Leia sat folded into herself still wearing her garbage chute stained desert gown. The gown, the last possession she had from home still smelled of the trash compactor but she didn’t even notice it anymore.
Everything hurt and her hands and feet tingled from what she easily recognized as neurological damage. She knew that her body would never quite be the same. She knew she’d carry both visible and invisible scars from her time on the Death Star. She was so tired but she didn’t think she’d ever sleep again.
She’d comforted Luke about losing Obi Wan and his aunt and uncle and she’d learned that they were both orphans. He was nice, but she sensed that he was in no way equipped to handle her emotional needs, she wasn’t even sure what her emotional needs were.
Han let himself into the cargo hold that he’d converted into an isolated nest for her. She’d been surprised at his concern and how gentle he became when it was just the two of them. He’d been so brash, infuriating and cock-sure just a few short hours before and she didn’t know what to make of it.
“You okay?” He asked reading her body language with a skill that surprised her.
She shrugged, she’d been crying and she was afraid that if she tried to speak she’d cry in front of him. She was not ready to let him see her vulnerable like that. So she just shrugged and hugged her knees closer to her chest.
“Brought you some food.” He spoke gently, afraid to spook her. “You want to try and eat?”
She shook her head.
“Can I join you?”
She shrugged and gestured to the space next to where she sat up against the bulkhead.
He sat down with her and she watched him set a tray of food between the two of them. “You’re really missing out, Wookiee are amazing cooks.”
She looked at him, she’d taken her hair down. Technically, the only person who was allowed to see it down was a spouse, but his presence put her at ease and she didn’t want him to leave.
“Sure got a lot of hair.” He spoke taking a flask out of his pocket and offering it to her.
“You’re not supposed to see it down.” She took the flask from him. “But after what those officers did to it, it doesn’t really matter.” She took a drink and handed the flask back.
“What did they do?
“What do men do to female prisoners, Captain?”
He sighed, he knew. “I’m sorry.”
“You um…” He cleared his throat. “I’ve got a real water shower and I found some women’s clothes. I got an autovalet that’ll take that smell out of your gown.”
“Captain Solo.” She looked at him. “Are you implying that I smell?”
“Well, your highnessness you are a little ripe.” He raised a eyebrow at her.
She rested the side of her face against her knees and smiled at him. A real smile. Sure, the pain was still there and the trauma, he could see all of that in her eyes but he’d made her smile and maybe for now that was just enough to get her through it. He got up and extended his hand to her. “Yeah?”
She took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. “What about Luke, I just don’t have the energy.”
Han chuckled. “Kid’s got it bad.”
Leia rolled her eyes. “He’s not my type.”
“Gay, Han.” She spoke through gritted teeth her muscles and her fried nerve endings protesting her movements. “He’s too gay.”
Han laughed slipping his arms around her shoulders. “Come on, there’s a back way.” He didn’t expect her to let him help her walk and he sure as hell didn’t expect her to reach around his waist and grip his hip for support. “You okay?”
“Incredibly sore.” She bit out the words.
“Want me to carry you?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t get ahead of yourself Captain.”
He shook his head. “You want some narco?”
“Absolutely not.” She snapped at him.
“Aceto would be fine.”
“Got plenty of aceto, just thought narco might work better.”
“I’m allergic.” She spoke quietly and Han thought he might have heard something else in her voice.
He nodded. “Gotcha.” He spoke helping her navigate the rear interstitial of the Falcon.
“What a lovely pipe chase you have here Captain.”
He laughed. “Your sense of humor is still intact I see, even though you’ve suddenly lost your accent.”
She shook her head. “It’s Chandrillian.”
“You’re not Chandrillian, highness you’re Alderaanian.”
“No, I’m Alderaani.”
She nodded. “Half.”
“Which is why you fake your accent.”
“But you don’t sound Moccoan.”
“Oh, I guess so. I used to sleep in a Druian temple when I was a kid.”
“A lot of Druian refugees went to Corellia during the pogroms.”
He nodded. “Knew a lot of their kids, you know?”
She nodded. “You’re what? Thirty?”
He nodded. “Twenty nine, don’t make me older than I am, highness.”
“We spoke Moccoan and Druian at home, but never Druian outside of the palace.”
“But you’re the ruling royal family.”
“Didn’t matter.” She spoke through her teeth as he set her down on the closed sani.
“So much for peaceful Alderaan.”
“Alderaan wasn’t the problem, most of our citizens disagreed with the treatment of the Druian and Moccoan people but the upper echelons did not. My mother and father did what they could and we were making progress, but there’s nothing quite like being referred to as a Druian Whore on the Senate floor to make you change your accent.”
He nodded turning on the real water shower. “That’s awful Leia.”
She shrugged. “They thought it would discourage me, but it just made me dig my heels in deeper.”
He smiled at her. “The water should be hot enough now, it won’t last too long so you better take advantage of it. I’m going to find you some clothes.”
Han opened a dusty old crate in the forward hold. He’d vowed never to open it once he’d closed it and loaded it years before. He held his breath, trying not to take in the familiar scent that still clung to the belongings that were carefully packed inside. He pulled out a cable knit women’s sweater, it’d be a little big on Leia, probably longer in the sleeves, but it would fit better than any of his clothing. He ran his hand over the soft pile remembering when he’d bought it years before. He cleared his throat and found a pair of soft leggings and warm bantha wool socks, Leia seemed like she’d have cold feet. He set them aside and unpacked the rest of the clothing and re-sealed the crate. Leia was the only person he cared enough about to relive the profound loss that had forever changed the trajectory of his life. He carried clothing into the crew quarters and set them on his bunk and let himself into the ‘fresher to leave the sweater, leggings and socks for her.
“Han?” Leia gasped from the shower.
“I ain’t lookin’ at nothin’, I’m just leaving you some clothes to wear is all. You’ll have to wear your own basics.”
“Welcome.” He spoke stepping back out.
Chewie sniffed him as he sat down on the acceleration couch in the lounge.
“What?” Han looked at him.
(You opened her crate.)
Han shrugged. “Her highness, needed some clothes.”
(You’re starting to care for the little princess aren’t you, cub?)
Han shrugged and tried to find something to tinker with so that it didn’t seem like he was waiting for Leia to get out of the shower, but he was. He picked up a data pad and started rereading an old story about an ordinary boy who had to give a princess a new name to save her world. He’d taught himself to read with the story and it had always been his favorite.
Leia stepped out of the ‘fresher in the clothes Han had found for her. They had belonged to a woman for sure, but she’d been taller than Leia but she’d made them work. She watched Han react to her in civilian clothes. He stared, blatantly stared, a few hours ago she’d been offended but instead she just smiled at him.
“What are you reading?” She spoke tucking a loose hair behind her ear and sitting down next to him.
“Die Unendliche Geschichte.”
“That’s one of my favorites, my mother used to read it to me when I was a little girl.”
She shook her head. “No, in Moccoan, it’s called La historia interminable.”
“La historia interminable, it’s sounds really pretty when you call it that.”
She smiled at him. “I don’t use my native language much anymore.”
“Maybe you could teach me some.”
She raised her eyebrows at him. “You’d want to learn?”
“I guess it would be good to know rarely spoken language for when we’re on missions together.”
“Or if we want to talk shit about the High Command.”
She smiled at him. That same genuine, warm smile she’d flashed him in the forward hold.
Gods, she made him feel so awkward and off balance. He really looked at her for as long as he could get away with, she wasn't wearing the heavy makeup she’d been wearing since the Death Star and her hair was braided in one long braid down her back.
“What?” She spoke catching him staring.
“Never seen your ears before.” He covered. “They're nice.”
She smiled at him.
“Don’t know why you keep ‘em covered up with those buns all the time.”
“I don’t actually, that was for the mission.”
“It’s an Alderaani revolutionary tradition from the Old Republic.”
She smiled at him. “This is more comfortable, but I rarely wear it like this during the day.”
“Sure is a lot of it.” Han spoke picking up her braid.
“It’s only been cut the one time.”
“The one time?”
“I shaved my head once, when I got tired of my aunties putting it up in tight, uncomfortable braids. Had to wear a wig for well over a year.”
She smiled at him again, the brash smuggler she’d been so annoyed with during her rescue was so much more awkward one on one. She liked this version of him better.
He smiled at her. “How are your hands?”
“They hurt, they’ve been mended but…” She trailed off as he took her hand and laid it on his palm examining the fine bones with his rough finger tips.
“Real recent huh?”
She nodded. “Just before Luke burst in, they were prepping me for my execution. I guess Palpatine wanted a pretty corpse to show off.”
He frowned at her. “Good thing we showed up.”
“So, what do you think?”
“I think it’s just going to take time.”
“I’ve got meds that are stronger than aceto.”
She shook her head. “It’s not that bad yet.”
Chewie watched them together, he hadn’t seen Han act so gently since Sulen, but there was something about Leia that softened him right up. He watched Leia, she’d been so proper and stiff the first few hours after her rescue but Han seemed to have the same effect on her.