While You Were Gone: Prologue
Stoned Rose

Leia absently brushed aside a strand of hair.

Her mind was elsewhere. It was far removed from the buzzing of the hangar, removed from the hand of Lando Calrissian resting lightly on her arm, and certainly light years away from the grieving Wookiee pacing in the background.

It was with Han. Wherever he was. And now Lando was trying to tell her that they may never know. Leia's heart clenched at the thought of her love being forever stuck in suspension. His face fixed permanently in twisted agony.

Lost. That's what they said. Han was lost. And they may never find him.

Chewie let out a mournful howl in the background. Lando gave Leia's arm a comforting squeeze. His voice, faint in the background of her mind, started to grow louder as the princess regained some of her focus. "... Fett's ship is believed to have been destroyed ..." Lando explained gently; Boba Fett had never even made it to Jabba the Hutt. Which meant that Han was probably still aboard the Slave I when it was allegedly shot down.

Leia looked up at Lando. The teary shine of her brown eyes belying the steadiness of her voice. "Han ... but you said 'lost' ... now you're saying he's ..." Her voice faltered and Leia quickly looked away as she felt tears well up. "Maybe you're wrong. Maybe his ship is still out there somewhere. Or maybe Fett took him someplace else first."

"I -- ...It's unlikely."

"But it's possible." Leia once again met the gambler's eye, her resolve suddenly strengthening. "You said so yourself. You said Han was 'probably' aboard. That's not definite."

Lando held up his hands defensively, "I know. And we will keep looking. I don't want you to doubt that."


"But -- " Lando took a deep breath, "I just wanted to prepare you for the possibility -- the very strong possibility that Han -- " the gambler couldn't hold the princess' gaze and his eyes stranded to his neatly polished shoes, "that he may be gone. Forever."

Leia could feel her chin begin to tremble as those words sank into her consciousness. Lando tried to draw her into a comforting embrace but Leia hastily pulled away. "I refuse to believe that," she snapped. "Han's alive."

"Princess -- "

"He's alive. And I won't give up on him so easily." She gave him a pointed look. "Even if you will." With that Leia turned abruptly away from Calrissian and walked with steely determination towards the exit.

"Princess," Lando called mournfully behind her, "I'm sorry."

I'm sorry, too. The familiar words echoed in her head. Leia hastened her retreat to the door before she broke down in the middle of the crowded hangar.

* * * * *

A few weeks later the worst was confirmed: Boba Fett's ship had been shot down. Chewbacca was assigned with the unpleasant task of breaking the news to the princess. He even presented her with a shard of the Slave I, which was one of the few pieces remaining of the ill-fated ship. He meant it as a showing of undeniable proof that the ship had indeed been destroyed. Actually, from the looks of the debris that was found, annihilated would have been the better term.

As Chewbacca had looked over the charred remnants of Fett's ship he had felt the last flame of hope die out. If his friend had been aboard there was no chance he could have survived. And the sad truth of it was that it seemed that Han had indeed been on the Slave I when it reached it's deadly end. Chewie and Lando had spoken with many of the acquaintances of the notorious bounty hunter and no one could offer evidence that Fett had stopped anywhere else before heading off to finish his business with Jabba the Hutt. No trace of the hunter having possibly landed on some other moon before making his final fateful trip. The fact that the remains of Fett's ship were found half buried in the sands of Tatooine seemed further proof of this.

Chewie let out a soft pained growl as he looked down at the stunned princess. Leia's gaze was vacant. Her body felt numb. Her thumb was absently rubbing the cool shard of the spaceship in her hands as her mind continued to travel backwards. She had a flash of his cocky crooked smile. The feel of her small cool hands inside his large warm strong ones. Gone. His lips on hers. He's gone. He's really gone. Their last night on Cloud City ...

Leia looked down as she felt a sharp pain course through her hand. She looked at the blood on her palm, her brain too foggy to register its very existence. She had accidentally cut her hand on the ragged edge of the debris. Leia looked up at Chewie her eyes conveying her confusion. She couldn't understand anything anymore.

Han's gone.

Her eyes filled with tears, and being unable to choke back her sobs any longer, Leia buried her head in Chewie's fur and began to cry.

To Part One

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