Dark Days
by Twinkledru J.

The escape to Hoth was cold, and dark, and Leia knew that she was spending far too much of her time crying.

She slouched at the table as they took off, and could hear her nurse Caith admonishing her. "Sit up, Leia, princesses don't slouch."

Well, she had nothing to be the princess of any longer, she answered shortly, with that smug feeling of satisfaction that always came from having delivered an answer one's opponent could never match, that feeling that she was far too old to entertain. And her nurse, too, would have died with the rest of them. She could remember the sense of it, could feel them screaming as they died, and she had woken, shaking, from nightmares of the memory more times than she could remember or count since then.

Luke had come across her once, crying, and he'd had no idea what to do with her. "Hey, Leia, what's wrong?" he asked, gently, and she heard the boy's voice shaking a little. She sensed somehow that he was reaching out for her even though her eyes were closed and he never actually touched her. She jerked away, sensing him and wanting nothing but quiet in her mind, and ran off.

She ran directly into Han.

"Take it easy, Princess," he said, disentangling her and stepping out of her way with a mock bow. "Not many places you need to be running to on here."

"Thank you, Captain," she snapped, her throat still raw with her unshed tears. "But I don't think you have to worry -- unless the walls on this pile of garbage are so thin that I might run right through them."

The pirate stalked off, muttering something that she couldn't quite make out, and she frowned in thought, considering the fact that he hadn't said whatever it was he was muttering to her face. The horrible notion that he might have seen her crying came to her, and for a moment, she was gripped by a small, petty terror, but then she remembered who she was thinking about, and knew that there wasn't a chance he'd have let that slip by without some stinging word.

Tempers were short, as a rule. Contact with the rest of the fleet was kept to a minimum, on the off chance that unfriendly ears might be listening. Besides, communication through hyperspace was draining on the [Falcon]'s power. Mostly, the days were silent save for some clanking here or there and the occasional sound of life in the form of the soft clank of footsteps on the metal floors, or perhaps quiet conversation. Luke and Han, she saw, seemed to have developed something like friendship. She saw the signs of hero worship in Luke's eyes when he would mention Han to her, and it looked quite close to the something that he bore in his eyes when he looked at her shyly.

She had begun to schedule her time around Luke's meditation. Those times when she knew his mind would be clear and quiet became her most active. And she did not like his shy smiles, didn't want to think about the possibility that she might have another person to worry about, to take care of.

"You're in a good mood," Han said to her in one such period. Her mind was quiet for the moment, and she found herself giving him a small, but genuine, smile. She thought it was evening -- certainly, she felt tired, but she had found that, as a rule, her memories tended to shatter peaceful sleep.

"Should I not be?" she asked, leaning against the wall and crossing her arms idly. There was nothing for her to do, as usual, but she had grown almost accustomed to the tedium. Indeed, the times of boredom, when her mind was quiet, were the closest thing she had gotten to a holiday in a very long time.

"Makes me worry you might be planning something," he said. Then, as he stepped closer to her and examined her, "Geez, you look awful. You sleeping okay, Princess?"

She felt her smile fade and looked down. "I think I've got something, a cold, maybe," she said quickly. "And," she added, "don't call me that."

"Well, so much for the good mood, huh?" Han sighed. "Sorry, your Highness." She didn't hear him walk off, though, so she looked up.

"I told you not to call me -- "

"I heard you, Leia," he said quietly, and touched her cheek. Leia looked at him, her eyes wide, but he didn't take his hand away, drawing the back of his finger along the line of her jaw, finally placing a thumb on her lips. She began to speak, but closed her lips again, slowly, turning whatever retort she'd been planning into a soft kiss. His hands were surprisingly clean, she thought.

He drew his hand away, then, and, uncharacteristically, said "Sorry."

She looked at him for a moment, and reached up to his face in return. He looked haggard, she realized, and here in the light, she realized that the darker parts under his eyes weren't just ordinary shadows.

Her hand shook, a little, before it could touch his skin. He caught it in his own, then, and kissed her with the same easy fierceness that he did everything.


She woke up later, at the sound of Luke's voice and the feeling of Han stirring next to her. "Han?" Luke was saying. "I can't find Leia, do you -- "

"Get lost, kid," she heard Han mumble, his voice rough with sleep. Then, more quietly, "Close the door, don't wake her up."

She lay very still, and found that the quiet in her mind was gone, replaced with confusion, a fast-fading sense of worry, and just the faintest hints of arousal and jealousy.

"In or out, Luke," she heard Han say, even half-asleep sounding his impatient, ornery self. "If you could make up your mind before we get to Hoth, that'd be fantastic."

"But will she -- "

"It's all right," Leia said. Han gave no indication of having heard her, and for a moment she wondered if she had only dreamed she'd spoken after all, but she could see, in the dim light, that Luke started, before taking off his jacket -- he went barefoot often, now, and his feet were cold -- and lying down, cautiously, on her other side.

She felt Han's lips against her forehead, and a strange calm as she heard Luke fall asleep, and she lay for a long time in the dark, unable to find much peace.


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