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from the ashes we rise

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She decides – bleary-eyed and half-dead with exhaustion and aching from her core – that it is a testament to the sheer force of her will that she does not collapse on the forest floor right there and never move again.

The medi-droid’s electronic voice carries monotonously through the clearing as she eases her back against the fallen trunk of the tree and cradles her clumsily-wrapped arm to her chest. It has been roughly six hours, twenty four minutes, and possibly fifty-three standard seconds since they watched the Death Star implode in the sky above them, and she cannot remember having sat down once since then.

Probably because she came to the conclusion early on that if she did sit down, she would not want to stand up again. Ever.

She had told Han this, standing at the edge of the clearing and fumbling with a blaster that she more-than-likely couldn’t aim with, and he gave her a small laugh that made him sound as tired as she felt and made her want nothing more than to curl into his lanky embrace and feel the press of his lips against her neck. But they had prisoners to guard and Ewoks to deal with and Luke to look out for and some semblance of control to hang on to, so she couldn’t.

She is grateful, however, that he didn’t tell her to rest, because there is another part of her that needs to be doing things, to keep herself sane.

(To keep herself from thinking about other things.)

She leans her head back against the rough bark and closes her eyes reluctantly as the Em Dee droid fusses over her arm, counting on the pain of the wood digging into her skull to keep her awake.

“A uni-lateral blaster burn running vertically up the upper arm,” the droid tells her. “It will require antiseptic bacta, but no stitches or bacta glue.”

“Sure,” she mumbles, and doesn’t open her eyes.

(She pretends that this is because she chooses not to and not because she is suddenly incapable of doing so. The stupid tree bark failed her.)

“Please allow me to remove the current wrappings around your arm,” says the droid. “They are poorly fitted and may cause unnecessary infection at a later date.”

She feels the irrational need to defend Han’s hasty wrapping job, but she bites back her retort and hold out her arm, feeling the cool metal of the droid’s tools cutting through the fabric. When the bandage is pulled away, it sticks slightly to the burn and she can’t help but cry out in pain.

“I see you’ve been lyin’ to me about that arm, your worship.”

“Shut up,” she says, still not bothering to open her eyes (though, perhaps, she now has incentive to do so) and digging her skull further into the bark. “It wasn’t as painful when you were playing mother hen.”

She hears him make an indignant noise as the droid presses a cool antiseptic cloth to the burn and it is a struggle not to wince again, but she doesn’t.

“I was not playing ‘mother hen’.”

“Of course you were.” She can feel the grin tugging at her lips. “But that’s why I keep you around.”

“So it’s not my ruggedly handsome good looks?”

“Eh.”

“Damn, and here I thought that was what it was all along.”

“Now who’s lying to themselves?”

“First off,” he says (and she can sense the smartass comment brewing in his tone), “I said you were lyin’ to me. And second –” He hesitates, and she nearly does open her eyes, but then he continues. “You must be pretty damn exhausted to have let something like that slip by you.”

“I’m not,” she insists. And finally cracks her eyes open, slightly. The look on his face is exaggeratedly skeptical, and also kind of adorable, so she closes her eyes again to prevent herself from something stupid like actually get back on her feet so she can kiss him. “I’m just … conserving energy.”

“By sitting with your eyes closed. That’s called sleeping.”

Obviously, I am not asleep.”

“And obviously, not being asleep doesn’t make you any less tired.”

“Smartass,” she mutters, and she can hear him chuckle. There is the sound of snapping twigs underfoot and then suddenly there is a warm presence beside her.

(She tries not to think about how she can sense him, now – can feel the glow of what is inherently him, how she could feel him there beside her like some sort of intangible point of light. It’s not as strong as it is with Luke, because he’s her – but then, that’s the whole reason why she doesn’t want to think about any of this, so she pretends she didn’t notice it in the first place.)

“This,” he tells her, making a small noise of discomfort as he wriggles around beside her, “is a terrible spot. I’m judging your spot-choosing abilities.”

“I’m delirious with lack of sleep,” she defends. “I’m allowed poor spot choices. Also, Em Dee made me.”

“Blamin’ the droid.” She can practically feel the mock-horror in his voice. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

“Can it, flyboy, I’m allowed to blame the droid.”

“Where’s your sense of righteousness gone, princess?”

“It lay down and died somewhere between bluffing my guard over those stormtroopers and daydreaming about kissing you.”

“I would tease, but that would be hypocritical.”

“You were daydreaming about kissing yourself?”

(She may be tired, but she can damn well still play this game.)

“What can I say – I’m a good-lookin’ guy.”

“You’re insufferable.”

“You’re annoying.”

“Egotistical.”

“Perfectionist.”

“You –” And just like that, her mind has gone blank. Damn. “Well, what do you know. I can’t think of a comeback.”

“It’s the Solo charm. I finally got to you.”

“As if.”

“Admit it, your exalted high-and-mightiness, you’d be swooning if you weren’t so exhausted.”

“You’re an ass, did you know that?”

“And you’re as frustratingly closed-off as always. What’s wrong, Leia?”

She would think that was unexpected, but then, his uncanny ability to be the most to-the-point blunt person she has ever met is also part of why she keeps him around (read: loves him). She inhales sharply.

Damn him.

Damn him and his use of her first name, too.

“I have applied the antiseptic bacta.” The monotone of Em Dee’s voice saves her from having to answer. “Please do not engage in any strenuous activity for the next seventy-two hours to allow sufficient healing time.”

She nods, and Han nudges her good arm. “So?”

She swallows.

“So, what?”

She can hear him sigh. “So, what's wrong up there in Princess Land?” He pronounces the words slowly and sarcastically, and she resists the urge to roll her eyes.

“I’m not sure.”

“At least she didn’t say ‘nothin’’,” he mutters to himself. And then, slightly louder: “Would you hit me if I asked if this had to do with Luke?”

She swallows again – why is her throat suddenly so dry? – and still refuses to open her eyes, because if she does that she might just completely break down and that would be totally unacceptable. They’ve suddenly tipped the boat from playful banter into possibly hazardous regions.

“Are we talking Luke as in ‘oh golly gee Leia you have a twin brother’ or Luke as in ‘why the kriffing hell isn’t he back yet and I’m kinda getting worried here’, Luke?

“I dunno. Both?”

“Hm,” she says, and crosses her legs over the underbrush, savoring the cool feeling of the bacta gel on her arm before it warms up in the muggy forest air. “Well, I’m not sure. Probably the first one.”

“Thought as much.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

He makes a frustrated noise, and she frowns.

“What?”

“You’re doin’ that thing again.”

“What thing?”

She feels him flick some dirt over her hand.

“That ‘my-name-is-Her-Exaltedly-Frustrating-Petitenss-Leia-Organa-and-I’m-going-to-bottle-up-all-of-my-emotions-and-not-talk-to-anyone-about-anything’ thing.”

“Clever, Han. Real poetic.”

“It’s also the ‘Han-really-doesn’t-appreciate-it-when-you-pull-that-shit-on-him’ thing.”

She exhales, loudly. And doesn’t respond. Because he’s right – it’s not fair. Not to him.

She owes him this, at least.

(She owes him a lot of things, but she tries to cut the list down to one for the time being so that she can hang on to some shred of sanity. At least temporarily.)

“Leia –” he starts, probably to apologize, but she cuts him off because she needs to get this out and off of her chest and it would be incredibly selfish, she realizes, to let him stay sitting here on the forest floor with her and subconsciously daydream of kissing her when he has every right to finally fulfill his promise of the past four years and grab his bags and run very, very far away.

“I need to tell you something.”

A pause, and she can hear him scratch his neck.

“You mean other than the whole ‘Luke-is-my-brother’ thing?”

“Yes. No. I mean – I don’t know.” She frowns. “It’s related.”

“Well,” he says, and she can feel him shift against the trunk beside her. “Luke being your brother was pretty great news, as far as I’m concerned, so this can’t be too bad.”

She reaches out blindly to hit him but her fingers scrabble at the tree bark instead, and she tries to ignore the weak giggle that escapes unbidden from her mouth at his teasing laughter because however much she wants to fall into this easy back-and-forth and forget about – well, everything – this is not the time.

Focus, Organa, you can do this.

“It – I –” Breathe. Just breathe. “It’s pretty bad,” she whispers, and she knows him well enough to know without looking at him that his entire frame has tensed at her words and, anyway, he’s not laughing anymore.

She tries breathing again, but it’s not really helping, so she digs her fingers into the thick loam of the ground to stop them from shaking instead.

Luke’s father –

No. No, she can’t start like that.

“Just –” she tries again. “Just, give me a sec.”

But then she feels a hand over her own and his impossibly gentle voice (seriously, when did he learn how to sound like that?) and suddenly her stupid lip is trembling, too.

“Leia, open your eyes.”

“No.”

“No?”

“I can’t. I can’t –” She swallows. “I can’t open them. If I open my eyes, I’ll – I don’t know. Do something stupid.”

He chuckles, his shoulder bumping slightly against hers.

“You’re talkin’ to the master of stupid, sweetheart. I’m not judging.”

“No. Not yet.”

“’Not yet’?” If her eyes were open, she would see him frowning, she’s sure. “Princess –”

“I told you to give me a second, damn it.”

He is silent for a moment, and then she feels his thumb trace circles over her wrist.

Damn him, she thinks again.

(Because if there is one thing she can’t possibly bare, it’s the thought that this will all be taken away from her).

Okay. Okay, try again.

“Luke –” Nope, still not right. “When I said –” Still nothing. Deep breath. “When I told you,” she starts finally, “that Luke was my brother. I didn’t –” she squeezes her eyes shut tighter in a lame attempt to pretend that the words aren’t coming out of her mouth. “I didn’t tell you the whole thing.”

The thumb on her wrist stops, but only momentarily. Like a tiny glitch.

“So there’s more,” he prompts, and the stupid gentle voice is still there.

“Yes. Yes, there’s – he –” inhale, exhale “– So, Luke’s my brother.”

“You mentioned, yeah.”

She plows on. “And we’re twins.”

“I guessed as much, but okay.”

“And – and I don’t know much. About this, that is. I mean,” she laughs hoarsely, “Luke himself only found out – what, three days ago?”

There is a pause, where the pressure on the inside of her wrist increases by a fraction, and then he says, “okay.”

“So,” she continues. “So I don’t – that, is, I’m not sure why we were separated at birth, but we were. And –” She feels the strain on her voice and tries to ignore the pressure behind her closed eyes. “Luke’s father. You know who he was?”

She hears him move slightly beside her.

“That Skywalker guy, right? The famous Jedi Knight?”

She swallows. She can do this.

“Right.”

“And then Vader killed him.”

The words stick. The words stick in her throat and all she can do is sit there with her mouth open and her eyes screwed shut and not say the simple two letter word.

“Leia?”

“No.”

(It’s out of her mouth and she feels like the whole world is dropping, piece by little piece from under her spot on the forest floor, and she braces herself, but the surprise and shock and skepticism never comes.)

“No?” Simple. Quiet. No whats; no you’ve gotta be kidding mes; not even a deadpan bantha shit. She lets out a shaking breath she didn’t know she was holding. “Okay,” continues Han. “So what happened to him?”

“He didn’t die.”

“He didn’t?” He makes a noise that might be considered surprise and might be considered disgust and might be considered unhelpful, if she thinks about it long enough. “So where the hell has he been all these years?”

“That’s the thing,” she says, and thinks that he probably jerked his head around to look at her (he did). “He –” Breathe, Organa. “He turned to the Dark Side. And betrayed the Jedi Order.”

“Ah. Classy.” (But the grip on her hand tightens.)

“And he –” She swallows, and feels the strain on her voice like every word she speaks is sucking all the air out of her trachea and she might have a panic attack right there and then. “Vader didn’t kill him, Han.”

“Vader didn’t –?”

“No. No, he didn’t. Han, he –”

She can’t do this she can’t she can’t it’s not right –

“He is him.”

And her eyes shoot open, finally, because of all possible responses, that was not what she expected.

(Only she should have, really, because he is Han and he is there, sitting on the ground with her, listening to her ramble, and isn’t he always telling her he’s smarter than he looks?)

She stares at him, and he is looking at her and she can see the green and gold in his eyes and trace the soft line of his mouth with her eyes, the slight crease of his eyebrows that seems to be anything but horrified (or terrified or angry, upset, scared, disgusted – )

He lets out this big low breath that could be considered a whistle, like damn, honey, that’s some crazy backstory right there, but other than that he looks just like he always does; that hint of mischief lurking at the back of his eyes and a lock hair flopping out awkwardly over his eyebrows.

And he’s just. Looking at her.

(Like he did when his eyesight finally came back, sitting awkwardly in the medicenter cot on Home One and staring at her with something akin to wonder and tenderness that she didn’t think he even possessed, and said “gods, you’re beautiful,” in that hoarse voice of his and it was all she could do not to crawl into bed with him right there and then in the middle of the medicenter.)

“Leia,” he says finally, and she feels her face half-crumple, because she has absolutely no idea what to do. “Leia.”

She sucks in a deep, shuddering breath and ignores the thumb on her wrist.

“It’s – he’s – that monster. That monster is Luke’s –“(She can’t say it.) “Is our –is –”

“Leia, look at me.” Softly.

Beat.

She breathes.

Beat.

He has to understand.

Beat.

He can’t not understand.

Beat.

“Leia –”

(It’s not fair.)

“I am part of him!” she manages finally, and everything suddenly starts crashing down over her head and suffocating her because by saying those words out loud, they somehow become true. She feels her strangled voice catch in her throat and gods damn everything would he stop repeating her name because it isn’t helping things and why doesn’t he get it? “Dammit Han, don’t you see?”

“Don’t you dare, Leia.”

She looks up. His voice is quiet and firm, but he’s looking at her with an intensity that makes her shiver involuntarily, her uninjured arm twitching as her fingers grip the fabric of her pants to steady herself.

Now, he looks angry.

“You don’t get it,” she says, but he shakes his head, vigorously.

“I do.” His mouth is set and she can feel his thumb tracing circles again. “I do. I wish I didn’t, but I actually do.”

“But you don’t –”

He interrupts her, and his other hand is suddenly cupping her cheek and pushing away the hair that has come loose from her braid and she spares a moment to think of how nice and big and warm his hands are, how they nearly swallow her cheek inside them and all she wants to do is press her face to his hand and close her eyes again and ignore reality.

“Look,” he says, and she can hear the self-deprecating and bordering-on-almost-hysterical laugh in his voice. (She can relate.)
“I’m not – I’ve never been too great at this whole – feelings – thing.” She snorts, and he grins, slightly. “But,” he continues, “you’re Leia,” and his voice is hoarser than when it came out last. “You’re just Leia Organa. And –”

(Here, for the first time, she sees him glance down slightly and feels his fingers twitch and his hand jerk away from her cheek halfway to the back of his neck impulsively before he seems to realize what he’s doing and there is what could possibly be called a flush tingeing the tips of his ears and she almost smiles. The next words come out in a rush.)

“And for some damn fool reason I’ve decided to fall in love with you – all of you – so the point is, I understand, and I really don’t give a flying gundark's ass. Because you’re you and he –”

“Tortured me?” she supplies, her voice hollow. “Tortured you? Cut off Luke’s hand? Is accountable for millions of lost lives across the entire krething galaxy? Is the epitome of all evil?”

He makes a frustrated noise, and this time does run his hand through his hair. “You’re not making this any easier, you know.”

“It’s not supposed to be easy, Han. This is an inherently not-easy thing. The odds of you walking away from this unscathed are maybe a thousand and three to two.”

A raised eyebrow.

“Those,” he says, “are some weirdly specific odds.”

“I’m trying to be creative,” she tells him, and realizes that despite her efforts, they’ve inevitably fallen back into the default back-and-forth they always have going. It is enough to let her push the lump in her throat back down, to blink away the stinging in her eyes and ignore the pounding in her head, and she thinks, vaguely, that as ironic as it is, talking with Han is making everything so much easier.

“Yeah, well. Didn’t I say to never tell me the odds?”

She stares at him. And then, in spite of herself, she feels a strangled laugh escape her throat.

“Nerfherder.”

“Ah - there she is. Good to have you back, you worship.”

She swallows. And feels the acute prickling in her eyes and thinks, for the umpteenth time, damn him.

“I’m scared,” she whispers. “It’s stupid, but I’m scared.”

He raises an eyebrow. “If you weren’t scared, I’d think you were crazier than usual.”

A hollow laugh. “Thanks.”

“C’mon, Leia. You’re not alone. You’ve got me. For what it’s worth, I ‘aint goin’ anywhere anytime soon, whether you like it or not. And you’ve got Luke, too, don’t forget that. Poor kid’s probably just as freaked as you are.”

“I haven’t forgotten Luke,” she says, and feels her voice waver again. Stupid voice. “But what if it – if I –” She can’t bring herself to actually articulate it, because if she does then it would make it all the more real and that is something she must avoid at all costs.

“If you guys end up just as batshit as Dark Lord of the Creeps?”

She glances at him and purses her lips.

“Maybe not in so many words.”

Han shrugs.

“I don’t know, sweetheart. Hell, I dunno anything about any of this Force stuff, ‘cause if you’re asking if the whole Darkness thing is hereditary I wouldn’t know what to tell you. That’s probably Luke’s forte. But what I do know is that what makes a person a person is the choices they make, not their DNA, or their – their destiny, or some guy dressed in black who shows up halfway through your life and tries to kill you.”

“And you know this from experience?” she tries to joke, and she sees his lip quirk upward in the echo of a crooked grin.

“Yeah, actually.”

She turns her body to face him, making sure to hold her bandaged arm against her chest. He’s looking at her with playful eyes, but his voice is serious, and his hand has slid from hers to rest on her knee.

She sighs.

“Okay.”

He smiles encouragingly. “Better?”

“I –” She swallows, then nods. “A little, yeah.”

“Good,” he says gruffly.

(His eyes are the same shade of green as when she first met him, she thinks suddenly, with the flecks of brown around the edges.)

And then he kisses her.

She sighs against his mouth, breathing in the smell of mud and sweat and blood and him and relishes the feeling of his forehead pressed against hers, and her stomach gives a little jump, fingers involuntarily twisting in his shirt, when the hand on her knee brushes higher.

He breaks away and she keeps her forehead against his, trying to ignore how she’s breathing slightly faster than before.

“There,” he mumbles. “Daydream fulfilled.”

She laughs, feeling his breath against her nose. “Maybe not entirely.

“Oh?” And his eyebrows have shot up. “And were you thinking of the forest floor as a possible venue, your highness?”

“Shut up,” she tells him. “Or I won’t kiss you again.”

“You wouldn’t have the willpower, princess.”

“I’ll have you know, General Solo, that my willpower is stronger than yours will ever be,” she retorts, mock-offended, and grins at the sudden quirk of his eyebrow and the (bordering-on-bashful and definitely sheepish) grin that appear at the word “general”.

“Is that a challenge, your worship?”

“Mmmm,” she hums, and his lips are almost on hers again when she realizes, before she forgets, that she needs to say something else. “Han?”

He pulls back, barely, and gives her an annoyed look. She tries not to laugh at him.

“Yeah, princess?”

“Thank you.”

He frowns.

“I’m sure I’m an amazing person and deserve to be thanked, but what are we thankin’ me for again?”

She giggles, and he smirks at her, mouth twisting lopsidedly upwards.

“For being you.”

He grins properly this time, and she feels the brush of his fingers against the nape of her neck.

This is nice she thinks. Really nice.

“Anytime, Leia.”

She pulls her face away rests her head under his shoulder and he pulls her closer to him, careful of her burned arm, and presses his nose to the top of her head as she closes her eyes.

“Can we mutually decide not to ever get up from this spot again?”

She feels him grin into her hair.

“That might prove problematic, sweetheart.”

She cracks her eyes open again to looks up at him.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah,” he confirms (and she focuses on his fingers pressing lightly into her hip because she needs to forget about everything that has happened in the past twenty-four hours and the feeling of his fingers on her side are definitely helping). “I’ve got plans for later on.”

“Plans, huh.”

“Mmm.”

“What sort of plans?”

“They’re nice. You’d like ‘em.”

She presses her face deeper into his side and sighs, listening to the steadythump of his heartbeat and relishing the feeling of breathing and feeling and being alive and the knowledge, finally, solid and concrete and so so welcome after years of uncertainty, that he is not going anywhere.

A beat.

Two.

“Han?”

“Yeah, sweetheart.”

“Are you sure we can’t just go ahead with those plans now?”

He laughs, and she can feel the vibrations through his warm chest and thinks, damn him, once more, because she can’t for the life of her believe how lucky she is.