"We're Sleeping Too Well"
AN: You know I don't own Star Wars, right? Come on, if I owned the Star Wars Expanded Universe, why would I write a story that protested one of its elements? Anyway, this will probably be the ONLY fic I EVER write where Han and Leia's kids are taken from them, because I HATE that. This fic explains why.
Leia broke out of the oblivion of sleep little by little, gradually comprehending the scratchy cries coming out of the baby monitor. She opened her eyes to darkness pierced only by the monitor's tiny red light blinking in time to the cries emitting from it. Despite her sleepiness, she managed to smile a little at the familiar sight and sound as she blinked slowly, trying to motivate her body to move.
A loud snore was what finally gave her the capability of motion, driving her body to roll to her back so that her arm could reach over and grab her husband's shoulder. Following the familiar routine of this situation, she moved her hand back and forth, pulling his shoulder with her, which she knew would wake Han up...sooner or later.
"Han," she whispered, "it's Jaina."
"Uuuuggg...whaaaa?" Han slurred, slowly waking up.
"It's Jaina," Leia repeated. "She's hungry."
Han blinked, gradually opening his eyes. "How can you tell?"
"Her cry is lower than Jacen's," Leia said simply. She patted his side with the tenderness she knew he couldn't resist. "You know your job here, honey," she said, sweetening her voice.
Han yawned. "How about we trade? You go get the baby, I'll sit here and do nothing while she drinks from my body."
Leia snickered. "I'm afraid your biology works against you there." She stroked her husband's cheek, feeling the roughness of a face that hadn't been shaved that evening. "Come on, she wants her daddy to bring her to her mommy."
After a tired sigh, Han finally complied to his wife's wishes. She smiled as the mattress creaked loudly from him rising from the bed. Once he had exited the room, she lazily grabbed his pillow in one hand, her own pillow in the other, and stood them up against the back of the bed, giving her back something soft to lean on while she fed her baby.
Han's attitude had changed dramatically when he returned to the bedroom, cradling little Jaina in his arms. His hand was gently caressing her round cheek, softening her cries down to an occasional whimper, which caused her father to smile down at her, seemingly forgetting the fact that she had gotten him up in the middle of the night.
"There there, sweetie," he whispered. "Your mommy's gonna give you some food. Would you like that? Hmm?" He gave a slight giggle and kissed his daughter's forehead as he sat down on the bed.
"I thought you didn't want to go get her," Leia chided.
Han kept his eyes on the baby. "Did you hear that, Jaina? Your mommy thinks I don't love you. She's so mean."
Leia rolled her eyes, even though she knew Han probably couldn't see them in this dim light. "She can't even talk yet and you're already twisting my words to her."
"Oh Jaina, did you hear what your mommy just said?" Han said to the infant in a teasing voice. "She says I'm lyin' to you now. She thinks your daddy's a horrible person."
"All right, that's enough," declared Leia, holding out her arms. "Remember what she wants?"
"Gimme back my pillow and I'll give her to you," said Han. "What makes ya think you need both of 'em anyway?"
Leia tossed Han's pillow back to his side of the bed, after which Han tenderly placed little Jaina in her mother's arms. The near-complete darkness meant that Leia could see little more than a silhouette of her daughter, but the sensation in her arms could make up for what couldn't be caught by her eyes. The skin...the skin as soft and smooth as a flower petal, untouched by time. She squeezed the girl's tiny arms, feeling the skin yield to her fingers like clay.
"All right, wake me up when she's ready to go back," Han's voice said, driving Leia to look up and see that her husband had laid back down.
"Oh no you don't," she said firmly. "You're staying awake."
"Whyyyy?" Han said, purposely slurring his voice. "I'm not the one feedin' her. Why can't I sleep while she drinks her stuff?"
"Because I need someone to keep me company," replied Leia, able to use her matter-of-fact voice even in the deep hours of night. "And by the way, my milk is not stuff." She turned her attention back to the baby, who was gurgling in excitement for her milk.
"Yeah Jaina," she said in a high voice. "You tell your daddy that your food isn't stuff."
She gently opened the slit in her nightgown, revealing her breast to the child, the source of her food. Acting on her learned instinct, Jaina's lips almost immediately found their way to her mother's nipple, eager for her meal. Leia soon felt her life-nourishing milk flowing out of her breast as the baby sucked, a slow river underneath her skin, part of herself being given out so her child could have food. Jaina's cheeks rhythmically bulged and relaxed, her eyes now half closed in the baby equivalent of a content expression.
After a few minutes, Han's hand entered Leia's range of vision, tickling his daughter's bare feet, his voice laughing gently.
"I thought you wanted to sleep," Leia said knowingly.
"I thought you wanted me to stay awake," Han retorted. "So I need her to keep me awake." He promptly returned to playing with Jaina's toes.
Leia laughed softly, bringing her attention back to her baby, listening to her little sucking noises as she continued to drink. It seemed as though the child was commanding her mother to smile and her face was joyously complying. She tenderly stroked Jaina's downy head, her fingers savoring that fuzzy brown hair and the yielding skin beneath it.
This is temporary.
That notion always seemed to be floating above Leia when she was with her daughter and her son, forever reminding her that they would soon change permanently, never remembering any of these times. Soon they would no longer be small enough to cradle in her arms, the thought of which made her want to squeeze her daughter tighter, though she didn't actually do so for fear of crushing her fragile body. She merely patted the girl's head, trying to press this sensation into her mind to preserve always. The impermanence of these moments let her appreciate them infinitely more.
Soon her eyelids began to grow heavy, bringing in the occasional long blink. Her ears reached out for any sound to stimulate her awareness, but only found Jaina's tiny sucking noises. Han had probably fallen back asleep by now, the notion of which was confirmed in a few minutes by steady snoring that, unfortunately, wasn't loud enough to keep her awake. Leia found herself struggling for consciousness, not merely because she had a baby in her arms, but because she wanted to savor this fleeting moment. Yet closing her eyes for a few minutes would feel so good...
When she opened them again, the child was gone. She was once more lying in the darkness, only this time, without the tiny red light of a baby monitor, which sent reality crashing on her. They didn't even own a baby monitor. Why would they, when they had no children living with them?
The only sound that had persisted from her dream was that of her husband snoring next to her, which was irritating her more and more by the second. Not because of the noise - she was used to the noise - but because of the fact that they were both able to sleep soundly for the entire night, even though they were new parents. She rolled over to face Han's sleeping form, the form that she never had to wake up to fetch a crying baby.
Her hand slowly moved to her breast, the breast that had stopped giving milk too early. She remembered feeding her babies after they were born so very clearly, and yet those moments had been far too few. Her nipple suddenly felt cold, wishing for a tiny mouth to suck from it.
Jaina and Jacen were probably used to drinking from bottles by now...wherever they were. Leia wondered if they would even know what to do if she tried to breast feed them now. She imagined their little lips scrunching up instead of opening, afraid of the nipple instead of welcoming it.
By now Han's snores were growing softer, but for Leia that only annoyed her even more. It only reminded her that he could get his beauty sleep for the entire night without any interruptions. That wasn't how things were supposed to be.
She knew she shouldn't wake him. There was no reason to wake him. There was no reason for her to be awake either. No reason at all. Yet just the fact that he was asleep, the fact that his mind wasn't prepared to wake up in the event of a baby crying for food - that was precisely why her mind was screaming to drive him out of this peaceful unawareness.
"Han," she whispered almost before her brain gave her permission. Her hand grasped her husband's shoulder and began shaking it, much like it had in her dream. "Han, wake up."
"Mmmmm..." was all Han muttered in response.
Leia shook him harder. "Han," she said in a slightly-louder voice, "wake up!"
After a loud, abrupt snort, Han's bleary eyes batted open. "Whaaaa?"
"Han?" Leia said quickly.
"Yeah?" Han said sleepily. "Leia, what's..." A long yawn interrupted his sentence. "...what's the big idea?"
Leia was silent, suddenly feeling embarrassment creeping into her. She had just woken her husband for absolutely no reason other than a dream that only confirmed a fact that they both knew all too well.
"You...you were snoring," she said feebly.
"And that's bothered you since when?"a clearly irritated Han responded.
Leia swallowed, trying to come up with a reason for disturbing him that was less embarrassing than a dream of what should be. "Well...tonight it did." This was the truth, at least part of it.
Han sighed. "Fine, why don't you go find something to stuff in my mouth so I don't snore and disturb your beauty sleep?"
"Han, please, no sarcasm," Leia said, her voice quivering slightly.
Han seemed to read that something more was disturbing her. He reached over to lightly touch his wife's cheek. "Leia," he said in a much gentler voice, "what is it?"
With the feeling of her husband's fingertips against her cheek, Leia felt like she was about to shiver, but she restricted herself from doing so. "It's...it's nothing, really."
"Really?" Han said in a disbelieving voice.
Leia placed her hand on top of her husband's. "All right, I had a dream, that's all."
"Alderaan?" asked Han, all the anger and annoyance completely gone from his voice.
"No," Leia said as she gently pushed Han's hand off of her cheek. "It was just...just something that could have been."
Leia clasped her husband's hand into her own and rested it on the pillow next to her. "Han," she said, "what do you think Jaina and Jacen are doing now?"
"Uh...sleeping, probably," Han said in a confused voice. "Or maybe they're annoyin' Winter with cries for food or diaper changes."
"Exactly," said Leia. "It's Winter they call for, not us."
Han responded with only silence, but Leia could feel him remembering. Remembering how their children were put under Winter's care soon after their birth, on a planet unknown to their parents. In order to protect them, as they were informed. The reason why was something Han understood even less than Leia.
The twins needed to be hidden in order to protect them from the dark side - or so the parents were told. Being Force-sensitive herself, Leia was still having a hard time believing it. Were she and Han truly incapable of protecting their children?
"Leia," said Han, suddenly sounding wide-awake, "remind me again why we agreed to miss our kids' babyhoods? Yeah, I know you and Luke were taken from your parents..."
"Our mother died, Han," Leia bitterly interrupted. "And our father became a Sith. It's not exactly comparable." Her voice began to quiver. "Besides, I wasn't taken away from the Organas for my first two years, nor was Luke taken away from our aunt and uncle, but neither of us turned to the dark side." She squeezed her husband's hand. "We're sleeping too well, Han. New parents aren't supposed to sleep for the whole night. They're supposed to sacrifice their rest to take care of their children."
Now she expected Han to make a sarcastic remark about how getting a decent night's sleep was worth missing a few stinky diaper changes for, but nothing of the sort was happening. In fact, she heard a growly sigh come from his dry throat and felt his fingers pressing her hand.
"They'll be two when we get them back..." he said after a moment, sounding like it was mostly to himself. "Already walkin' and talkin'..." His nose betrayed a sniff as he swallowed hard. "We're not gonna see their first steps, are we?"
Leia wanted to assure her husband that they would, that the Force would let them, that she would somehow sense that they were about to take their first steps and alert Luke to take them to visit their children...but she couldn't. Their occasional visits wouldn't assure that they would be there to witness their babies' growing milestones, no matter how much she would like to tell herself otherwise.
"No," she whispered, "we probably won't."
"Yeah, I know," Han said bitterly, as if Leia had defended the twins' exile, "it'll be worth it to save them." His voice broke into a sudden shout. "Well dammit, save them from what?? What's this crap that the dark side looks for babies?? Didn't Vader not turn till he was grown up???" His breath broke up, alternating between heaves and gasps, as if he was trying to prevent himself from both exploding in anger and bursting into tears.
Leia knew she should try to comfort her husband, but he was expressing the very same thoughts she had. Why had Luke thought that the dark side would take them in their infancy? Had he been acting out of rationality...or simply out of fear?
Han's mention of their first steps also triggered concern about another milestone that all parents should witness, but that they probably would not see - or rather, hear.
"What do you think their first words will be?" she asked suddenly, nearly unconsciously.
She heard a heave of air exiting Han's lips in a long sigh as his fingers squeezed her hand to the point of near-discomfort. "Well...kids' first words are usually 'Mama' and 'Dada,' aren't they?" His voice sounded hesitant to express that notion, as if by saying it he was confirming the fact for their own children.
Leia squeezed her eyelids together in order to prevent tears from escaping. "Yes...except that their Mama and Dada won't be there..."
But Winter will.
Leia focused her attention on the water beneath her eyelids, determined not to let any tears out, even though her heart felt like it was being twisted around by a hard fist. The thought of her babies reaching their pudgy little arms up to Winter and exclaiming "Mama!" made her feel nauseous. Maybe Winter would prevent that from happening? But how could she prevent two babies from speaking the first words that would come naturally to them?
Naturally. Of course it would be natural for the children to think of Winter as their mother instead of Leia. After all, Winter was the one who was assuming the duties of a mother, no matter how much Leia might want to believe that her children would somehow sense that Winter wasn't their real mother. She couldn't rely on the Force to do that.
When she and Han would be allowed to visit their children, they would be only that - visitors. Strangers. People that would interrupt the twins' living routines. Her babies would shy away from her - they might even be afraid of her. Winter would end up introducing Jaina and Jacen to their own parents. Then in two years, when she and Han finally got their children back, Winter would be the one explaining to them about the kids' likes and dislikes, and the tricks to getting them to listen to adults, and the things they feared, and how they tended to behave in certain situations. All the things that parents were supposed to already know.
The tears she had been struggling to hold in escaped the prison of her eyelids, quietly streaming down her face. Why had Luke suggested this? Why had she agreed to this? Why couldn't she be a normal parent?
Suddenly she realized that Han's face was no longer in front of her, now replaced by a large lump buried under the covers. For a second she thought that he had gone back to sleep, but the muffled sniffing coming from the lump and the covers' slight shaking told her otherwise.
Leia's throat went dry, suddenly feeling horribly alone, even though Han was still next to her. The blankets that now rested between them felt like stone walls. Though his action of covering himself communicated that he wanted to be alone, Leia's soul was screaming that she had to be with Han. After only a moment of hesitation, she slid underneath the covers into total darkness.
"Han?" she said in the most gentle voice she could muster, touching his face and feeling dampness. "Are you all right?"
"Why'd you have to do this?" Han choked out, his voice shaking.
"I'm sorry I woke you and reminded you of this," Leia whispered, feeling Han's tears streaming under her fingers.
"Not that," said Han, grasping her side with sudden fierceness. "This. Shippin' off our kids to hell-knows-where just cause Luke told you. What kinda parents do that??"
Parents who know what's best for their children, Luke would say. Luke, who had no children of his own. Luke, who still didn't know everything about the Force, much as he would like to think he did. Luke, who had acted out of nothing but fear, Leia could now sense it. There was nothing rational about it, only the fact that Luke was afraid that by giving birth to Force-sensitives, she and Han were risking the creation of another Darth Vader.
"You know, my mom and dad probably abandoned me," Han said between sniffs. "Left me to starve in the streets. When I was a kid I used to think that I was gonna be a better parent than that when I grew up, that I'd be there for my kids." He squeezed Leia's side tighter, making it hurt slightly. "Now look at me - I'm just like them!"
"You're not like them," Leia said, trying to make her voice firm, but finding herself unable to do so. "You're not abandoning the twins - you're just putting them in someone else's care for their first two years."
"Well for all I know, maybe they did that to me too," Han snapped, his voice nearing a hysterical tone. "Maybe they couldn't take care of a baby, so they dumped me on someone they thought they could trust, intending to get me back when I turned two, but then that person turned me loose or let me get away from him or somethin'. How am I supposed to know it wasn't like that - I don't remember a damn thing!" His voice increased its tempo. "All I know is that I was a lonely toddler wandering the streets with no one to turn to. Do you have any idea what that's like?? Do you have ANY idea??"
An abrupt sob broke his ranting, after which no more words could come out. As she stroked her husband's face, Leia suddenly felt cloth underneath her fingers - Han had wrapped his nose in his pajama top, as if trying to hide from his wife while the sobs grew louder. Leia began tenderly caressing his ear and planted a kiss on his forehead, but he didn't acknowledge her actions - he seemed to be breaking down into another world.
A large lump was in Leia's throat, a lump that no amount of swallowing could eliminate. She had seen Han cry before, but not with this kind of inconsolable devastation. An inner voice was telling her to assure him that they could trust Winter to take care of their children as if they were her own, but she knew that would do little good. Winter wasn't them.
She wrapped her arm around her husband, pressing his head against her chest, but this gesture again remained unacknowledged. "Han..." she whispered, not knowing how to continue, her mind buzzing with guilt for forcing him into her grieving. Her eyes continued to produce her own tears, but she forced herself to swallow her sobs, unwilling to further aggravate her husband' s suffering.
She wanted so much to say something, but what was there to say? His grieving was different from hers - it came not only from being separated from his children, but from his own lost childhood and fear that he was driving them down the same path that he suffered. Leia had been an orphan like him, but unlike him, she knew what it was like to grow up with parents. The Organas had loved her like she was their biological child, but Han had never known that kind of love. Never. Although he didn't talk much about the scars he carried, Leia knew her husband well enough to know that his experiences in childhood were things he wouldn't wish on the Emperor himself, much less his own children.
"Han..." she whispered again, as if hearing his name would alleviate his grieving.
She felt his arms wrapping around her back, as if he just now realized she was embracing him. After a long breath, he regained the ability to speak.
"You're never gonna believe this, Leia," he said, his voice still trembling, "but when I was a kid I really wanted to be a dad."
"I believe it," Leia said gently.
"I thought I was gonna give my kids everything I didn't have," continued Han, nestling closer to his wife. "A good home, attention, playtime, stuff like that. I wanted to play games with them and watch them grow up." He sighed heavily, the after-effects of crying producing a rasp. "I'm not off to a very good start, am I?"
Leia couldn't bring herself to answer. To say yes would be a lie, but to tell the truth would be affirming what they were doing. What could she say that wouldn't rip his heart out further?
"It's not too late..." she whispered slowly, hesitantly, knowing that he would likely interpret that statement the wrong way. Her mind wanted to add, "it's only for two years, there will be plenty of time to be parents after that" to clarify, but her mouth refused to produce those words.
After Han sniffed a few more times, Leia felt an abrupt burst of hope flowing off of him. "You're...you're right, Leia. It's not to late." She felt his chin digging into her chest, his head looking up at her even though he couldn't see her. "We can tell Luke we've changed our minds and tell 'im to give us our kids back. They're our kids after all, not his. He'll listen to that if he knows what's good for him." A pause followed as he reconsidered his statement. "Right?"
Leia wished she knew how to stop this vision from coming. This vision of Luke hearing their protests without listening to them, of him telling them that they were letting their own emotions interfere with protecting their children, and finally of him refusing to give the children back. He would block any attempts to probe his mind and find out where they were. With any further protest, he would say that Han wasn't Force-sensitive and Leia wasn't yet fully-trained, so they couldn't possibly understand. He would completely deny any accusations that he had acted on fear instead of thinking things through. It was too late - Winter had the children, and there was nothing the parents could do to get them back.
Sometimes Leia hated being Force-sensitive.
In an attempt to calm herself with fresh air, she scooted back up towards her pillow, sticking her head out from under the covers and being greeted by bursts of coldness that matched the coldness she felt inside herself.
Within a second, Han stuck his head out next to her, unwilling to be separated even by blankets. Even in this dimness, Leia could see the redness in his eyes and the desperation in his face.
"Right?" he repeated, clasping her hand.
Leia felt her mouth shake, like her lips were refusing to obey her brain's command to tell him of her vision. The shaking moved down to her arms, causing her to grip her husband's hand with the same fierce tightness with which he was gripping hers.
"Maybe..." she choked out in the softest of whispers.
Though he lacked any Force-sensitivity, Han seemed to know that her "maybe" wasn't sincere. He wrapped his arms around his wife and once more dug his head into her chest, blinking rapidly in an attempt to prevent himself from crying again.
Leia cradled his head in her arms, tenderly stroking his hair. "Sleep, Han," she whispered. "Visit our babies in your dreams."
Han squeezed her tighter, his breath coming out as unevenly as if he was gasping for air. "A-are you kiddin'? Who the hell can sleep like this?"
Leia was tempted to tell him that they would both feel better tomorrow, but she quickly concluded that it would be the wrong thing to say. Perhaps they shouldn't feel better about this. Their babies were gone - there was nothing to feel better about.
Without the ability to use reassurance on Han, Leia thought that perhaps she could use a touch of humor. "Well of course you can't sleep like that," she said, trying in vain to give her voice a lighthearted tone. "You need a pillow." Before her husband could protest, she flipped to her back, pulling his body with her until he was lying on top of her, her chest serving as a makeshift pillow. "There, is that better?"
"Only a bit..." mumbled Han, clutching her as if she was a life raft in the ocean. "Leia, just tell me straight out - he's not gonna listen, is he?"
Leia sniffed a few times before she gained the strength to answer. "No...most likely not." She grabbed a fistful of Han's hair as she caressed it. "I wish I could tell you otherwise, but that's what I'm feeling. We can try, of course, but..." She couldn't find any words to follow that hadn't been said.
Han said nothing - he only buried his face in her chest, drawing what little comfort he could from her warmth. Leia kissed his head, savoring the taste of the skin beneath his hair, gathering strength to survive this night from him.
"Really Han, go to sleep," she whispered after a few moments, her tone unconsciously like a mother's. "If we're going to talk to Luke tomorrow, you should be awake for it."
Han turned his head to the side, apparently finding it difficult to breathe with his face in Leia's chest. "What's the point? He won't listen."
Leia decided to appeal to his logical side. "Well he definitely won't listen if we don't even try." She ran her hand up and down his back, trying to soothe him with touch.
Han produced a long sigh, completely emptying his lungs. "Yeah...you're right."
Leia's hand slowly moved back to her husband's head, stroking his hair, communicating what words couldn't say through touch. "Dream of our children..." she whispered again in a smooth, consoling voice. "Dream of them...dream of them...dream of them..." she repeated several times, as if chanting a lullaby. "Dream of little Jaina. She has your eyes, you know? Look at her, she's smiling at you. And dream of little Jacen. You're holding him, and he's curious about your fingers. He's playing with them and laughing."
Inside her mind, she concentrated on her babies, remembering their every detail, then cursing herself because she knew they had changed since their birth. But newborns were all she had in her memory, so it was newborns she pictured. When the image in her head was clear, she breathed deeply, letting the Force carry that image through her arm and into the depths of Han's mind, hoping that would let him dream about his children.
Soon Han's breath grew slow and even, communicating that he was asleep, while the Force communicated that his mind was in another world where their babies were never taken and they could be a happy family.
Leia gently gave her husband the lightest of kisses, taking great care not to wake him out of that world. "Sleep well, Han," she whispered so softly that she barely heard herself.
She nestled her head into the pillow and closed her eyes, half of her trying to sleep and the other half trying to reach out with the Force into the lonely darkness of space, hoping that the Force would know where she was going. Somewhere, perhaps a billion parsecs away, perhaps closer that she would think, were two babies, lost from their parents. Just before she fell asleep, the image of the family together firmly pressed in her mind, she sent one final thought to her children.
Dream of us, my little ones.