Valentine’s Day Submission: “Weapon in Her Arsenal”
Han awoke before sunrise with a thundering heartbeat. He blinked up at the ceiling, tried to orient himself. His brain dredged up images from his dream: a particularly awful one about his time in carbonite. And though he was awake the phantom fear of statis hung over him like a cloud. He tried to distract himself by finding shapes in the shadows above his head but the shadows reminded him of blindness, helplessness and defeat.
So he turned to his side and looked at Leia.
In the dark he could only make out her faint silhouette. She breathed quietly, sound asleep, turned toward him with her hair exploding from her braid in all directions. He could barely see the soft line of her cheekbone. And as much as he wanted to feel calmed by the sight of her sleeping peacefully beside him - still a novelty, still a miracle - he just couldn’t find any peace.
He sighed, frustrated. While these dreams were becoming more infrequent, one bad dream would often spark another. Sometimes he would be able to catch Leia in a similar situation (her dreams bordered on night terrors and scared the hell out of him) and they would get up, make some caf and lounge around the apartment until it was time to go to work. They were partners in trauma, capable of getting through it together.
But she was blissfully asleep and there was no way Han would disturb her. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine more pleasant things: the Falcon’s new telemetry panel, his upcoming trip to Kashyyyk, the little black thing Leia had worn to bed last night.
But his heart still raced. The anxiety bubbled beneath his skin. He felt like he sometimes had as a kid with Shrike: his fight-or-flight reflex working at hyperspeed. His brain continued to fire on half its thrusters and left him circling the same thoughts over and over again: immobility, helplessness, terror.
You’re fine. It wasn’t real. Go back to sleep.
Han tried to breathe through his panic. Quietly, in and out, with as little movement as he could manage. He didn’t want to wake Leia. He just needed to get control of himself. He was safe, he was fine, there was nothing here to hurt him. Them. Her.
That was always the worst part. He could handle dreams of his time in carbonite. There wasn’t much to dream about and the claustrophobia eventually faded. But his last memories before the terrifying void of hibernation were brutal. Leia, her eyes broken, telling him she loved him because they both knew she’d never get another chance to say it. Chewie, failure stamped across his face. Han was going to die without being able to protect them from Vader. The past three years had meant nothing if it came to that. He had no problem dying in service to them, not a single one. That was a good death, a better one than he probably deserved. But dying before knowing Leia and Chewie were safe? Knowing that Leia was once again in Vader’s hands, that Luke was on his way? No.
The only thing he really knew he was good at doing was protecting them, and without that, he was absolutely powerless.That was the stuff of nightmares.
Han almost flew out of bed when he felt a hand on his chest. He looked down: Leia’s, of course. Leia’s small hand, the back resting against his left pectoral. An innocent sleep maneuver, maybe she was cold, maybe she -
“Han,” she mumbled.
Han’s panicked thoughts quieted, first to a dull roar and then a quiet hum. The insects beneath his skin disappeared. His heart seemed to stumble into a slowing rhythm, not instantly but quickly enough that he felt himself returning to a light lull.
He squinted in the dim light, trying to catch her eye. She must have awoken while he’d been overwhelmed. Her hand, even the back of it, felt gloriously warm against his chest, like she was anchoring him to her. His name on her lips brought the endless circling into a quiet tranquility. “Sorry to wake you, sweetheart,” he whispered.
She didn’t reply.
Confused, Han leaned in. From his closer vantage point he could see that Leia was still asleep.
Unable to help himself, he scooted backwards, away from her, until her hand lay benign on the bed between them. Slowly, he felt his heart tumble into its faster rhythm, the panic spiral down his spine. Without another thought he moved back to her, closer, reached out and pressed her hand against his chest and held it there above his heart.
A moment, then his heartbeat slowed.
The hell? Han was tempted to keep testing this odd influence Leia seemed to have on him, but the relief felt too good. He moved closer to her and threaded his legs through hers, his body so close now that he could feel her breath against his neck.
He knew Leia had a visceral effect on him when they were awake. Everyone knew that. But that wasn’t this. That was chemistry, the spark that drew them both in.This was her presence calming his panic, her skin bringing him back to their reality. And she was doing it while she was completely unconscious.
Was this some Force thing she’d picked up from Luke?
Probably. And in his normal mental state, he would balk at this psychic shit. But like any good penitent, he deferred to the higher plane of his own comfort, closed his eyes and felt himself fall into a peaceful sleep.
When Han next awoke, the early dawn light filtered through the windows and Leia was gone from the bed. He could smell caf brewing in another room and heard the holoscreen flip onto a familiar galactic news station. He groaned but threw his legs over the side of the bed and stood, ambled into the fresher. Sometime while the sonics did their magic, his brain defogged enough to remember the night before. He shivered despite himself, a little freaked out, remembering the sure way his body had quietly yielded to whatever mumbo-jumbo Leia had been up to.
He made a concerted effort not to panic. To Han’s mind there were knowable truths and there were unknowable truths. One of the most knowable things in the universe was that Leia would never do anything - anything - to hurt him, consciously or unconsciously. By that logic, if she had really been doing something to him last night it wasn’t worth his panic. With a glance at the mirror, he walked out of the fresher, threw on a pair of clean pants and wandered into the kitchen.
Their apartment wasn’t large, but it was theirs and something about that made everything seem ten times better to Han. For someone who hadn’t lived in an actual building for years the novelty of its permanence hadn’t yet been lost on him. The fact that Leia, the most famous negotiator in this post-Endor galaxy, hadn’t argued at all when he’d suggested a new cohabitational living arrangement was sometimes beyond his capacity to believe.
He grabbed a cup of caf and then made his way to the living room, where he spotted a mess of a brunette bun peeking over the back of their conform couch. He walked behind her, kissed the top of her head and mumbled a quiet good morning.
He loved seeing her like this. Morning-Leia: undone, tired, caf-addicted. Human.
Leia turned to watch him as he sat beside her, temporarily ignoring the holoscreen in front of them. “Good morning,” she said. “How did you sleep?”
His hard-won cynicism wanted to ask her how she thought he had slept, but the man that loved Leia Organa prevailed. “Not bad. You?”
“I had the strangest dream,” she said into her caf. “You were there.”
He put his feet up on the table in front of them and crossed his ankles. “Aren’t I always?”
She rolled her eyes.
Han offered her his most pathetic wounded animal expression. “Fine. Were we at least doing something interesting?”
Her exasperated smile drifted away as she thought about it. “We were on the way to Bespin and we lost environmental controls.”
“Oh,” he muttered. “That would have been … bad.”
Worse than bad, actually. Catastrophic. Not a single one of them would have survived if that had happened.
“No kidding,” she said. “You panicked, started yelling at everyone to shut up. To be fair, you do that often enough in real life.”
“Inspiration,” he said, and grinned. “I am the man of your dreams, after all.”
“One of them,” she fired back. “Chewie was there, too. And Threepio.”
He had to laugh at that. “Clearly I’m not earning my keep if you’re dreaming about the droid.”
She smiled. It always amazed him that she could still look drowsy while she snarked at him in the mornings. This woman was everything he’d never known he needed in his life. “You are handy for services that the others aren’t qualified to provide. Nearly getting us killed is one of the ones you insist upon.”
He left that services comment alone for the moment. “‘Nearly killed,’” he quoted. “So we survived?”
Leia’s eyes slid to the side and she mindlessly ran a finger down the enclosure of her robe. “It was odd. I couldn’t get you to stop yelling. I kept trying but you wouldn’t listen.”
Han’s hackles rose. Her voice had dropped into that weird, shadowy quality that Luke’s sometimes did, like she was worried her words might wake some ghost.
“So I touched your chest to get you to stop and you just disappeared. Right in front of my eyes.”
He sat up, took his feet off the table and set his caf down.
Leia’s eyes found his again. “It was so strange. I wasn’t upset about it, either.”
“No?” he asked. His left hand shook a little. He placed it on his thigh.
“No,” she said. “I was … I felt happy about it.” She shook her head. “Clearly my subconscious is worried about you freezing to death.”
“Yeah,” he said, running his steady hand over his face. He felt brittle, like if she wanted, she could snap him in half. His left hand was still shaking. He wasn’t sure how he should feel. Leia was saying … wasn’t she telling him impossible things? That she tapped into his dreams, or his anxiety, and then decided to help him out? Without being awake?
That was unnerving. That spooked him. Because whatever that was, it wasn’t normal. Luke could do all this crazy shit, levitate things, make impossible shots, take over people’s minds. Han had seen him do it.
And he’d known Leia would be capable of all of that, too. They were goddamned twins. Vader had ripped Han’s blaster from his hand on Bespin from meters away. Even if he and Leia didn’t talk about it - at all, never - she had access to that same power, right? So what would stop her from doing this?
He forced himself to look at her. She leaned back, curled her legs underneath her, watched the holoscreen with a thoughtful expression on her face. The mug in her hand was the little yellow one that Chewie had given her years ago, making fun of its relative diminutiveness compared to his preferred tankard of a mug. Without makeup she looked younger than she usually did. That mess of a bun on top of her head called forth memories of when all he wanted was to see her look like this: comfortable, relaxed, at home. Happy.
This was all he’d ever wanted. This life. With her.
His stomach twisted. She didn’t even seem to know what she’d done. Her dream was eerie, because it threw her motivations into this blurry line between his anxiety and her dream. She’d sensed his panic and instinctively protected him from it. She’d been happy that he’d disappeared from her dream, like she was saving him from a long, pointless death. And wasn’t that exactly what she’d done?
Wasn’t that exactly what he would have done for her, too? If he could, if he had that power? Would he have hesitated to steal her out of those night terrors, the ones when she screamed for her father, her real father, the only one they recognized? Hadn’t he spent hours holding her to him, gladly bearing the exhaustion the following day because he couldn’t stand to see her in pain?
He was willing to die for her. He’d gladly do anything to spare her. What made him think she would do anything less for him?
He reached for her mug and ripped it from her hands. She threw him a shocked, indignant expression as he put her mug down on the table next to his.
And then he lunged at her.
Her indignation twisted into a sort of surprised yelp as she fell onto her back, Han on top of her, his hands bracketing her head as he grinned down at her. “Yes, Flyboy?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow. “Did you want something?”
He considered telling her what she’d done for him. He wanted to. He wanted to say that he would do the same for her. He wanted to say that he recognized her instinctive need to protect him, that it was in essence the same as him using his speed draw against Vader. A weapon in her arsenal. One he didn’t have, one he didn’t understand, and one he desperately appreciated.
But he didn’t have a hope of being able to say it with the right amount of depth that she deserved. And he wasn’t sure that she would take it the way he meant it. Leia’s capacity for self-loathing had expanded tenfold since finding out about Vader. Han thought she was getting a little more perspective on it now, but he didn’t want her to tiptoe around this issue. He’d bring it up someday, in a way that communicated his gratitude.
For now he just wanted to show her that she meant the galaxy to him.
“Yeah,” he answered and pressed his hips against hers. “I want you.”