neatly away. Confronted with the care she'd taken, Han was taken aback. He dropped his head into his hands and felt like an absolute jerk. An image of her flashed into his mind...her small frame beneath him, the way her skin felt, the way it felt to be inside her. Han's eyes snapped open. You've got to fix this Solo, he thought to himself. He reached into a box labeled spare boards and found the two Chewie would need to fix the fuel efficiency monitor and the intake modulator. He pulled himself from the hold feeling a lot saner than when he'd gone down there.
She wasn't in his cabin. She wasn't in the crew cabin. Han walked back out to where Chewbacca was working on the fuel monitoring system.
"Hey, have you seen Leia? She's not in my cabin and she's not in the crew cabin."
Maybe she finally got wise, and she's in my cabin. Chewie joked.
"Yeah, and maybe gundarks can fly." Han responded sarcastically. He moved to the cockpit, but only Threepio was there.
"Hello, Captain Solo." the prim droid said.
"Hey, have you seen the Princess?"
"Alright," Han went back to his cabin. On the way, he stuck his head into Chewie's cabin just to be sure. She wasn't there. He went into his own cabin and shut the door. He decided to take a shower. She would turn up eventually, after all it's not like she could run away.
After his shower, Han felt a hundred percent better. All he wanted now was to settle this thing with Leia and then curl up in bed with her and sleep for a week. He made another trip through the ship looking for her, checking the galley and even the hold. She was nowhere to be found. Han was starting to worry. Where could she be hiding? Why would she be hiding? In a sudden flash their argument came back to him. The way he'd slammed his fist into the bulkhead, the way he said he should have left her for Vader. Oh man, I can't believe I said that to her. He went back to his cabin and sat down on the bed to collect his thoughts.
Surely, she didn't take me seriously. She knows I would never leave her there. Where is she? Is she holed up in an access duct somewhere? Why would she do that? Then he saw a foot poking out from beneath his desk. He leaned down for a better look, and there she was curled into a ball under his desk with her arms folded over her head. Now that he was closer he could hear her softly keening. He crawled toward her on his knees and realized she was asleep.
"Leia," he gently touched her knee.
Her eyes snapped open, and she immediately began backing away from him, pushing herself further under the desk.
"It's okay, Sweetheart, it's just me. I'm not going to hurt you." Easy, he told himself, don't frighten her.
Leia looked at him like she didn't know him at first. Then her mind seemed to register who he was, and she relaxed.
"Are you okay?" Han asked.
Leia flattened her expression and tried to sound normal. "I'm fine." she said.
"Oh," Han said, "then why are you sleeping under my desk?"
"I wasn't. I mean I didn't start here. I guess I was sleepwalking."
He held his hand out to her. "Well, come on out of there."
Leia took his hand. He helped her out from under the desk and pulled her to her feet. "You sure you're okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine."
Okay, he thought, don't make a big deal out of this. He rested his hands on her shoulders. "Listen about before...you know I didn't mean what I said."
Leia closed her eyes for a second, and then gave him a slight smile. "I know," she said, "and I'm sorry I didn't consult you about the board."
"That's not your fault. Actually, you've done a hell of a lot of work around here lately, and I haven't been as appreciative as I should be."
Leia shook her head. "You're tired. We both are. This whole thing has been very trying."
Han slid his arms around her and drew her into a hug. "Well, there is one thing about this trip hasn't been too bad."
"Not too bad, huh?" Leia said dryly. "How flattering."
Han grinned and rested his cheek against the top of her head. "Okay, it's been amazing. You're amazing. How's that?"
She looked up at him and smiled wickedly. "Accurate." she replied.
Han laughed. He pulled her with him down on to the bed. "Well, accurate or not, would you have doubts about my manhood if I wanted to just sleep with you tonight?"
Leia slumped against him. "Thank goodness," she said, "there for a second I thought I was going to have to put my credits where my mouth is."
"Tired?" Han asked.
"Me too. Let's get out of these clothes and into this bed."
"I'm with you." Leia said, pulling her shirt off.
Han stopped her. "And no more sleeping under the desk, okay?"
Leia gave him a strange look, as though he was talking crazy. "Of course not." she said.
She slept peacefully beside him for the next few hours. When Han's alarm came on, he shut it off, and they went back to sleep, but the sound of the alarm began racing through Leia's dreams.
She was back on Hoth in the command center. The alarms were ringing through the base. Imperial Troops have entered the base, Imperial Troops have entered the base, but this time, Han didn't come for her. Vader came into the command center followed by several snow troopers, and then she was back in her cell on the Death Star. Whereas before, she had crouched in fear, this time Leia panicked, knowing what was coming.
Her thrashing about in the bed woke Han. He dodged her flailing arms and tried to wake her.
"Leia, Leia, come on Sweetheart, you're dreaming. It's okay. It's okay."
Finally she pulled herself from the dream and responded to him. "I'm okay, I'm okay, it's okay, I'm fine." She panted, holding her palm up to him, keeping him back.
Han sat against the headboard, and let her catch her breath. "You alright?" He asked when she seemed to calm down.
She took a deep breath. "Yes."
"You want to talk about it?"
"No, not really."
"You sure? It seemed pretty bad."
She frowned at him. "It was bad, that's why I don't want to talk about it."
"Sometimes talking it out helps." he said quietly.
Leia fidgeted. "I don't think so, not this time."
Han sighed, but let it go. "Well," he said, "I wasn't exactly ready to get up. You up for some more sleep, or do you want to go ahead and get up now."
She looked at him, still a little shaken from the dream. "No, we can rest some more. I'm fine." she said again, more to reassure herself than him.
Han pulled her to him and cradled her in his arms. "You deserve better than this," he said softly, and set her teeth on edge.
Leia pulled away from him. "Actually, I think I'm going to go ahead and get up."
Han looked at her. She looked panicky. He looked at the clock. "Leia, we've only had four hours of sleep, what's wrong?"
"Nothing, I just don't feel like having another nightmare."
"Well, maybe you won't. Come on, I'm right here. You'll be okay."
"You were right there a few minutes ago, it doesn't help. I'm just going to get up." She got out of the bed and began pulling on a shirt.
Han sat back up. "What's triggered all this? You weren't having nightmares last week."
She didn't say anything.
"It's what I said about Vader isn't it? That's what got all this started."
Tears suddenly sprang to her eyes, but she blinked them back. She was not going to be hysterical. Despite herself she was frightened and upset, so she pulled out her best defense mechanism, a good offense. She got angry.
"How could you say something like that to me?"
"Leia, I didn't mean it. I wasn't thinking."
She could feel her face getting hot. "Well, next time try to think before you open you big mouth." she said vehemently.
"Hey," Han didn't understand why she was so angry all of a sudden.
Leia went to pull on the sweatpants she had borrowed from him, but slung them back to the ground. "Damn it! I hate this. I wear your clothes. I sleep in your bed. I work on your ship, and all you do is kick me around." She glared at him with an irrational rage.
Han threw his hands up. "All I do is kick you around? Are you crazy? Where did that come from?"
Wrong thing to say. Leia nodded her head. "Yes, I'm crazy. I mean, after all, I sleep under desks, I wake up screaming, I'm letting some smuggler fuck me. That all sounds crazy to me."
"Fuck you?" Han said, stunned. "Fuck you?" He felt as though she'd punched him. "Fine, if you think all I've been doing is fucking you for this last week, then you are crazy."
They glared at each other for a long moment. Each catching their breath, each trying to remember what brought them to this horrible point.
Han began to gather the clothes she'd been wearing off the floor. He unceremoniously dumped them into her arms. "Why don't you get out of here?" He growled.
Leia started to say something, but he stopped her with his index finger pointed in her face. "Don't. You go sleep somewhere else. I don't want you in here anymore."
He made a point to follow her to the door. "You know," he said as she stepped out of his cabin, "if this is how you're going to treat the people who love you, you've got a lot to learn about relationships."
When his words sank in, Leia turned around, but the door was already sliding shut. "You love me?" she said softly to the door. She found herself standing in the hall outside his cabin wearing nothing but a t-shirt and holding an armload of clothes. She turned around and looked both ways as if to assess the situation, then she let her back fall against the wall next to his door. She found herself sliding down the wall into a crouched position. Her head fell against her knees and her arms came slowly up to cover her head, clothes still trailing from them. She didn't mean to, but she just sort of shut down, and slipped quietly into sleep.
An hour later when Han emerged from his cabin, he almost tripped over her. "What the hell," he cursed, "Leia?"
She startled awake, and quickly realized what must have happened. Oh no! She thought, is this what I've been reduced to?
Han was still hurt and angry about what she'd said before, but this behavior was just too bizarre to ignore. He reached down and grabbed her arm, pulling her to her feet. "I don't care if you want to talk or not, you're going to tell me what the hell is going on with you."
He could see her set her jaw, preparing for a fight.
"Forget it," he growled, "we can do this like nice civilized people or we can fight about it all day and all night or all week, I don't care, but I'm not going to stand around pretending it's normal for you to sleep under my desk or outside my door."
"Han, I'm fine, I just..."
He cut her off. "You are not fine! None of those things indicate fine. I've never heard you use the word 'fuck' until today."
Leia shook her head. "I didn't mean that." She was self-consciously tugging the t-shirt down. She wouldn't look at him.
Han stared at her. "Go put your clothes on."
She started moving toward the bathroom.
"And when you come back out here, you better be prepared to talk to me." he shouted.
As the bathroom door slid shut behind Leia, she let herself fall against it. You have really lost it this time, she chided herself. He must think you are completely nuts. She moved to look in the mirror. Are you completely nuts? She asked herself. I don't know. She washed her face and then put her clothes on and straightened her hair.
Han was relieved that she looked more like herself when she came out of the bathroom than the pitiful mess that went in there.
Leia took a deep breath. "Okay," she said, "what do you want to know?"
"I just want to know what's going on."
Leia pulled the desk chair out and sat in it. She faced Han who was on the bed. Casually, she put her feet up on his mattress and crossed her legs at the ankles.
"Honestly," she said, "I can't understand your morbid fascination with this. You know what I've been through. Did you think it didn't effect me?"
"Of course I knew it effected you. That kind of thing would effect anyone...I just...I've never seen it effect you like this, that's all."
Leia frowned and began to pick at her cuticles. "Well, Han, frankly, you've never lived with me before."
"Leia, I've been on long missions with you."
"Sure, but not this long. Besides, on a mission I have things to do, ways of keeping myself occupied. I'm not usually left with so much time to myself...so much time to think."
"Leia, you were sleeping under my desk."
She shook her head. "Han, I wake up under the desk in my cabin several times a year. Once I even woke up under the desk in my office. Thank the Force, no one saw that."
"Have you seen somebody about this?"
Leia chuckled softly. "Well, let's see. The first six months after the Death Star I spent every day at the med center. Twice a week for nerve regeneration therapy and three times a week for counseling. I still go sometimes."
"Nerve regeneration therapy?" Han looked a little sick.
Leia looked at the corner where two of the walls met the ceiling as though it was the most fascinating thing she'd ever seen. "I had some loss of sensation. Some of the drugs the Imperials used...and the droid would shock me, you know, if I passed out...remember how I always used to cut myself or burn myself."
Han swallowed hard. "Yeah, I just thought you were clumsy."
Leia rolled her eyes. "You'd be clumsy too if you couldn't feel your finger tips. It was the worst, I always felt like I had on gloves."
"But you're okay now?"
"Sure. About 98 percent came back. I've still got a couple of dead spots, but they're not anywhere critical."
She was being cavalier, but Han could see how uncomfortable she was. He was pretty uncomfortable himself, but he wanted everything aired out before he let her go. Who knew when he'd have this chance again?
"Is there anything else I should know about?" he asked.
Leia stared at her feet. "Well, let's see, you knew I was drugged, you knew I was beaten, raped. Now you know I have horrible nightmares and I sleep walk and that I had extensive nerve damage. Nope, I think that about wraps it up." She let her chin fall forward on to her chest.
Han exhaled a long held breath. "And Vader did all of that?"
Leia sighed, and let her head fall back against the chair. She wished he hadn't asked that, but she'd promised herself to be honest with him. "Actually," she said, "no."
Somewhat surprised, Han looked at her.
"Vader came in first, with the droid." An involuntary shiver ran down her spine and goose-pimpled her flesh. "He questioned me for what felt like days. I actually don't know how long it was. I was so drugged up and there were no clocks or anything to indicate how long. Anyway, he eventually left frustrated."
"You didn't tell him anything."
Leia shook her head. "No. After he left the storm troopers showed up. They came to give me the death tag, but I guess they decided since I was scheduled for death anyway, they would, well, you know. I was fading in and out of consciousness then...I don't know...I'm not sure how long they were there. But then Vader came back in. He seemed very angry. All I know is that the other two went away and then the strangest thing happened."
She paused and Han waited, too caught up to say anything.
"Vader came over and lifted me up. He actually carried me over to the bench and sat down with me. I know you think I'm crazy, but I swear this is true. He cradled me, actually rocked me, and you know what he said?"
"What?" Han asked softly.
"He said, 'You deserve better than this.' I remember thinking, you've got to be kidding me. But then he asked to me to tell him where the plans were. He just asked me. He said, 'Just tell me where they are so we can end this.' But, I didn't tell him. I didn't say anything actually. I was so shocked by his behavior, I couldn't think of anything to say. After awhile he left. Then these two little old ladies came in and they cleaned me up, actually gave me a bath and did my hair. They even did my make up. I remember, because I kept thinking that the lipstick was too shiny. I know I was hallucinating, I mean I don't think there were actually little old ladies on the Death Star, I'm sure they were droids or something, but I still remember it that way. When they left, Vader came back and escorted me to see Tarkin." Leia's voice choked. "And then they just blew up…everything..."
Han sat staring at her, feeling absolutely drained. For a long time they sat in silence.
Finally, Leia spoke again. She looked up at him. "Still think you might love me?" she asked softly.
Han slid off the bed on to his knees to kneel before her. He cupped her face in his hand. "More than ever." He said.
She smiled at him. "Am I still kicked out of your cabin?"
Han pursed his lips as though thinking about it. He grinned at her. "You were never really kicked out."
She grinned back at him.
"After all," he said, "without you here who will I fuck and kick around?"
Leia laughed out loud and went to push him over, but he grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of the chair on top of him. He began tickling her and she began fighting him. They were both laughing like fools.
As Chewie walked by Han's cabin on the way to his own, he could hear them laughing and rolling around. It sounded like they were moving the furniture. The giant wookiee smiled and went on to bed.