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AS I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP
By Kathryn Olsen

rated: G
Summary: In the aftermath of Bespin, Luke and Leia deal with what's happened to them and confront the future

Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to George Lucas, not the author, no profit was made from this work.
* * * * *

"Can't sleep, either?"

Princess Leia Organa lifted her chin from her knees and smiled weakly at Luke Skywalker.
Her face was drawn and she looked on the verge of tears. Her hair, normally impeccably styled,
fell loose around her hunched shoulders in a thick auburn curtain.

Luke sensed a quiet relief coloring her senses as he entered, which was quickly replaced
by a slightly infuriated concern at the fact that he was up.

"I hadn't noticed. What time is it?"

"0400."

She rubbed her eyes wearily, then managed to send a half-hearted glare at him. "You're
supposed to be resting. You just lost a hand and fell off a city. Most people would be sleeping
off the effects."

"Most people aren't Luke Skywalker, Hero of the Rebellion."

She smiled wryly. "Our loss." She sat back and folded her arms. "So why *aren't*
you in bed, Commander Skywalker? Is your arm bothering you again?"

"No; I'm drugged up to my eyebrows and Master Yoda taught me a few pain-control techniques."

"Convenient," she commented. "So, what's your excuse?"

He winced. "I couldn't sleep. Too much to think about."

She nodded. "The first night after a personal trauma is the hardest."

He sighed. "I suppose you're the expert."

She nodded resignedly. "I suppose I should be used to it by now. In my life, I've
lost my parents, my homeworld, most of my friends, and almost everyone else I've loved. I've
spent a lot of this war in mourning."

He frowned. "How do you deal with it?"

She set her jaw. "I don't. I allow myself to feel sorrow and remorse, but I don't
let it consume me. I am nothing if I cannot be effective."

"True," he agreed.

She moved over on the bed. "At least sit down. Give me some peace of mind."

He sank onto the bed next to her and pulled her into a gentle side embrace. "Something
we all need these days."

"I don't know about you, but I won't have it until we get Han back."

He nodded. "I don't know if I'll ever have it again."

She raised her head from his shoulder to frown thoughtfully at him. "What did he do
to you, Luke? I've never seen you look so lost."

He sucked in his breath. "You always knew the right way to say things." He pulled
back and cradled his arm to his chest. "I lost more than my right hand on that gantry. I lost
a lot of my ideals. Thanks to the Jedi training I've been going through, I knew what the Dark
Side is in principle. Vader taught me what it is in effect."

She pursed her lips, her expression that of a person struggling to find the right words
and failing miserably. "How?"

He looked away. "I can't tell you just yet."

He caught a flash of anger, then hurt, both of which predictably melted into her unflagging
sense of compassion. His heart ached to tell her, but hesitated at the thought of how she might
react.

He knew that it wouldn't destroy their relationship; she was too strong, too loyal, for
something even on that level to affect her friendship with anyone. But it was too much for
either for them to deal with right now.

"All right," she said quietly. "I don't understand, but it's been a harder day than
either of us care to remember, so I accept that. Whenever you feel you can tell me, I'll be
waiting."

He turned her to face him and crushed her in an embrace, his throat tight. "Thank you."

She pulled back and he caught the trace of tears on her cheeks in the dim lighting.
"Luke, you are my dearest friend; I don't want to see you share this pain alone. I know it may
be a long time before you can share it with me, but I will not hesitate to do whatever I can
to ease it."

He reached up to cup her cheek and brushed away the tears with his thumb. "I know."

She lowered her chin to her chest. "I can't losing another."

His breath caught in his throat. "You never told me exactly what happened between Hoth
and here."

She winced. "Where do I start?"

He took her hand. "How did you get clear of the base?"

She smiled slightly. "I was one of the last to leave the command center. I felt personally
responsible for making sure as many of us as possible got off first. Survivor's guilt, I suppose."

"From Alderaan," he asked quietly.

She nodded. "Han burst into the command center. He'd heard that the command center
had been hit and wanted to make sure I got safely to my transport. I refused to yield until
the first reports of Imperial troops entering the base came through. We were almost to the
transport when the hallway caved in. It blocked off all passages to the transport hangar, so
he told them he'd get me clear in the Falcon, since it was in the auxiliary hangar.

"We barely got out. Vader actually made it to that hangar before we could blast out
of there. When we tried to go into lightspeed, Threepio helpfully notified us that the hyperdrive
motivator had been damaged. So Han decided to risk the asteroid belt."

Luke snorted. "The Hoth asteroid belt is akin to flying through a black hole and more
dangerous. When we first got there, Wedge Antilles developed a sim based on it for Rogue Squadron
and even I could barely get through it."

"Well, Han is...even more insane and brilliant a pilot than all Rogues past and present
put together. We got through, then went to ground, so to speak. Almost a week later, we realized
that the cave we were hiding in was actually the belly of a spaceslug.

"We escaped the asteroid belt, only to find the hyperdrive non-functional again. So
we basically charged the Star Destroyer Avenger."

Luke's eyes widened. The Avenger was one of the primary vessels in Vader's personal
fleet. "And you survived?"

She sighed. "We nearly hit the bridge viewport before he pulled up and plastered us
against the conn tower. When they couldn't find us, they deployed the fleet to other regions.
Han set us adrift when they dumped their garbage before going to lightspeed. We made it to
Bespin at sublight, not knowing that a bounty hunter had figured out our ploy.

"Vader was waiting when we got there, in a trap concocted by Vader and set up by Lando.
He put me in the cell next door to where they were torturing Han because he knew that Han and
I would send the clearest Force signals to you."

Bitterness rose in his throat and his jaw muscles tightened. "I know," he said tersely.
"So, I rushed off to save you before thinking it through."

She rested a hand on his shoulder. "You couldn't have known what would happen. You've
always acted unselfishly, unhesitatingly. I remember General Dodonna once said what an unlikely
pair of heroes you and Han were. The idealistic farmboy and the mercenary. I knew that you
would never think of putting yourself first."

"What did you tell him?"

Her mouth twitched into a smile. "I rolled my eyes in absolute, heartfelt exasperation
and said, 'General, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became
heroes.'"

Luke smiled for the first time in weeks. "That about sums up the entire Rebellion."

She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. "True."

He chewed on his lip thoughtfully. "Do you ever think about what our children will
think of us?"

She nodded. "All the time. Whenever I have a difficult decision to make, I try to
think about what it will do to their future. I remember my father used to say, 'You should
serve justice with two questions in mind: what will you think of yourself tomorrow and what
will tomorrow think of you?'"

Luke's chest tightened once again. He sincerely doubted that Anakin Skywalker had ever
cared much for what the future would think of him. "I wish I had been brought up under such
a wise man."

She fingered the square pendant that hung on the gold chain at her neck. "I count
myself very lucky for everything that's happened to me."

"Even this war?"

She nodded solemnly. "This war has done a lot to shape who I am; I never would have
guessed that I would have the strength to endure what I have or that the handful of mercenary
vehicles we had five years ago would become the fleet we have today." She smiled slightly.
"And I certainly would have never guessed that I'd have a Jedi for a best friend and fall in
love with a smuggler."

"A few officers and underlings at base won't be so surprised. I hear there was a pool
going to see how long it would take you two to admit it. Rieekan will probably make a fortune."

She narrowed her eyes. "They didn't."

He shrugged. "They wouldn't let me place a bet because they thought I had an unfair
advantage?"

"Which was?"

"The Force and the fact that I spent more time with you two over the years than anyone
else." He squeezed her hand. "When did you figure it out?"

She winced. "The night you two were lost in the wastelands. It took me so long to
admit it because I thought it was a whim under pressure."

She gestured to the bulkhead. "When you're stuck on a ship the size of the *Falcon*
for a month, things can either get very claustrophobic or very comfortable quickly. I think
it's a good thing that we took a month out of the war to figure ourselves out, whether we
planned it or not. A lot of things got said, a lot of issues were resolved, and we moved past
the fronts our positions imposed on us."

"And fell in love," he said quietly.

She nodded. "I don't even know if he feels the same way. It took so much time for
me to realize it, though I think he suspected it long before Bespin."

"Hence your frequent arguments." He smiled wryly. "Both of you are too strong-willed
to take any sort of emotion lightly. It was easier to be at odds than to be at peace."

"True enough."

"He feels the same way," he said firmly. "I can tell by the way he looks at you, the
way he changes the moment you enter a room, the intense need for protection he feels towards
you.

"Chewie tells me that his only request of him was that he protect you. After that,
you doubt his love for you?"

She swallowed hard and he could see the tears reforming in her eyes. "When you put
it that way," she said softly. "I've been afraid of allowing myself to feel that way about
anyone since Alderaan was destroyed. I didn't dare hope that someone might be able to love me
so much despite that."

"You don't make it very difficult," he countered.

She shoved him gently. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know about Han, but there's something extremely lovable about someone as
intense and argumentative as you."

She tilted her chin in mock indignation, but he could sense her amusement. "I resemble
that."

He smiled. "I know."

She suddenly sobered. "All right, your turn. You don't have to go into detail, but
what is it that's scaring you so badly?"

His mind conjured up memories of the cave test, of the confrontation on the gantry, of
his mixed emotions as the truth of his heritage was finally revealed. He frowned deeply.
"When I was in training, Master Yoda took me to a cave that was strong in the Dark Side of the
Force. He said nothing about what was waiting for me except that it was what I needed to take
with me.

"When I entered the cave, I found Darth Vader. I slashed off his head in my haste to
eradicate the evil that he was. Instead, when the mask blew open, it was my face, and not Vader's
that was inside."

Leia caught her breath. "What do you think that means?"

*Perhaps the Force was trying to tell me something before Vader could.* He winced.
"You asked what it is that is scaring me so badly. What I'm afraid of is the fact that what
I am now, Vader once was and that what Vader is now, I can become."

He could sense the sudden blast of fear that rolled off of her. "That's the great
danger, isn't it," she said quietly. "It is our first instinct, as soon as we get a little
taste of power, to use it in anyway possible, even for evil. Without thinking about it, we
could be feeding the Dark Side."

He nodded. "On that gantry, Vader offered me what I've always wanted: influence. In
the end, it's what we're fighting for, isn't it? We want to influence the corrupt order that
Palpatine instated. He extended the opportunity to do it on my own, if I only tapped into my
powers more. What frightens me is that I was sorely tempted by it.

"Even knowing what he is, for a moment, I wanted it more than I've ever wanted anything
in my life. I've been in dozens of battles and life-threatening situations, but that was the
first time I really knew fear. It was my first true soul-threatening situation."

"What stopped you?"

"Something I once heard in school. Someone said that 'the guilty do not remember their
names.' Many people fall to the Dark Side or to crime, on the most basic level, because they
do not remember who they are and what they stand for. I remember that at the time, I promised
myself that if I were ever to encounter a situation with overwhelming potential for evil, I
would force myself to remember my name. From there, I could remember what that identity carried
with it."

Her mouth twitched. "And they say you can't save yourself." She pulled him into a
gentle embrace, being careful of his injured arm. "Thank you for remembering who you are.
I am alive because of the strength of character behind the name of Skywalker."

The alarm buzzed a few minutes, startling them out of their reverie. Leia glanced at
her chrono. "Sith," she muttered. "I'm supposed to go on watch now."

He shook his head. "I'm sure Chewie or Lando would be willing to pull a double shift.
You've been through a lot."

She pulled away. "You're right."

He took her by the shoulder and kissed her forehead. "I'll talk to them on the way back
to my bunk."

"No, I'll do it."

He shook his head firmly. "If there's anything I've learned over the years, it's that
no matter how lost someone may seem to you, they will always find you in your dreams."

She smiled. "I like that idea." She caught his arm. "Good night, friend; I'll see
you in my dreams?"

He nodded and stood. "I'll meet you there."