The Dreams

By Z.B.

Art by Leela Starsky
leelastarsky@gmail.com

 

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Leia knew that Han had caught up with the rebellion quite a few weeks ago. And since then she had taken the habit of roaming around the landing bay, late at night when there were only droids to watch her hope for his return and for things she had no words to describe, that she hated herself for in broad daylight. She had never wanted the surrender it required, the slip of consciousness it demanded, had never sought it and therefore never thought she would find it. Never thought she would ever want to wrap herself up around the bright spot of pain in her chest.

The one message she had received from him, through an officer who had seen him, had told her that he was needed for a while at this particular cell but would find her and Luke soon enough. Leia had started to think that he would never come because she saw his message as conditional, and Luke wasn't here. So when she saw first his ship then him, she could only stare, paralyzed with the fear that she was suddenly losing her mind.

"Your Highness?"

She swallowed. Looking away from Han was like sliding into a different universe, even as she could feel his own eyes on her now.

"I'm sorry, General. You were saying?"

"That Solo's back." She watched him nod an acknowledgment. "Here he comes."

The general was right; he was walking up to them. Slowly, to let her recognize the slight swagger of his body and the crooked grin that took possession of a whole room. By the time he reached them, she had realized that she had never given any thought as to what she would do when he would stand there in the flesh.

"Solo!" The general grabbed his hand. "It's good to see you again."

"Thanks. It's good to be back."

She had wanted to at least hug him--there was nothing inappropriate in that, everyone had seen her hug Luke many times--but only managed to hold his gaze, which was warm and open and washed over her like sleep. "Hello, Han."

"Hey." He glanced at her companion. "You busy?"

"Not much has changed around here, Captain. She's always busy," the general said. "Your Highness, we're going to be late for the meeting."

Han stepped aside with a flourish. "Wouldn't want to keep the committee waiting."

No reproach in his voice, as there used to be.

There wasn't just the meeting; there was never just one thing to do. Leia had spent the rest of the day doing whatever needed to get done, from sending out orders to various bases to overseeing the medical supplies inventory. She was tired, but she didn't care. It had been a few months since she had stood on the ramp of the Falcon,and she wanted to search the memories of that night for clues. Except that all she could remember was an uncertainty too similar to this one.





Han had talked and laughed all evening, and that had surprised her. She had never known him to compromise his moods for the benefit of others--certainly not hers--or to beat around the bush. And everyone could tell something was wrong with Luke. It wasn't simply the trauma of losing his hand and getting used to a mechanical one. His eyes were gray with some muted and shapeless pain. He had closed himself off to her, to the others, and she felt his loneliness so much that she wasn't sure where hers started and his ended.

Yet she understood how lucky they all were, that there were reasons to be grateful. Thanks to Lando, they had escaped from Darth Vader and Boba Fett, and even if they hadn't had the time to warn Luke, he had survived his encounter with Vader. But Han was leaving, and she didn't want to ask him if he would come back. She didn't want to tell him that she hoped he would. She was asked to attend a short meeting in the middle of their dinner.

"Hey," Han called after her. "Come and see me when you're done. Say good-bye properly, huh?"

She stared at him for a moment, so aware of Lando talking to Luke about some sabacc game a little too enthusiastically, trying to ignore the wine Han had spilled getting up and the knowledge he had of them. Part of her wanted to thank him, and part of her wanted to make a big deal out of this, to be certain that Han needed to tell her good-bye properly.

Just as she had imagined, they had no idea where to start once they were alone. She had climbed aboard the Falconto find him tinkering with the cooking unit.

"Shouldn't you be making sure the shields are working?" she said.

He dropped a tool into the box at his feet. "Everything's in working order, and Chewie said he'd tear my arms off if I touched anything important again. I just needed to do something."

"You mean Chewbacca doesn't need to eat?"

"You just repeat that, and I'll cook you something."

She smiled to try to relax. "I'm not hungry anyway."

He looked at her. For the first time in days he touched her, caressing her cheek with his thumb. "You didn't eat much earlier. Are you okay?"

"I don't know. Are you?" She had to ask the questions, for fear he would continue asking them.

"As can be."

Silence.

"I don't understand why you have to go," she said. "It's obvious Jabba isn't waiting anymore and only wants you dead--"

"I don't want bounty hunters chasing after me. The Empire's enough around here. Either I settle this now, or I run for the rest of my life until my luck runs out and I get killed anyway. No, thanks."

"You'd rather die now?"

"D'you have to put it that way?"

"No jokes, Han. Not anymore." His eyes drifted to the cooking unit and back to her. He was a different person then, someone she didn't know but could trust, so intent that she had to become aware of him as flesh as well as soul.

Surprise almost made her recoil from him when he embraced her, tight and needy. A nice kind of fever. "I'll come back if I can, that's the only thing I can tell you."

She didn't want to move at first, comfortable in his warmth after days without his touch. She hadn't realized how cold she had been. She pulled away slightly, and it was even nicer to have his fingers around her face and his mouth close. "What's this, Han? What's going on?"

She knew she was daring him to answer a question that she would have no answer for herself, or no answer she could articulate without giving up too much. She could feel it there, on the surface, but it was too big and too bright for her to see properly.

He kissed her.

It was a gentle pressure on her lips.

A cure.

She opened to him, and suddenly they were trying to melt into each other, moving around jagged edges, just holding on. He dragged his breath across her neck, to her ear. "This is going on," he said. "And it's good and safe. Just when we need it. Isn't it enough?"

Yes, she wanted to tell him, and no. She wanted to understand where the need came from. "You mean, right now that's all we get."

"Right now that's all we get."

Later, when she had to let go of him and dress, half-shivering, she noticed how the light that filtered from the other ships carried the same silver as moonlight. He said nothing to her until she was halfway down the ramp.

"Take care of yourself, Your Worship."

He didn't want it to be sad, but she couldn't help herself.

"Han, I--" She stopped. It was too late. She should have told him in that brief moment when there was no secret between them, not now that they had to protect each other from themselves.

"I know."




Leia found him sitting in the lounge area, staring at the holochess pawns in front of him, a cup of something bitter in his hand. He got up as soon as he saw her; this time she wasn't afraid to take him in her arms, or to laugh when he lifted her and twirled her around, because as soon as she had seen him there she had made a decision. She would start this by being glad he was still alive.

"I never thought I'd see you again," she said. "Did you--"

"Leia..."

He was right, of course--who cared for hellos and how-are-you's and tell-me-where-you've-beens when the only important thing was the simple fact that he was there? They kissed like children at first, mouth to mouth, eyes open to test the greeting, parting, waiting a heartbeat for rejection, coming together again, this time blinding themselves to everything but each other.

His words were muffled and rough. "I've thought about you."

She didn't reply until she had caught her breath. "Did you pay him off? Did he let you go?"

"I wouldn't go that far." She looked at him. "He was going to kill me andtake the money, until I convinced him I could take care of some business for him."

"Such as?"

He sighed. "He wanted to move onto another Hutt's territory, without taking too many risks. So I agreed to try and seize some of his merchandise--I figured I had a better chance than against Jabba's rancor. When it worked, Jabba decided he wanted me around for some more work. Then I realized he was never going to let me go, and that I had better places to be."

"So you just left?" He nodded. "But surely he'll send the bounty hunters again?"

"Yeah, that would make sense."

"Then it has all been for nothing? You might as well never have gone--"

"That's why I came back," he said, releasing her. "Between spending the rest of my days working for him until he had no use for me, or with you, making my own decisions, I thought I'd rather be with you."

She caressed the hard angle of his jaw. "You're staying this time."

"I stopped wanting to leave a long time ago."

"I think I know what this is now." She paused as he moved closer again, amazed that they could tell each other what they wanted so easily. "I love you, Han."

He became still, just before their lips touched. "We've wasted too much time, you and me."

"We shouldn't waste time ever again."

"Starting now."

"Stop stalling, nerfherder."

She could never have believed until now that love, once it was in her possession, could bring such peace. Because when she fell asleep against him, his hand on her hip, his legs pressed against hers, it was into a silence of thick and white dreams. And she could see everywhere.

 

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