"Well, Your Highness, looks like you managed to keep me around a little while longer."
Leia Organa laughed, ignoring the nickname as she remembered a conversation from long ago and replied with the expected retort.
"I had nothing to do with it," she said, taking his hand. "Doctor L'Jhad thinks it's dangerous for any patients to leave their beds."
A smile graced Han Solo's weary countenance as he settled back into the pillows she was arranging to support him.
Weeks in hospital, recovering from torture, had almost repaired his body but weakened his spirit. It was only Corellian stamina, masculine endurance and pure Solo stubbornness that had saved him, according to Han's doctor. But now he was in their home on the almost tropic outskirts of Coruscant; prescribed bed rest, yes, but home.
"That's a good story," he nodded. "I think you just can't bear to let a gorgeous guy like me outta your sight."
She bent and brushed a kiss over lips that were almost healed and then, in a voice that was as low and (gently) sultry as she could make it, she said,
"Alright, General; you got me."
Han's smile vanished and his expression grew serious.
"I missed you."
"I missed you, too."
She kissed his cheek and turned as Doctor L'Jhad walked in.
"I'm done clearing away my equipment. I'm going to leave the heart monitor and the IV drip so you can monitor his progress. Is there anything you'd like me to leave?"
Leia was about to tell L'Jhad that there would be no need but Han rasped softly.
"Uh, Sometimes, at night, I…I need the oxygen."
Leia looked down at him, puzzled, and Han pointed stared at Dr L'Jhad.
"That's fine. And I'll be back tomorrow to check on you. Alright?"
Han grinned as best he could and nodded.
"Thank you, Doctor," Leia smiled and took her hand. "You've been of great help to us both."
"Well," L'Jhad replied modestly, spreading her hands. "I really didn't do all that much myself. You, General Solo, should thank the stars you're Corellian."
She looked to Leia.
"And now I think I'll leave you to rest. You've had a long two months."
Han nodded again as L'Jhad opened the door.
Han's voice, raised, was barely audible and hardly differed at all from what was currently his normal voice, but L'Jhad heard him nonetheless and turned.
Han shrugged and looked down at his feet.
L'Jhad's mouth turned up barely perceptibly at the corners.
"You're welcome, General. Excuse me."
Han waited until the door had closed and then tightened his hold on Leia's hand.
She smiled warmly at him where he half sat, half lay propped up by the pillows, blushing a little under the gaze that seemed to be scrutinizing everything.
"What?" she asked, a little embarrassed
His eyes sparkled.
He tugged her hand a little and lifted his chin in silent request. She sat beside him and waited until he lifted his arms clear of the bed, and then, gently so as not to disturb the wounds, she slipped her arms under his back and drew him forward into her embrace, his arms wrapping about her waist as she kissed him gently. She had been going to simply touch her lips to his and then hold him for a while, but he deepened the kiss almost immediately, opening his mouth to accommodate hers with a soft sigh of contentment.
Leia opened her eyes as they kissed and looked at Han's face, which was now drawn into a concentrated frown. She smiled.
Han felt it and pulled away.
"What?" he asked.
"You," she answered, twitting him with his own phrase, reaching up to stroke the back of his head. "You always concentrate so hard."
The frown on Han's face deepened and the concentration vanished, but she smiled.
"You're so beautiful."
Now he looked puzzled.
"That's a new one," he murmured.
Leia waited a moment, then raised her head and kissed his forehead, letting her lips rest there for a while, until Han nuzzled into her neck. She tightened her hold on him, one hand on the back of his head, holding him, keeping him, protecting him.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I know," she said softly. "I love you too."
They remained that way for quite some time, until Han relaxed completely and his breathing deepened. Leia shifted her position so that she could rest against the headboard, and then settled herself with him to listen to him sleep.
Han was extremely frustrated when Leia came back later that day. He was apparently trying to finish a meal, but trying to start a meal would have been more appropriate.
She watched him for a moment. He was still too weak to support himself and was having a great deal of difficulty supporting anything else.
After a while, she stepped forward.
"Hungry?" she asked.
"Can you move?"
"Ow," he whispered.
"Never mind," she said gently. "Come here."
She slid her hand under his head and lifted it, and then she began to feed him.
After the meal, which was little more than nutritional mush, he sank back into the pillows. It had been an embarrassment being unable to feed himself and instead having to be fed by Leia, but at least it was someone he knew he could trust. He had received the same sort of treatment in hospital on more than one occasion, but the way Leia did it was different. As though she really cared and wouldn't do anything to hurt him.
"Goodnight, Han," she whispered as his eyes began to close.
"G'night," He murmured.
Leia was still in the chair by Han's bed, sleeping, safe in the knowledge that nothing would happen to Han if she did sleep.
Outside, the rain, so heavy it was almost tropical, lashed at the windows in sheets and the lightning broke the night with flashes and rumbles.
Leia frowned in her sleep and her eyes opened slowly. She lifted her head off her hand and watched Han. His eyes were open and it startled her.
"Did I wake you?" He whispered.
"No. Why are you awake?"
Han glanced at the window.
"The storm. And…I thought I saw someone, outside, on the balcony. About a half hour ago. Probably just the after effects of whatever I was sedated with. I wouldn't worry about it."
He stretched an arm toward the hook by his bed and Leia saw that he was reaching for the oxygen mask.
"Here," she whispered, getting it down for him.
He took it from her, fumbling for a moment before he managed to get it over his mouth and nose. She secured the strap behind his head and supported his head with her hand while he made himself comfortable.
Once he was done, his eyes were already half shut and, as his head sank back into the pillows, they flickered and closed.
Leia reached out to stroke his face and then she put her head back down on her hand, closing her eyes as she did.
Sunlight was making its way into the room when Leia opened her eyes the next morning. At first, she closed her eyes again, tired from lack of sleep, but then she remembered why she'd been staying awake.
She looked to the bed. Han was still fast asleep on the pillows with one arm over his stomach, the other by his side. His head was turned away from her.
She watched him in silence for a while, the only sound being that of Han's now deep and regular breathing. Han's fingers flexed in his sleep and he turned his head towards her, still lost in peaceful dreams.
The door opened across the room and she turned to see Dr L'Jhad.
"How's he doing? He seems to be sleeping better. I see he still needs the oxygen."
"Yes. He…He never told me he needed oxygen at night."
The Doctor nodded.
"I suspected as much from the look he gave me yesterday. I left it up to him to tell you. He told me he would but I'm not surprised he didn't. He was ashamed."
Leia stroked his forehead gently. His head turned a little and, even under the mask she could see the corner of his mouth turn up into the smallest of smiles.
"Ashamed of what?" she asked.
L'Jhad waited until Leia looked at her.
"Of his 'weakness', in his own words," she whispered.
Leia shook her head.
"Weakness? I'm beginning to think I'll never understand him."
"He is determined not to appear too needy. He knows how important your work is to you."
"He told you that?"
"Partly. But he is more easily readable than he would like to admit, though he knows it inside his heart. The things he says, the things he does not…The things he does not mean to say…He loves you more than anything, and the last thing he wants is to cause you any more problems."
"Oh, Han," she whispered. "Why can't you see we can face these problems together?"
L'Jhad touched Leia's shoulder.
"His life signs have been steady for several weeks now. I'm going to unhook him but it appears that the oxygen is doing him good. I will leave it with you. I don't see a reason to check up on him tomorrow. I'll come back in...oh…three days and hopefully I should be able to reduce his medication, but until then, keep an eye on him. He'll be weak for a while yet. But he knew that when he asked me to treat him this way."
L'Jhad was referring to Han's refusal for modern medical techniques. Once he had regained consciousness he had insisted that he be allowed to recuperate without bacta or synthflesh. Leia had given her permission. She understood his reasoning; he felt weak and vulnerable and wanted to prove he was anything but.
"I will. When is he allowed solids again? He keeps telling me how disgusting the mush is."
"Erm, the nutritional supplement. He calls it mush."
L'Jhad chuckled quietly.
"That does not surprise me either. A few days, perhaps a week."
"I must wake him, Your Highness. I need to make sure."
L'Jhad walked up to the bed and pressed her hand to Han's shoulder.
After a few seconds, Han's eyes opened and, once they had focused, he did his best to grin.
"Mornin'," he mumbled groggily, and then swiped a hand at the oxygen mask.
L'Jhad removed it for him and helped him sit up.
"You have been, I must say, an extremely cooperative patient. I was given to understand that you were no end of trouble. Or is it just that you cannot fight back yet?"
"Oh," Han rasped, "it wouldn't…stop me if…I didn't…like you."
"Ah, good. Then at least I am doing something that you feel is to your benefit."
Han grunted the affirmative and then explained as L'Jhad examined his back and the healing wounds there before applying antibac-salve.
"You're…different. You…don't hurt me, you're…gentle. And…you understand."
L'Jhad glanced at Leia but said nothing.
"Alright," she said a few minutes later when her examination was complete and the wires and drips had been disentangled and removed. "You're recovery is proceeding without problems. You ought to be fine again in a few weeks. I'll see you both in a few days. Until then, rest, General Solo. You need it."
"When can I…get up?"
He looked at her and, when she looked at Leia, he did too.
"If you are careful, General, and only if, then I see no reason you may not leave your bed today."
"Great!" he said, barely able to force the words past his lips. "What about food?"
"Ugh," Han groaned. "Mush, mush, mush."
L'Jhad smiled again and, after a few more minutes, left quietly. Han was staring at Leia.
"Where do you want to go?" she asked, reading the unasked question in his eyes.
"Just…I dunno…outside? I been…inside for…weeks now."
Leia hesitated and then gave in.
"Alright," she said, drawing back the covers. "Let's get you dressed."
"No," said Han quite suddenly.
Leia looked at him.
"I…wanna do it…myself."
"Leia?" said Han's voice from the doorway.
Supporting himself on the doorframe and dressed in a loose pair of dark trousers and an open white shirt, Han stood unsteadily.
"Come here and sit down," said Leia, patting the cushion of the chaise-longue.
"Just a second," said Han quietly, swaying slightly.
Leia stood, concerned
Han pressed one hand to his stomach and his eyes closed.
Han's hand slipped off the door frame and he fell forward. Leia ran, grabbing hold of Han before he collapsed, shocked at how easily she could support his emaciated frame.
She then moved forward with Han toward the Chaises-longue and lowered him into it.
"Thanks," Han mumbled tiredly, lying back into the cushions.
He was still very hypohaemic and found it difficult and painful to move.
"You hungry?" asked Leia.
Han took a deep breath through his nose.
"No," he replied, keeping his eyes closed and frowning as he spoke.
Every word drained him further.
"Is it my cooking?"
Han smiled and gave a single, soft exhalation by way of a laugh and immediately regretted it. He began to cough and his expression turned to a grimace. Leia took his hand and he pressed his free hand to his head again.
When he had finished coughing, he kept his eyes tightly shut.
"Are you sure you're not hungry?"
"Positive," Han mumbled. "I could…use a drink though."
When she came back, Han was still propped up as they had left him, eyes closed. She sat down next to his waist on the chaise-longue and he opened his eyes.
"Hey," she smiled.
He gave her his trademark half-smile back.
"I brought you some Niersch."
Han smiled. He knew she practised her Corellian despite the fact that he had told her he didn't mind when she sometimes got it wrong. And those sometimes were becoming fewer and fewer. But then, it was he himself who had taught her to pronounce Niersh on a mission they had shared to Corellia, years before.
She raised the glass to his lips and he drank quietly.
"What time is it?" he whispered once he had drained the glass.
"Ten o'clock," she replied softly, checking her wrist chrono.
Han looked at her wrist.
"Didn't I buy you that?" he asked, yawning mid sentence.
She nodded and lifted her arm. Han hesitated.
"Come on, Han," she said soothingly.
Very slowly and very gingerly, Han moved into the hollow of her arm and closed his eyes. He smelled slightly of the antiseptic and, oddly, almost like a baby - an unusual, milky smell as his body recuperated – but beneath it was the familiar comforting smell of his skin. Leia could feel that he was cold and, with great care, she placed her hand under the right side of Han's shirt and examined his abdomen.
It was at this point that a part of Han was glad he'd left his shirt undone.
She lowered her hand gently onto his stomach and traced her fingers through the soft, dark hair avoiding the now not-so-numerous white patches of gauze.
Han felt suddenly very comfortably drowsy, and, because he knew that for now he had nothing to fear, nothing to stay awake for, he let her continue. Leia felt him gradually relax in her arms.
And, as they lay there together, Han drowsing, Leia wide awake, Han heard the soft rumble of thunder over their heads, and thought he only imagined it until a scattering of warm rain soaked through his sleeves and ran down his face. It was not an unpleasant sensation.
More thunder and he, subconsciously, huddled closer into her, almost asleep but awake enough to know that even though he was tired, in pain, weeks from restored health and soaked by Coruscant's rain, he was with her, and he felt safe.