— Thank you kiss
Han woke to the low beeping of his chrono, feeling as if he'd just fallen asleep. The alarm meant he had been sleeping for the past six hours, though, and now it was his turn to take over Chewie's shift. In truth, he could have gone to his bunk a couple of hours earlier, but considering what he'd been doing, he wouldn't have changed that time for anything.
Han grinned with his eyes still closed at the memory. After he and Leia had kissed in the cockpit, they had shared rations and spent good part of the next hour enjoying each other's company until Leia insisted he went to get some sleep. She thought it would be a good idea to bribe him with the promise of a good-night kiss when, actually, it had made leaving harder. Han had been struggling not to doze off on his chair while she pondered aloud this and that about the Alliance, though, and he'd had to admit he wasn't going to be much use during his next shift unless he had some rest.
He opened his eyes now and saw her on the spare bunk to his right, back turned to him and her loose hair spilling down to the floor under the blanket. It was a rare thing to see Leia in such a vulnerable, relaxed state, not prowling and trying to be on top of everything. He'd never wished for a proper cabin with a proper bed more than now, just to let her borrow it—and since she had insinuated earlier she might want to share with him at some point, he regretted not having more than the functional, narrow bunks.
His alarm beeped again and he swatted at his chrono before swinging his legs off the bunk. It was only then that he noticed Leia's mumbling and tossing, where minutes ago she'd seemed so peaceful. Han watched her for a moment, waiting it out, but her unrest increased.
'Leia?' Han called, stepping closer. She didn't wake up, but rolled onto her back, mumbling.
'No... don't go...'
He knelt down and put a hand on her shoulder. 'Hey... Leia, wake up, it's okay...'
Suddenly, she sat up gasping, her eyes searching wildly in front of her without seeing. Han let go of her arm to stroke her back and she turned towards him with a start, as if she'd just noticed him there, instinctively flinching away from his touch.
'Han! What...?' Leia was still struggling to catch her breath, and her face looked more anguished than he'd ever seen it.
'You were having a bad dream.'
Leia sighed and slumped forwards, putting herself again within his reach. Tentatively, he ran his hand over her shoulder blades. She didn't pull away this time.
'Sorry, I woke you up.' Leia was starting to sound more like herself now as she rubbed the palm of her hand against her eyes.
'You didn't. My alarm had just gone off.'
'Oh.' Leia lifted her head in thought. 'So that was what...'
When she didn't finish her sentence, Han offered to bring her some water. She shook her head and didn't say anything for a while.
'You'll be all right?' he asked, starting to rise. He hated leaving her like that, but she didn't seem to want anything from him and Chewie would be pissed if he didn't show up soon. Han wasn't sure Leia even appreciated the fact that he'd seen her like that, much less if he fussed over her, until she put a hand on his arm to stop him.
'Wait!' She looked at him, then away, and asked, 'You mind some company?'
Han smiled. 'Come on.'
Leia started to untangle herself from the blankets, when she looked down and wrinkled her nose. She had gone to bed with the fitted support tank and leggings she wore under her thermal suit, and Han couldn't help but look at the exposed skin of her arms and breastbone. She was damp with sweat and covered in goosebumps, and the cool recycled air was doing a number to other parts of her anatomy. She crossed her arms over her chest, suddenly self-conscious. Han swallowed and thought of Tauntaun guts.
'I'm going to take a shower first. You don't happen to have anything my size I could borrow?'
'I have a ball gown I outgrew, it'll go with your socks,' Han joked, trying to push away images of Leia just showered and wearing his clothes.
Leia chuckled and swung her feet onto the floor; he quickly went to his personal storage compartment and started rummaging through his clothes while she made her way to the 'fresher.
'Don't put that kind of pictures in my head,' she tossed over her shoulder with a smile that was still a little too weak, before she stepped into the unit and closed the door after her.
Likewise, sweetheart, he thought wryly.
'Anyone out there?' When no one answered back, Leia left the 'fresher wrapped up in a towel and stepped into the empty crew quarters. She had quickly washed and dried her underwear so that she could wear it again, but had left the rest of her limited wardrobe to be thoroughly cleaned—which left her with no choice but to wear whatever Han had set apart for her.
Folded on her bunk, she found one of his shirts, a pair of trousers and surprisingly thick socks. She did a good job of not thinking about the implications of wearing Han's clothes exactly until she'd put them on and looked down at herself, blushing. All things considered, it was a given that this would have happened sooner or later. At some point she would have had to wash the only clothes she'd come in with, and there was nothing else she could have worn. Still... it wasn't just wearing someone else's clothes out of necessity. It was the fact that, even clean, his shirt still smelled of Han, and the fact that he had worn these clothes once and now they were covering every inch of her.
It also reminded her of a certain mission when she'd donned a similar spacer's attire, albeit her own size. Han had teased her for hours. He probably would now, too. She would have gone back to bed, faced him again once she was able to retrieve her clean clothes... but she didn't want to be alone right now. The shower had helped somewhat, but when she closed her eyes, she could still see it—
Shaking herself out of her thoughts, Leia straightened her borrowed clothes and headed to the cockpit.
It was clear when she entered that Han had been pacing up and down the small space, waiting for her. He was standing and something in his face relaxed when he saw her. He also gave her a good once-over when he realized what she was wearing, and a familiar smirk slid into place.
Leia rolled her eyes and said, 'Oh come on, get it out.'
He held up his hands. 'Hey, I was just gonna say I'm sorry I couldn't find that ball gown.'
'I'll get over it.' She gave him a small smile and sat down on the co-pilot's chair, tucking her legs under her and draping her almost-dry hair over her shoulder. Her cheeks still felt too warm, and she saw no chances of them cooling off any time soon. Even with all her underwear on and most of her body covered up, she had the impression of being exposed in front of him, and Leia knew there was no way Han wasn't gloating over it.
Han moved to stand next to her and handed her a disposable self-heating cup. 'Tea?'
'Thanks.' Leia accepted the cup and peeled off the lid; almost immediately, the beverage warmed up and steam rose from it. She took a careful sip and closed her eyes, feeling comforted as the liquid trickled down her throat. 'How come there's still Gatalentan tea on board? I thought you hated it.'
'There was some from when you were here the last time.'
Leia opened her eyes and looked up at him. 'Do you think there are enough supplies?'
He gave her a nod. 'Chewie and I restocked when we—'
Even though he didn't finish the sentence, the rest was clear: when we decided we were leaving. It hung in the air between them like a dark cloud.
'Maybe I could run an inventory tomorrow,' Leia suggested.
'Whatever you want. You feel better?'
She shrugged. 'It was just a nightmare.' After the Death Star, it wasn't unusual for her to have restless nights, bolting up in bed with her heart drumming in her chest, leaving her afraid to fall back asleep. It had got better, but she supposed today's events had taken a toll. 'I'm used to them. Sorry if I scared you.'
Han was staring intently at her, looking worried. 'Never seen you having a nightmare before.'
'I don't have them every time anymore. And I try not to sleep in space unless I have my own cabin.'
'I knew it,' Han said, smiling wryly.
'I never saw you sleeping, even when you're dead tired and no one needs you, but you always say you did. I just thought it was your need to boss everyone around.'
Leia nudged him on the ribs. It was true: she always brushed off her exhaustion or claimed she had already taken a nap if she could get away with it.
'I just... I usually find it hard to fall asleep to begin with while on a moving ship. I lie down, and the humming of the systems, the darkness, the recycled air, the narrow bunks... I feel like—like I'm going to wake up to find Vader in front of me,' she finished quietly, twisting her fingers on her lap. 'I think that was what brought it back this time, seeing Vader again.'
'Were you dreaming about the Death Star?'
She swallowed and shook her head. She hadn't told him—or almost anyone else—much about that fateful day, and Han had never asked. As with Luke, instead of trying to force a heart-to-heart out of them and offering empty words, Han had given them comfort the only way he could: by making them forget about their loss and their pain, even if for a short while. But whether through rumours or observation, Leia had the feeling that he'd guessed enough.
'You've talked to anyone about it? The dreams?'
Leia let out a dry laugh. 'Of course not. I was assigned a counsellor for a while, but I couldn't really afford to waste time dwelling on things in front of a complete stranger, could I?' she said, sounding more defensive than she'd intended.
'I dunno, maybe it'll help if you let it out.'
'How?' Han shrugged. 'I'd think you're the last person to advise anyone to open up, Han. You're a pro at dodging personal questions.'
'Nothing worth telling you, Princess.'
'Let me be the judge of that.' She also knew most things about Han through rumours and observation—she had a feeling she'd find out more if she could understand Chewie.
He made a show of sighing. 'I'll tell you anything you wanna know someday. Why don't you tell me about your dream for now? You get it all out, maybe then you can sleep better.'
The feeling of dread from her nightmare had dulled, the details blurred, and Leia didn't want them conjured back. It wasn't such a bad idea, though, to just… let go of it all. Maybe it would work. She pinched the bridge of her nose and took a long breath.
'All right. It wasn't the Death Star. I was… I was in my bed, in my old room at the palace. I woke up because there was a terrible storm outside—it felt like I was really young—and I got up, went looking for my parents. But no matter where I went, where I looked, I couldn't find anyone. The palace was empty, and I—I just knew everyone had left the whole planet and I was alone.'
Warmth spread through her when Han laid a hand on the back of her neck, his thumb rubbing comfortingly against her vertebrae. It took her a considerable effort not to shiver under the touch, but she pushed herself onwards.
'I started running to a landing platform—suddenly, I was my own age again—and saw a ship taking off. I didn't know who it was, but I felt powerless watching it go, and as if… as if I had lost a part of me.' Leia smiled bitterly, staring at her hands. 'It's ironic, because I'm the one who left Alderaan… the one who left them all behind.'
At Han's continued silence, she looked up. He had been staring at her, an odd expression on his face, but he looked away when she caught him.
'No wonder you were so ruffled up.'
She wondered what he would say next, her mind playing roulette with the dozen things she'd already been told, over and over, by other well-meaning people. It's not your fault. It was just a dream. It's all over now. It'll get better.
'All right, what do you need?' he asked instead.
'What—what do I need?'
'To be able to sleep,' he explained, making an impatient gesture with his free hand while the other continued to knead at the back of her neck. It wasn't really helping her already muddled thoughts. ''Cos I'm not gonna let you stay awake for the rest of this trip.'
'You're not going to let me?' Leia repeated. 'Since when do I need your permission to do anything?'
He pointed at his chest and gave her a smug smile. 'Since you're on my ship, sweetheart.'
'So what, are you going to order me to fall asleep?'
Han snorted. 'Of course not, that's why I asked all nice-like what do you need. I could leave the 'fresher's light on, or put some music—'
'I'm not a child!' Leia sputtered with outrage, moving away from his touch to glare at him better.
'Yeah, I'm aware, so? It's not like I offered a stuffed animal.' He moved his hand to place it back on her nape, but she batted it away.
'Yet; I bet that was the next thing you were going to say.'
'Well, I don't have any. But hey—' He braced an arm on the top of the chair and leaned over her, '—if it's something cuddly you need, I could volunteer.'
An angry blush started creeping up her neck and cheeks, and it wasn't just the lack of propriety of the comment, but how appealing the offer sounded.
Ignoring it, she deadpanned, 'Did you mean cuddly or completely annoying?'
'That's a terrible comeback.'
'Is it? How about this: I am a grown-up, I've been dealing with my nightmares just fine without your useful suggestions, and I certainly don't need you. Thanks for the tea.'
Leia rose from her seat, but Han was blocking her exit and made no attempt to move.
'Stop calling me that!'
'Fine!' He placed his hands on her shoulders, trying to placate her. 'But you got it all wrong. Look, I don't know a lot about it, but sounds to me like you got some post-trauma shit going.'
Leia gave up trying to shove him off, though she was still frowning up at him. Post traumatic stress disorder: that was what her counsellor had said she might experience, which was why it was necessary that Leia continued to check in. Of course, she hadn't. No one, least of all her, could afford the luxury of dealing with their personal afflictions and the convoluted workings of their minds, not until the war was over. Besides, while her nightmares seemed a bit too real sometimes, Leia was confident she didn't have any disorders. She had kept Darth Vader himself out of her mind; she was stronger than that. And what did Han know, in any case?
'I don't have any "trauma shit" going,' she said, air-quoting the expression.
'Sure.' His agreement was much too flippant for her liking, but he spoke again before she could say something. 'But you said sleeping on a ship makes you think of the Death Star—the dark, the noises… right?'
Reluctantly, she nodded.
'All right, so that's stuff that triggers the nightmares. I'm not sayin' they'll stop, but maybe you can trick your brain into thinking you're not trying to sleep on a ship and, y'know, maybe they won't happen all the time you're here,' he finished.
'With a light on. And music.'
Han shrugged. 'Yeah. Or I could grab a macrofuser and work real loud outside the cabin.'
Leia couldn't help but smile at that, pondering what he'd said. 'I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try. I could leave the light on and… if—if you have something like a recording I could play—'
'We can find something,' Han said, rubbing his hands up and down her arms. The warmth seeped through the thin borrowed shirt she was wearing, and Leia felt more self-conscious than ever. It wasn't a bad feeling; it was just incredibly distracting. 'Come on, you still got a coupla hours before your shift.'
Still holding her by the shoulders, he gently turned her around and followed her out of the cockpit.
'I still think it's a dumb idea,' she said, waiting as he turned on the console on the main hold, tuning it on some sport broadcast and setting it to play on the crew quarters.
'Of course you do.' He gave her a lopsided smile and walked back to where she was. 'If it doesn't work, the third offer's still up.'
Third offer? Leia looked at him with confusion until it hit her.
'Really?' she asked, cocking her head as if appraising him. 'I don't know, you don't strike me as the cuddly type.'
Still grinning, Han's voice dropped to the low, hoarse tone that usually managed to rile her up and make her bolt but that now, when she'd decided to stop running, kept her rooted to the spot.
'You got me there—but if you ask me real nice-like I could help you out.'
She shook her head slowly, one corner of her lips turning up.
Laying a hand on his cheek, she stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss on his lips, silently thanking him for his efforts in trying to put her mind at ease. Han's hand automatically went to her waist to support her, and when she broke apart and lowered herself to the soles of her feet, her shirt bunched up under his fingers. Although part of the tension between them had melted away since they had kissed, there was a different sort of expectancy now—and since it was all out now, she didn't think it'd take her long to give in completely. It was too much, too soon for one day, though.
Forcing herself to take a step back, Leia said, 'I'll keep that in mind,' and giving him a last smile, she walked away.