i. Han Solo meets Hawkeye in what is probably the worst rescue ever attempted in the history of man.
(Not that Hawkeye--the other one. From Hell’s Kitchen.
Yeah, he knows.)
If he’s asked, he’ll blame Spider-man and Fulcrum and Chewbacca for it--the way Spider-man had dangled upside-down from a fire escape and begged him to come help him, to come rescue his friend Hawkeye. How Fulcrum and Chewie had interrupted his exit from the alleyway in order to press-gang him into some rescue.
--all right, so Chewie might have just made sad noises at Han until he finally agreed, but goddammit, have you seen Chewie?
“Somebody’s got to save our skins!” says Hawkeye, which is brilliant coming from someone who, fifteen minutes ago, had been trapped in a cell with her hands bound.
“Oh, and that’s gonna be you?” Han snaps. There’s a bunch of thugs firing wildly at them, and Han’s quietly praying his own weapon--a tiny and completely illegal handgun stolen off a man who’s currently lying unconscious somewhere in a closet--still has enough ammo to get them out of this bind. “‘Scuse me, but I don’t see what a fancy-ass stick with a pointy metal bit stuck at the end’s gonna do against guns.”
“I don’t know where Spider-man or Fulcrum found you,” Hawkeye tells him, “and I don’t care. You follow my orders, do you hear me?”
Han stares at her. “I’m hearing bullshit,” he says. “I follow my orders, princess, not anyone else’s--”
“Then change your orders to mine,” Hawkeye snaps, slinging her bow off her back and standing up, notching three arrows at once and letting them fly. “And I’m not a princess!”
“For someone who doesn’t want to kill people,” says Han, stomping down on his nausea when he hears a squelching noise, “you sure aim for the eyes a lot.”
“They’re not dead,” says Hawkeye, “just blinded.” She grabs his arm and pushes him out the window. “Into the dumpster, big guy!” she yells.
“The hell--” Han starts, before he ends up screaming as he tumbles into a dumpster just outside, followed shortly by about 115 pounds of self-righteous bossy-ass fury.
No reward, he decides, is worth this. Any of this.
“Let’s just get you to the Falcon, princess,” Han grumbles, crawling out of the dumpster. “Christ. Where are they?”
On cue, someone falls out a window next to them.
“For fuck’s sake,” says Han. “Kid! You all right?”
“Spider-man!” Hawkeye yells, rushing to the kid’s side with a speed Han hadn’t known she had in her. “Are you all right? What happened to your arm?”
“I’m fine,” says Spider-man, sounding a little dazed. “I just--I ran up against--”
“--Vader?” says Hawkeye.
“Yeah,” says Spider-man, and for some reason, his voice shakes. “Yeah, I had to go up against him. Fulcrum and Chewbacca are still in there--”
“Fuck,” says Han. He can’t hope to make a getaway without Chewie. He can’t leave Chewie in there, no matter how much he wants to save his own skin. “Is Chewie okay? Where is he?”
“He’s inside, he was up against this really big thug when I got thrown out the window,” says Spider-man, trying to sit up and wincing. “Ow. I think I got a little shot at.”
“Stop getting yourself thrown out of windows and getting shot at,” Hawkeye sternly tells her partner. “Seriously, just because you have a healing factor doesn’t mean you’ll get lucky forever.”
“I just have to stay lucky now, though,” says Spider-man, and Han imagines that he’s grinning behind his mask, then wincing. “Ow--you okay?”
“Of course I am,” says Hawkeye, surprisingly tender for someone who just a few minutes ago was bossing Han around like a damn princess, “I’m not the one who got tossed through a window.” She hauls her partner to his feet and says, “Stay out of the fight, Spider-man.”
“You can’t just order me to stay out of the fight,” Spider-man all but whines, and Han wonders, suddenly, if the face behind the mask is as old as his moniker would suggest. “I have to get back in there!”
“Hell yeah, I can,” says Hawkeye. “If you try to swing back in, I’m going to sonic-arrow you.”
“You wouldn’t dare, s--Hawkeye.”
“Keep testing me and I will,” says Hawkeye. She looks back at Han and says, “And where’d you find this scruffy laserbrain, anyway?”
“Laserbrain,” says Han, incredulously. “This laserbrain just saved your ass, princess, so a little more appreciation would be--”
“Real creative,” Spider-man says, struggling to his feet. “So, uh--”
“Sonic arrow,” Hawkeye repeats. “You get out of here. Call--I don’t know, call someone.” Call the police, Han figures she might’ve said, once upon a time, but the police in Hell’s Kitchen are about as reliable as a politician.
Inside, Han hears Chewie’s angry shouts, peppered with curses and something about Jabba’s bathroom habits. “Look,” he says, “we can stand around here or we can get back in there and get my friend and--something very important to me out.”
“What is this something?” Hawkeye asks, eyes narrowed.
“Nothing you gotta know about, princess,” says Han.
(My ticket out, he thinks, then and later, when he’s staring at the numbers changing in front of his eyes, pensions and properties disappearing and reappearing under different names.)
Han spends the next few months slowly, painstakingly pulling together what other evidence he can steal off Jabba’s cronies or eavesdrop on and adding to the stolen drive.
And there is a lot to add. Jabba’s gotten overconfident, Han can see that, and sooner or later that’s going to be his doom. Han’s not planning on sticking around for the arrests.
He is planning on getting away with some tidy sum, though. Enough so he can start over somewhere, pull together a new identity and shake the dust of Hell’s Kitchen off his shoes. Enough, even, for him and Chewie, if Chewie wants to come along.
“Mr. Jabba,” Han drawls as Jabba enters the office, feet up on the chair across from him, “I got a proposition to make.”
Jabba’s eyes narrow at him. “What are you doing in my office, Solo?” he asks.
“Making a proposition, like I said,” says Han. “I want out.”
Jabba stares at him. “You,” he says, slowly, “want out?”
“Damn straight I do,” says Han. “And you’re gonna let me walk out of here, because if not, then I’ll just have to call a good friend of mine from the Daily Bugle and tell him a few things I’m sure he’ll find--interesting.”
Jabba’s fingers tighten around his briefcase. “What things, exactly?” he asks.
“Come on, Jabba,” says Han, smirking, “we’re all criminals here. I’m just telling you that I’m not sticking around to get arrested, because the way you’re going, it’s just a matter of time.”
“And how are you going to prove to your friend at the Bugle,” says Jabba, “that every word you say is true?” He folds his arms across his chest and says, “Your reputation as a known liar and cheat precedes you, Han Solo.”
“I don’t cheat that much, Greedo’s just blowing the time he lost out of proportion,” Han huffs, then--stupidly, stupidly--he says, “And I got evidence to back it up.”
Jabba stares at him.
And he very slowly smiles.
“Do you now?” he says, and that’s when Han knows--he’s fucked.
Roa leans in close. Around them, the bar’s regular patrons are starting to leave, even though Han occasionally looks at the doors as if someone might still walk through it and recognize the flash drive he’s holding in his hand. “And you say this thing could, what, make everything clearer?” he asks. “About this new ‘model’ Jabba’s working out with Shrike?”
“Roa, buddy,” says Han, “when have I ever let you down?”
“I don’t know where to start, I’ve got a pretty long list,” Roa says, but he plucks the drive from Han’s fingers and turns it over in his hand. “Where’d you get this?”
“Same place I got that shiner a few months ago,” says Han, gesturing to the place where said shiner used to be, which now has a brand new bruise on it. “You got a computer, right?”
“Nah, not anymore, Lwyll and I had to send it in for repairs,” says Roa, with a snort of laughter. “Word of advice: Never let your two-year-old near your keyboard with hot chocolate.”
A corner of Han’s mouth turns upward. “I doubt I’ll ever have kids,” he says. “Hey, good for you, I’ve got a computer back at my apartment. Just tell Lwyll you had to haul my drunk ass back to my place.”
Roa laughs, says, “Fine, fine. Been wanting to get my hands on your laptop anyway, how does that thing even still work--”)
“I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it, I swear--”)
He doesn't run into Hawkeye again, after Tano & Kenobi swoop in to save his sorry ass. He’s not going to lie, he’s a bit peeved Hawkeye hasn’t popped up as he’s walking fast back to his apartment, but that's just because he honestly could really use her help right about now, bossy as she is.
He pushes the door open, swallows the bile that rises in his already much-abused throat at the sight of the gigantic bloodstain on the carpet, where Roa’s body was.
Get in, get the drive, get out of the apartment and then Hell’s Kitchen. Foolproof plan right there.
Of course someone has to interrupt the second Han’s pocketed the drive.
The guy comes out of nowhere, wraps his hand around Han’s mouth and presses a knife to his throat. Han bucks wildly, almost expecting a spray of blood coming out of his throat and feeling horribly relieved when it doesn’t happen, along with the headache coming from having managed to send himself along with his attacker into the drywall.
He grips tightly on to the guy’s knife hand and tries to pull it away from his throat. Chewie, goddammit, where the fuck is Chewie, he’d be so useful right about now--
--and suddenly the man’s grip is gone, and there’s a black-clad figure inside his apartment, and all he can think of is, definitely not Chewie. Or Hawkeye.
Hawkeye wears purple, and Chewie’s much too hairy. This--This is Fulcrum, and she’s fighting with Han’s assailant, the kind of knock-down drag-out fight that’s going to end in a lot of property damage, that’s going to end in somebody landing in the hospital. Kick, slap, punch, kick off the fucking wall, damn it Fulcrum--
--and suddenly they’re out the window, and Han’s out the door, hand slipping into his pocket where the drive should be.
It isn’t there.
It isn’t there.
“That bastard,” Han spits, and charges past his front door.
It takes him fifteen minutes to get down the stairs and out into the pouring rain.
His assailant is tied up, hands bound over his head, groaning pitifully. Fulcrum’s got something in her hands, and Han stares at her for a moment.
“That’s mine,” he says.
“I figured,” she says. “But it wasn’t yours first, was it?” She throws the drive up in the air, catches it before it hits the ground. Impressive, for someone whose mask covers her eyes. “I recognize this drive. It’s the other drive Hawkeye was looking for, right? The one that went missing very mysteriously?”
Han clamps his fool mouth shut.
“Yeah, I figured,” says Fulcrum. “What were you going to do with it?”
“Leverage,” says Han.
Fulcrum hums. “You know,” she says, “I’ve got a much better idea.” She turns to the unconscious thug and says, “Do you have any rope, by the way?”
ii. CONSTRUCTION RACKET EXPOSED, the headlines read the next day.
Hawkeye’s sitting on his fire escape the next day as well, when Han comes home in the early evening, just as the sun’s starting to set.
“How the hell did you know where to find me?” Han demands.
“I followed you,” she says. “So. I thought you wanted to leave.”
“Chewie’s staying no matter what, and he’d miss me if I left,” says Han. “And, princess, I think you’d miss me too.”
“I’m not a princess,” Hawkeye shoots back. “Do I look like I’ve got a tiara? Do I look like I’d miss you if you left?”
“Admit it,” says Han, a corner of his mouth quirking upwards. “You would. You ain’t got enough scoundrels in your life.”
“And how would you know that?” Hawkeye asks. “You don’t know who I am. You don’t know my life.”
“I know most people don’t spend their nights running around on a crusade to clean up ten blocks of grime and crime,” says Han, leaning on the windowsill. Hawkeye looks down at him, eyes narrowing behind her domino mask. “Like I said: not enough scoundrels in your life.”
“Has anyone ever told you that old adage about assumptions?” Hawkeye says, acidly.
Han holds his hands up. “All right, all right,” he says. “Why’d you follow me all the way home, anyway? That’s a bit creepy, don’t you think?”
“You got yourself in trouble with Jabba and his cronies twice,” says Hawkeye, pulling herself to her feet and glaring down at him. “Excuse me if I’m making sure they don’t get lucky the third time.”
“Oh, so I’ve got my very own vigilante looking out for me,” Han grumbles. “Swell.” He narrows his eyes up at her, and says, “I can take care of myself, princess.”
“So far, all I’ve seen is evidence to the contrary,” says Hawkeye. “Stop getting in trouble. Trust me, I don’t want to be watching out for you too.”
“So why are you doing it?” Han asks her, pointing his finger up at her. “Why follow me home?”
“Because I don’t want to see you dead,” says Hawkeye. “You’re a part of Hell’s Kitchen, which means that, whether either of us likes it or not, you are under my protection.”
“And where were you last night?” Han asks. “Fulcrum had to save my ass from that thug--”
“Contrary to what you might think, Solo, you’re not the entirety of Hell’s Kitchen,” says Hawkeye, just as the police radio strapped to her hip crackles to life, a feminine voice calling for first responders to a house fire on 51st. “Speaking of which,” she says, drawing out an arrow and fixing a line to her wrist strap, “someone else needs my help more than you do.”
“Sir? Greedo’s in jail, and the Union Allied racket’s all over the news--what shall we do?”
Anakin lets out a breath, then turns in his seat to find one of the many interns assigned under him, trembling in his boots. Some part of him wonders if the intern lost a bet, otherwise he doubts he’d have come up here of his own free will. “Clean up the loose ends,” he says.
“But,” says the intern, “sir--”
“I said clean them up,” Anakin snaps.
“What about Han Solo?” the intern asks. “And--his lawyers? Tano & Kenobi?”
“Leave them be,” says Anakin. “For now, they’re of no concern.” He stands up and crosses his arms and says, “Arrange for Greedo’s bail--I’ve still some use for him left. And see to Officer Baba.”
“He overdosed on pills half an hour ago, sir,” says the intern, managing to summon up some composure from somewhere. “The rest--all the necessary arrangements have been made. Sir.”
It’s a surprising display of competence, coming from the usual rabble of interns that Anakin has to put up with. He uncrosses his arms, lets them fall to his sides and says, “Good.” He waves a hand at the doors and says, “Leave me. I’m expecting a call.”
“Yes, sir,” squeaks the intern, all but sprinting out of his office in obvious relief.
Anakin slumps back into his seat, runs a gloved hand through his hair. “Damn it, you two,” he mutters, and imagines Ahsoka’s snort of laughter, Obi-wan’s wryly amused smile. Why can’t they see?
His phone vibrates in his pocket.
He sighs, and fishes it out, straightening up when he sees the name on the screen. He slides his thumb across the screen.
“Sir,” he says, cool and crisp as ever.
“Vader,” is Palpatine’s answer. “I trust you are handling the Union Allied scandal?”
“It’s been taken care of, sir,” says Anakin, pushing away all thought of Ahsoka and Obi-wan and days long since dead.)
iii. The next time Han meets Hawkeye, it’s after meeting with Lwyll.
Take the deal. Sign the agreement. Her words are still bouncing around in his head, the defeated way her shoulders slumped still burned into his eyelids. Roa would’ve known what to do, he thinks. Roa would be raring to spit in the eye of the company.
But Roa’s not here, and Han can’t help but wonder if that’s not his fault. Sure, he didn’t kill the guy himself, but he might as well have.
He tucks his hands into his pockets and turns right, into the alleyway leading to his shortcut home.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you not to go wandering around in alleyways?” a familiar voice says, and Han glances up to find Hawkeye staring down at him, leaning on the railing of a fire escape.
“I can take care of myself, Princess, thanks,” Han shoots back, and Hawkeye bristles visibly.
“I’m not a princess, I told you,” she grumbles. “And you’re a moron, wandering into dark alleys. You know Jabba wants you dead.”
“What,” says Han, “still? Really?”
“You’re the guy who blew the whistle on Union Allied’s racket, and Jabba never forgets a slight,” Hawkeye says. “I lost count of how many knees I’ve had to shoot out while following you since that article was published.” She backflips--no, really, a fucking backflip--off the fire escape, landing on her feet like a gymnast. “And here you keep cutting through alleyways and making my job harder. It’s like you’re trying to get yourself killed.”
“Hey, excuse you,” snaps Han, stepping closer to Hawkeye, “I didn’t ask for you to start stalking me.”
“You’re important!” Hawkeye snaps back, jabbing her finger into his chest. “I wish you weren’t, because I would love to leave you be, but Jabba’s after you, and I can’t let him get you. Do you understand?”
“I understand that you think I’m somehow important to your cause, missy,” he says. “And, hoo, boy, have I got news for you: I ain’t that important.”
“So why’s Jabba after you if you’re not that important?” asks Hawkeye.
“I pissed him off a little bit,” says Han.
“You’ve got no sense of self-preservation,” says Hawkeye, shaking her head, “do you?”
“That’s rich,” says Han, “coming from the vigilante who shoots arrows at people.”
“I’m not the one pissing off crime lords when I haven’t even got something to fight with,” Hawkeye shoots back.
“You’re assuming I don’t know how to fight back,” Han says. “News flash, sister: I happen to know which end of a gun to point at someone.”
“Then you know which end of a gun you don’t want pointed at you,” says Hawkeye. “And trust me, there’s a lot of them pointed your way right now, hotshot.” She huffs out a breath, says, “A little bit. Jesus Christ.”
“Jabba’s an overreacting asshole,” says Han.
“You and your information helped take down a rather important part of his operations,” says Hawkeye, crossing her arms and glaring up at him from behind her mask. “You might think he’s overreacting, but what he’s doing is trying to eliminate someone who’s a proven threat to his business.”
“Fine,” says Han, “so how do I get him off my back?”
“Sign the NDA,” says Hawkeye.
“Sign the NDA,” Hawkeye repeats.
“Roa died,” Han says, “you can’t just--I can’t just--you’re asking too much out of me. Besides, I thought you’d want me to do the opposite. You’re all about truth, justice, the American way, aren’t you? I sign the NDA, what’s gonna happen to that?”
“I’m not Superman,” says Hawkeye, and she smirks now up at him. “And who says you’re going to be disclosing anything to a newspaper?”
Oola says, her accent coloring her words, “You’ve been running into Hawkeye for how long?”
“Not that long,” says Han, gratefully slurping up her soup. “Just since--since I got attacked in jail.”
“Which you should’ve told me about,” says Chewie. Through his very thick accent, the words come out somewhat garbled, enough that Oola looks at Han and mouths what did he say?
“Chewie says I should’ve told him about it,” says Han. “But also, look, pal, if it wasn’t for you teaching me how to break a stranglehold I’d be six feet under right now.” He wipes his mouth with a tissue and says to Oola, “And you know, I think Hawkeye’s got a crush on me.”
Oola raises a brow. “Or you’re deluding yourself, mijo,” she says, dryly.
“Well, now you sound like her,” Han complains, leaning back in his chair. It’s been a while since he and Oola just talked over her special soup, thanks to all the time interning for a law firm keeps eating up, and he’s forgotten how good the soup is, how much it warms him from the inside out. He makes a note to himself to ask her for the recipe, sometime. “Hey, by the way, how’s the rent?”
“Going horribly,” says Oola. “Jabba doubled it last week.”
“Hasn’t he already doubled it a month ago?” Chewie asks, and Han echoes his words to Oola, who nods. “That bastard. Was that why those thugs were in here yesterday?”
“Wait, wait,” says Han, “thugs?”
“Oh, they said they were repairmen,” says Oola, sarcasm coating her words, “but all they did was tear up the place and leave what repairs they did do half-finished. Do you know, I had to ask Shug downstairs to let me use his stove for this soup?” Her nose scrunches up, in a way that sets Han off in a short fit of laughter--Shug’s apartment always smells just faintly of motor oil, right down to his appliances.
“Poor Oola,” says Chewie, sympathetic. For a big guy, Chewie’s surprisingly gentle. “If you want, you can use my stove the next time you come over.”
Han translates, and Oola grins up at Chewie. “Gracias,” she says. “You’re a saint.”
“I think I can help,” says Han. “With the stove and the rent.”
“You’re an intern,” says Oola. “You’re as broke as everyone in this building.”
“An intern at a law firm,” says Han.
“Which I can hardly believe,” says Oola, with a huff of laughter. “You, working with lawyers? Dios mio, Han, I never pegged you for the type.”
“They’re surprisingly principled lawyers,” says Chewie.
“Damn right they are,” says Han, feeling absurdly proud. “Principled. They’re good people, Oola. They’ll take your case on.”
“All right,” says Oola. “Since you’re recommending them, I suppose I’ll just have to check them out.”
It’s a cold autumn day, and Leia stands off to the side--too near, and she’d feel like an intruder. She never knew Oola as well as Han did, after all. She doesn’t know everyone in Hell’s Kitchen, at least not as well as Obi-wan seems to.
Besides, considering who her father is and what he’s responsible for, it’s probably best if she stays away, lets Han have his space to mourn. It would’ve been best, she thinks, if she hadn’t been there at all.
Only, Han’s asked her here. And not even as Hawkeye.
She couldn’t turn him down. Couldn't bring herself to. What's she fighting for, after all, if not for people like Oola?
She watches him kneel down at Oola’s grave, brushing the dirt off the stone, pulling the weeds and laying a bouquet of white flowers at the base of the grave. The wind kicks up, and Leia turns her collar up, draws her jacket tighter around herself to guard against the chill threatening to settle into her bones.
She steps closer, just enough to catch Han’s words.
He’s saying, soft and sad, “I learned how to make your soup today.”)