AN: This fic is based off the song "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms. If you want to read the lyrics, it'll be the chapter after this. I have to credit my roommate with playing the song in my presence which set the Plot Bunny a'baying at my heels.
Disclaimer: If I had any claim to money from any of this, I would be very rich right now. Sadly this is not the case and I have nothing worth suing for. All hail George Lucas whose fortunes are built on fans such as I!
Summary: Han left in the middle of Courtship of Princess Leia. Leia married Isolder. What happens when Han returns . . .
Three Years Later
The knock on the door was more than expected, coming as it did at dusk every day. Ready with a cold glare, Leia Organa jerked open the heavy door. "I'm not telling you again, Isolder . . ." The words died on her tongue as she took in the man leaning heavily against her doorframe. "Han?"
"Hiya, sweetheart," the words came out to not quite mask the quiet moan, their teasing tone threadbare with exhaustion. He was ready to collapse and from the looks of him, had collapsed multiple times recently. "Can I come in? I . . . I don't have . . . anywhere . . . else." His breathing was ragged with pain and the way he clutched at his head and chest by turns was not encouraging.
With a gentle hand on his bruised shoulder, the Princess led her former lover into the house she was staying in, depositing him on the couch in the receiving room. Once Han was settled, she took a moment to actually look at him. His left eye was already starting to swell, and his split lip bled freely down his chin. Bruised and scraped knuckles on both hands stood out as he held his sides in the effort to breathe. "Let me get you some ice and bacta patches," Leia offered needing an excuse to turn away from the battered form of a man she'd loved once. She rummaged pointlessly in the kitchen nook, more to avoid him than getting anything done.
"Han, what happened?" She was pretty sure she didn't want to know and equally certain that she should.
"Bar fight . . . lot of people . . . I don't remember that much." In his mind, he continued. Not that I'd tell you, Princess. Your Prince Charming has one heck of a sucker punch.
"Where's Chewie?" Her voice floated in from the kitchen where she'd retreated, riding a wave of clinks and chimes as she inspected the cabinets.
"On Kashyyyk . . . with his wife." Stars, it hurt just to breathe and here he was trying to make himself heard from the other room. "Cub . . . on the way." He wasn't sure how much longer his abused ribs would allow him to force them apart enough to talk. Thankfully, Leia reappeared bearing a bowl of ice, a small medpac and several hand towels. She frowned at his last statement.
"Then why aren't you there with him?"
The truant rogue gave her his signature lop-sided grin, grimacing as newly minted bruises protested and accepted the proffered ice pack gratefully. "Mood swings," he said simply as if that explained everything. "Chewie told me . . . take the Falcon, get out." His voice evened out as fast acting painkillers worked their magic. "Lando's neck deep in a con so complex even I couldn't pull it off, and the kid all but ordered me to come here. So here I am, and nowhere to go until Mala delivers."
The Princess sat back on her heels at the head of the couch where Han sprawled in a painful, boneless heap. Something that might have been hope flitted across her still perfect features, before loosing itself behind the icy mask the smuggler remembered so well from the Rebellion.
"Hey, sweetheart, how bad could it be?" Han joked reaching out for her only to have her flinch back from the touch. "You were the best thing to happen to me. I went legit for you!"
"Too bad you also went AWOL," Leia snapped. "You can stay here, Han. At least this way I'll know where you are."
The ex-smuggler's smile melted in the blaze of her anger. "I blew it," he admitted. "I threw away the greatest treasure in my life, and I've never found anything to replace her." An awkward silence followed his declaration and Leia shifted uncomfortably looking anywhere but in those piercing hazel eyes.
"Do you want something to eat?" the Princess asked suddenly hiding behind the roll of hostess to give herself time to figure out what she was doing.
"Already ate." Han answered simply. Sure that had been three days ago on Yavin, but he was willing to say and do anything to keep Leia with him.
"So, what happened to you, Princess, or are you Queen now?" The request for information broke the uncomfortable stillness of too many other words that were never said.
"No, I'm still Princess. That doesn't change until Ta'a Chume dies. And not even then if I have anything to say about it." She refused to explain her last statement and got down to the business of answering his question. "What happened to me? Well, you know I married Isolder, or did that somehow escape your notice when you dropped off the scan?"
"The wedding of the millennium couldn't have escaped anyone's notice, Highnessness, much less mine, but I couldn't stand by and keep my big mouth shut while Mon Mothma asked if there were any objections."
"Well maybe I wanted your big mouth and its objections."
Han went quiet in the agitated manner of someone trying to put words to a dilemma that would try a Cammassai's patience. "I made a bet, Leia, and I lost." He finally admitted. "I couldn't go back and try to win you with just Chewie and the Falcon. You deserve everything I never had and he could give it to you. A home for your people, a life as the royalty you are, all I had was a beat-up freighter and a walking carpet. So I ran. I took the Prince up on his offer; took the bribe and got out. I just wanted you to be happy, and to forget all the pain of the past. I never meant to hurt you."
"You left me to that slime, and you were right, Han, he is slime. He hurt me enough for both of you."
The scoundrel's face went hard, his eyes setting into dirty emerald chips. "What did he do?" The question was a protective growl that Leia responded to with her own hurts and troubles.
She snorted. "What hasn't he done would be easier to answer. For a matriarchy, Hapes is obsessed with her Crown Prince. And he's more than willing to take whatever is offered."
Han let out a short bark that might have been laughter, if a groan hadn't wormed its way in. "I'm glad then."
Leia sat back on her heels, stunned. "Glad!" How dare he feel glad that her husband was drinking and dallying with everything that could pass itself off as female!
"Yeah, glad," Han returned. "I only remember one thing from the bar, one face. A man surrounded by more females than a Devaronian harem. And I only noticed that because my girl wasn't one of them, and, by sight and stars, she should have been the only one." The scoundrel's ribs protested his sudden move to sit up, preventing the action, but Leia read the fire of remembered rage burning in her sometime beloved's eyes.
"What did you do?" she asked, morbidly fascinated by the fierce defense her spurned lover still gave her.
Han held out his right hand, curled into a fist to fully display the broken and bruised knuckles. "I did what any red-blooded Corellian, what any true man, would do. I punched him. Hard. The only trouble was they all hit back."
On impulse the Alderaanian Princess grabbed his hand and dropped a sweet kiss on skin torn for her honor. "You shouldn't have done that," she told Han sadly.
"What else could I do?" he asked. "No one cheats on you, Princess. Not on my watch."
Then why weren't you on watch when I married that Jawa? Leia wanted to ask, but she bit back the words. They had already covered that ground, and, anyway, he was here now. Somehow, that was all she needed. The reason he was here crashed into her as Han pulled the first-aid kit open one-handed and began searching for the bacta ointment. She fished it out for him and began bandaging the cuts and scrapes, utilizing what little Force-healing skills Luke had managed to teach her all those years ago.
"Ta'a Chume is still very much in power," she commented to fill the silence, "and she's very protective of her son, the whole Cluster is." Looking into eyes that had always spoken volumes to her, Leia let the man on the couch actually mean something to her. She could not let him get hurt again, even if she ripped out her own heart by sending him away. "I can't shield you," she warned him.
"If I wanted a shield, I would have showed up at your door before I looked like this," Han told her frankly gesturing to his black eye and sweeping down to indicate his entire body. He wasn't going anywhere.
"Everyone will be looking for the man who dared punch their Prince," Leia cried, trying to make him see the severity of the situation. Unwanted moisture welled in her eyes and spilled over onto a face that had neither laughed nor cried since the man before her had walked out on the possibility of a second chance.
"Let them look. Let them find me," Han blustered, thinking of anything he could do to stop the tears staining his Princess's perfect cheeks. Remembering the way they had talked during the Rebellion, he tried to evoke memories of when they had last been happy. "Tomorrow," he urged, "let's hit the dirt running. It'll be just like old times, you, me, and a fleet's worth of stormtroopers."
To his great surprise, the ploy worked. The tears rolling from Leia's eyes halted and the lines of perpetual worry and suffering around her mouth smoothed for a precious half-second into a sweet, shy smile of nostalgia.
With his fairly intact and unbandaged left hand, Han raised her face to meet his eyes. A genuine smile, warmer than his usual smirk graced his face. "See? Got a smile out of you. That's all I've wanted to see for years."
Life intruded on perfection as the pain of that forced separation from her truest friend blasted into Leia. Her smile faded, and if her tears did not return, it was because they had frozen in her chest. "The past is gone, Han," she informed him sadly. "You have to let it die."
The sparkle in Han's eyes faded with her smile to be replaced by pain when she spoke. "Doesn't mean that smile has to die, Your Majesty," he told her soberly.
Leia couldn't speak. This man had done nothing but do his best to make her happy. How could he have known the living hell his desertion had visited upon her? She hardened as anger came up to fill the emptiness threatening her sanity. How could he not have known? Isolder's affairs had hardly been secret. His bastards and their mothers numbered in the dozens and were every bit as famous as their father and lover.
Unaware of the firestorm building behind sad brown eyes, Han took her hand and held it reverently between his own. "I can't give you back what we had, but I can give you better than what you have. You know what you can expect from me, Leia," The truth of his words was shining out from Han's eyes. "It's not much, but it's yours if you want it."
"And what can I expect?" she shot back, her voice harsh from the betrayal of years.
"That I'll never be so drunk I won't come home. That I won't be in another woman's arms until you're in another man's. That I'll always have a plan to get in when you're hurting." Here his voice gentled and he raised his hand to brush the backs of his fingers over the tear tracks on her cheek. This time she allowed the caress. "And that I'll get out of the way if you don't want me."
"It's not that I don't want you, Han," she struggled to reassure him. "It's just, I'm married. I can't . . ." She ground to a halt, trying to explain why his very proximity was tearing her apart.
"Leia, just let me stay," he pleaded. "Let me feel, just one more time, that I'm doing right by you. That my existence isn't another source of pain to the last woman in the universe I want to hurt."
"It isn't anymore," she whispered surprised by the truth of her own words. "But Han, I'm working on changing it, but right now, I'm still married to Isolder. We can't be together." She stood to leave and began making her way to the com. "You can sleep in the guest room. I'll call Winter to come over and chaperone. Isolder can do what he wants, but I'm not breaking my vows." She looked back over her shoulder to where Han was sprawled on the couch staring at her, questioning. Finally he sighed, letting his head fall back on the pillows, his eyes drifting closed.
"All this pain because I was too chicken to do things right the first time," he whispered. "Leia, I'm sorry."
Sorry for what? she thought at the man who had finally succumbed to exhaustion on her couch. For leaving, for not coming back, or for coming back now