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If We Can't Trust The Doctors

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It wasn’t long after Endor when Han got the feeling that something was wrong .

He had learned to trust his gut a long time ago--Jedi nonsense or not, instincts were there for a reason and he erred on the side of believing them, and more often than not he was right.

However he looked into it, though, over the next couple months, there was nothing substantially, objectively wrong. Leia had things under control. Lando was cucumber-cool as ever, taking care of his end of things just fine. Luke hadn’t said a word about anything to do with the Force, or anything he might pick up on that was out of the ordinary, or anything unexpected from the fallout with Vader.

There was no reason for the anxious pit in Han’s chest itching to be paid attention to, day after day.

He worked on the Falcon until there was nothing left to work on, no repairs or upgrades to be made, until Chewie was this close to physically dragging him from the ship to get some sleep.

Han folded when Chewie nudged him out the loading dock, grumbling about how warm Han was keeping it onboard, wasn’t that a waste of fuel, and Han bristled.

His fingertips had been too cold to work without gloves; the back of his neck had prickled with chill the entire time.

He kept his mouth shut, and he told himself it was all that fur.

 

 

Three days later Han was being wheeled into the emergency medical room in the base.

The briefing had been pretty routine--it would be a simple job, a short flight out to track down some defectors to clear if they still had ties to the Empire, small enough to be just him and Luke and a small handful of X-wings if they needed backup--when Han’s skin started to feel like he had a nasty sunburn all over, achy and over-sensitive to the seams in his clothes. He grit his teeth. It was probably nothing.

His fingertips started tingling after a couple minutes, the feeling slowly creeping upwards. He leaned back in the chair to drop his hands to his lap, trying to get the feeling back by clenching and relaxing and clenching his hands again. The tingling kept creeping up.

In his peripheral vision, he could see Luke shooting him a look, and he firmly kept his eyes forward as if he hadn’t noticed.

Another few minutes, tingly-numbness up to his wrists, and there was a pounding in his head accompanied by a gray fuzz coming over the edges of his vision. He rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palm. He kept clenching his hands.

He felt a kick against his ankle, and it was enough to startle him into looking over; Luke was stony-faced, but there was something else behind it, and Han couldn’t tell if it was concern or frustration. Or something else completely, he thought a little bitterly. It could be hard to tell sometimes, now, unless it was obvious Luke was being purposely expressive for someone else’s benefit; it made him feel sour every time.

“What is it?” Luke whispered, lips barely moving.

Han looked away and shook his head.

Luke kicked his ankle again. “ What is it?

Han sighed through his nose and shook his head again, squeezing his eyes shut against the glaring lights for a couple seconds. When had they gotten so bright?

“Han,” Luke hissed at him, at little louder this time. “What’s wrong?”

Han opened his mouth to respond, to tell him to leave it alone, but the words weren't there, and he couldn't find them. He rubbed his eyes again, and it felt like his arm had turned to lead. Everything looked foggy.

Luke said his name again, sounding so far away, like he'd moved from right next to Han to across the room without him noticing, and then the fogginess turned fully dark, and Han hit the floor.

When he opened his eyes--how long had it been?--all he could see were colorless, vague shapes. He blinked. Nothing changed.

He felt a hand on his forearm, a voice from the other side of him saying his name, and he willed down the panic squeezing his throat as best he could. His heart was hammering, with a beep from somewhere in the room, pinging gratingly with each pulse.

The hand on his arm squeezed, and the beeping slowed down just slightly. “Can you hear me?” Luke .

Han nodded; he was still prickling with anxiety, but the physical feelings of waking up halfway to a panic attack were cooling off. “What the hell happened?”

Quiet for a second, and then, “Well--”

“We’re not sure,” Leia’s voice cut off from the other side of the bed.

Yet .”

“You haven't been out very long, we’ll know more soon.”

“I can't see ,” Han said through grit teeth. “How soon is soon?”

The silence hanging between the twins was heavy.

Han heard Luke clear his throat. “They're running blood tests. We know it wasn't a seizure, and there's no pressure on your optic nerves, but they want another scan--”

Another ?”

“Just to make absolutely sure. We need to rule out some kind of pressure on your brain, or any fluid, but the emergency scan didn't show anything.”

None of the scans had shown anything worrying after Endor, either, when Lando suggested checking that things were really okay after the carbon freeze. Han could feel his hands shaking, and he couldn't tell if it was anxiety or whatever had happened in the briefing room, or some kind of medication from the IV he could feel in his arm. He tried to slow his breathing down.

“We’ll figure it out,” Leia said, insistent and matter-of-fact. “You're going to be alright.”

Han huffed a sigh through his nose, and he decided this wasn't the time or the place to point out that she couldn't know that; none of them could. There was something uniquely uncomfortable about people making those sorts of empty reassurances, like they needed to reassure themselves most of all, like they wouldn't have to say it if they knew it was really true.

Han heard a ping from the side that Leia was on, and a flurry of quiet, frustrated swears.

“I have to go,” she said, “the briefing--”

“It’s fine,” Luke said.

“Keep me updated,” Leia said, and she gave Han's hand a soft squeeze before leaving the room.

Luke's hand was still on Han's arm.

“They probably need you too,” Han said.

Luke was quiet for a couple seconds, and Han wished he could see his face. “Not really.”

His voice was soft, but there was a finality to it that kept Han from saying anything else about it.

“You should have said something earlier,” Luke said gently. “You’re going to get yourself hurt if you don't accept when something’s wrong.”

“It wasn’t that bad until it was that bad,” Han insisted.

“Yes, it was.”

Han could practically feel Luke staring at him. “And you'd know?”

“Yes.” Luke paused. “I could feel it. And no ,” he added before Han could interrupt, “I wasn’t listening in, you may as well have been shouting it. I can't always help overhearing.”

Han let out a slow, deep breath. He knew Luke was right, but the reality, the helplessness of the situation, was unbearable. Buckling down and pushing through it was what Han knew how to do; this kind of thing was out of his wheelhouse.

Neither of them said anything for a minute.

“I think it's happening again,” Han said eventually, gruff and defeated in a way Luke hadn't heard before. “Same’s after the carbon freeze.”

He felt Luke's fingers twitch against his arm.

“The blood tests should be done soon,” Luke said carefully. “The scans--”

“Nothing showed up before,” Han cut in. “I--Lando said I should get checked out, sent me to some doc he knows. Once things were calmed down enough to bother. Everything was clear.”

“Why didn't you say something?”

“Nothing showed up,” Han snapped, regretting the tone as soon as the words were out. “Didn't have anything to say,” he added a little more softly.

Luke was silent for a few seconds. “Then we’ll do more scans.”

Han felt deflated, and not from the episode in the briefing room. “Luke…”

“Who did Lando send you to? We could use their records.”

Luke .”

“Anything could help, Han--”

“One thing at a time,” he interrupted. “Alright?”

Luke's thumb absently rubbed at Han's wrist. “We’ll see what the tests today show, take it from there.”

 

 

Like Han had guessed, the blood tests showed nothing, the scans on his brain and his heart and his lungs showed nothing obvious; neither did the full-body scans Leia ordered, her voice cutting and frustrated, sharp enough to send both medical droids and the organic doctors scrambling to find something else to look into.

It took most of a day for Han's eyesight to fully come back.

As soon as he was cleared for release--under strict instructions not to leave base, sit down immediately if he felt another episode coming on, avoid staircases alone just in case, like a damn fall risk--Han made a beeline for the Falcon, grabbed some spare blankets from the hold, and shut himself in his bunk.

He kicked off his boots and sat down, and after a second stood up again to strip off his pants and his jacket, the hems still rubbing uncomfortably against his skin. Nothing looked irritated; it still felt like a sunburn.

The blankets smelled stuffy from being in storage for who knows how long, but the weight of them and finally, finally not being cold was more than enough to keep him from caring.

The Falcon was blessedly quiet compared to the rest of the base or even the medical rooms, snug and familiar and comforting. Han always preferred the quiet anyway--which ended up being ideal, with long stretches of time with just him and Chewie--but those days seemed to be behind him, and sometimes he just needed a break.

Han was close to sleep, all dark and heavy, when there were a few solid pounds against the door. He groaned, rolling over and pulling the blankets up to his ears; if he stayed quiet enough, maybe, whoever it was would give up and go, but the next few bangs came with a low, growling noise.

Han rubbed his forehead with the heel of his palm. “Okay, yeah, open the door.”

Chewie came in and closed the door behind him. He didn't say anything, just leaning against it and crossing his arms over his chest.

“Don't go looking at me like that,” Han grumbled, propping himself up on one arm. “It’s just--”

Chewie cut him off with a rumble.

“Luke’s just getting ahead of himself,” Han argued. “Don't tell me you're making a big deal of this, too, ‘cause it doesn't have to be.”

Chewie growled again, sounding more frustrated this time.

“I’d just passed out , who cares what I said?” Han sat up all the way, blankets still pulled around his shoulders. “It’s probably just some...some fluke, sometimes these things happen.”

Chewie snorted.

“It’s true,” Han insisted. “Your blood pressure just drops outta nowhere, you're out, I don't know, it happens .”

Chewie pointed out that Luke already told him--if anything, it would only explain Han going unconscious, but not the vision problems, or his hands getting numb or that damn cold that wouldn't leave him.

Han huffed and grit his teeth.

He could talk his way out of plenty of things, or at least talk his way around them, but never too successfully with Chewie, and never something like this.

“Doesn't exactly matter,” Han griped eventually. “I can't do anything about it, you know, no point in making a fuss like all of you are. Might as well just wait until they know what pills to give me, or whatever.”

He could feel the anxiety building in his chest again, like a peach pit lodged between his lungs, but he tried to ignore it. He couldn't tell which was worse, the pity or not knowing what was going on, and not being able to express this without more pity .

But he'd had time to think, waiting for his vision to come back, and pity didn't really seem like the right word for it. It was vulnerability, and people reacting to that, but vulnerable wasn't something Han knew how to be.

You couldn't fight being vulnerable. There was no way to outsmart or out-charm or outgun being vulnerable, and those were some of Han's strongest suits; patience wasn't, and accepting help wasn't, and it made Han feel like crawling out of his skin.

Before Han could say anything else, Chewie was out the door again; the anxious pit in his chest grew heavier, and he was a couple seconds away from getting out of the bed to find him, when he came back in with a bottle of something dark and another blanket that looked handmade and soft.

The anxious feeling cooled down.

Han scooted over so there was room for Chewie to sit, as long as he ducked his head a little, handing Han the new blanket while he opened the bottle.

“Where did you find this?” Han asked. “I thought I found all the blankets we had.”

Chewie rumbled quietly.

“Since when do you knit ?”

Chewie snorted, taking a swig from the bottle, but he growled again before handing it over.

“Yeah, it’s fine, nothing that’d interact with alcohol. Give it here.”

Han took a deep swig, grimacing a little at the burn, and then another before giving it back to Chewie. He pulled the blanket around his shoulders, the mismatched yarn thick and tightly-woven enough to be comfortably heavy. He leaned against Chewie’s side.

“Fuckin’ doctors,” Han grumbled, knocking back another drink when Chewie gave him the bottle again. “You know they told me not to go near stairs ? Like a toddler or something.” Han shook his head disbelievingly and took another swig.

Chewie nodded and snuffed back at him; however much he knew it was a reasonable precaution for someone who had passed out with no explanation, it didn't take knowing Han very long to know feeling coddled wasn't something he would tolerate well.

Chewie nudged Han with his elbow to get him to hand the bottle back over, grawl ing softly and giving Han an expectant look.

Han snorted a laugh. “I don't know what the hell to think about it,” he said, taking the bottle back before Chewie could get through too much of it, alcohol tolerance like a rock. “It felt like when I got outta the carbon freeze. Or woke up. Whatever. It felt like that, but nothing showed up on any of the tests--well, you know, you talked to Luke--so...I don't know.”

Han went quiet for a second, taking a deep breath before another drink, handing the bottle back to Chewie.

“Real question here, though,” Han said, snapping himself out of a train of thought he'd much rather ignore. “ Knitting? You? It's like my whole life is a lie, pal, what else are you not telling me? I’m hurt.”

Han could feel Chewie's shoulders shake with a laugh.

“Where do you even get the yarn? And when ? You got any grandkids I don't know about?”

Chewie swatted the back of his head and held the bottle out of Han's reach until he apologized.

 

 

Han jerked awake at the sound of a few sharp knocks against the door, echoing uncomfortably around his skull. He swore under his breath, pulling the closest blanket over his head, but he only had a couple seconds before the knocking came again, louder than the first few.

“I’m coming, calm down,” he grumbled, rolling out of the bed with Chewie's blanket pulled around his shoulders.

Luke looked puzzled when Han opened the door for him. “Are you alright?”

Han rubbed his eyes against the brighter light coming in. “Yeah, what’s goin’ on?”

Luke frowned. “You're not having another episode, are you?”

Han rolled his eyes and shuffled back into the bunk to sit on the bed again, picking the mostly-empty bottle up from the floor. “Nah.”

Luke followed him but didn't sit down, standing straight as an arrow across from Han. The room was cramped enough that they were still only a couple feet apart.

“Leia and I got in touch with Lando,” Luke said, clear and measured like he'd planned what he was saying, and Han bristled. “He gave us the name of the doctor he referred you to, your records should be sent by now.”

I could've talked to Lando,” Han muttered, continuing a little louder before Luke could say anything. “So what's the deal?”

Luke's face was a practiced kind of blank, but there was a crease between his eyebrows, and the corner of his mouth twitched like it wanted to frown. “They want you back in medical to go over everything.”

Han groaned and pushed a hand through his hair. “Yeah, alright, give me a few minutes.”

Luke stepped out so Han could get his pants off the floor and find a clean shirt, sitting in the seat behind the pilot’s chair while Han walked a little stiffly to the ‘fresher.

He was quick about it, figuring the sooner he got to medical, the sooner he could be out of medical.

Luke followed him quietly out of the Falcon, only breaking the silence between them to quietly ask, “How are you feeling?”

Han frowned, not looking at Luke even though he could tell Luke was looking at him. “Fine. I don't know.” He shrugged and shook his head, hoping against all logic that Luke would drop it.

Luke stopped walking, and Han sighed, stopping and turning to face him.

“Are you alright?” Luke asked again, his tone more concerned instead of the blank, practiced kind of evenness he usually spoke with now.

“I said I'm fine.”

Luke's eyebrow twitched. “I didn't mean physically.”

Han didn't say anything for a couple seconds, but Luke didn't look away; however softly, he was demanding an answer Han wouldn't be able to get out of giving him.

He tried anyway. “Doesn't really matter.”

“It does,” Luke said, still soft and quiet but definitive. He started walking again, touching Han's arm before quickly dropping it back at his side. “You can talk to me.”

He didn't push it, and they were both silent the rest of the way to the med bay.

Most of the medical staff were droids, and they had to wait a few minutes for one of the handful of organic doctors to see Han; every second that went by felt longer and longer.

“You don't have to stay,” Han said, anxiously picking at the hem of his shirt and hoping Luke wouldn't notice. “Sure you've got stuff to do.”

Luke shrugged and glanced at Han's hand; he crammed it in his pocket. “I’ve got plenty of time.”

Han let out a slow breath and pushed his hands deeper into his pockets.

Another couple minutes went by. Han couldn't help his leg bouncing, and bouncing and bouncing until his chair was shaky.

Luke reached out to put a hand on Han's arm, and dropped it a few seconds later at the sound of footsteps entering the room.

The doctor was a friendly-looking Hamadryas with their hair pulled back in a tight bun, holopad in hand, and Han could see a grainy picture of himself in the pale blue light. He grit his teeth.

They nodded at him and Luke, eyes widening slightly at the sight of him, but thankfully got right to it without preamble.

“Captain Solo,” they started, glancing at Luke again like they couldn't really help it. “I won't keep you any longer than you have to be here.”

They swished something on the holopad, and a list of numbers and unfamiliar medical terms came up on a screen adjacent to Han.

“As you know, your tests came back pretty clear,” they said, and a few of the lines of text on the screen became highlighted. “But there were some slight differences in some of your earlier test results, compared to those from the last two days.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Han could see Luke sit up a little straighter, but he just nodded stiffly.

The doctor swiped something on the pad, and the lines of text on the screen were replaced by two images of a brain, timestamps in the bottom right corners. Han felt a different sort of uncomfortable than before.

“Were you experiencing any symptoms at the time of your first round of tests?”

“No,” Han said. His throat felt tight.

The doctor nodded absently and looked from him to the screen again. “Certain areas of your brain were showing slightly abnormal activity--”

“I thought everything came back clear,” Han interrupted, suddenly more frustrated than anxious. “‘Abnormal activity’ doesn't sound very clear .”

The doctor looked startled. “Well.” They cleared their throat, gesturing vaguely towards the screen. “Your most recent scans show irregularities in the parts of your brain that process vision and physical sensation, along with your regulatory system.”

They zoomed in on the image to the right, pointing out a handful of differently colored spots, meaningless to Han.

“It seemed, at first, that this was an effect caused by the source of your symptoms, your brain reacting to that input, but,” they continued, switching images to the one on the left, “your earlier scans show irregular activity in the same areas, though much less drastic, despite you reporting no symptoms at the time.”

They looked at Han almost expectantly; he clenched his jaw. “And?”

They cleared their throat again, awkwardly looking down at the holopad in their hands.

“You'll need to see a specialist for a more conclusive answer,” they said, “but your problem seems to be largely neurological.”

Han could hear Luke and the doctor talking across him, but he barely registered it, their voices far away like he was hearing them through water.

You'll need to see a specialist .

This couldn't be a one time thing--if his earlier brain scans showed the same problems as right after the episode in the briefing room, it was something he'd been living with this whole time, it was something wrong with his brain , it wasn't something to be operated on or, apparently, easily medicated away.

Han suddenly felt very small.

He was only pulled out of his train of thought by a hand on his arm and a soft, “Han?”

Luke was looking at him with more expression on his face than Han had seen in weeks; he couldn't quite place what expression, but it still made him want to sink into the floor.

“Did you get that?” Luke asked.

“Sorry, what?”

Luke frowned, looking more concerned than frustrated with having to repeat what the   doctor had been saying.

“You have a referral to a specialist,” he said, “and medication to try to avoid some of the symptoms in the meantime. Is that okay?”

Han looked between Luke and the doctor, who still had that expectant look, as if Han was supposed to know what to do with any of this.

“Yeah,” he answered gruffly, with no other answer he could give, “s’fine.”

 

 

Han looked at the cluster of pills in his hand, and he had an aching, desperate feeling in his chest to throw them away, forget where the pill bottles were, never think of them again, but.

What other options did he have? What could he do but hope for the best and wait ?

He swallowed the pills.

The next few days were a blur of headaches and nausea and lights that were too bright; a clammy, shaky feeling he couldn't get rid of, that wouldn't let him sleep but left him feeling so exhausted during the day, he had to jab himself with a pen to keep from spacing out.

The doctor told him the side effects would pass, he needed the medication, he needed to wait to see the specialist.

He grit his teeth through it and waited to see the specialist.

Two days before he and Luke and Chewie left for his appointment, Han threw up in the ‘fresher, punching the wall with a loud string of swears.

He didn't take the pills the next day.

It wasn't a long trip, but Chewie took the pilot’s seat and Luke quietly settled into the one next to him; Han felt out of place sitting behind the two of them, unsettled and awkward and fidgety.

Neither of them asked Han how he was feeling, and he didn't want them to.

Chewie stayed with the Falcon once they landed, sending Han off with instructions to bring him back dinner, giving Han's shoulder a squeeze on his way out with Luke.

“We’re a little early,” Luke said, a few silent minutes into the walk to the medical center. All Han knew was that it wasn't far from the landing docks, but Luke seemed to know where he was going, so he didn't bother asking for specifics. “There's time if you want something to eat.”

Han's stomach was still uneasy, even after two days without the pills, and the persistent anxiety around having to deal with all of this wasn't helping. “Later, maybe, let's just get this done.”

Luke nodded, and he was quiet the rest of the walk over.

The medical center was huge, towering and so wide that Han wasn't sure he could see the other end of it from the entrance, with even more smaller buildings scattered around it that were marked as different wings of the same center. It was bright and clean, but Han still felt like it was looming over him.

The front lobby was busy, and Han froze up for a second; it was bigger and more crowded than any hospital he'd ever been in, and without Luke leading the way, he wouldn't have known what to do or where he was going.

There were two people ahead of them in line at the desk Luke had led him to, and Han couldn't help rocking on his heels, hands deep in his pockets to hide that he was fidgeting again.

Once it was their turn, Han opened his mouth to ask where he was going, but Luke got to it first, and Han wasn't sure what to think about that, prickly defensiveness shooting through his anxiety.

“We’re here for an appointment with the chief neurologist, for Han Solo,” Luke said, folding his hands in front of him on the desk.

The receptionist glanced from Luke to Han to the holoscreen in front of him, and if he recognized either of them, he didn't show it, fingers flying over the keypad.

“Neurology is the first building outside to your right,” he said, barely looking up. “I can check you in from here, just head to the waiting room.”

Han rolled his eyes with a huff, and Luke thanked the receptionist, and they made their way back out to the other wing.

The main building had been so busy and overwhelming, Han hadn't fully registered how bleached-white and sterile everything was, but there wasn't enough to distract him from it in the smaller neurology wing; the faint smell of antibacterial cleaner stung in his sinuses, lights glaring off the linoleum floors.

It was a short hallway to the waiting room, plastic-covered chairs lining the walls with a couple stands full of pamphlets in the corners, and Han grit his teeth against the sudden impulse to bolt.

The waiting room was far from full, only a handful of seats filled. Han headed to two of the chairs that were as far from anyone else as they could get; Luke would probably be more recognizable than him, but the thought of being looked at made his skin crawl. Everything about being there felt wrong and uncomfortable.

Luke sat up straight, unfazed and blank-faced, but Han couldn't help slouching in his seat like it would make him small enough to disappear.

“Are you okay?” Luke asked, quietly enough only Han could hear it, just above a whisper.

“Fine,” Han said gruffly, digging his heels into the carpet. “Just don't like hospitals.”

“They take some getting used to.”

Han shot a glance over at Luke; it made a lot more sense now, he realized, Luke staying with him in the med bay back on base, coming all the way there even when he inevitably had other things to worry about. He never talked much about losing his hand, but there had been Hoth, and Lando had mentioned Luke's hospital stay for his prosthetic, when he told Han to get checked out after the carbon freeze. Han had seen the edges of zigzagging scars from being electrocuted, too, when Luke's sleeve had slipped up once, hinting at an explanation for all the time Luke had had to spend in medical after Endor.

Guilt ached in Han's chest; he should have realized. Of all the things Luke had been thrown into, the whole host of medical issues he'd had to deal with hadn't really occurred to Han before.

“Thanks for coming,” he said quietly.

“Of course, Han.”

Luke's hand moved like he wanted to touch Han, say something reassuring, but he dropped it back to his lap, and they were both silent.

Three names were called before Han, and the pit of anxiety caught in his throat grew bigger every time. His leg bounced so much his chair was shaking, and probably jostling Luke's too, but he couldn't help it.

He felt like he might shake right out of his shoes by the time a nurse stepped out of the door the fourth time.

“Han Solo?”

He stiffened up.

“Do you want me to come in?” Luke asked quietly, eyes following Han when he stood up.

He didn't want to say yes, but didn't really want to go in alone either, with Luke sitting out in those uncomfortable chairs the whole time he was in there.

He nodded once, just a quick jerk of his head, and Luke followed him without another word.

Luke was like a shadow, quietly fading into the background while Han got his vitals and weight and vision checked by the nurse, but still just enough of a presence to keep Han from feeling lost.

The nurse led them to the exam room, punching Han's information into the computer at the desk with a hurried, “The doctor will be here soon, she's just finishing up with another patient,” and then they were alone.

Luke took the only chair other than the tilted-up exam table, but Han couldn't bring himself to sit there yet, leaning against the end of it to keep himself from pacing.

“You probably won't have to get many more tests done, if any,” Luke said. “Now that we know what we're looking for, we just need someone who can put all of your results together.”

“Great,” Han mumbled. On the one hand, having to do test after test after test back at the med bay on base had been draining, and left him feeling like a lab rat, but on the other hand, if they had already exhausted all the tests they could try, he couldn't help thinking it just meant they were out of options.

“We got you the best of the best,” Luke said insistently. “She’ll find something.”

Han just took a deep breath and nodded.

It was only a couple minutes before the doctor came in, even shorter than Leia but making up for it with a thick halo of dark curls and a round, warm face that seemed almost out of place somewhere so sterile and clinical. Han grudgingly got up on the exam table.

“I've heard a lot about you two,” she said, heading to the desk to click through Han's file. “It’s an honor meeting you, even if the circumstances are far from ideal.”

Han didn't know what to say, but Luke said something appropriately polite that he couldn't quite focus on, and the doctor pulled up his file and a couple scans onto the screen on the wall.

“It says here you were put on medications to keep your blood pressure steady, hopefully help avoid your vision problems, tremors, and something for...migraine symptoms, how did those work for you?”

“Um. Bad,” Han said. “I stopped with those a couple days ago.”

Luke frowned, and Han looked down at his hands.

“And why was that?”

“They made me nauseous,” Han said slowly, but then everything came out all at once like broken floodgates. “My head hurt the whole time and everything was too bright and I was always tired but I couldn't sleep and I threw up.” He cleared his throat. “Wasn't working out.”

Even from just a quick glance, Han could see Luke’s shoulders sag, his frown slipping into concern.

“Oh. Well,” the doctor said quietly. “I won't tell you to go back on those if they weren't helping. If the side effects outweigh the benefits then it's not always worth it. The side effects can pass, but if they were giving you so much trouble, I wouldn't push you to continue.”

Han suddenly liked this doctor a lot more than the ones on base.

“How often did you experience episodes like the one that brought you here?”

“Just that time,” Han said. “And after the carbon freeze.”

The doctor hummed and looked at the scans on the screen. “And any symptoms outside of those incidents?”

“Not really,” Han said. “Kind of.” The words stuck in his throat. It was easier when he could just space out until whatever tests were over and done with, and he didn't have to say any of it. “I'm cold all the time. And tired. My hands fall asleep a lot. My eyes don't focus for a while when I wake up and I keep getting headaches. I dunno.”

“Han, you never--” Luke cut in, but the doctor just shushed him, and Luke blinked like a startled bird. “Sorry.”

“Were there any other symptoms?”

Han swallowed thickly and shook his head.

“Hm.” The doctor scrolled through some of the notes in his file. “How long were you in the carbonite?”

It was a heavy few seconds of silence before Han could get the words together. “About a year.”

Luke winced. The doctor turned away from the screen to face Han, surprise clear on her face. Her mouth was half-open like she wanted to say something but didn't know what, looking from Luke to Han again.

“A year,” she repeated, taking a deep breath and looking at the brain scans on the screens before she could continue. “You escaped a death sentence, Captain Solo. It’s a wonder you're alive right now, let alone functioning without life support equipment.”

Han's insides felt icy.

“Excuse me?” Luke said, leaning forward in his chair. His face was strained, concern and something like anger creeping through his smooth composure. “What does that mean?”

“Carbon-freeze was never meant to be used that long. There isn't nearly as much research on its long term effects on organic life forms as their should be, but.” She chewed her lip for a second. “It was used to transport travelers, in its early days, before ships with hyperdrive were more commonplace. They often didn't make it, and if they did, it was usually with irreparable damage. After about six months is when it would get really dicey, if the freezing process went well to begin with, and progressively more dangerous after that.”

Han was only half-hearing everything she said, all his focus going towards keeping his breathing steady and his hands from shaking.

“What does that mean for Han ?” Luke pressed.

The doctor looked flustered for a second, pulling up Han's earliest brain scans along with the more recent ones.

“You've recovered remarkably well, all things considered,” she said, looking over at Han and nodding reassuringly. “If you've only had one episode, and the symptoms aside from that weren't so drastic as to get you hospitalized, you've dodged the worst of what could have happened.”

Han nodded numbly, but Luke wasn't having it.

“Then what do we do now?” he asked sharply.

The doctor shot a frustrated look at him before turning towards Han again. “Could you describe the conditions when you were removed from the carbonite?”

“Conditions?” Han mumbled, too frazzled to really keep up.

“Where you were, what was happening, what happened afterwards,” the doctor prompted.

Han took a deep, shaky breath, wishing he could think about anything but that, or anything that had happened directly before the carbon-freeze, but Luke blessedly interrupted again before he had to say anything.

“We were on Tatooine. We didn't get someplace safe for some time, but he wasn't further injured afterwards,” Luke explained, and then added, “His eyesight came back faster than after the incident on base.”

“Does that sound accurate?” the doctor asked Han.

He nodded.

The doctor was quiet for a few seconds, looking back at the screen with Han's scans. “What were you doing before the episode on base?”

Han shrugged, fiddling with a loose thread on his shirt. “It was just during a briefing, I don't know.”

“And before that?”

Han let out a slow breath and tried to think back to the days leading up to it, but nothing struck him as being out of the ordinary, the usual short missions and repairs and killing time when there was nothing else to be done.

“We had a recon mission about a...week before then,” Luke suggested. “But it was just in-and-out, nothing we haven't done before.”

“Are you able to tell me where this was?”

Han and Luke made eye contact for a split second before Luke continued.

“Not really.”

“What were the conditions like there? Air quality, extreme weather, that sort of thing?”

Luke opened his mouth to answer but Han cut him off before he could say anything. “Oxygen was okay, we didn't need air masks, but it makes Hoth look like a toasty little vacation spot.”

The doctor nodded to herself, heel tapping as she looked over some more of the notes on Han's file.

“Like I said, there hasn't been as much research on this as there should be,” she said slowly, “so this is just a theory, if you can even call it that.” She cleared her throat. “It seems reasonable that the temperature might be affecting you quite a bit.”

Luke straightened up in his seat. “How so?”

“Well. Tatooine is pretty scalding. If that's where you were released from the carbonite,” she said, turning towards Han, “ and your vision came back faster than on base, it could imply that the heat helped your recovery in some way.” She paused, glancing at the screen again. “And if this idea has any merit to it, it could...potentially...also explain why you had your more recent episode shortly after being somewhere so cold.”

Han had a thousand thoughts running through his head all at once, and no way to put them into a coherent sentence.

“Why would the cold do that?” Luke asked.

The doctor was silent for a few seconds, and then, “I did a residency with a doctor who had worked with some of the patients who survived carbon-freezing, while it was still being phased out as a method of travel. Their hibernation sickness never went away, at least not fully, but they would have flares--like the episode you experienced recently--that seemed to come after things like extreme temperatures, or illness, or certain physical trauma.”

Han felt like his stomach had dropped all the way to his toes.

“Xe suspected that it triggered a neurological response,” she continued, “from the brain thinking they were in carbonite again, exacerbating their symptoms, but there was never the funding to confirm if this was the case.”

The whole room was so silent Han could hear a clock ticking somewhere.

“So what now?” he asked eventually, quiet and small.

The doctor looked at him again, her face professionally blank but with something in her eyes that didn't make Han feel particularly optimistic. “Your symptoms are less severe than those patients who were in treatment for chronic hibernation sickness--your eyesight came back, and you're able to function in your day-to-day life, excluding episodes like the one that brought you here--but.” She paused and looked away, back to the screen. “There's no real cure for it, and no operations were successful. The best treatment is managing what brings on symptoms to avoid them in the first place, as much as possible. Especially with you having that bad a reaction to the medications you were on.”

All the thoughts whizzing around Han's head stopped dead, leaving his head clear like bleach.

“You could always try them again if you felt it would help,” the doctor added.

Han just nodded, barely hearing what she said.

She gave him a prescription to fill if he decided to, and instructions to keep the doctors on base updated if he did, come back if symptoms worsened or flares came on more often; Han felt like he was in a daze, running on autopilot with the words rolling right off him.

She shook both their hands on her way out, the screen on the wall going blank once she left, and they were alone again.

Luke looked like he had something to say, but Han stood up and headed for the door before he could get any words out, with a mumbled, “Gimme a minute,” and he didn't wait to see if Luke was following him.

He didn't know where he was going, or what exactly he was looking for, but it was only a couple turns down a couple hallways until he found a sign for a bathroom, bolting to the single-stall and leaning back against the door as soon as it was locked.

His legs dropped out from under him, leaving him sliding to the floor like a ragdoll, knees pulled tight to his chest. He didn't want to think about it, but there was nothing else for him to think about--there was nothing he could do , he might as well not have come at all, what good was the best of the best if his only option was to restructure his life around his brain throwing a fit every time it got cold?

It didn't feel real.

It felt too real.

Han couldn't tell what he was feeling.

“Fuck,” he mumbled to himself, dropping his forehead to his knees. “Fuck it all to hell.”

He tried to get his breathing steady, but the sterile, soapy smell, thick in the air, made his chest feel like it was constricting. He leaned back, head thump ing against the door, at the same time he heard footsteps go past and then right back again. No one knocked. It had to be Luke.

Han took a last deep breath and stood up, shaking out his hands before walking back out.

Luke had to speed up a few steps to catch up with him. “The exit is the other direction,” he said quietly. “We have to check out first.”

Han huffed and turned on his heel, slowing down to let Luke lead the way. Neither of them said anything until they were back in the waiting room, and Luke went ahead of him to the desk. He didn't mind this time.

Luke was quick, touching Han's arm when he came back over to get his attention. “Let’s get something to eat on the way back. Chewie wanted dinner.”

Han nodded and followed him out, squinting against the bright light once they were outside. The sun was warm on his skin, and he tried to ignore how cold his hands were.

Luke took them down a different street than before, shops and stalls lining the sidewalk with a dozen different smells wafting up at them as soon as they turned the corner, loud voices in just as many languages bubbling around them.

“Why didn't you say anything before?” Luke suddenly blurted out, and he stopped, making Han turn around to face him.

“What’re you talking about?”

Luke cleared his throat awkwardly. “You said there were symptoms outside of the...the flares. Why didn't you say anything?”

Han's shoulders stiffened up, and he crammed his hands deep in his pockets, looking at Luke's nose so he didn't have to make full eye contact. “Didn't think it mattered. It wasn't that bad.”

“Of course it matters --”

“I didn't know what it was! How was I supposed to know it had anything to do with this?” Han grit his teeth, and he wished he could have softened his tone a little, but it was out and there was nothing else he could do about it. “I didn't even know there was a this , okay?”

Luke frowned, but he just looked sad, and Han almost would have preferred him looking more annoyed, or frustrated, or anything other than sad .

“You can tell me about these things, now that you do know,” Luke said quietly, after a few silent, heavy seconds. “Please.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Han .”

He had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep his initial, bitter reaction down; he knew Luke cared, and he just wanted to help, but he didn't want to need the help in the first place. “I’ll tell you.”

“Thank you, Han.”

Luke kept walking towards the stalls then, the backs of his fingers brushing Han's, and he tried to ignore the hot, prickly feeling in his chest at that.

Luke did most of the talking, ordering from one of the vendors in a language Han only partially understood, handing him two warm cardboard boxes while he held the other two.

“We can eat outside somewhere,” he said, “if you want.”

“Let's just go.”

Luke nodded, and they were both quiet the rest of the way back to the Falcon.

The entry ramp was closed when they got there, and Han had to balance the boxes against his chest to pound on the metal a few times. He heard a low growl, stepping back and craning his neck to see Chewie’s head pop over the edge of the ship, gesturing towards a ladder off to the side that Han hadn't noticed.

“Yeah, well, you're gonna have to come down if you want your--”

“It’s fine, I got it,” Luke said, balancing his two boxes like Han was and holding his hand out for the other two. “I’ll come up after you.”

Han almost asked what he meant, and then huffed a laugh and gave the boxes back so he could climb up, scooting over next to Chewie. Luke got to the top a few seconds after him, the boxes floating steadily up with him too, handing two over to Chewie and one for himself and Han.

“Cool trick.”

Luke looked down, the corners of his mouth quirking up in almost a smile, and Han barely noticed the persistent chill in his bones for a moment.

The buns Luke had gotten were still hot, bigger than Han's fist and filled with something delicious that he couldn't name off the top of his head. Chewie finished the first of his by the time Han and Luke were still getting started on theirs, nudging Han with his elbow with another quiet growl.

“Back at square one, pal,” Han grumbled, pointedly looking down at his food so he didn't have to look at Chewie while he said it. “No other squares to go to, it's looking like. Can't really do much about it.”

Chewie growled again, shaking his head.

“I know! Bullshit.”

He and Luke were both quiet while they finished their food; Chewie climbed down before them to get the ship ready to leave, and Han wished he had something to fill the silence with once it was just the two of them; without Chewie to gripe along with him about useless doctors, there was nothing he could think of to say.

“So what's going on with that mission?” Han asked eventually, trying to steer the topic away from anything medical. “We heading out soon?”

Luke didn't say anything for a couple seconds. “It’s been taken care of.”

Han's eyes narrowed slightly, and Luke was avoiding looking at his face. “What do you mean?”

“It’s been dealt with,” Luke said, too measured and smooth to feel natural. “We felt it would be best to just get it out of the way.”

Han clenched his jaw. “You never said.”

“I didn't want you to worry about it, you have enough going on right now.”

Han took a deep breath. He wanted to just take that at face value, but he couldn't help thinking it was because Luke thought he would have another flare, and he couldn't help worrying if this wouldn't be the last time he was dropped from a mission.

“Right.”

Luke stood up without saying anything else about it, holding out a hand to help Han up. “We should get going.”

Han folded up the ladder once they were both down, lugging it up the entry ramp and shoving it in the first empty corner he could find. Chewie was ready and waiting in the cockpit, and Han scooted into the copilot seat before Luke could get to it; one time being relegated to the seats further back had been more than enough for him.

 

 

It was late enough when they got back that the base was comparatively quiet; most people would be winding down from their shifts, either getting dinner or hanging around the rec hall with nothing else to do.

Han mostly just wanted to go to bed.

The stress and anxiety around his appointment earlier had melted away into a big, heavy tired , like that had been the only thing keeping him going all day. The stinging fluorescent lights and smell of disinfectant from the hospital was catching up with him, and there was an ache behind his eyes, echoed by a persistent, dull pressure in his skull that felt halfway to a migraine.

Leia was already there when they lowered the entry ramp. “How did it go?”

“Hello to you too.” Han shrugged and picked at a nonexistent piece of lint on his shirt. “They can't really do anything,” he said.

Leia glanced over his shoulder towards Luke, and Han would have missed the tiny nod if he hadn't been paying attention.

“I’m sorry,” she said, hands clenched at her sides. “There's really not--? There has to be something.”

“There isn't .” Han let out a slow breath and ran a hand through his hair. “Just gotta work around it.”

“We can keep trying,” she said insistently. “It's not like whoever you saw today is the only good doctor in the galaxy, someone has to know something that could help.”

Han bit the inside of his cheek and shrugged again. “I guess.”

Leia frowned, but she didn't push it, thankfully, turning more fully towards Luke. “I need to talk to you.”

Luke stepped forward, turning back to Han like he had something to say, but his mouth snapped shut, and Han couldn't hear what he and Leia were saying as they walked off.

He rubbed his forehead with the heel of his palm, and he turned right back around, still preferring his cramped little cot in the Falcon to the barracks on base. “I’m out, big guy.”

Chewie ruffled his hair, with a low growl to go to bed before his head popped, closing the entry hatch for him from the outside.

The Falcon was quiet, just a low hum from the engines to keep the heat on, a thrumming Han could feel through his shoes as he made his way to his room.

He hit the switch to close the door behind him, leaning his head in his hands as soon as he sat down on the bed. The lights were low, but the pounding in his head wasn't going away, and he had half a mind to dig up the migraine pills from that first doctor until he thought of how exhausted and groggy they made him, like he was moving through thick jelly with cotton stuffed in his head. It was almost worse than the actual migraine.

He kicked off his boots so he could lie down, tossing his jacket to the end of the bed; he was going to just try to sleep it off, but then he remembered something at least a little better than the migraine pills, and he sat up again so fast his head spun.

It took some digging through the drawers under the bed, and then the storage space above it too, to find a crumpled pack of rolling papers and the small bag of spice that had been forgotten about for ages. It was old--from just before he'd met Luke, it had to be really old--and would undoubtedly be on the stale side, but it was better than nothing, and it couldn't be worse than those pills.

His fingers were a little shaky while he pinched some of the spice out and onto the paper; he had to get down on the floor for a flat surface to roll it, lumpy and uneven from unsteady hands and lack of practice, but it would do.

“Hell,” he grumbled, patting his pockets for a lighter before digging through his jacket until he found one.

He stood up to go open the door again, joint between his teeth, poking his head out to make sure no one else had come onboard. It was quiet, and if Chewie was there somewhere, he wouldn't mind or say anything; Han nodded to himself, leaving the door open when he walked back to the bed so it wouldn't get too stuffy.

It took a few tries for the lighter to catch--it was probably almost as old as the spice--and Han coughed on his first drag, but the smoke was so warm in his chest, he couldn't bring himself to care about the tickle it left in his throat. He pinched the joint between his teeth again to grab the blanket Chewie had made, arranging the other few around him like a big nest.

It wasn't long before he was feeling comfortably fuzzy and slow, the pounding in his head slowly fading to an annoying fog. He realized he would have to clean the ash off the floor later, but it was more than worth the relief, the stress from earlier melting away a little more with each hit.

His fingers felt less shaky about a third of the way through the joint, and he was about to snuff it out to save the rest for later when he heard footsteps from the hall outside, too light to be Chewie.

“Han?”

He sighed, taking another hit, hoping Luke wasn't about to tell him off for smoking instead of just taking the migraine medication. Or worse, he thought, Luke might just be concerned .

“Yeah, I'm here,” he said, holding down another cough.

“Is something--” Luke stopped once he came inside and saw Han. “Oh.”

Han turned his head to breathe the rest of the smoke out away from Luke. “What’s up?”

“I wanted to see how you're doing.” Luke rubbed his nose with the back of his hand, shifting his weight from one leg to the other. “You said you weren't feeling well, it's not another--?”

No .” He rolled his eyes, taking another short drag. He couldn't help noticing that he hadn't actually said anything about a migraine coming on--Luke must have been listening in. “Just a headache.”

Luke nodded, and Han was thankful that he just looked awkward rather than bringing up those pills. “And that's helping?”

“Yup.”

Luke nodded again.

Han scooted over so there was a little more room to his side, gesturing towards the empty space on the bed next to him. “You got somewhere to be?”

“No,” Luke said quietly, making his way over to the bed, hands folded in his lap, only a few inches between them. He didn't say anything for a few seconds--Han took another drag, buying himself some time to avoid having to break the silence himself--and then, “Are you doing alright?”

“It’s just a headache,” Han repeated.

“I know. I didn't mean that.”

Han looked over at him, and the way Luke was staring made it impossible to break eye contact, like he was his own gravity field.

“You've still never answered how you are,” Luke said. “I said you can--I want you to talk to me.”

Han clenched his jaw, only managing to look away after rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm. He took another hit before he could say anything, smoke bubbling out with the words.

“It’s shit. It feels like shit,” he said, breathing the rest of the smoke out in one quick puff. “And I can't even do anything about it, and that's shit too. What are you expecting me to tell you? Not really anything else to this.”

“I'm sorry--”

“Don't,” Han cut him off. “Enough with the pity party.”

“It's not pity , Han.” Luke's knuckles were white on his natural hand. “I won't say it if it bothers you like this, but it's not pity.”

“Sure as hell feels like it,” Han mumbled, taking another hit. “You know what, actually, no,” he added, some small part of himself telling him to shut up and leave it, the rest of him too fuzzy and worn down to care. “If you're making me get into this, you better too.”

Luke stiffened up next to him.

Han pulled his legs up under him so he could shift around a bit, fully facing Luke. “You’ve never said a damn thing about your hand, or those scars--don't even try, I've seen them--that's why you kept having to go to medical after the second Death Star, isn't it?”

“Han--”

“I get outta the carbon freeze and you're practically a different person, everything's different, and you still never say anything about any of it.” Han's chest felt tight, and he was starting to wish he'd never brought it up, but there was no point backtracking now. “I had to find out from Leia what really happened with--with your father , you couldn't even tell me yourself?”

Han felt like his whole body was buzzing, his heartbeat hammering in his ears, but Luke was still as a statue next to him, jaw clenched tight.

“I didn't,” Luke started, clearing his throat. “I didn't know how.”

Han felt deflated, suddenly, and so tired, all the way to his bones.

“So much happened, Han,” Luke said, voice quiet and soft but sounding just as tired as Han felt.

“Yeah, well.” He tapped the end of the joint so the ash would fall to the floor and not the blankets. “You can still tell me about it,” he said, throwing Luke's words back at him.

“I can't.” Luke's voice almost cracked at the end, and Han's chest felt even tighter.

“Why not?”

Luke didn't say anything for a few seconds. “I can't let personal attachments get in the way of…” He paused, wringing his hands in his lap. “I can't let my emotions get the best of me. It's not safe. It's easier--it's better to handle these things myself.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

Luke's shoulders slumped a little. “There aren't any other Jedi left, I have to...I have to do things right , I can't keep making mistakes based on emotional attachments.”

Keep making mistakes?” Han repeated. “Quit the vague Jedi shtick, Luke, just say what you mean.”

Luke looked up from his hands then, finally, and his face was blank but his eyes looked so sad that Han's chest ached.

“I could have ruined everything, leaving Dagobah to go to you and Leia. And I wanted--I wanted so badly to try to get you back sooner, but if I left a second time, I could have...everything would have been over.”

Han grit his teeth; he had to take another drag before he could say anything, needed those few seconds to collect a fuzzy train of thought into a real, coherent point. “I think you got this completely fuckin’ backwards.”

Luke looked startled, but it was better than sad, so Han kept going.

“You weren't supposed to leave Dagobah the first time ‘cause it was a trap, right? ‘Could've ruined everything,’ or whatever.”

Luke frowned, nodding slowly.

“But you didn't. None of us died, you still got back to Dagobah. Darth V--Palpatine’s dead. You did what you were supposed to do.”

“Yes, but--”

“No. Listen.” He coughed and tapped the ash off the end of the joint again. “Leia told me what happened on the second Death Star. Everyone thinks you killed Darth Vader, but you didn't. That's all Yoda and Ben--Obi-Wan, whatever--that's what they were trying to get you to do since day one. So why didn't you?”

Luke let his hands fall to his sides, prosthetic gripping the thin sheets. “There's--there was still good in him. I could feel it. He's the one who really killed Palpatine. I couldn't kill him.”

Han reached out to Luke's hand before he could think better of it, but Luke didn't pull away, so he didn't either, lacing their fingers together. His hand was cool to the touch, almost unnervingly, but it had been so long…

“Then they were wrong about Vader.”

“I mean.” He looked down at their hands, and then back up to Han, wide-eyed and conflicted. “Yes,” he said after a few breaths. “But they couldn't have known--”

“They had to know he was your father ,” Han pointed out. “Didn't they?”

Luke's jaw clenched, shoulders tight, looking back down at their hands. “They did.”

Han could feel Luke's fingers twitch. He shuffled closer until their shoulders were touching, leaning in a little closer-- too close . “They never even told you,” he said quietly. “They knew and they told you to kill him, you really think that's doing things right ?”

Luke didn't say anything, leaning a little more into Han.

“At best, maybe, they were lying by omission,” Han said, giving Luke's hand a small squeeze. “But I’m getting the feeling it was just straight-up lying.”

“They were doing what they thought was best,” Luke said, barely louder than a whisper. “You don't understand--”

“But they were wrong,” Han interrupted, “that's the point, you can't just…” He stopped himself, pinching the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “You ended up doing what was actually the right thing, by not listening to them.”

“That doesn't mean--”

“Uh-uh, I’m not done. They lied to you, that whole damn time, and every time you didn't do what they said, it's sounding like it ended better than if you had.” Han rubbed his thumb along Luke's knuckles; they were so close when Luke looked up at him, the air wasn't thick with just smoke anymore. “You can figure out the right way to do things yourself. Got a better track record than those two, anyway, far as I can tell.”

Luke glanced down at Han's mouth for a fraction of a second before squeezing his eyes shut, shaking his head, looking back to their hands when he opened his eyes again.

“It's not that simple.”

“It kinda is.”

“It’s not,” Luke insisted, his voice cracking for real this time. Han's insides ached. “I can't just--I can't just wing it, I have to be more careful…”

“Bullshit,” Han said, muffled by the joint between his lips, pulling another drag.

Luke looked back up at him, shock plain on his face, and Han's chest felt warm at seeing that much expression on him.

“You're not winging it,” Han explained, turning his head to breathe the smoke out. “You got a better head on your shoulders than anyone. I'd trust that moral compass of yours to get out of a meteor field, blindfolded. You can't always go by what a couple dead guys would do.”

Luke didn't say anything at first, just leaning a little more weight against Han. “I don't know what to do.”

“It's okay.” It came out whispered, and Han tilted his head so they were only a couple inches apart, feeling Luke's warm puffs of breath against his skin. “You can figure it out.”

Luke bit the inside of his cheek and shook his head, eyebrows creasing in the middle. “I don't know how .”

“Never said you have to figure it out alone.” Han held Luke's hand a little tighter; it didn't feel quite so cold anymore. “Last Jedi, sure, but you're not on your own in this.”

Luke gave a tiny nod, barely enough movement to be noticeable.

“Leia told me she's force sensitive, too,” Han said quietly, nudging Luke's shoulder with his own. “You've got help if you need it, you just, you gotta ask , stop closing yourself off just ‘cause you think you're supposed to.”

“Yeah, well, you can talk,” Luke mumbled, eyes a little crinkled at the corners, still sad but not looking so damn hopeless like before.

Han huffed a laugh through his nose, chest tight and hot and a little fluttery all at the same time. “There's that kid I remember.”

Luke took a deep breath, silent for a few seconds, and then, “If I have to ask, so do you.”

“Fair.” Han looked down at their hands, and he wasn't sure what he’d meant to say then, his brain fuzzy and a few seconds behind his mouth, but it wasn't supposed to be, “I miss you.”

He could feel Luke's hand tense up under his, and his breath caught in his throat, immediately regretting saying it. It was too much, too far, Luke was already so much closer to him than he'd been in months, he shouldn't have pushed it, he should have--

“I'm sorry,” Luke said quietly. “I should have talked to you.”

“You don't--oh, hell.” The joint had burned down to the end, singing the tips of his fingers, and Han got in one last drag while he leaned down to stub it out against the floor. “Sorry--”

Everything felt sped up for a second then, Luke's free hand tugging Han forward by the front of his shirt as soon as he was upright, and his lips were a little chapped but still so soft and warm that Han felt like he was melting.

He was too dazed to do anything until Luke's hand came up from his shirt to the back of his neck, and Han shivered, kissing him back slow and tentative like Luke could disappear any second if he made one wrong move.

He couldn't tell how long it was before Luke pulled away, staying so close Han could still feel his breath, hair tickling his nose. A thin line of smoke trailed from his mouth when he exhaled, and Han realized he hadn't even gotten the chance to breathe out from that last hit before Luke kissed him.

Luke's fingertips were warm, rubbing slow and familiar at the fuzz at the nape of his neck. Han was ready for it this time when Luke kissed him again, still light and soft but with a little less caution from either of them, winding his arms around Luke's waist to pull him in closer. Luke had to shift around to keep from toppling onto Han, off-balance from the way they'd been sitting, Han's pile of blankets the only thing between them now. Han didn't want to break the kiss to shove them away, didn't want to risk Luke changing his mind if he did.

Luke pulled back again, just for a second, still close enough Han could feel his lips moving with a whispered, “I missed you so much.”

Han pulled in a shaky breath, and he took his chance to push the blankets out of the way before kissing him again; they fell into place like all the time between them had disappeared, silently shuffling around between kisses until they were both lying on their sides, so close there was still a little extra room in the cramped bed.

Han could feel Luke's body heat through his shirt, pressed so close together, Luke's arms tight around his waist. He’d thought about this before, despite his best efforts not to, not wanting to get any hopes up for something that might have never happened again--he'd thought about it being grabby and desperate and needy, hot and heavy to make up for lost time, imagined morning-afters where their responsibilities were nonexistent and they could stay in that tiny bed for hours, but this was better, somehow, and not just because it was real; he'd almost forgotten what those softer kisses felt like, Luke moving slow and warm against him, thumbing over the bumps of his spine like worry stones.

Han's hand found the soft part of Luke's hip, skating just a few inches under his shirt, and he pulled away slightly when he felt Luke stiffen up.

“I can't--” He cut himself off to press a quick kiss to the scar on Han's chin. “Not right now.”

“Wasn't tryin’ anything,” Han murmured, tilting his head down to kiss him again. It was true--the haze behind his eyes made him feel warm and too tired to think of anything but this, enough to drive the headache to the back of his mind. “Just missed touching you.”

He almost didn't catch the small sound in Luke's throat, holding his arms tighter around Han, and the way Luke kissed him could make him forget the rest of the world existed.

Luke felt different, his arms around Han a little stronger--and more confident, now that his initial hesitation had melted away--more in control of himself than Han remembered; he couldn't help giving Luke's hip a small squeeze, something comforting about that softness still there. He'd had some muscle on him before, growing up on a farm, but his training and the time between them had chipped away at all those soft edges Han loved to get his hands on.

Han couldn't tell how long they'd been like that, kissing for hours or just for minutes, Luke's hands slowly palming along Han's back and his sides like he needed to relearn what he felt like, but Han had to break away for a second to stifle a yawn.

“You should get some sleep,” Luke whispered, pressing a quick kiss to the corner of Han's mouth. “It's been a long day.”

Han tightened his hold on Luke's hip when he moved like he was about to sit up. “Nah, s’fine.”

“Han, really--”

“Stay,” Han murmured into another kiss. “Nowhere you gotta be, right?”

He could feel Luke's lips twitch into what felt like a smile. “I can stay.”

“Good.” Han propped himself up on his elbow to pull the blankets back up. Luke sat upright, stretching his shoulders while he toed his boots off and tucked them away by the end of the bed. Han's chest felt warm, watching him like this, hit with the memory of all the other times he'd watched Luke get himself ready to get into bed.

He tugged Luke down to him as soon as he was done, pulling him close and tossing the blankets over them until all he could see was Luke's face, covered up to his chin.

Even his prosthetic was warm when he shuffled his hands under Han's shirt.

“How's the headache?”

Han shrugged. “Pretty sure I'll live.”

Luke was quiet for a few seconds, with that face like he was thinking something big. “I think I can help,” he said slowly. “If you wanted it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I didn't--I didn't learn as much about this as I would have liked to, but.” He chewed his bottom lip for a second. “There used to be Force users who used it for healing, or at least to help it along, and I think it could help you. If you were comfortable with that.”

Han hesitated; there was still a part of him, left over from what felt like a lifetime ago, that couldn't help being skeptical and a little dubious, but he had to remind himself this was Luke, and all of it was real, and if Luke said it could help, he'd know better than Han would.

“You don't have to--”

“Go for it.”

Luke nodded, suddenly looking serious and an almost intimidating sort of calm, pulling his hands up from under the blankets to cup Han's face. His right hand was so smooth .

Luke closed his eyes, and the already quiet room felt silent and still, like the whole world had slowed down.

“I need you to let me in,” Luke said quietly. “You're trying to keep me out.”

“I’m not doing anything.”

Luke opened his eyes again for a second, fingertips rubbing over Han's cheekbones. “Just try to relax, then, I don't know if I can do this otherwise.”

Han took a slow, deep breath, not even really sure what he was trying to focus on doing; he closed his eyes, trying to copy Luke, shake off the feeling like he was letting his defenses down.

It was just the two of them, he told himself, just Luke, there was nothing to be defensive of--

“That's it.” Luke's hands shifted, fingers pressing lightly to Han's temples, and the world shrank down even further, just them and nothing else.

He could feel Luke like a light, soft and yellow and creeping into him like going somewhere warm after a cold day, little prickles in his head picking away at the dull, achy feeling behind his eyes. It was slow-going, or maybe that was just Han, he couldn't tell; he leaned into the feeling, and they were so close he could feel Luke suck in a deep breath, fingertips twitching against his skin.

“How are you feeling?”

Han didn't know if he'd really heard it, or just in his head. “Better.”

“Do you want me to stop?”

He hesitated. “Not really.”

The warm feeling coming from Luke felt a little warmer.

He wasn't sure how long they lay like that, wasn't even sure that he didn't doze off for a minute, but then Luke's lips were pressing soft and slow against his, hands coming down to Han’s chest.

The headache was gone, leaving him clearer than he'd felt in ages, only the haze from the spice earlier keeping him slow and fuzzy anymore. He could still feel the tug of that warm, bright feeling from Luke, like a thread pulled tight between them, even without whatever that prickly feeling in his head had been. He hoped it would stay that way.

Han wound his arms snugly around Luke's waist, crushing them tight together, kissing him a little harder at the soft sound it pulled from Luke's throat.

They shifted around to get more comfortable between kisses, until Han was all over him like an octopus, a warm weight on Luke's chest with his face tucked into the crook of Luke's neck.

“Cool trick,” he mumbled against Luke's collarbone, kissing along the curve of it until the dip in the middle.

He wasn't too tired to feel a little smug at the way Luke shivered, slipping his hand under Han's shirt and tracing over the small of his back. “Any time.”