There are certain tropes most fanfiction holds to when it comes to Princess Leia. Thanks to the wonders of cable TV, I recently revisited the original Star Wars and Empire for the first time in years. They were transformative for me when they first came out. More than mere science fiction... A more grand, technical western, Shakespeare in space, myth and legend and universal unconscious. In the beginning the good guys wore white and the bad guy wore black and it was simple and fulfilling. And then, just as we were growing up, (and maybe almost thinking we were too grown up,) George challenged us with more darkness and blurred lines than we ever expected... and finally, as we were almost adults and moving into the world, he topped it all off with just that tiny bit of naughtiness, and finished with Good winning after all, at the last possible second.
I've always wondered just why we think (almost universally) that Leia's torture on the death star was less than... complete. The following is not for the faint of heart, nor, probably for those under age. My premise is that it took three years for that first real kiss because Leia was dealing with a trauma as old as humanity, and common to every war we have ever known. There are some missing moments, and some new ideas on moments that we do see.
Chapters will be inserted into the correct timeline, however, each *should* also stand on it's own if I've done my job. ;-p
Ice Must Melt, Else It Shatter
1. The South Passage-the Real Story
(Three weeks before the ill fated patrol on Hoth/first scene of ESB)
Han Solo scared her.
And Leia Organa hated nothing more than fear, unless it was weakness in her own character. She hated that he scared her. His confidence, his swagger, his... masculinity. Sometimes she would forget. Mostly during those rare, precious down-times when Luke and Chewie were there too; When Han was smart and funny, and she felt like one of the guys. Or when they were working, she in the command center, he on a mission; he might rib her, but never as much when others could hear as in private... But when he'd turn the charm and the wit in her direction, the sudden desire for flight or fight was almost overwhelming. She would wrap her reputation as the Ice Princess around her like a shield, and fend off his interest.
Ice Princess indeed. Appropriate enough for this frozen outpost at the edge of the universe. She was always cold. Even in her insulated thermal uniform, with the enviro controls set to more than reasonable warmth. Sometimes she wondered if she would ever be warm again. When she would finally, finally fall asleep from exhaustion, too often the cold brought her back to the cell on the Death Star. There were no blankets there, just a hard metal bench. Nothing else but metal and black composite. Storm Troopers, Imperial guards without faces, Vader... Cold needles and cold steel jabbing her, jabbing into her...
Leia sat up with a gasp, gulping air and grabbing for the blaster under her pillow. Quickly her mind clicked back to reality—her quarters on Hoth. A glance at the chrono showed she had slept just over three hours. A half-hour or so gain on her best average so far. Wearily, she got up. She knew her brain would not let her go back to sleep now. In the quiet, darkest and coldest hours of the night, she could not keep her thoughts from the tiny particles of star dust that used to be a vibrant, living planet full of people... Alderaan. Or from the insidious memories of her so-called 'interrogations' on the Death Star. Tortures. Rape of mind, body, and soul.
A single tear escaped despite her best effort. The waves of grief were less frequent now. The first year it was hourly, daily... some time into the second year it was just a couple of times a week. Now, going on three years, though the nightmares were common, the almost incapacitating grief was spread out. There were longer periods where she might even seem to forget. Forget that her entire world was gone.
She would hold her breath and clench her jaw, and will down the bile. She would remind herself that ending her existence herself was not an option, it was a coward's way out. She wrapped the mantle of her office—now strictly symbolic, yet a symbol important to the morale of the rebellion—she clung to the protocol and the ideal of the Princess and Senator of the house of Organa, of the late planet of Alderaan... an appointment without premise... she clung to the dignity, because it was the only thing between her and despair.
The carved out corridors of Echo Base were quiet as she moved into them, heading for the Command Center. Third shift, so aptly nicknamed 'the graveyard shift,' was wrapping up with paperwork and winding down; First shift had yet to arrive. When she heard steps enter the South Passage behind her, with a sinking feeling she knew who it was. Without looking behind her, she tried to quicken her pace, without appearing to run away..
But those long legs caught up. "Mornin' Your Worship, you're up early."
Leia bristled at the title. She knew he only kept up with it because she rose to the bait. Despite the knowledge, she couldn't help herself. "Am I Captain? You are too, then... or is it late rather than early for you?"
"Nah..." Han grinned at her reply. Sometimes he saw her slipping away to that place of sorrow so deep he wasn't sure she would find her way back. But when she sparred with him, when she matched him wit for word, there was a spark. Then, he saw the spitfire who hauled him into a trash compactor. "We're pushing hard to get the Falcon done. I was going to check with Command to see how I could fit in a patrol around the work that takes both me and Chewie."
Leia realized she was still almost jogging. Since Solo was keeping stride easily with her, she slowed her pace somewhat. She couldn't stop the sadness that his words brought her. Somehow she let herself believe this day wouldn't come. She was so busy just getting THROUGH each day, sometimes the actual passage of time escaped her notice. And while he scared her on one level, on a more elemental level, he had become part of the fabric of this new existence of hers.
"Han..." she paused, searching for the right words. Before the thought could finish, there was a low groan and an echoing *CRACK* above them.
In the way of the human mind in crisis, time stretched and folded around them. Leia slowed her steps, almost halted, trying to register the sound. Han, rather, reacted with the instincts of a pilot and a gambler used to calling out cheats—he grabbed Leia by the upper arm and practically lifted her airborne.
The ice granted them the time between three heartbeats, begrudged them the next. Han curled himself around the Princess as much as possible-which was considerable since she was just about half his size—his arms tucking behind her to break their landing. The roof of the tunnel came down in several large chunks, pressing against Han. Due to the size of the piece, the weight was spread out; Han was spared injury as far as he could tell, but was well and truly buried.
Leia felt the grip on her arm, then the crushing weight on top of her, and promptly began to hyperventilate. Blind panic consumed her, in full flashback to the Death Star.
"Leia... LEI-a" Han's voice broke, the pressure of the ice denying him room to breathe.
"LEIA." His heart stumbled, something unfamiliar in his gut clenched.
How badly was she hurt? He thought he had cushioned her fall, but had she hit her head? Broken ribs? In the dim, grey misty light he could just see her eyes, squeezed shut. He wiggled in the confinement as much as he could, his body covered hers completely, her head tucked into the space between his shoulder and chin. He was able to just get his right arm freed from beneath her.
"Leia... " The ice only spared him centimetres, he gently probed the back of her head, seeking injury...
There was nothing, still her breathing was ragged, gasping. He couldn't move his weight any further off of her, if it was her ribs... he strained his ears to hear if help was arriving yet. He knew there would BE help, but he had no idea how big the collapse was or how long it would take them.
"C'mon, breathe for me... Leia..." He stroked her hair, the only small movement the ice granted him.
It was her name that brought her back.
No one ever called her just Leia any more.
In the military setting, rank was everything, and as the token figurehead, everyone saluted her and recognized her by the obsolete title, despite her work right alongside the troops.
The blackness called at her, but though the hardness beneath her was cold, the weight on top of her was warm.
Hot breath in her ear, but it whispered a supplication, rather than panted or grunted... "Leia..."
Han? That was Han's voice. But something was wrong. He sounded... wrong. He was pleading with her.
And calling her by her name. "Leia, breathe... "
With a shuddering sob, she obeyed. And crawled back from the black abyss that consumed her.
Hoth. She was on Hoth. Han and Luke had come to the Death Star and they got out. They got out.
"Leia!" The relief in Han's voice was patent.
As awareness dripped through her, she felt his body, pressing against her, pressing her into the ice beneath her and the edge beckoned again...
She was trapped, her right arm against her side, her left arm captive between their chests. She could feel the front of his shirt, the edge of his jacket. She fisted her hand in the fabric, holding on for her sanity; for her life. She felt, (imagined?) his lips brush her temple.
"Leia, where are you hurt?" Gentle urgency kept her with him.
"I'm ok... I think..." She felt the cold ice floor, felt where her hip and shoulder might be bruised, but there was no real pain. Dimly, she recognized what had happened, remembered the crack and groan of ice shattering, realized Han had taken the brunt of it to protect her.
"I'm ok. Just pinned down. We're all right."
He tried again to gain some space, even a few centimetres more, but there was none to be had.
Trying to lighten the mood, he brushed the hair away from her cheek, "I've wanted to get you in this position Princess, but not like this."
And just like that, he felt her tense for battle. The hand that had bunched his shirt now pushed against the immovable weight of his chest and the ice pressing down on top of him. Panic had her pushing with all her might against him—but there was no give, nothing he could do. He caught the look in her eyes—or the lack of it—and his heart sank somewhere down toward his stomach.
With a flash it came to him, she hadn't been hurt by their fall, she'd been caught in a waking nightmare.
"Leia... come back to me... I'm sorry Leia, I was kidding... I'd never hurt you Leia... c'mon sweetheart, come back..." He kept crooning at her, nonsense words, softly calling her.
It took slightly less time this time.
First he felt the taught panic release slightly, he felt the shudder go through her petite frame beneath him. He kept up the steady, soft chatter, willing her back... "It won't be too long, they'll have gotten a signal from your comlink, they'll know we're here." He knew she was back when she finally took a deep, shuddery breath. Rather than push against him, her forehead relaxed into his shoulder. "Hey... Leia.. You back with me?"
She felt the shame burn her cheeks, glad he could not see her. She had not had full blown waking flashbacks since just after the first year anniversary of Alderaan's destruction. Most of the time now when she had them, she a least knew I was a nightmare when she woke. But when Han had grabbed her arm in a vice-grip and physically moved her, she was back there.
"Han... " her voice was a broken whisper, "I'm sorry."
"You're sorry? For the tunnel collapsing? I mean, I know you're a Princess and all, but do you command the laws of physics and gravity?" His muscles shook with the effort of trying to take some of the weight off her onto his elbows.
She chuckled softly, he felt her nod slightly in the negative, "For losing it on you."
"Leia," all mocking was gone from his voice, he tilted his head as much as he could, "you're fine, you've nothing to apologize for. Everyone's entitled to a bit of claustrophobia."
"It's not..." her voice caught. His kindness was perhaps her undoing, "It's not that. I, um..."
Han Solo could be infinitely patient when he chose to be. Because it was unexpected, it was that much more compelling a tool in his arsenal. He softly, so softly, stroked her hair in small movements.
He'd guessed, though, in a flash of insight three years in the making. A deep rage surged in him a the conjecture. She was so tiny, so seemingly fragile. She never would have had a chance against storm troopers, and probe droids, and... Vader. Her hand fluttered between them, then grabbed on to his shirt again.
He knew. He had to have known. He didn't WANT to know, but he did. He'd seen the detention cell, he knew Imperial protocol.
And yet, she had survived it, withstood it. He knew they made her watch Alderaan's apocalypse, and still, she didn't give in. How someone so small could contain so much courage...
He remembered her shudder of revulsion when he facetiously suggested she could return to her detention cell if she couldn't stop complaining about her 'rescue.' He inwardly groaned, contrite... shamed.
"How long-how soon- do you think they'll find us?" Leia asked quietly.
"It won't be long. I'm sure they've already located your comlink. It's just a matter of getting to us."
Leia realized she felt his voice as much as she heard it. It rumbled from his chest to hers. Now that she was more in control, the contradictions in the situation began to surface.
The same body that scared her and had sent her into flashback, had sheltered her and probably saved her life. She was actually ok usually with tight spaces, it was the physical contact and the personal restraint that had set her off.
If she could just focus on the fact that this was Han... He claimed allegiance to none, yet once again he had risked his own safety and wellbeing to save another. She wondered how badly he was really hurt, she knew from how he was wrapped around her, enveloping her, that he had tried to protect her as best he could. With his own body.
At that moment, the ice above moaned again and shifted. It sounded like a sentient being. Ice, must of course either melt, or shatter when under extreme pressure. The heat of the enviro-units and just plain body heat from the humans had probably melted his section enough to stress the structural integrity, and with the pressure above being just too much, it cracked and collapsed.
Han let out a grunt, though Leia could not discern a change in the small crevasse afforded them.
"It's all right. There's more air now." His words sounded restrained. But he was right, she felt the slightest brush of a breeze now on her face.
The rest of her felt nothing but cold beneath, and warmth and pressure above. Something low in her womb stirred when she discerned the intimacy of their forced embrace. She had never, willingly, been so closely entwined with a man.
A shudder reverberated from her head to her toes, but she WILLED herself to stay with him. She concentrated on the rough hewn fabric shirt beneath her hand, on the familiar smell of spice and soap and... male.. where her head rested in the hollow of his shoulder. She concentrated on the feel of his fingers moving minutely through her hair.
This was Han. He would no hurt her. He might talk a good talk, but never, in three years, had he physically crossed ANY line she had set. She was more familiar with Luke, for goodness sake. Though for some reason Luke did not worry her the way Han did.
She acknowledged the feelings from Luke, she was not immune to crushes... but nothing in Luke stirred her anxiety the way Han did. Luke could swing an arm over her shoulder, or hug her, and all she felt was a certain calming warmth. The merest brush of an arm with Han and she was prickly and panicked. Longing for something just beyond the horizon of her reach, and terrified all the same.
Han heard the rescue crew first. Leia was still concentrating SO MUCH on remaining in the present she did not detect the muffled voices at first.
"We're here!" Han bellowed, the sound assaultively loud in the miniscule space..
And then she heard the fainest, "Captain Solo? Are you with The Princess?"
"Yeah... we're here... we're OK."
'The Princess,' of course, she thought. Not Leia. THE Princess.
And then she felt ridiculous for her ire.
"Hang on just a few more minutes, Leia." Han's voice was soft and confident, rumbling into her chest.
She did hang on: her hand held onto his shirt as if he might disappear by magic from their icy crypt. Her mind held on to the smell of him, soap and spice, the slight tang of machine oil... she concentrated on the texture of his fine stubbled jaw against her temple and cheek; The warm, solid weight of him wrapped around her, covering her, a human shield.
He was leaving soon. That was where the conversation had been going before the sky fell on them. She inhaled again, a scent so familiar, so endearing... she wanted to imprint it on her brain for the long, cold days to come.
His grip tightened on her then. Han felt the shifting against him and knew their rescue was close. He worried still for the slight weight in his arms that seemed far too frangible to take his weight, let alone the ton of ice on top of them. His lips found her temple and his free hand cupped the nape of her neck as the pressure increased, and the space they were occupying shrank for just an instant before opening up.
All too soon, (too SOON Solo? You must be mad from deep space...) it seemed like dozens of hands were reaching for both of them, pulling them apart. Han protested his lack of injury and abundance of feeling FINE. As he was helped to stand, he saw the medical droid scanning Leia. Saw her face pale, noticed her jaw muscles jump. Of course. The newly born rage curled in his belly again.
He shrugged off his droids, and crossed the debris to reach her.
"Leia?" He reached for her hand.
But once again it was his use of her NAME that brought her back to him.
"Leia. It'll be fine now."
For an absurd moment, she ached to be next to him again, for his weight to cover her and press into her...