"Face Without A Name"
AN: God, why is it that there are certain stories I neglect for months and months at a time? Oh well, thanks to those who read and reviewed while this story was dormant. Yes, I'm using Nia, my OC from "My Mother," in this story as well. Hey, who's to say she can't exist in more than one universe?
That night, Leia once again lay awake, staring up into the endless blackness, listening to her husband's soft breathing, envying his ability to sleep. Her mother's gravestone seemed to be dancing above her in the dark, reminding her of the person she would never know. The kind face would never again look at her; the gentle voice would never again speak to her. All she had were dreams, the unreal, unreliable collections of fragmentary memories. Dreams . . . and stories of a time before she existed.
She rolled over to her side, wrapping the covers as tightly around her as she could without waking her husband, the visit to the graveyard overtaking her mind. She had seen her grandparents' graves too, as well as the grave of Sola's late husband, yet those somehow didn't affect her much. Yes, she wished she could have known Jobal and Ruwee Naberrie, but she had no memories of them even in her subconscious. They were like fictional figures to her psyche.
But Padme was different. She remembered Padme.
Her blinks were long and slow, and yet she was afraid of letting them last. She was afraid of slipping back into that world where the dead seemed to exist again, where impossible hopes were realized, where everything would inevitably disappear too soon, where she would awaken distraught at the unrealness of the vision.
Her mother's grave lingered in her head, as vivid as if she were standing in front of it once again. She saw Padme's name etched in the stone . . . her face frozen in time . . . her birth and death dates marking such a short life . . .
The grave stayed with her for what seemed like hours, only leaving her alone when she finally fell asleep.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
That voice. She knew it . . . but where was it coming from?
She ran through the flowers, only thinking of the voice, only thinking of finding the person to whom it belonged.
"Leia sweetheart, where are you?"
"I'm here, Mother, I'm here."
As if by magic, her mother appeared in front of her, wearing a flowered yellow dress and a matching hair band encircling her head and her ears. She looked the same as she always had before, except now she was . . . happy. Truly, genuinely happy. Whatever burdens she carried before had vanished.
Their arms flung around each other, wrapping around each other as tightly as was humanly possible. Leia inhaled her mother's scent – she smelled as fresh and sweet as the flowers around them. It was almost dizzying . . . but dizzying in a satisfactory way.
"Leia . . ." Padme whispered again, kissing her daughter's cheek. "You found me."
Leia gulped. "What?"
"You found me," Padme repeated. There was the tiniest glimmer of a tear in her right eye. "I've been watching you and your brother for so long . . . but you didn't know who I was."
"I saw you . . ." Leia said, her hand caressing her mother's soft cheek. "I kept seeing you for as long as I can remember."
"Exactly," said Padme. "You saw me, but you didn't know me." She kissed her daughter's forehead. "But now . . ."
She didn't need to finish that sentence. Leia swallowed repeatedly, feeling tears streaming down her face as her mother squeezed her again with that wonderful tightness that wouldn't last. She only ever saw Padme in . . . dreams . . .
"This is a dream," Leia said suddenly, causing Padme to jump and release her from the embrace, her face once more wearing that sad, pained expression she wore in Leia's other dreams.
"This is a dream, isn't it?" the daughter persisted.
Padme's eyes were lowered, her breath slow and audible. "Yes . . ." she finally whispered, ". . . this is a dream."
"That means you'll disappear," Leia's voice was suddenly and unexpectedly desperate. "I'll wake up alone again."
The mother sighed, pushing a lock of hair behind her daughter's ear. "You're not alone, Leia. You've never been alone." She planted another gentle kiss on her daughter's forehead. "I've always been with you, watching over you and Luke." Her arms squeezed her daughter once again, pressing their bodies together.
Leia breathed in her mother's sweet scent, trying to press it in her memory. "I don't want to wake up . . ." she whispered.
"Come on, you know you don't mean that," said Padme, stroking her daughter's hair. "You have a wonderful life to go back to."
"But you can't go with me." The tears blurred Leia's vision of her mother, as if she were already disappearing. "I find you only to lose you again."
"Like I said, you've never lost me . . ." Padme murmured.
Leia sniffed. "I might forget this when I wake up. I've forgotten before."
"No you won't," Padme said firmly, gripping her daughter's shoulders. "You'll remember everything, I promise you." She leaned over and kissed her daughter's head as she wiped her eyes. "Come on, you can wake up now."
Leia's mouth trembled . . . she could already feel her real, physical eyes beginning to open. "No . . . no . . ." she whispered. "Don't leave me . . ."
Padme was already fading into darkness. "I've never left you, sweetheart . . ."
Leia's eyes opened, bringing the real world back to her. At first there was complete darkness, but as her eyes gradually adjusted she began to make out her surroundings. The nightstand next to the bed, the lamp resting on it, the window that let in the faint bit of moonlight. Spontaneously, almost unconsciously, she got out of bed and walked towards the window, noticing large snowflakes dancing through the sky.
Snow . . . it was so beautiful . . . like the winter nights on Alderaan. She remembered how she always insisted on going outside when it snowed during her childhood, how she would grab her father's hand and drag him outside without even waiting for him to get his coat on. Perhaps if Padme had lived, she would have done the same thing with her. Yes, she could clearly imagine it. Padme would always be happy to go out with her daughter.
Suddenly she wanted to do it again. Light on her feet as if dancing, she made her way to Han's sleeping form. Without a moment's hesitation, she practically dove on his body, shaking him back and forth. "Han! Han! Wake up!"
Han moaned sleepily and sank down under the covers.
"Come on Han, wake up!" Leia persisted, practically shoving her husband.
Finally he stuck his head out of the covers, his eyes obviously wanting to close again. "Uuuuhhh . . . Leia . . . what is it?"
"It's snowing," Leia said quickly.
"So?" Han growled.
"So let's go out."
Han shot up to a sitting position. "What?"
"I'm serious," sad Leia. "Let's go out."
Han sighed disbelievingly. "And I guess you haven't noticed that it's the middle of the night?"
"So?" said Leia. "If we wait until morning, the snow will have stopped." She yanked at his hand as if trying to pull it off. "Come on. Just a few minutes and then you can go back to bed, I promise."
Han couldn't argue when he knew Leia wouldn't leave him alone until he gave in. "Fine . . . but just a few minutes, that's all."
- - - - - - - -
Soon Leia and Han were venturing out into the snowstorm, their winter coats and boots hastily thrown over their nightclothes. The instant they were outside, Leia began running like a child, nearly dancing in the snowflakes. She gazed up at the sky, admiring the thousands and thousands of large snowflakes sprinkling down on her, blowing around in the wind, seeming almost alive.
Her mother would love a night like this, she suddenly realized. She wasn't sure how she realized it, but once the thought came into her mind she believed it to be absolute truth. The dream danced in her head, darting around as fast as the snowflakes, its every detail as vivid as if it actually happened.
Maybe it did . . .
She continued to run, savoring the atmosphere, the glossy moonlight, the invigorating cold, her feet crunching in the snow, the peaceful, mystical blanket of whiteness covering the streets. She laughed and laughed as the clouds of snow blew around her face, sending flakes into her mouth, though she had no idea why she was laughing and she didn't even care. She was a child again, not concerning herself with the past or future, but simply with the moment.
She didn't stop running until she reached the bank of the frozen lake. The lake Padme loved so much, the lake she used to swim in. She probably skated on it too. Yes, yes . . . Padme did skate on this lake, Leia decided. Once more she thought of the dream, feeling her mother's presence flow through her, as if her actual spirit were here.
Maybe it was . . .
"You're not alone, Leia. You've never been alone." Perhaps what Padme told her daughter in the dream was true. Leia had never before considered whether or not she believed in ghosts. Luke claimed to have been visited by Obi-Wan Kenobi's ghost, but at the time, Leia didn't think she believed him. She may have shrugged it off as some wishful fantasy . . . but now she was feeling something entirely different. Her mother was there, she felt it as strongly as she felt Han's presence behind her or the cold wind whipping through her hair.
After a few minutes of the snowstorm enchanting the couple, Han pulled Leia into his arms, gazing into her eyes in the moonlight. He smiled at his wife for a long, lingering moment before kissing her lips, savoring her, seemingly wanting to never, ever end the touch.
She was feeling the same way . . .
When their lips finally separated, Han glanced over at the lake, a mischievous grin creeping across his face. "Say Leia," he murmured, "how stiff do you think the water is?"
"What?" said Leia, slightly taken aback. "Why do you ask?"
Han smirked. "I dunno . . . a moonlight skate, maybe." He stepped away from his wife and toward the ice. "Since you dragged me out here, we might as well take advantage of it." He strode onto the ice, further and further away from her, his wide, cheeky smile still present. Leia found herself laughing when he turned to face her and spread his arms out, as if welcoming the snow.
But her laughter only lasted a few seconds, until the ice gave way and cracked under Han's feet, sending him down under the water.
"HAN!!" Leia screamed, running up to the ice's edge, ignoring the way her feet kept sliding, hoping for a moment that he might surface, that the water was shallow enough for him to stand up, that something would happen to indicate he was all right, but no sign came, nothing except the cold, evil water bobbing up and down in its murderous waves. After only a few precious seconds, without any thought, without any pondering, she dove in after him.
The freezing water consumed her. She couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't breathe, couldn't feel anything except cold. With nothing but reflex and the vague sense of panic doused down by the cold, she pushed herself downward, her gloved hands sweeping through the water, trying desperately to find Han.
There was nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, as if the world itself had vanished and left Leia alone to drown. Her lungs were burning, desperate for air, feeling like they were about to burst. The devastating, paralyzing cold seemed to be penetrating her skin, freezing her very insides, preventing her heart from pumping blood, even trying to prevent her brain from thinking.
For the first time, she had an idea of how Han felt in the carbonite chamber.
When it felt like her body was about to surrender to the icy water, her hand ran into something large and soft, yielding to her flesh. Han! Her energy was completely renewed within a millisecond. In one swift move, she pushed herself down with whatever strength she could find, grabbed her husband, and paddled towards the hole in the surface ice, the only thing she could make out in her vision. For a moment she was afraid that the hole was an illusion and they would be trapped down in the icy depths forever, but then she felt it. Air, wonderful air. Air that filled her lungs, giving her enough energy to push herself and Han out of the water and onto the thick part of the ice.
"H-H-H-H-Haaannn," she slurred through frozen lips, her body thoroughly exhausted, her eyes wanting to close. With great effort, she shoved her unconscious husband onto his back, her hand running over his chest, feeling for breath, for movement, for any sign of life, though her own breath was laboring more and more every second and her vision was fading. Perhaps they were both dying, perhaps everything was over for the both of them.
At least they were together . . .
Through the fog in her vision, she thought she saw shapes running toward them, but her energy was at last expended. With one final gasping breath, she collapsed on top of Han's body and knew no more.
- - - - - - - -
Leia . . . daughter . . . you can wake up now . . . you're safe . . .
Wake up . . .
It was warm. That thought rushed through Leia's mind almost before she regained consciousness. Warm. She was no longer in the water . . . she had survived . . .
But had Han?
Her eyes struggled to open, as if something was holding them shut, yet before she was released from blackness she already knew that she wasn't home – or anywhere else familiar. She was in a bed, but the covers smelled so perfectly clean, like they were actually washed every day. When her eyes finally blinked their way back into functioning, she saw that she was in a small white room, with a window that let in the first rays of sunrise.
A hospital room. That had to be where she was. She slowly turned her head to the side and saw that a needle was stuck in her arm, which let some kind of liquid flow into her arm through a tube.
"Oh, you're finally awake, thank the stars!"
Leia's head turned towards the door, noticing a young woman of somewhere in her twenties entering the room, wearing the white uniform of a doctor. She had dark blonde hair neatly tied up in a bun, out of which a few stray hairs were curled over her forehead.
"Wh-who are you?" Leia croaked, her throat burning with the attempt to speak.
"My name is Nia," the woman said, hurrying over to Leia's side. "You're in the hospital. You've . . . well, been unconscious for two days – but to be fair, most of that time was spent in a bacta tank, so it's not quite as outrageous as you might think."
"Two days??" Leia exclaimed.
"Yes," said Nia, "but you've only been out of the tank for about twelve hours. Your family's been in and out of here the entire time – they're worried sick about you."
"My family . . ." Leia muttered. Sola . . . Pooja . . . Ryoo and Siran . . . her family . . . they were worried about her like she was one of their own, even though they had only known her for such a short time. Somehow it touched her.
"They're downstairs right now," Nia informed, gently gripping Leia's wrist, casually checking her pulse. "I think they're sleeping. After all, they desperately need some rest."
Nia's face suddenly fell. She swallowed loudly before speaking. "He's . . . he's still in the tank." She blinked rapidly as she stared into Leia's eyes. "Listen to me . . . I don't know whether or not he's going to make it."
Leia's eyes were wide, tearless, as if her energy to cry had waned away. "What do you mean?"
Nia sighed. "Strictly speaking, I usually work in the baby section – I examine expectant mothers and deliver babies."
"Then what are you doing here??"
Nia sighed a second time. "Because of Ryoo. I've been taking care of her during her pregnancy, and well . . . since she trusts me, she wanted me to watch over you after you came out of the tank." She held out a hand, as if giving a peace offering. "But don't worry, the specially trained doctors are treating your husband."
"Don't worry??" Leia snapped. "Don't worry?? My husband might die and you're telling me not to worry??"
"All right, you can worry if you want."
"I want to see him," Leia said in her firmest, strictest voice.
Nia gently wiped Leia's sweaty forehead with a towel. "You can, you can. But I'm afraid I'll have to give you a physical first."
"I'm sorry," said Nia. "I don't doubt that you're recovering, but it's policy. I have to give you a physical before you go anywhere just to make sure you're healthy enough to leave your bed. It won't take long, I promise – and then you can go see your husband right away."
Leia ground her teeth as her head fell back onto the pillow in frustration, but she finally nodded in agreement. "All right, but be quick."
- - - - - - - - - -
Leia felt her eyes welling up at the sight of Han in the bacta tank, floating lifelessly, his arms hanging limp as if he were already dead. She slowly reached out and touched the cold glass, the awful barrier between them. "Han . . ." she whispered, rubbing the surface of the glass, as if pressing hard enough would wake her husband up.
This was her doing. All her doing. Why, why, why did she insist that he join her in the snow? Why did she go out in the snow at all? She chewed her lip, realizing that she already knew the answer. Did the Force think it was funny for her to discover her family and then lose her husband immediately afterward?
Mother, can't you help him?
"For a long time it seemed that he was about to die," explained a doctor who was standing next to the tank. She cleared her throat. "We almost lost him more than once. But . . ." She smiled awkwardly at Leia. ". . . now his vitals are beginning to stabilize. If we're lucky, he might be able to come out in a few hours." She patted Leia's shoulder as the princess breathed a long sigh of relief. "You're quite brave to jump in the ice after him, you know that?"
"I had to," Leia murmured, pressing her nose against the tank, trying to send her husband soothing, healing thoughts through the Force, hoping that somewhere in the depths of unconsciousness he would receive them and gain the strength to recover.
- - - - - - - - -
Leia stood perfectly still as the doctors eased the unconscious Han into a hospital bed. His hair was still drenched from the tank and his mouth was hanging slightly open, as if he were gasping for breath. She could see the blue lines of veins in his closed eyelids, which were moving not at all.
"Leia! You're all right!"
Before Leia had enough time to recognize the voice, she felt Pooja's arms wrapping around her so tightly that it brought a bit of pain to her chest. "Leia . . . Leia . . . Leia . . ." her cousin murmured.
"All right, Pooja," said Ryoo's deep voice. "Don't strangle her."
Pooja giggled as she released Leia, after which Ryoo gave the princess a gentler hug. As their bodies pressed together, Leia thought she felt Ryoo's unborn baby kick.
"What were you doing out there?" Ryoo asked with a hint of teasing in her voice.
"It's a bit of a strange story," Leia admitted.
"You're lucky I heard you and Han talking from my room," said Ryoo. "And you're lucky that Siran and I followed you."
"You followed us?" Leia exclaimed.
Ryoo shrugged. "We were just watching over our cousin. Maybe it was paranoia coming from pregnancy, but I thought that maybe seeing your mother's grave would cause you to . . . well, do something to yourself." She gently pinched her cousin's cheek. "Well, this time I'm thankful for pregnancy paranoia."
Over Ryoo's shoulder, Leia noticed Sola entering the room, and this time it was Leia who ran up to the older woman and gave her a hug instead of the other way arond.
"Aunt Sola," she murmured.
"My niece," Sola murmured back before pulling out of the embrace and examining her niece's face, causing Leia to notice tears in her eyes. "That was such a brave thing you did for your husband. My sister would be so very proud of you."
Leia slowly turned around to face Han, who was now settled in the bed, breathing steadily. "I know," she whispered, inching towards her husband's side. Han still showed no signs of awareness, but at least he appeared relaxed. Leia gently kissed his forehead and squeezed his unresponsive hand. "Wake up soon, honey."
- - - - - - - - - - - -
The day inched by, with Leia spending most of it watching over Han. She practically had to be dragged out of his room and back into her own so Nia could run some further tests on her, even though it was obvious to everyone that she was recovering. Stupid hospital policy.
It wasn't until evening, after Leia had finished her dinner, when a doctor finally came into her room and told her Han was awake. With that, she leapt to her feet and ran towards her husband's room, not even waiting for Nia's permission, not caring if running would make her collapse. Her only concern right now was Han.
When she reached his room, she found him lying in bed, still weak, but with eyelids fluttering, looking directly at her. She immediately sat down next to him and began rubbing his cheek.
Han gave her a feeble smile. "Hey sweetheart," he whispered.
Leia breathed in relief to hear her husband's voice. "Hey," she greeted back. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I just went through carbon freeze a second time," said Han, his smile growing a bit wider. "And once again, you're there to save my butt, aren't you?"
"Han," Leia said in a mock scolding voice.
"I'm serious," said Han.
Leia leaned over and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips. "You have no idea what I went through to save you."
"Was it worse than that bikini thing?"
Leia smirked and shook her head. "When you get better, remind me to slap you." She immediately gave him another kiss to assure him that she wasn't serious.
"If you keep this up, I might get better sooner than you think," Han said with a soft, labored chuckle. "You wanna just slap me now?"
One of the doctors snickered. "All right Leia, I think your husband might want some space."
Han inhaled deeply, his eyes blinking in a sleepy manner, his hand gripping his wife's. "Naw . . . I don't need space from you . . . just from the doctors."
Leia grinned as she pushed Han's hair out of his forehead. "Tired already? Didn't you just have a three-day-long nap?"
Han yawned. "Yeah . . . guess nearly freezin' to death takes it out of me . . ."
Leia kissed her husband one last time. "All right, go to sleep. Hopefully you'll feel better when you wake up."
Han's eyes were closing, his breath becoming slower. "You'll be there when I wake up . . . right?"
"Yes Han," Leia said. "I promise."
Her words seemed to give Han permission to fall completely asleep, his hand still clasping hers. For what seemed to be a few good minutes she simply stared at him, entranced by his rhythmic breathing and his rising and falling chest.
"Leia?" said a voice, abruptly pulling her out of the trance and causing her to notice Nia standing in the doorway.
"Shh," Leia immediately exclaimed, pointing down at Han with her free hand. "He's asleep."
Nia's mouth twisted awkwardly. "Oh . . . well I guess this will have to wait, then."
Nia leaned against the doorway. "Just . . . just a result from your physical. Don't worry, it's nothing bad . . . but I think you should both be here when I tell you. So, just let me know when he wakes up, and I'll tell you then." She walked out, leaving Leia bewildered.
- - - - - - - - - -
True to her word, Leia stayed with Han through the night. This time, none of the doctors pestered her to leave him – they all seemed to sense how adamant she was about staying. She soon lost complete track of time, but she didn't care. She wouldn't look at a chronometer – she would only listen to make sure Han was still breathing.
Eventually she fell asleep slumped over his bed, but none of the doctors had the heart to move her.
- - - - - - - - -
Leia awoke to the sound of a bird singing out the window. She blinked her eyes open, gradually seeing the morning sunlight pouring into the room. Her neck ached as she eased herself up with great difficulty, though the sound of her husband's breathing gave her comfort. As she hobbled towards the window, she vaguely remembered that Padme had visited her dreams once again, telling her not to worry, assuring her that everything would be all right.
And strangely enough, Leia found herself believing it.
"Mmm . . . Leia?"
Leia immediately darted back to the bed, sitting down on the foot of it, smiling as Han opened his eyes. "Good morning honey," she said. "Feel better?"
Han gave a loud, deep inhale. "A little bit." He returned her smile. "Thanks for stayin'."
Their morning greetings were interrupted by the sound of the door sliding open. Both heads turned to see Nia entering the room, a wide grin on her face. "Good, you're both awake," she said. "Finally you can hear the news."
"News?" inquired Han.
"Yes," said Nia, sitting down next to Leia, making for an intimate closeness between the three of them. "Something I discovered yesterday after examining her." She took Leia's hand and rubbed it enthusiastically. "Congratulations Leia . . . you're pregnant!"
Leia froze, her breath coming out in small bouts. Briefly she wondered if she had heard wrong or if she was dreaming, but slowly her mind comprehended the reality of the situation. "I'm . . . I'm pregnant?" she whispered, carefully, fragilely, as if acknowledging it too much would make the baby disappear.
Nia nodded excitedly. "Yes Leia, you're going to have a baby."
"WOO-HOO!" Han suddenly yelled. Though he was still weak, he forced himself to sit up so he could hug his wife. "We're gonna have a baby . . . I'm gonna be a dad . . ."
Leia hugged her husband back feeling dazed, but in a wonderful, joyous way. After a moment, she looked back up at Nia. "Are the others still here?"
"They've never left," said Nia.
"Then go get them," Leia said quickly. "We need to celebrate."
"Of course," said Nia. "Don't forget, I'm available to assist you during your pregnancy."
"Believe me, I won't," answered Leia.
With a final nod of enthusiasm, Nia darted out of the room.
Han continued to squeeze his wife. He slowly leaned down and kissed her stomach through her hospital gown. "I love you . . ." he whispered.
She knew he was probably expecting the "I know" that was their personal joke, but today she felt too overcome with emotion to bother with holding anything back.
"I love you too," she responded.
He looked up at her and gave her an open-mouthed grin. "We're gonna have a lot to tell Luke when he gets back."
"Yes," said Leia. "As soon as he gets back, we'll have to take him to meet our family." She could already sense the extreme happiness that her aunt and cousins would feel when they learned she was pregnant.
She could sense someone else's happiness, as well.
Someone dead and yet always present, someone she was never going to let go, the biggest treasure she had found here. Yes . . . that person was happy too . . .she was certain she wasn't imagining it. She thought she could almost hear that person congratulating her.
Padme . . .