Well, here it is! A real live update!! Cross everything the trend continues!
And as it's been over a YEAR since the last installment, feel free to check out what happened...
...previously on Tatooine
Sitting across from Chewbacca and Calrissian, regarding them with an air of endurance while they ‘interrogated’ him about his familial connections to Darth Vader and Leia Organa, Luke felt it. Felt a deep stirring in the Force and knew at once what it was. He looked at the others with a mixture of shock and delight, saw confusion on their faces, and couldn’t stop himself from grinning.
She had done it! Somehow Leia had overcome her anxiety and was healing Han. Without a word of explanation to Lando or Chewie, Luke rose and hurried downstairs.
Leia appeared to be asleep which, Luke decided, made sense. That was when her defences were at their lowest, and she was able to tap into the Force without fear clouding her instinct. Yet, as he let his Force sense join hers, Luke felt another sentience helping, and, with wonder, realised it was Leia’s child. A whisper of concern flashed across his mind; that the child was too young, that such an exposure to the Force could be draining or detrimental in some way. For a fleeting moment he considered blocking the child somehow, and was shocked to feel an instinctive response from her. A response that told Luke in no uncertain terms that she would push him away if necessary; throw him out of the link, and Luke hastily reassured her. He could consider the ramifications later. Right now Han needed all the help he could get.
Closing his eyes to aid his focus, Luke sat on the end of the bed, rested a hand on Solo’s foot, and felt the healing power of the Force flow though him.
Chewbacca followed Luke down the stairs, watching as he sat on the end of the bed, rested one hand on Solo, and seemed to go into a sort of trance. Leia and Solo both appeared to be asleep. Deciding they’d be best left alone, Chewbacca went back to make sure Calrissian didn’t interrupt.
Luke woke with a start. He’d been dreaming about Sandpeople and felt genuinely alarmed. He sat up, momentarily confused, and a sharp pain in his side brought the memories of the day before into sharp clarity.
“It’s alright,” he heard Lando say quietly from the room above, “they’re not stopping.” Chewbacca rumbled a soft reply and then Luke heard it again: the distinct bellow of a bantha.
So he hadn’t just dreamt it; there were Sandpeople out there. He’d wondered how long it would take them to notice that Kenobi’s hut was inhabited again. And now it seemed they’d decided to use the cover of the sandstorm to check it out.
From the soft light in the room, he could see that Han and Leia were still sleeping, and hurried up the stairs without disturbing them. Chewie and Calrissian were silhouettes in the doorway, both wearing goggles and fabric over their faces against the stinging sand, and both had their weapons drawn.
“How many?” Luke whispered, shielding his face with his hand as he joined them in the doorway.
“Ten or so,” Lando replied.
“Ten that you saw?” Luke clarified, deciding that, if Lando had seen ten, there would be at least twenty, probably thirty.
“Can’t see anything in that,” Lando tossed back, indicating the sand storm. “We’re just going on what Chewie’s heard.”
In that case there were probably only ten, Luke thought, and stepped back out of the doorway to consider their best option. Maintaining Kenobi’s aura of fear would be ideal, but Luke was not sure if he could pull that off. It would require him to plant a suggestion in the minds of the Sandpeople; a feat he had managed on Vader’s ship to help Leia and himself escape. But Imperials were trained not to question their superiors, so it had been easy to trick them into believing that he and Leia were ‘somebody else’s problem.’ Sandpeople, on the other hand, were deeply suspicious and superstitious. Their survival depended on them being on the alert for anything new or unusual. And everything was considered hostile until proven otherwise.
How in the world could he make them believe he was a kryatt dragon as Kenobi had?
Chewbacca growled suddenly and they all saw the shadow pass quickly in front of the door. Lando shushed him anxiously, but inspiration struck Luke.
“No,” he said, grabbing Chewie’s arm, “do it again!”
“Are you insane?!” Lando hissed, but Chewbacca didn’t hesitate; he roared at the entrance and, using the Force, Luke amplified his roar, adding a yell of his own to double the effect. He could feel the Sandpeople through the Force now, and their fear was palpable. He brushed their minds, filling them with the urge to flee; heard the banthas bellowing in response. And could almost see Yoda scowling at him for doubting himself and the Force.
The Sandpeople had fled, and Luke couldn’t quite hide his slightly smug smile as he retreated back into the hut.
Leia was touching him, her fingertips grazing every millimetre of his skin until his whole body was literally humming with desire. There had been pain before, he knew that, but each touch of her fingers seemed to chase it away like ever expanding ripples on water. Solo filled his lungs, savouring the fresh air. Then, the fact that it was fresh air piqued his curiosity and he opened his eyes. He was facing a wall, and something behind him was casting a soft light that enabled him to see a rough wall that looked like stone, into which had been cut shelves and small alcoves, all carrying a thick layer of sand.
Solo took another breath and shifted slightly, stretching his legs preparatory to rolling over and taking proper stock of where he was. They were definitely not the Falcon, which disturbed him because he couldn’t remember where they were or why. But he could feel Leia pressed against his back, her arm still around his waist, and found that reassuring.
He could hear voices nearby, perhaps in the next room. Male voices in quiet conversation but couldn’t make out words. Chewie’s distinctive rumble was there too, which was comforting. He shifted onto his back, glanced at Leia asleep beside him, then looked at the rest of the room. It was relatively dark, lit only by the glow from a small luma on a nearby ledge; nevertheless he could see enough to make out rough walls and a low ceiling, what looked like shelves, and a narrow stairwell at the far end that led up… to where?
He looked at Leia again and decided that she looked exhausted. There were dark shadows under her eyes that looked like they were more than just a result of the dim lighting. Some of her hair was across her face and Solo turned to face her so he could move it, bumping her knees with his in the process. Her hair felt like warm silk as he gently pushed it aside, but he couldn’t stop there; had to touch her face, had to feel her warm skin under his lips, could tell she was about to wake up, but he couldn’t stop touching her.
She stirred and Solo kissed her forehead and murmured, “Hey there.” Leia snuggled into him more, smiling softly in her sleep, and Solo got the feeling her response was automatic. He slid his hand around her body and hugged her to him and, a moment later, felt her stiffen as she woke.
She opened her eyes: those big, dark, liquid eyes that he’d often thought he could happily drown in, and looked at him. Solo smiled and said softly, “Have I told you how beautiful you are?”
Leia frowned at him, her eyes fluttering over his face as she said uncertainly, “Han?” Then she focussed on his eyes and her own eyes suddenly filled with tears. Sounding quite panicked, she said, “Han?!”
“Hey…” he said, vaguely alarmed at her reaction and stroking her back reassuringly, but she pushed away from him a little and said, “You can see me?”
That made him frown because a part of him could almost remember not being able to see…
“Of course I - “ he said, but she cut him off, sounding almost hysterical, “Han!” She started to sit up, desperately trying not to cry which resulted in her words sounding like strangled sobs. “You’re all right? You’re all right!”
“I’m fine,” he assured her, flummoxed by such an emotional response. “Better than I’ve felt in ages actually…”
“Han!” She clutched him to her, hugged him desperately, then pulled back a little so she could look at him again. “I thought I was going to lose you! And then Luke said the sandstorm… and I thought…I thought…” She buried her face against his chest and wept what Solo suspected were tears of relief.
Something had happened. He couldn’t remember, but something had happened. Something…bad.
“Leia,” he said, stroking the back of her head, “Leia, what’s happened?”
Abruptly she seemed to pull herself together; she sat up, wiping her eyes with the heel of her hand and asked, “How are you feeling?”
“I told you,” he said, hoping the impatience he was feeling was not apparent in his voice. “I feel fine. What’s going on?”
Leia touched his face, her hand shaking, then gasped and looked like she was going to be sick.
“Oh no…I’ll be right back,” she said, then lurched out of the bed and hurried out of the room.
“Leia!” he called after her, and clambered out of the bed too; had just got to his feet when the sound of someone hurrying down the stairs stopped him following her.
Chewbacca burst into the room and the look in his eyes reminded Solo strongly of the Wookiee’s reaction after the cave-in on Hoth. When he had nearly died. Come to think of it, Leia’s reaction had been uncannily similar too…
He managed to say “Chewie?” before he was enveloped in a great Wookiee hug. Any protests were smothered against Chewbacca’s chest and the Wookiee kept repeating, [She did it! She did it!]
When he was finally released, Solo saw that Luke had come into the room behind Chewbacca, along with –
Lando was looking at him like he’d seen a ghost, fear and trepidation all over his face. Then Leia stepped back into the room, her face pale and tear-stained, and Solo forgot all about Lando. He opened his arms to her, uncaring of what the others might think, and she stepped into his embrace and clung to him. Something momentous had happened; something terrible. Something that had almost cost his life. And Leia had saved him, just as she had on Hoth.
He looked over her head at Chewie, whose eyes were dancing with guarded happiness, then at Luke. Luke’s expression was nothing short of jubilant.
“So,” Solo said, casting about for some way of lightening what was promising to be a very intense moment, “where the hell are we? And what’s to eat? I feel like I haven’t eaten for a month!”
What weren’t they telling him? Sitting on the low wall beside Kenobi’s hut in the late afternoon, watching them ready the skiff for the journey to Mos Eisley, Solo found himself with nothing to do but…think. They had refused to let him help, so he had been left at the mercy of his thoughts. And thinking was not something he enjoyed at the moment. There was a great big nothing where the last month should have been; a month stolen by Vader and Boba Fett. And Lando.
And they weren’t telling him what had happened. Sure, they told him he’d been frozen on Bespin and carted off to Jabba by Boba Fett, and Luke, Leia and Chewie had been captured by Vader (and Vader had cut Luke’s hand off in a lightsabre fight!) but how the hell did they get away from Vader? Why the hell would he just let them go? It irked and infuriated Solo that his friends thought he was stupid enough to believe that. What the fuck weren’t they telling him? And why the fuck was Lando here?! He may not remember what had happened, but the thought of what Leia must have gone through thanks to Lando was enough to enrage Solo beyond reason. Vader. Jabba the Hutt. And then the rage would all spiral back on himself – because it was all his fault for taking them to Bespin in the first place. His fault for trusting a ‘friend’ he had stopped trusting ten fucking years ago! What had he been thinking? And what the hell had Vader done to Leia?
He was momentarily distracted from the maelstrom of his thoughts by Luke walking past levitating a large trunk ahead of himself. Solo felt sure he’d seen at least one race with that sort of ability in the past, but seeing Luke do it was creeping him out completely. Luke had explained that it was the Force, and Solo understood that, but that didn’t make it any easier to come to grips with when he just…flaunted it like that.
Luke was taking as much of Kenobi’s stuff as he could fit into the skiff with them; assuming it could teach him something, Solo guessed. But Solo felt deeply suspicious of all of it, and sensed Leia wasn’t entirely happy about it either. As far as Han was concerned, the further away they could get from the old wizard’s house, the happier he’d be. It was bad enough that he had to wear the old man’s clothes! But so did Leia, which took some of the sting out, except that then he was reminded that Jabba had made her his slave girl… And she refused to show him what the Hutt had made her wear.
Solo started guiltily, and turned to find Leia standing beside him. He smiled and hastily tried to rearrange his thoughts, reassuring himself that she didn’t know what he was thinking about and… why was she looking at Lando? He felt her hand slid into his and looked down at it as their fingers laced. Then met her gaze and pulled her into an embrace.
“Not much longer,” she told him. “Then we can go.”
Go where? he wanted to say, but didn’t. Where were they going once they got to the Falcon? Back to the Rebel Alliance? Did Luke or Leia even know where the Rebs were now? What if Vader had come looking for them? Had followed them to Tatooine...
Solo tightened his embrace, and lay his cheek against the top of her head. He wouldn’t fail her again. Couldn’t. Next time there would be no escape.