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set fire to all those yesterdays

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He’s lying half-immobilized on the ground and not fully comprehensive of what just happened, heartbeat throbbing boomboom boomboom in his ears. He can sort of hear Luke’s voice saying something, small and quiet-like; can feel Leia’s small fingers digging into his bicep, the one that isn’t numb all the way down, the points where her nails bite into his skin through the fabric of his shirt sharp contrast against the muddled haze of his pounding head.

It’s still mostly difficult to breathe and more than anything he just feels scared.

(And he hates it, hates that he’d gotten away but not really, that he’d proved himself as more but not really, that the sick bastard had still been able to beat him down and his stupid brain still froze when he -)

There’s a shuffling above him and Han concentrates all his efforts into shoving aside the fear and pain and panic to focus on what’s going on. Anakin’s face comes into view above him, one hand slipping behind his shoulders. It takes him a second for his eyes to focus.

“Han, look at me.” The voice is low and gentle, the shape of his shoulders taught. “Can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” he mutters, tasting something that he vaguely recognizes as blood in his mouth. “I … fuck.

He can hear one of the kids give a strangled laugh, and there’s almost a hint of amusement in the older man’s voice when he speaks next.

“At least he didn’t do anything to your mouth, Kid.” The hand has migrated so that it’s supporting his other shoulder, slowly easing him into a sitting position. “Here - try taking a couple deep breaths.”

Han chokes down the bile clawing at his throat and inhales sharply through his nose. Anakin’s hand is solid and warm; the real one, then.

“I’m okay,” Han hears himself say, his voice coming out raspier than intended. Chewie’s rough growl sounds from above him and tries shaking his head (bad idea) and lifting his numb arm to calm him (really bad idea). “Really, ’M okay, Chewie, don’t -”

(“No, I’m not going to kill you,” Anakin had said, a livid coldness in his voice that Han had never heard before, low and quiet and chilling; a burning ice that made Han’s blood run cold.

“You’re - you’re not?” And Han could hear the crack in Shrike’s voice, hear the dark amusement colouring Anakin’s next words. “No.” A jerk of the head to his left, where Chewie was towering over all of them, “But he probably is.”)

Han takes another deep breath, fighting against the nausea that’s threatening to overwhelm him.

(Leia’s sharp intake of breath and jerk of the head – the way Luke had looked deliberately at Han's face away from the scene unfolding behind them - it was enough to tell him that Garris Shrike had probably just been thrown off the edge of the building.

The sharp scream that pierced the foggy, blood-stained haze of Han’s consciousness was almost unnecessary.)

Chewie is hovering over all four of them and rumbling worriedly.

“’M fine,” Han tries to insist, but Anakin shakes his head slightly and crouches down, slipping his shoulders under Han’s arm.

“C'mon Kid. We’ve got to get some bacta for that lip of yours before Padmé has my head.”

“Wha’?”

“Your lip’s split straight open,” Leia’s quiet voice tells him from his side. So it’s Luke that’s gripping his other hand, then.

“Oh.” He’s not sure why he can’t get out more than one or two words at a time. He used to be good at this sort of thing, damn it. And it’s not helping things that his numb side refuses to support him properly and his foot’s lagging and –

“It’s alright,” says Anakin, hand gently pushing into the small of Han’s back and holding him upright. The earlier anger has almost completely dissolved from the older man’s voice, only present in bare snatches, slivering undertones that Han only recognizes because the voice is sounding so close to his ear. He’s not sure why, but breathing becomes a little bit easier. “I’ve gotcha. Easy now.”

“Thanks,” Han manages, letting his weight drop on his other leg and easing into the older man’s support. Luke’s hand lets go of his and he has an irrational urge to reach out and grab it again.

Irrational, yes – he’s twenty-one years old, damn it, and not a child anymore and can kriffin’ well take care of himself.

(But he also feels like his head’s about to spilt open and Shrike’s taunting is playing on repeat in his head and maybe he wants to throw up a little, and suddenly there are four people around him holding him upright and he’s terrified that they’re going to disappear.)

“We should get out of here quickly,” Anakin says in a low voice, guiding Han’s steps towards the opening of the stairway leading to the ground level. “Leia, Luke – stick close to me. Base isn’t far off, but that bastard made too much of a ruckus going down.”

“Sorry,” Han hears himself say, words coming out uneven and jumbled over his tongue. The bile is still pushing at his throat and he feels suddenly, overwhelmingly helpless. “About the – sorry you had to see –”

Anakin stops abruptly, and Han can hear his sharp inhale from where he’s positioned against the man’s shoulder. His arm’s still mostly numb, but it’s getting easier to stand on his own; he tries easing himself out from Anakin’s support, only for him to tighten his grip slightly.

“Actually, let’s sit down for a moment. Take a breather. We'll be walking for a while.”

“I said I’m fine,” Han says, annoyance lacing itself unbidden into his tone despite the nausea and headache and numb arm. “Look –”

But Anakin has eased him back to the ground, back pressed against the wall, with more gentleness that Han ever thought he could posses. Luke and Leia are hovering somewhere behind Chewie, no doubt looking at each other with widescared eyes -

(And all he remembers is being utterly terrified when they stepped out of the shadows behind their father and ran to him, remembers the sudden numbness of his lips and the way his fingers scrabbled against the ground as he tried to get up and tell them to run away, thinking godsohgodsno and Shrike can't see them he can't -)

but all Han can see are the General’s bright blue eyes boring into his.

“Han,” he says, and there is a low ferocity to his tone that makes Han’s breath catch. “Listen to me. Don’t you ever apologize." A beat. "Not for that.”

He swallows, and tries to open his mouth, but nothing seems to want to come out. Anakin’s fingers are digging into his shoulders.

“You hear me?” he repeats, quiet and insistent, long hair pulled back from his face so that the way his scar stretches with concern evident even in the half-light of the alley. “Don’t you ever apologize for their shit. Promise me.”

Han nods.

(And feels the backs of his eyes sting and tells himself it’s because his head still aches like sithspit and he can taste blood in his mouth from the tear in his lip.)

His fingers dig into the fabric of the older man’s tunic impulsively, and he swallows again when Anakin nods back.

“Mom says that’s not a polite word,” Luke mumbles under his breath, and Han can hear Leia’s half-nervous giggle sound from his other side, strangled and high-pitched. Anakin makes a face and Han almost grins, only his lip hurts like krethin’ hells when he tries to stretch his mouth.

“You’re right. Pretend I didn’t say it.”

“Han says bad words all the time,” Leia points out from his other side, and Chewie makes a sound that might very well be laughter.

“Yes, well,” says Anakin, glancing at Han over his arm. “He’s not your father.”

Han tries to look sheepish.

(Operative word being tries – he blames his busted lip and throbbing head for failing utterly.)