...previously on Tatooine
Solo moaned as they were enveloped by the all-encompassing heat from Tatooine’s suns, but Leia suspected it was more a groan of relief than one of pain. He still felt horribly cold to the touch and she guessed that his body temperature was still dangerously low. The excessive desert heat would be a balm for him. Her own skin, on the other hand, felt like it would soon burn to a crisp. And the fact that so much of it was exposed meant that an awful lot of it was going to get sunburned. But, as there was nothing she could do about that right now, Leia dismissed it.
Chewbacca had laid Solo out on one of the skiff’s bench seats, and she knelt beside it and took a moment to simply gaze at his face. Drank in his presence with her eyes, letting the reality of his survival, of his existence, permeate her being before allowing herself to touch him. Han was really there, and he was alive.
Profound relief flooded through Leia and she felt the darkness that had so recently gripped her evaporate like water in the Tatooine heat. Her body trembled as she fought to suppress the tears that were prickling the back of her eyes. She knew the fight was not over; that Solo still had a long way to go before he could be considered well. But seeing him lying there, breathing… Just the steady rise and fall of his chest left her wanting to sob with joy.
Leia swallowed hard, trying to ease the lump that had formed in her throat, and let her fingertips brush the hair from his forehead.
"Who’s that?" Solo croaked, and waved his hand in her direction. It connected with her arm as Leia leaned across and touched her lips to his in a whisper-soft kiss.
"Someone who loves you," she told him, her voice tight with emotion.
"Leia," he croaked, and gripped her arm so hard it hurt; pulled her hard against him.
The pain was ironically comforting. More proof that he was real; that he was alive. And, now that he was alive, she was allowed to live again. Leia leaned against his chest while she lost herself in his kiss, ignoring the way the metal bra she’d been forced to wear pressed painfully against her breasts.
Solo winced uncomfortably though, breaking the kiss and vainly trying to look at her while his hands roamed across the offensive bra.
"What are you wearing?"
"Not a lot," Leia admitted.
Solo’s hands were investigating more, roaming across her back and shoulders and, sensing his rising alarm, Leia pulled away and sought to change the subject.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, and looked up at Chewbacca as he returned from a quick foray aft and passed her a flask. "Here," she told Solo. "Water."
Solo acquiesced as she held the flask to his lips and let a little drizzle into his mouth. He took a second sip, but seemed troubled by it and shook his head when she tried to offer him another.
Concern for Luke was finally penetrating Leia’s consciousness and, after assuring Solo that she would be back momentarily, she turned to offer her brother the flask of water. He was sitting on the next bench with his back to her, and was in the process of removing his shirt so he could investigate the wound on his right flank.
Seeing the wound left her shocked at how much damage he seemed to have suffered.
"Luke!" she said, gripping his shoulder. "What happened?"
"Shrapnel," he said dismissively. "How’s Han?"
Forcing her thoughts back to Han confused and distracted Leia and she looked back at the smuggler, frowning. "He’s…" She tried to focus her attention back on Luke and handed him the flask, telling him to drink. A native of the desert, Luke didn’t need to be told twice; he took two deep draughts from the flask then handed it back to her with thanks.
He winced as he attempted to explore the damage on his flank with his left hand, and Leia moved around to get a better look at it.
"This is going to need stiches," she pronounced quickly, and Luke nodded.
"I know," he agreed tightly.
While Leia felt sure he wasn’t about to bleed to death from it, the wound was still bleeding and she automatically wadded up his shirt and placed it over the damaged area.
"Hold that," she said, then set off to find something on the skiff that she could use to hold the makeshift bandage in place.
Calrissian was at the rear of the skiff, flying it, although it was currently on automatic pilot. Leia had to climb over another bench to get to him, and was very conscious of how little she was wearing. A feeling that was exacerbated as she noticed Calrissian’s eyes range over her body as she approached, then smile guiltily at her. The man had seen her naked in Jabba’s court and most probably in the surveillance on Cloud City, yet he still couldn’t help leering. Leia’s expression hardened and he all but grovelled.
"I need a decent length of cord or rope," she said stiffly.
Calrissian was almost obeisant as he hurriedly foraged through the pile of odds and ends under the nearest bench. He pulled out a length of cord that looked like it might be suitable and Leia helped him disentangle it from the various cloths and containers it was wrapped around.
"Thankyou," she said stiffly, grabbing a scrap piece of cloth as an afterthought, then turned away to head back to Luke.
"How’s Han?" Calrissian asked.
Leia paused, not quite sure how to answer his question. Not when he was the cause of Solo’s suffering. "Improving," she said without looking at him, then headed aft.
Returning to Luke, Leia wrapped the piece of scrap cloth around his torso, then followed with the cord, tying it firmly. While she tried to make sure she didn’t tie it too tightly, she knew the bandage had to exert some pressure on the wound if it was to staunch the bloodflow. She had placed the extra cloth around him to help to protect his skin from being cut by the cord.
She could sense he was still unhappy with her and wished he would simply let it go. Leia could feel that the effect of the Spice had all but dissipated, and with it her sudden paranoia that Luke was about to sell her out to the Emperor. Luke was her brother and, considering her recent flirtation with the Dark Side, probably more trustworthy than she was herself when it came to Force related matters.
"How does that feel?" she asked, testing the tension on the cord.
"Fine," he replied flatly. "Thankyou. I think I’ll see if a healing trance will help," he said, then added, "You’d better see to Han."
Luke had barely looked at her since leaving Jabba’s, but now he finally met her eyes and his expression was guarded and vaguely hostile. "We’ll talk later," he told her firmly and, knowing she was in for a lecture about the Dark Side of the Force, Leia had to stop herself from scowling petulantly at him. Wasn’t the healing stuff something his Dark Side-using father had taught him? But she simply nodded and moved across to the next bench where Han was lying.
Solo was now shirtless; a feat she assumed Chewbacca had helped him achieve. It concerned Leia, despite the fact that Solo seemed to be enjoying the feel of the suns on his skin. After almost a month frozen in carbonite, who knew what the sudden exposure would do to his skin?
She started to ask Chewbacca where the shirt had gone when he held it up and told her quietly, [For you.]
Solo had given up his shirt for her? Leia glanced at Solo then shook her head. "He needs it-"
"Put it on, Leia," Solo said.
He knew she had been Jabba’s plaything, Leia realised. She didn’t know whether Chewie had told him or if Han had come to the realisation by himself, but she suspected he felt responsible for it. Offering her his shirt was simply a small way he could restore some of her dignity.
Leia accepted the shirt and held it against her chest as the Wookiee helped her to release the straps on her back that held the metal bra in place. She slipped her arms into the shirt then let the bra fall, kicking it out of sight under the bench. The shirt was still damp and felt wonderfully cool against her skin, but it also smelled of carbonite, which fuelled the leaden nausea that was her constant companion.
How was she going to tell Han about being pregnant? To date, just finding him alive had been her focus. Now they had succeeded, which meant she would have to deal with all the other issues that had arisen in his absence. Like who her father was.
Leia pushed that unwelcome thought aside as quickly as it had surfaced. Later, she told herself firmly. She would deal with all of that later.
Her breasts felt heavy and sore, and Leia was sure the metal bra had left bruises. Undeniably grateful for the gift of his shirt, Leia knelt beside Solo again and tried to make light of the situation by teasing him.
"You felt you had to give me the shirt off your back?" she said.
Solo smiled and rolled towards her, pulling her into an awkward embrace and running his hands across her back.
"Motives were purely selfish," he assured her and punctuated it by surreptitiously fondling one of her breasts.
Leia did not pull away, certain he was checking that she had removed the metal bra. A theory that was proven correct when his hands returned to caressing her back almost immediately.
"My eyes must be getting better," he commented, rolling onto his back and staring skyward. "Instead of a big dark blur, I can see a big light blur."
Leia covered his eyes with her hand and told him, "Keep them shut. You could damage them."
"Everything’s a blur…" Solo muttered, and Leia got the distinct impression he wasn’t just talking about his eyesight.
Chewbacca must have come to the same conclusion because he asked, [What do you remember?]
Solo was looking decidedly uncomfortable. He released his hold on Leia and wiped his hands across his face.
"I think I need to sit up," he said, and struggled to do so.
Leia wasn’t sure that was such a good idea, but didn’t stop him. Then shared a worried glance with Chewbacca as the Wookiee had to put out a hand to stop their blind friend from tumbling off the bench completely.
[Maybe you should lie for a bit longer,] he suggested, but Solo seemed determined to sit up.
Leia watched the colour drain from his face and immediately put a hand to his forehead. He had broken out in a sweat and was trembling again. He pushed her hand away, seemingly irritated by the touch.
"Han, lie down," she insisted, but he pushed her away again.
"Don’t," he said, then promptly groaned and bent over holding his middle.
"Han-" Leia started but he cut her off.
"I feel terrible," he moaned. "What the hell happened to me?"
Leia shared a look with Chewbacca. Solo had lost some memory.
"You have hibernation sickness," she explained gently. "Lie down, Han."
Behind her, Luke had abandoned his attempt at self-healing and sat up to observe Solo.
"What’s the last thing you remember, Han?" he asked carefully.
"I dunno…" was the distracted response. "I can’t even tell if I feel hot or cold…"
Leia felt his forehead again. Solo’s body had gone from one temperature extreme to another. And, with it having to relearn how to adjust itself, was it any wonder his system wasn’t coping?
"We need to get the sun off him," she told the others tersely.
"Here," Calrissian said quickly, pulling a long piece of cloth out of the pile he and Leia had been scrounging through moments before and dragging it towards them. "Put him on the floor and drape this between the benches."
Leia was impressed with Calrissian’s suggestion, but was not about to tell him so. She nodded curtly and accepted the cloth as Chewbacca harassed Solo onto the floor of the skiff.
Luke and Chewie were helping her arrange the makeshift shade cloth over Solo when he said, "Leia?"
"I’m here, Han."
She hurriedly knelt beside him and gripped the hand that reached out towards the sound of her voice; watched his face while he carefully considered his words. His larynx bobbed as he swallowed and she wondered whether to offer him more water.
"What’d he do to you?" he asked finally.
He? Leia wondered. Then realised he was worrying about what Jabba might have done to her. Had already felt worried enough about it to give her his shirt.
"I’m fine," she assured him.
Solo’s free hand was running an unsteady staccato over her hair and body, and Leia suspected his imagination was running amok.
"We’re all here, Han," she said. "We’re all safe."
He cut her off, grabbing her upper arms and held her still, angrily demanding, "What’d Jabba do to you?"
"What’d he do to you?" he yelled, all but shaking her.
"He made her dance, Han," Lando said firmly, sensing that Solo’s panic was getting out of control. "That’s all, I swear. Just made her dance."
Solo turned his head in the direction of Calrissian’s voice and demanded sharply, "Who’s that?"
"Lando," Leia told him.
"Lando?" The reaction from Solo was surprisingly violent. But bizarre in that his body seemed to remember Lando’s part in its condition while his head didn’t. He jerked sideways, yelping as he hit his head on the bench the Wookiee had just helped him off. Of course, they then crowded around him in an attempt to help him, but that seemed to upset him even more. He lashed out blindly to fend them off, pulling down the makeshift shade cloth in the process and moaning as he was re-exposed to the Tatooine suns. The Wookiee took a firm grip on his upper arms until he had stopped struggling and kicking.
[Han, be still. You are hurting yourself.]
"I…I…" Solo was shaking uncontrollably. He grabbed hold of the Wookiee’s arms and clung to them like a lifeline. "Chewie!"
[It’s alright, Han. You’re safe.]
Distressed to see Solo in such a state, Leia stood back out of the way and hugged herself. She was aware that Calrissian had beat a hasty retreat back to his position at the helm, but couldn’t feel any sort of pity for him. It was his fault that Solo was like this!
A creepy sensation riveted her attention on Luke and she looked at him to find him with his eyes shut and an unnaturally calm expression on his face. She knew at once that he was using the Force to calm Solo and had to fight an instinctive outrage at the violation. Right now Solo needed whatever help Luke could give him.
And it did appear to help. Solo quieted, but he did not let go of the Wookiee.
"What the hell is Lando doing here?" he finally stammered.
[He came to help rescue you,] Chewbacca rumbled.
"Rescue me? From what?"
Leia could feel Solo’s confusion and couldn’t stop herself from moving closer. Luke took her hand and told her in a low voice, "He’s in more pain than we realise. Do you have something that will sedate him?"
Sedating Solo was not an idea Leia was comfortable with, but neither did she like the thought of him suffering unnecessarily. And she could understand Luke’s reasoning. Mental and physical stress was doubtless going to make Solo’s recovery harder. Alleviating his physical stress, at least until they could get him into a proper medcentre facility, could only help him.
Leia nodded her understanding and moved to retrieve the bag of medicines they had brought with them from under the bench. The Bespin medic hadn’t said anything about Solo being in pain when he came out of the carbonite, but she guessed it was to be expected. She felt a rekindling of the anger in her soul and went back to looking for a sedative in the bag of medicines while Chewbacca fussed with rearranging the cloth they had hung across the two benches, making sure that Solo was out of the direct sun. Leia’s irritation rose as she realised she couldn’t identify anything appropriate. The only thing vaguely suitable as a sedative was a strong pain-killer. Without hesitating, Leia filled a hypo with it and moved to discharge it against Solo’s neck, pausing to inform him at the last minute.
He frowned, but nodded his approval, then winced as she administered it.
Leia resealed the bag and put it to one side, then shifted forward a little so she could caress his face. Solo closed his eyes and relaxed a little, enjoying her touch. Leia could feel Luke using the Force again; using it to help calm the Corellian, and wondered if she should try helping. But her sudden failure in Jabba’s palace, not to mention the Darkness that had caused it, frightened her. The spectre of Vader loomed large in her conscious and Leia wondered how she would ever be able to tell Han about him.
"Am I dying?" Solo murmured.
Leia’s eyes filled with tears and nothing she did could stop them. She held her breath lest he hear the shudder in her respiration and desperately willed them away.
[No, cub,] Chewie replied. [You are living.]
"I’ll get you some water," Leia finally managed to say; finding self-control in thinking about Solo’s physical needs for survival.
Solo shook his head. "No."
"You need to drink," she insisted, but Solo shook his head again.
Leia felt Luke touch her gently on the shoulder, a subtle support, while he asked the Corellian, "What do you remember, Han?"
Solo wiped his hands across his face and mumbled, "I dunno…"
[Do you remember leaving Hoth?] Chewbacca asked.
The question filled Leia with dread and she looked at Solo, both desperate and terrified to hear his answer. What if he didn’t remember the journey to Bespin? How the hell would she explain her pregnancy?
It took him a moment, but Solo finally nodded and Leia felt profound relief.
[Do you remember Bespin?]
This time Solo shook his head, and for a moment Leia envied him. She wished that she could forget the horror of Bespin too.
"We had no hyperdrive," he said suddenly, opening his eyes to stare blindly at the rough canvas hanging over his head.
"Bespin was close… and I was hoping Lando would…" Abruptly Solo’s face broke into a huge grin. "Lando!"
Leia shared a look of dread with Chewbacca. Solo had attempted to fill in the holes in his memory and come to the conclusion that Calrissian had helped them. Neither of them knew whether they should correct his misconception.
"Hey, Lando," Solo called happily.
"Hey, buddy," was the guarded response.
Leia couldn’t look at Calrissian, certain she would throw up.
"So… what the hell happened? How did we end up here?" Solo asked.
The was a long silence then Chewie finally answered, [Vader was waiting for us on Bespin. Vader and Boba Fett. Fett brought you here.]
"Vader?" Leia felt Solo tense dramatically and he gripped her arms, felt her face as if reassuring himself that she was really there. "Are you alright?" he asked urgently.
"I’m fine," she assured him, then leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I’m fine."
"Luke?" There was panic in Solo’s voice.
"I’m here, Han."
"We escaped," Leia told him, constantly stroking his face. Reassuring him with her fingertips. "But we lost you," she admitted sadly.
"Why can’t I remember?"
"Vader had you… frozen," Leia started, but couldn’t finish.
[We knew Fett would bring you here,] Chewbacca explained.
"I can’t remember," Solo said, and Leia sensed his panic was growing.
"It’s alright," she started to tell him but he cut her off, muttering, "I can’t remember. I can’t see and I can’t remember…"
"Han, it’s alright," she assured him.
"But I can’t remember!"
"How much don’t I remember and what am I remembering wrong?" He struggled to sit up again and Leia tried to hold him, but he crushed her to him. Clung to her as though it was life or death. Then a spasm of sorts gripped him and he let her go to wrap his arms around his middle, bent double and groaned at the sudden, sharp pain.
He rolled onto his side as the pain subsided, curled into a foetal ball facing away from her.
"Vader did this to me?" he murmured.
Leia couldn’t answer him, crippled by shame and distress. Vader. My father and your daughter’s grandfather. She caressed the side of his face and felt his exhaustion as though it was her own. Felt his consciousness fade as he gave up fighting.
"He’s asleep," she told the others softly.