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like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind

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“We’re gonna need a ride out of here,” Han says as they stop walking, the Crimson Dawn ship already disappeared from their line of sight.

He sounds tired, Chewbacca thinks. Not that he’s surprised. Humans get tired for a lot less than what they just went through in the last week or so.

He doesn’t sound bitter, though, which is good — Chewbacca was worrying about that.

You all right?, he asks.

“‘Course I am,” Han replies, smiling a bit too quickly and obviously faking it. Chewbacca’s seen him smile for real a number of times since they met and that was definitely not one of them. “When am I ever not?”

Chewbacca really, really has doubts about that.

He doesn’t point that out.

“Right,” Han says when he doesn’t answer. “A ride. Definitely a ride. Possibly somewhere someone will tell us where Lando is, and — hell, maybe a drink wouldn’t hurt, would —”

Chewbacca puts a hand on his shoulder. We need to rest and find something to eat and then plan. We can find a ride later. We aren’t running from anyone, he says.

Han stops, considering it. Then realization dawns on his face.

“Oh. We — right. We don’t.” He doesn’t sound as happy as anyone might at hearing such news. “Wow. ’S been a long time.”

Since I wasn’t running from anything, he doesn’t say, but Chewbacca can hear that just fine, thank you very much.

And he’s worried about that, honestly. Seems to him like Han found and lost too much in the span of too little time — his woman, whatever she was to him, the ship, possible friends, and whatever Beckett was to him — for him to be taking it so well.

Come on, Chewbacca says, we can ask the workers if there’s a place to sleep around here. Before they all leave with Enfys.

“All right,” Han agrees. “All right. You go ahead. I’ll be right back.”

Chewbacca nods and leaves, then glances back behind his shoulder when he’s far enough.

Han’s kneeling on the ground, not moving.

Of course he is.

Chewbacca wishes he hadn’t seen enough humans in his life to know that they perceive shows of weakness as something that shouldn’t happen in public — that doesn’t happen where he comes from — but that’s how they are and he has a feeling Han’s worse than most in this sense, so he’s going to wait it out and find them a place to sleep. The rest can be worried about later.

——

All the workers are leaving with Enfys, as he had imagined, so when Han finally shows up at the bar after everyone is gone, he’s standing there pouring himself a glass and having put together makeshift beds out of whatever was left behind. Thankfully, human clothes were left behind plenty.

“Everyone gone?” Han asks.

Yes, they left with Enfys. We can just sleep here for a while.

“Fair,” Han says, looking at the mattress made of clothes and a couple blankets that Chewbacca’s stored for him in the bar’s corner, “I’ve slept in worse places.”

Chewbacca doesn’t doubt that at all.

He throws Han a few protein bars one of the women left and then heads out — fine, it’s a desert planet, but there has to be some kind of animal he can roast for dinner.

——

He had figured the night would be cold. It’s a desert planet. Of course it is. Chewbacca doesn’t care either way, he doesn’t particularly feel it. Han, though —

Han’s tossing and turning on the bar’s wood pavement and he’s definitely not sleeping.

“Shit," he’s muttering all over. “Shit, shit, damn it —”

Got a problem? Chewbacca asks, knowing what Han’s going to answer.

“Nah, pal, ’s just uncomfortable. I’ll get over it.”

Chewbacca wants to tell him, no you won’t, but he has a feeling it wouldn’t help whatsoever. He does snort, a bit.

“Hey, this ain’t fun,” Han starts, but doesn’t finish, because Chewbacca’s gone and grabbed him by the shoulders and tugged him towards his own poor excuse of a bunk, making Han lie on top of him and grasping at his waist strongly enough that he won’t risk moving.

“Hey, you don’t have to,” Han says, quieter.

I know, Chewbacca says. And you also have nothing between your back and the ground, of course you can’t sleep. Just do it, will you?

Han goes still for a moment. He looks like he’s going to argue. But then he just — his shoulders lose tension and he goes slacker, his hand softly grasping at Chewbacca’s fur. “Okay,” he sighs. “Okay. Thanks.”

He falls asleep curled around Chewbacca maybe a minute later, out like a light, and Chewbacca doesn’t say I told you so because he’d wake Han up again and that wasn’t the point.

He also doesn’t remember the last time anyone human he met had such little quibbles about sleeping bundled up to him, but humans aren’t usually Han Solo, from what he’s learned in these last few days.

He’s learned that indeed.

——

He also goes to sleep when he’s sure Han is not going to wake up, and he gets a few hours without a problem.

Then he’s woken up by something tugging at his fur hard enough to hurt and wait, what, is someone attacking them —

He opens his eyes. No one is attacking them, but Han’s face is ashen pale, during the night he’s moved down a bit so that now his head is in the vicinities of Chewbacca’s side and he’s moving in a way Chewbacca doesn’t like at all, and he’s fairly sure he’s muttering no under his breath.

He should wake Han up. He has a feeling Han wouldn’t appreciate. He considers it, then lowers his hand down slowly, grabs the back of Han’s neck gently and drags him back upwards, and — he stops? Well, he still doesn’t look like he’s sleeping too well but his grip on Chewbacca’s fur goes slacker and he turns his head to the side, burrowing into it.

He wonders, should I ask him in the morning, the he decides it’s not a good idea, but he’ll keep his eyes open.

——

“‘M sorry, by the way,” Han tells him the following morning.

What for, Chewbacca replies.

“I’m sure I woke you up. I sleep like shit, that’s why I said you didn’t have to.”

Chewbacca shrugs, figuring letting him know it’s not a big deal can’t hurt.

“Fuck,” Han says after drinking a bit of the water still left behind the counter. “My back hurts.”

Given how many beatings you took since we met, I’m not surprised, Chewbacca says.

Han snorts, and suddenly Chewbacca notices that a bruise on his cheek got darker during the night. “Fair,” he agrees, “but — shit. ‘M sore all over. You think no one’s going to mind if I get a drink? I kinda need it.”

Chewbacca is sure he needs way more than a drink, but it can’t hurt if he gets one. Still — there’s a lot of things Han needs and he has a feeling he is the only one around up for the job, but he made his choice on Kessel, didn’t he? It’s not even that he owes Han a life debt, because he does, but Han doesn’t know that, and no humans he’s ever run into since a very long time spoke to him that freely, and he had seen how the spark in Han’s eyes got brighter and brighter with each person that walked into his life since they met. Qi’ra, Lando, Beckett, his former crew, and he has seen them lose that light in an amount of hours yesterday, and he is the only one left now. Oh, he could have gone back with the others on Kessel, but their clan is whole, and Han’s is not.

He thinks he wants to be up for the job. And admittedly, until now? Regardless of the amount of misery they went through? It’s been fun. Chewbacca had thought he forgot how that sounded, and he remembered thanks to Han, so —

He thinks he’ll be around for a long while.

——

Three hours later, he can see Han wincing as he walks around the place, trying to find supplies. Chewbacca calls him out on it.

“Hey, ’s just bruises. Can’t do much about it,” Han shrugs.

Chewbacca thinks they could, if they had some bacta. They don’t, of course, or at least not on them, but honestly, refining coaxium is a shitty job, and a dangerous one to boot, and as desolated and forgotten by everyone (even the Empire) this place is, he’s sure there will have to be some around. He should’ve asked Enfys for some, but it’s useless to think of what they could have done. He leaves Han eating what little food they found around the bar and heads for the small village, looking for what might pass for an infirmary. He finds a shack with some medical supplies in it and rummages around in the cupboards for a bit, and — yes, he was right. He finds a couple of small containers — it’s not fresh but the container’s sealed, so it’ll do, especially if it’s only superficial wounds.

He goes back to where Han’s sitting on the bar’s steps.

“Where’d you find that?” Han exclaims.

There’s an infirmary even here. And you need it.

“No,” Han says at once, “no point in wasting —”

Chewbacca growls at that, effectively shutting Han up. Don’t, he says.

“But —”

Would you use it on me? Chewbacca asks.

“Well, ‘course I would, but —”

Then shut up and show me already.

Han stares at him, then shrugs and takes off his shirt and jacket. And — well. Right, given that his back is a long series of bruises, of course it hurt him to sleep on the ground.

Chewbacca moves closer, sitting on the higher steps behind Han, opening the bacta container. Then he notices the rest. It’s not just the fresh bruises from the last couple of days. Under that — there are other scars, long faded, but Chewbacca can definitely see that he’s got burns in more than one place, a few knife scars, and some — he doesn’t want to say that it looks like someone with very long and sharp nails just dug in and clawed, but he does have sharp nails and he can recognize that.

He growls in displeasure as he starts applying the bacta over the fresh wounds. Han goes rigid, but doesn’t move.

“Yeah, well,” Han shrugs, “try growin’ up in a lair in Corellia where you wouldn’t get dinner if you didn’t steal the proper amount of crap. I might’ve taken a number.” He goes quieter. Chewbacca doesn’t say anything, just in case Han doesn’t want to share. “I might’ve taken a few for others. But better me than six-year olds.”

Chewbacca kind of wants to tell him that it’s admirable he would do that but that anyone would deserve better than this. But he has a feeling Han’s not in the mood to hear it, and so he doesn’t say it. He goes on applying the bacta to Han’s back instead, slow, making sure he’s covering all the bruising, and when some is left, he applies it to the burn mark on Han’s neck where they zapped him on Kessel.

Given how many beatings you took since we met, I’m not surprised, Chewie finally says.

Han snorts, the bruise on his cheek redder than it was yesterday, and he reaches out for the container. He scoops the last bit of bacta and applies it to his face.

“Thanks,” Han says quietly at the end. “Could’ve survived without wasting that, but thanks.”

You’re welcome, Chewbacca tells him, deciding that Han’s clothes are also almost ruined and way too dirty and they definitely need to find him a new shirt.

Lando could have waited, he thinks, not for the first time, as Han puts his dirty and threadbare shirt back on.

Well, they’ll worry about it when they find a ride out of here.

——

“I — I might need a couple days to let it heal,” Han admits quietly later that night.

Are we in a hurry?

It says all that Han is genuinely taken aback by that specific question.

“Uh, no, I guess. It's just, I know I am the problem, but --"

You’re hurt, Chewbacca interrupts, don’t sweat it.

He could have also said, you’ve been hurt enough, but he doesn’t.

Han sighs, leaning against the bar’s wooden counter.

“Wouldn’t want to be the person slowing everyone down,” he finally says. Chewbacca kind of really wants to give him a hug — he sounds so miserable, he’s not even sure he's heard any human sounding that sad in his entire life.

Would Han appreciate? Not right now, he has a feeling.

I don’t mind the kind of person you are, he finally growls before laying down on the pavement. It’s hot and it’s not like they have anything better to do.

“Thanks, pal,” Han says, his voice warm. The same warmth that was in it when he said he’d give Chewbacca a nickname, which is a thing that no human has done before, for that matter, even the ones he actually had perfectly good relations with.

Chewbacca waits until he passes out, carefully brings him back to his makeshift fairly crappy bed and settles in.

——

Unsurprisingly, he’s woken up by Han’s teeth chattering so hard it makes Chewbacca wince as he turns over and tries to wrap himself tighter in the pitiful blanket he has on him and not below.

You all right?, Chewbacca asks. You can sleep here if you want.

“Nah. Wouldn’t want to bother you,” Han says through his chattering.

It’s no bother, Chewbacca growls.

There’s a moment of silence, then blankets rustling, and then Chewbacca’s making space for Han as he walks over to his side of the floor and curls up against him, sighing in relief as his freezing hands find Chewbacca’s fur. Well, he does look like bantha shit, that’s for sure.

Chewbacca tells him he does as he lays down.

“I feel like it,” Han admits.

You’re allowed to, you know, Chewbacca says, wondering if anyone’s actually ever told Han that.

Han goes rigid against him for a moment. “Not really,” he whispers, as if he’s not even sure he wants to say it, but he doesn’t protest when Chewbacca draws him closer, enveloping him in his arms, and he’s pretty sure Han’s crying. But then again, it was about damn time, wasn’t it?

“Sorry,” Han sighs a while later, not moving his head from where it’s buried.

You needed it, Chewbacca tells him, shrugging slightly. It’s fine.

“No, it’s not. Or — I guess it is, but — shit, I’m kriffing useless, am I not?”

No, but you’re definitely being kriffing stupid, Chewbacca informs him. I wouldn’t owe life debts to useless people.

He figures that someone who speaks Shyriiwook would know what a life debt is, in theory.

“What? I didn’t know we had one,” Han says, “but anyway, if we had, you paid it back to me in spades. You don’t have to —”

A life debt is extinguished when we decide it is, Chewbacca says. making sure he’s driven the point home. He stares down at Han, who stares back, and — he does seem to get it, his eyes widening, his mouth parting and closing again.

“You mean you’re — oh,” he says.

Why wouldn’t I want to?, Chewbacca asks, picturing the answer already.

Han shrugs minutely, not moving.

"I've never even met my mother,” he says. “My father, well, he wasn't a bad guy, but — we never had that much of a relationship. Qi’ra — well, you know. Better than Beckett I guess, at least she didn’t backstab me or anything, but — I guess what I had to offer was never enough. I wasn’t expecting Lando to stick around, not after what went down with L3, but why would anyone want to stick around anyway? Shit, I sound pathetic.”

Chewbacca kind of wants to tell him that if none of those people thought he had enough to offer them when to him meeting Han has meant freedom (for himself and his clan) and someone he could actually trust to watch his back and the first friend he can remember having since the Emperor came into power, their loss, but he’s not sure Han wants to hear that and it does seem unfair, at least to his woman.

No, he’s just going to have to say it differently.

I thought we were looking for a ride, Chewbacca settles on. And I thought you might want to get that ship back.

“Wait — oh, you mean — well, ‘course I want that. I loved that ship, but —”

You know how he cheated. Can’t be too hard to win it back.

“And you’d come with?” Han’s smiling now, tentatively, but it’s almost the same as when they flew the Falcon together the first time.

I liked it, too, Chewbacca tells him. You should rest, then we can find a ride, then we get the ship.

“We — huh,” Han says. I like that how it sound, he grins, and this time is real, and Chewbacca decides that he likes it a lot better than the dejected tone from before, and patience for his terrible grammar.

He’s sure he’ll have a long time to teach Han how to improve his Shyriiwook, anyway.

——

Han does, for once, take it easy. They rest for a few days, until the bruises on his back have disappeared also thanks to another bacta container in the infirmary — the last one. They find a small ship farther away from the camp — it’s cramped and has no escape pods and it can’t even jump into hyperspace, but it has enough space for the both of them and enough fuel to get to the nearest planet, good thing they’re on the Outer Rim and no one’s going to look for them.

Shimia is hardly the best place to conduct business, but they manage to sell the ship to a local mechanic who pays them enough to buy a passage to Socorro where Lando most likely has gone back. Their ride is a few days later, but they sell most of the weapons they brought with from Savareen, too, and it’s enough for food, drinks and a small room.

You need new clothes, Chewbacca tells Han as they sit in the small cantina.

“What? Come on, those are perfectly serviceable —”

No, they’re not, Chewbacca says, and a moment later they hear a tearing sound as Han lifts up his glass.

The sleeve of his shirt has ripped.

You were saying?, Chewbacca grins.

“Okay, fine, I’m getting another.”

Buy it new.

Why? I can find a second-hand one just fine, especially on here —”

Buy. It. New, Chewbacca says, stressing the damned words and most likely scaring she shit out of the people sitting in the nearby table. He has a feeling someone needs to stick into Han’s head that he shouldn’t settle and if no one else has for now, well, he’s up for the job.

“Right, right, fine, Chewie, whatever. I’ll get it new, then we can go find Lando. Sounds good?”

Sounds great, Chewbacca says, and it does.

——

Han does buy it new, the next day, along with a full change. He takes a shower in the shitty room they found and when he comes out of it he doesn’t look like a new man, but certainly a more well-rested one than he looked when they met, or at any moment after.

You look good, Chewbacca tells him, putting an arm around him.

Han grins up at him. It’s almost blinding. “Thanks. So, are we going to get ourselves that ship? Sky’s calling and I think I wanna be up there, not down here.”

Sure thing we are, Chewbacca tells him, and he thinks he likes that plan.

He likes it very much.

 

End.