This is just something I wrote up, thinking about this time period that we missed out on. It may or may not eventually turn into something more, but for now I think it works as a stand-alone. It is also my first attempt at a "missing moments" piece set during the movies. Hope you enjoy.
Walking up the Falcon's ramp for the first time in… how long? He still wasn't sure. His eyes still betrayed him and left him with nothing but blurred outlines and colors. It was a big step up from the total blindness he had experienced upon his initial release, but he still had to wonder if he was ever going to see clearly again.
Or see her again clearly.
Since they had been reunited once again on the skiff, he hadn't let go of her. He felt the need to touch her, just to make sure she was still there and that it wasn't a dream like it had been before. Unable to see her to get the reassurance of her presence, he needed to feel her.
She had guided him by the hand through the sandstorm to the ramp of his precious ship, and he finally felt like he was home again. The smell was what got to him first - the unmistakable mix of metal and grease and just a hint of Wookiee fur. It wasn't exactly the same, though. It didn't smell quite like… him anymore. He intended to change that quickly.
Once inside and free of the mercilessly blowing sand, he was anxious to remove his goggles and cloak. The lack of debris in the air did nothing to help his sight, but he still caught Leia's outline in front of him as she removed the protective gear from the face he so desperately wished to see clearly.
He held her hand with his right, and reached up with the left to run his fingers over her face, feeling her leaning her cheek into his touch. "I wish I could see you," he said quietly.
She reached up and grasped his hand on her face, then turned to kiss the palm. "You will. I promise. Come with me, we have some drops that should help."
"But what about…"
"Don't worry about it," he heard Lando say behind him, almost having forgotten Lando was even here. "Chewie and I will take care of it. You're in no condition to fly right now."
He wanted to protest, but thought better of it. "Thanks. Just don't get used to it."
"Wouldn't dream of it. Welcome back, Han."
Han looked in Lando's direction but was still unable to make out any details in his image. "Yeah, thanks."
"Come on," he heard Leia say just before she pulled him off towards the med bay.
Once he was seated, she worked quickly to get the drops in his eyes. Her small hands touched his chin and forehead as she gently pushed his head back. He felt the drops hitting his eyes and instantly they started to water. Looking forward, he blinked away the liquid that had begun to pool, but not before a few stray drops ran down his cheeks and her thumbs came up to brush them away.
He frowned. "I still can't see you."
"Relax," she said, her hands still framing his face. "They will take some time, but you'll be able to see clearly again soon. I promise."
They sat in silence for a moment, and Han realized he wasn't sure what he should say. Any words that came to mind seemed wholly inadequate. His friends had just risked their lives and their cause to rescue him from what was essentially a living death. He had never been worth that kind of trouble to anyone before, and it scared him a little that they would go through so much to save his life. It touched his heart on a level he didn't even know existed.
How could he possibly convey his gratitude?
Fortunately, Leia spoke again, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "Will you be all right for a few minutes? For obvious reasons, I really need to get cleaned up."
He inwardly cursed himself for forgetting about her current state. He had learned on their ride back about the humiliating outfit she'd been forced to wear, and the degrading chain around her neck while she sat in front of Jabba like some prized trophy. It hadn't surprised him one bit to learn that the petite woman in front of him had somehow managed to strangle to death her captor who happened to be at least ten times her size.
"Ok, I'll be right back."
She released his hand and disappeared toward the 'fresher and he suddenly felt horribly alone. He had spent who knows how long trapped in a coffin and completely cut off from every sensation life had to offer, and now that he was free he found the idea of being left alone completely unsettling.
He was also hit with a wave of tiredness. It seemed ridiculous considering he had just awakened from what was likely a months-long nap, but the exhaustion overwhelmed him enough that he leaned over and laid down right in the medical bunk rather than trying to feel his way back to his own cabin.
Lying down against the soft material felt unreasonably good and it didn't take him long to drift off to sleep.
After finishing an incredibly thorough shower and putting on some normal clothes, Leia was feeling vastly better. Had she not been so concerned to return and check on Han, she might have stayed under the hot, flowing water for an hour.
Once clean, dry and dressed, she emerged from the 'fresher expecting to find Han in his cabin, but surprised that he wasn't there. While heading towards the cockpit, she found him sound asleep in the medical bunk.
A small smile tugged at her lips as she took in his peaceful form. He was lying on his side in the clothes he had been wearing for six months now but was too tired to have bothered removing. His mouth was slightly agape and she watched his chest rise and fall as he breathed deeply. She wondered what that must feel like given the fact that he had been deprived of that simple, natural function for so long.
She had an urge to lie down next to him and press her body against his. Having been searching for him for so long, it seemed unreal to finally have him back. She thought about the last words she'd said to him before he was frozen, and the first words she'd said to him once she had revealed her identity upon his freedom. It was only too bad that such a drastic event had to take place in order for her to finally admit her love for him.
Her thoughts were interrupted when she noticed Han struggling in his sleep. He had turned onto his back and his hands came up in front of his face. His breathing had become labored, and he seemed to be clawing at some invisible wall. Not knowing what else to do, she went to him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, hoping to still him before gently stroking his forehead.
He let out a soft whimper that made her heart ache. "Shhhh…." She said, "It's all right. I'm here. You're free."
His eyes snapped open and once he seemed to realize where he was his face turned to look at her. After a moment of appearing slightly embarrassed, a grin swept across his face. "I can see you," he said as he brought a hand up to her cheek.
Although the logical part of her brain had told her that his eyesight would return, it was a great relief to hear him say his vision had finally cleared. "I told you," she said, suddenly lost in the adoring look in his eyes.
She wanted to ask him about his dream, but decided that he would talk about it when he was ready – if ever. "Do you want to go back to your cabin?"
"Sure," he said, slowly sitting up and swinging his long legs off the bunk and onto the floor.
She stood and offered her arm to help him up. Before she'd lost him to Jabba she had been afraid of losing him anyway, as he'd said he was going to leave before everything happened at Bespin. But now there was no pressing reason for him to leave her again, and he was free to do what he wished without the bounty on his head. The question now was: would he still choose to stay? She wasn't yet ready to ask him that.
Once inside his cabin, he headed straight for the bed and sat down, letting out a sigh. Looking around the room, she could see him taking in his surroundings and he inhaled deeply through his nose. "Have you been staying in here?"
She felt slightly embarrassed at the question. The truth was, yes, whenever they found themselves on the Falcon over the past six months, she had opted to use his cabin. It was as though sleeping there allowed her to still have some part of him with her, but she wasn't sure how he'd react to her taking over his personal space.
"Yes. I hope you don't mind."
Looking up at her, he smiled. "Of course I don't mind. You can sleep in here anytime you want."
That gave her cause to smile back. He stretched his long legs out on the bed, lying back and shutting his eyes.
"Do you want to change clothes before you fall asleep again?"
"I think I'm too tired to bother. You'd think I'd be more awake after taking such a long nap."
"Well, at least let me take your boots off."
She walked over and slid each of his boots from his feet and tried to keep him from noticing her wince when the smell hit her.
"Sorry, Sweetheart," he said, wiggling his toes. "Tatooine weather makes my feet sweat. So does impending execution by Sarlacc."
"It's ok. I'll let you off the hook this time."
Concern flooded his hazel eyes. "Are you okay?"
It was difficult to keep the tears from flowing. At the moment, she was much more than okay. "I'm fine, now that I have you back."
He reached up and squeezed her hand. "I didn't think I'd ever get to see you again."
She felt the tears well up and spill down her cheeks and she gripped his hand in both of hers. "I wasn't going to let that happen."
"I don't know how I can possibly ever thank you enough for coming to get me."
She shook her head. "You don't have to thank me."
"But you – "
"Shhhh… I'd go to the ends of the galaxy if that's what it took to get you back, Han."
She leaned in and kissed him gently, and he relaxed against his pillow, finally feeling that he was safe.
She brushed the hair back from his forehead, and he shut his eyes. "Get some rest, Han. You're going to need it once we reach the rendezvous."
Standing to leave, she walked towards the door before she heard his voice from behind her. "Wait."
She turned back to see him propped up on an elbow, looking at her. It seemed to take him a moment to formulate his words. "Don't go."
"I thought you should get some rest."
"I will, it's just… I… I don't wanna be…"
He sheepishly nodded. She had never seen him so vulnerable, and she walked back over and sat on the bed next to him. "You don't have to be."
Curling up on her side, she lay down next to him, facing him on the pillow, his hand in hers.
"I wasn't sure if – you know – if anything had changed since I've been gone. Between us, I mean."
Of course he would wonder that. He might not even know how long he's been gone. Leaning on her arm, she pressed her palm against his cheek and stroked it softly with her thumb. "Nothing's changed, Han. Not for me, anyway. I still feel the same way about you."
Visibly relaxing at her words, his lips curled up into half a smile and he shut his eyes and took a deep breath. She was waiting to hear something similar from him, but instead, it appeared that he had fallen asleep the instant his eyes closed.
Letting out a contented sigh, she leaned back down against the pillow and brought her body closer to his, never releasing the gentle grip on his hand.
She wasn't sure what the future might hold for them, or even if there would be a future for either of them once they returned to the battle, but for now, she was simply content in the fact that they were together, and they were both safe. The rest could be handled later.