Happy Little Family


Lydia Han's father is going on deployment and she is presented with the opportunity to stay with the sister she barely knows. The rebellious young Lydia is secretly excited about the chance to get to know her sister better, but complications arise that dredge up her troubled past.

Location: Fort Palenik, Titan, Saturnian Sphere
Date: Tue 14 Aug 109
Time: UST 1637

Lydia stared at the front door and sighed. She didn't look forward to coming home--no, the house. She didn't like being there, dealing with her dad--when he was around, that is. Still, it was the least bad place she could think of, so she always came right back after school every day.
Today was a bit different. As soon as she walked in, she was greeted by the sound of her dad's voice, calling out to her from the kitchen.
"Lydia, is that you?"
She looked at her watch. The flag hadn't even gone off yet, so what was he doing back already? He wasn't the sort to take off early.
Although she was tempted to just slip into her room, she knew it'd be more trouble than it was worth, so she answered him.
"Who else would it be?"
"Cut the smartassery," her dad said tersely. "I want you to come in here."
Once again, it'd be less trouble if she played along, so she sauntered into the kitchen. Her dad was sitting there at the table, watching the news on TV. He glanced at her and then clicked the TV off.
Annoyed that she was having to talk to him, she crossed her arms and asked bluntly, "What?"
Her dad gestured to the chair on the other side of the table from him. "Take a seat."
Lydia slumped into the chair, not quite looking at him head-on.
"Eyes front," he said.
Lydia sighed and tilted her head so she was looking directly at him. Now that she had no choice but to see the look on his face, she already knew what he was going to tell her. She'd seen that look enough times to know by now.
"Honey," he said, "orders have just come down. I'm going to be off on deployment again."
Lydia rolled her eyes. "What else is new? Who am I getting stuck with this time? The Breczinskis? The Arrumis?"
"I'm not leaving you on post this time," her dad told her. "You're going to your sister's."
This got her attention.
"Sis?"
Her sister Leia was quite a bit older than she was; twice her age, in fact. When their mom died, Leia was already enrolled in the Academy and--except for the rare holiday--Lydia never saw her. Only a few weeks together in ten years' time and now they were going to be living together?
"She PCSed to Oakes a few weeks ago," her dad explained. "She'll be in garrison until her tour there is up. I thought you'd appreciate staying with family for a change. That really hasn't been an option since your mother passed, but Leia's settling in her career a bit and you two haven't really had much of a chance to spend a lot of time together. She'd love to have you."
Lydia couldn't believe it. Almost everyone on her dad's side of the family were military--spread all over the system--and all her mom's relatives washed their hands of the Hans after she died. Her dad was pretty much all the family Lydia had and he was always getting deployed, so she was passed around from one family on post to the next. But this time it'd be different. She could actually stay with Leia, the sister she barely knew, but family, her family.
"Okay," Lydia replied quietly, half-afraid that she was jinxing it by saying yes.
Her dad smiled. "Outstanding. I'll let her know. You'll fly out this weekend. You can outprocess from school after classes on Friday."

* * *

Location: Oakes ONB, Jovian Sphere
Date: Sun 19 Aug 109
Time: UST 0624

It had been a long flight. It shouldn't have been, but the military flights transporting civilians were low priority and always got held up in traffic. The big hops never took long thanks to the Gates, but it was always such a mess once you entered a planetary sphere. Always too much going on. A trip that could be completed in a couple hours took twenty.
Though she faded in and out during the flight, Lydia didn't really get any rest and was dead tired when she dragged herself off the shuttle. Things worked differently on military stations than they did in the civilian starports. As soon as you got off a shuttle, you could find someone right there to meet you. This was how she saw her sister Leia for the first time in at least two years.
Leia was pushing 30, but she didn't look it. Lydia had heard people say that seeing combat aged you and that was definitely the case with her dad, but not Leia. She easily looked a good five years younger than she was. It didn't make them seem quite so far apart.
Like most fighter jocks, Leia was in her flight suit and jacket, though she didn't look quite as sloppy as a lot of the other pilots out there. Once she saw Lydia coming off the shuttle, Leia took off her aviators and hung them off the collar of her shirt.
"C'mere, kid," she said, grinning broadly and holding her arms out wide.
Lydia wasn't one for hugging, but she still felt drawn to her sister. Bowing her head sheepishly, she walked up to Leia and let herself get scooped up in a big bear hug. Leia had a medium frame at best but was surprisingly strong.
"Rack buddies, eh?" Leia said gleefully. "Don't take advantage of me while I'm asleep and I'll return the favor."
Lydia felt a sudden twinge of uncomfortableness, but quickly played it off, replying, "Likewise."
Letting go of Lydia, Leia then said, "Let's get your stuff and I'll show you to your new digs."
Lydia traveled light. She only had a couple bags. She didn't need much. She didn't have much.
Looking at what little luggage she brought, Leia touched the back of her hand to Lydia's forehead and asked, "That's it? You sure you're a teenage girl?"
"Ha ha," Lydia mumbled, confoundingly half-annoyed and half-happy at being teased by her.
"Let me get that for you," Leia said, reaching for the bag on her shoulder.
Lydia pulled away, insisting, "I got it."
Leia held up her hands. "Alright, alright, Miss Independent Woman. If you wanna carry 'em that bad, I ain't gonna stop ya."
After Lydia was signed in and admitted on base, they made their way to Leia's apartment. Leia tried to make small talk, asking Lydia about school, their dad and a dozen other subjects. Lydia said as little as she could get away with. She wasn't one for talking either, after all.
When they finally got to the apartment, Leia unlocked the door and the two of them walked in. It was about the same size as her dad's place, though the layout was different. The entryway led right into the living room with the kitchen further back and presumably the bedrooms off to the right around the corner. There wasn't a lot of furniture, but it was still nicer than what her dad had. A couch that looked like real leather, a big TV, a fairly expensive sound system, and so on and so forth. Young people spending their paychecks on whatever creature comforts they could get while they could still enjoy them.
Lydia was still taking in her new surroundings when out strode a lean-muscled, stark naked man.
"Welcome home, mon amour!" the naked man said cheerily.
Lydia's ears burned and she was sure she'd just turned red as a beet. Leia recoiled in surprise only briefly before picking up one of her boots and chucking it across the room.
"Jean-Paul! Pants!"
It took a split second for the naked man to realize that Leia wasn't the only person there and that there was a boot flying straight for his head. He narrowly dodged the boot, darting back around the corner as it struck the wall.
"Cease fire, cease fire!" he cried out from the safety of the hallway.
"Pants, Jean-Paul," Leia repeated. "Now."
"What's goin' on?"
"I told you I was going to pick up my sister, dumbass."
"What?"
"I swear you've got the memory of a lobotomized poodle. Now what's the status on those pants?"
"Coming up."
Leia looked at Lydia apologetically. "Sorry about that, kid," she said. "It's the French in him, I guess. You'd think clothes ate his dog the way he refuses to wear 'em."
It was then that Lydia remembered that Leia was married and the naked man was her husband, Jean-Paul Dalmier. Actually, they'd been married quite a few years, but Lydia had only met him once or twice. Apparently he hadn't made much of an impression being dressed and all.
Jean-Paul came back out wearing nothing more than a pair of tight shorts that weren't much of an improvement over him being naked. Leia gave him a critical look.
"Is that the best you could do?"
"You act like the human body is something to be ashamed of," he said.
"There's a time and a place for everything," Leia replied. "And they've got an article for guys who show off their junk around minors."
"Don't even joke about that, chérie. I didn't know she was coming."
"I know, but you need to be more careful. No more air-drying after your shower or anything like that."
"But, chérie, if I have to wear clothes all the time, does that means you're going to wear clothes all the time, too?"
"Afraid so, airen."
"Hell..."
Lydia didn't want to hear any of this. She wanted to get out, but where could she go? All she could do was lean into the nearest wall. She didn't even realize that they'd stopped talking or that Jean-Paul had extended his hand to her.
"Liddy, right? Hopefully I haven't traumatized you too much, petite."
Reluctantly, Lydia shook his hand. With awkward introductions--reintroductions, whatever--out of the way, Leia put her arm around Lydia's shoulder and guided her in.
As they rounded the corner, she said, "You're on the left. We were using it for storage, but we've cleared out enough room for you."
Lydia looked at her new room. There were still some boxes stacked along the walls. The only furniture she had was a twin-sized bed, dresser drawers, a chair, and a desk with a lamp attached. It all looked pretty cheap, whatever they could get on short notice. Lydia didn't have a problem with it, though. Privacy was the only luxury she wanted and at least here she'd get it.
Sounding a bit apologetic again, Leia said, "Sorry it's not much, but..."
"It'll do," Lydia said, unslinging her bag.

* * *

Date: Fri 28 Sep 109
Time: UST 1711

Lydia was lying in bed, listening to music and smoking. She didn't know why they still called it 'smoking' since you could only get old-fashioned tobacco cigarettes on Earth--through normal channels anyway. Her e-cig was inconspicuously designed to look like a stylus, only a little fatter. It was a habit she picked up a few years back, during one of her dad's deployments. It was her host brother than got her into it, among other things. She quickly pushed back the memories. The last thing she wanted to do was think about that son of a bitch.
She had the music turned up so loud that the faint knocking on her door didn't register until it was too late.
The door slid open and Leia said, "I'm comin' in. You better be decent."
Leia stepped in, saying, "Hey, kid, we need to talk. I got your term report and--"
Lydia's reflexive attempt to hide her e-cig only served to draw attention to it. Faster than Lydia could react, Leia walked over to the bed, reached across Lydia and snatched the e-cig out of her hand.
"Hey!" Lydia cried.
Holding up the disguised e-cig, Leia demanded, "What the hell is this?"
Lydia made a vain grab for it.
"Give it back!"
Leia pulled her hand well out of Lydia's reach. Lydia knew better than fight for it any more than she had. Her only hope was that Leia wouldn't be able to figure out what it was, but she didn't figure she was that lucky. Leia spent a couple tense moments inspecting the stylus. When she realized what it was, fire seemed to flash in Leia's eyes as she snapped it in two.
Rather than being gripped by fear of the consequences, Lydia got angry.
"Dammit, Sis! That shit's expensive!"
"This shit's illegal is what it is," Leia shot back. "And watch your language, dammit. How long you been smoking?"
Folding her arms and looking away, Lydia replied, "A while, okay? It's, like, whatever."
Leia grabbed Lydia by the chin and roughly turned her head to face her.
"'Like, whatever' my ass," Leia growled. "How've you been getting this shit? No way you brought it with you from Palenik."
Leia's grip was more forceful than she probably realized, but there was no way Lydia was going to admit that it was hurting her.
Defiantly, Lydia replied, "There's always some damn pogue who'll buy a girl some smokes."
"In exchange for what exactly?"
"Sexual favors," Lydia said bluntly. "Whaddya think?"
A momentary look of shock swept over Leia's face. Lydia rolled her eyes.
"I pay for it, duh. 20% markup is more'n enough for dumb pogues who blow their paycheck at the Class Six the weekend it drops."
"Well, no more a' that," Leia said, holding out her hand. "Gimme your card."
"What? No!"
"Give it up or I'm gonna take it."
A chill went down Lydia's spine. She quickly shook it off. Grudgingly, she pulled her wallet out of the nightstand and handed it to Leia.
"How'm I supposed ta pay for lunch?" Lydia whined.
"You can brown bag it from now on or I'll pay up front," Leia said. "Now you're gonna surrender all your contraband or I'm gonna turn this room upside-down and inside-out."
Lydia's anger came bubbling back with a vengeance.
"You can't do this!" she screamed.
"The hell I can't!" Leia snapped back. "This is my place and long as you're here, I'm in charge a' you."
"I thought I was gonna get away from this kinda bullshit by comin' here!"
"This bullshit? You mean obeyin' the law kinda bullshit? Nope, that shit applies here same as with Dad."
"You ain't my mom!"
Lydia got slapped for that one. Hard. All her anger shriveled up then and there. Holding her cheek, she tried to put on a brave face, but she felt like a whipped dog and probably looked the part, too.
Leia, on the other hand, was half-blind with anger, her hand slowly balling up into a quivering fist.
"Don't..." she said in a low voice. "Don't you dare throw that at me again."
Lowering her arm, Leia drew in a long breath and raggedly exhaled.
"I'll give you ten minutes to round up your contraband. Don't try an' bullshit me an' maybe I'll only keep your card for two weeks instead of a month."
Leia turned to walk away but stopped at the door. Without looking back, she said, "I'm sorry I hit you. That was wrong a' me. It's just..."
Leia left before she could finish whatever it was she was going to say. As tightly as she controlled her voice, it still sounded like it was starting to crack there at the end.
The stinging of her cheek wasn't nearly as bad as the bitter feeling in Lydia's stomach. It was a shitty thing she'd done and she probably deserved worse than that slap.
Quietly rising up off the bed, Lydia went though her secret stashes and gathered up all the stuff she knew she wasn't supposed to have: refills for the e-cig, stim tabs, a crack chip for her music player, all petty shit that wasn't worth ruining the closest thing to a good thing she had going for her in as long as she could remember.

* * *

Date: Thu 10 Jan 110
Time: UST 1613

It was a day like any other day. Lydia had no idea that it would be the beginning of the end for their happy little family.
She came home to the apartment after school. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.
She was going to her room when the door to the bathroom opened. There was Jean-Paul, right out of the shower, standing there naked and dripping wet.
"Oh, hey, Liddy," he said with a grin. "I thought you were Lei-lei."
Lydia didn't blush anymore or avert her eyes. She had gotten used to his air-dry routine by now.
"If I was Sis," she replied, "I'd kick your ass 'cause you've been told to knock that shit off."
"Language, young lady," Jean-Paul mock-scolded.
Lydia rolled her eyes. "Seriously, use a damn towel," she grumbled as she turned to go into her room.
Jean-Paul's hand shot out, slapping the wall. His arm barred the way.
"Hold up there, petite."
Lydia tried to go the other way when he boxed her in with his other arm.
More annoyed than anything at this point, Lydia whined, "Come on, knock it off."
Jean-Paul leaned in and asked her, "What's the hurry?"
"This isn't funny. If Sis comes in, she's gonna be pissed."
"Aw, don't be like that, Liddy."
He wouldn't budge. Although Lydia was trying hard not to show it, she was getting nervous. Why wouldn't he just let her go?
"Speaking of your sister," he said, "you look so much like she did when we first met. It brings back memories..."
Lydia wanted to make one of her usual smartass remarks, but she couldn't think of anything. She was stuck there stiff as a board. She wanted out of this situation, but she didn't know what to do.
Jean-Paul wasn't letting up. He leaned in more and started sucking on her earlobe, playing with her earring with his tongue. She hoped he'd poke himself, but it didn't happen.
She felt the strength drain out of her body. Her arms hung limp and she stared off to the side as Jean-Paul started to move downward, kissing her neck. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close with a tight squeeze. One of his hands snaked in under her shirt and went to work undoing her bra. It would take him a while to realize the fastener was in the front.
"You're getting into this more than I thought," Jean-Paul said, still kissing her neck.
Lydia wasn't going to say anything, but the words came out anyway.
"The less I resist, the less it'll hurt. I know how it works."
This made him stop, stop kissing, stop fumbling around with her bra, stop squeezing her quite so tight.
"What do you mean you know how it works?"
Lydia didn't say anything.
"Hey!" Jean-Paul half-shouted, his voice forceful but not too loud.
He took hold of Lydia's jaw and made her look him in the eyes. He actually looked concerned, the hypocrite.
Once again, the words seemed to slip out.
"You're not the first one to try this."
Even if she couldn't turn her head, she still could look away from him and that's what she did. She couldn't help seeing his face through her peripheral vision, though. He was staring at her, wordless, appalled. Was he going to beat her like Mr. Hirani did when he found out his little prize wasn't a virgin?
Jean-Paul didn't beat her. Instead he pushed her into the wall and stormed off into his room, locking the door behind him. Lydia remained slumped against the wall, still staring off into the distance. It seemed like forever until she mustered the wherewithal to pick herself up and stumble into her room.
She flopped down onto her bed and did everything she could to pretend that none of it had ever happened, just like all the other times. She thought it would be different here, but it was the same old story.
No, it wasn't as bad here. She didn't want to lose what she had. She didn't want to mess things up for Sis. She would forget. This never happened and even if it did, Jean-Paul was just playing. He was just kidding around. Yeah, that was it. That was how it was.

* * *

Date: Mon 21 Jan 110
Time: UST 0134

More than a week had passed since the incident that didn't happen and Lydia had almost genuinely forgotten. Jean-Paul kept his distance more than usual, but Leia seemed to be so busy at work that she didn't notice.
It always took hours for Lydia to fall asleep. She would just plug in earphones and let music play until she finally went to sleep. She had to have the music. She couldn't bear silence. She needed the music to keep her from thinking, from remembering the things she didn't want to remember.
The music wasn't loud enough to drown out a loud crash. It sounded like it came from Leia and Jean-Paul's room.
"You son of a bitch!" Leia screamed. "I'll fuckin' kill you!"
"chérie, listen to me!" Jean-Paul pleaded. It sounded like he had been pushed out into the hallway.
"Don't 'chérie' me, you sick fuck!" Leia snapped back, apparently out in the hallway, too.
"I fucked up, okay? Hey, watch it!"
Another crash.
"You're gonna think fucked up," Leia growled, her voice barely audible through the walls when she wasn't yelling.
"Liddy needs help," Jean-Paul said, even harder to make out.
Lydia took out her earphones and slid out of bed. You couldn't just crack the door open, so she pressed her ear up against it to hear better.
"I thought you'd changed," Leia said bitterly. "But then you go and touch my own baby sister..."
"Listen, chérie, I'm sorry. It was wrong, I know, but there's something she told me. She--"
"I don't want to hear it."
"But, chérie, she--"
"Get out."
"I--"
"Get the fuck out!" Leia shouted, followed by yet another crash.
"Leia, I at least need my clothes."
"That's your own damn problem. I hope the MAs bust your ass, you sorry piece of shit."
Silence.
"GET OUT!" Leia screamed at the top of her lungs. "If I see you 'round here again, I'll gut you, motherfucker!"
"Whoa, wait!"
The front door quickly opened and closed. It was followed by the sound of Leia screaming every curse known to man, kicking walls, and knocking stuff over, culminating in the sound of the TV crashing to the floor. After that, everything was quiet except for the sound of Leia crying.
Lydia went back to bed, put in her earphones and hid under her blanket. Turning her music up full blast, she clamped her hands over her ears and shut her eyes.
Forget, forget, forget, she repeated to herself over and over again. Forget, forget, forget.

* * *

Date: Wed 23 Jan 110
Time: UST 1822

It had been an awkward couple days since Leia kicked Jean-Paul out of the apartment. Leia tried to get Lydia to talk about what happened, but she locked herself in her room and only went out for school. She would've liked to stay holed up, but she knew she'd draw attention to herself if she skipped class. Fortunately, Leia's day started sooner and ended later than Lydia's, so she was able to avoid her fairly easily.
Leia could've overridden the door lock if she really wanted to, but she didn't. She kept her distance, but for how long? Lydia knew it wouldn't last forever. Eventually she'd have to deal with Leia and her questions. For now at least, she was content to avoid the inevitable as long as she could.
This evening was the same as the last two. As soon as she got back from school, she grabbed an instant meal and went to her room before Leia got back. She was watching TV, trying her best not to think of anything at all, least of all what had happened between her and Jean-Paul. Then she heard some noise outside and curiosity got the better of her.
Pressing her ear to the door, she heard Leia's voice and a couple others she didn't recognize.
"I've got all his shit here," Leia said. "He's lucky I didn't send it all to the incinerator."
"You're one cold bitch, Foxy."
It was a guy Lydia didn't recognize, a Latino by the sound of his accent.
"Don't start with me, Jenny," Leia said tersely. "Just take his shit and go."
"You turn our boss out buck-ass naked and you expect us to leave it at that? That ain't how Cleaners roll."
"This is between me and him."
"The hell it is," 'Jenny' argued. "You gonna tear the whole squadron apart with this shit. How we expected ride out together like this?"
"Leave her alone," Lydia said weakly. "It isn't her fault."
Not even realizing it, Lydia found herself in the hallway. She'd left her room without even knowing it to stick up for Leia and there she was with all eyes on her. She wanted to run back to the safety of the room, but her feet were stuck there. All she could do was look away.
There was a pause, a silence that felt endless.
Looking right at Lydia, the guy who was apparently 'Jenny' furrowed his brow. After a moment of silence, he picked up a stack of boxes without another word of complaint.
"Come on, Bryl," he said to the other guy with him. "Let's get what we came for."
The other guy there--Bryl--was a skinny little punk with BCGs and enough wax in his hair to stop a bullet. Looking at Lydia and Leia together, he giggled to himself and said, "Heh. You two, you look like twins."
"Flattery'll get you nowhere, Bryl," Leia replied. "Now get."
"We're goin', Foxy," Jenny said.
With the boxes of Jean-Paul's stuff in tow, the two of them left the apartment. As the door closed, Leia turned to Lydia.
"We need to talk, kiddo."

* * *

Date: Tue 29 Jan 110
Time: UST 0822

Lydia didn't want to be here, but Leia insisted. She wanted Jean-Paul punished for what he did and for that they needed Lydia's testimony against him. She sat there in the waiting room of the wing commander's office, sitting next to Leia, who was holding her hand.
The secretary looked up from his terminal and said, "Miss Han, the Captain will see you now."
Leia stood up first, coaxing Lydia to stand up too.
"It'll be okay," she told Lydia. "Just tell the truth and it'll all be over."
Lydia nodded numbly and walked to the door, avoiding eye contact with the secretary. She knocked on the door and could hear a voice on the other side.
"Enter."
The door opened and Lydia walked in. The wing commander's office was bare except for a few pictures and framed certificates on the walls. The wing commander was a middle-aged Hindi man who was just starting to go grey but still looked to be in pretty good shape, which wasn't too surprising for a fighter jock.
"Miss Han, take a seat," the Captain said.
She sat down in the lone chair positioned directly in front of him. The Captain glanced at his terminal briefly and then looked back at her. He had fairly large eyes that made it uncomfortable for her to look directly at him. Without realizing it, she started to hug herself and gently rock back and forth.
"Do you know why you're here?" the Captain asked.
Lydia nodded.
"Tell me."
"I'm here to testify against Jean-Paul."
"Well, it's not quite testifying, Miss Han. This is a non-judicial procedure. Do you understand what that means?"
Lydia nodded again.
"Tell me."
She was getting annoyed by his constant demands for explanations to test her knowledge. She was an Army brat. She knew what NJP was.
"It means he isn't getting a court martial for this," she replied.
"But he will be punished if Lieutenant Han's accusation is true. Before we get started, raise your right hand."
She did.
"Do you, Lydia Han, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?"
She didn't think God was going to be much help one way or another, but still she responded, "I do."
"Now, in as much detail as possible, tell me exactly what happened. Nothing you say will leave this room."
She knew that was a lie. Even for NJP, he'd still have to file a report. It may not be a complete transcript, but the chain of command would see it. Maybe he wouldn't use her name and maybe he would.
Regardless, she told the Captain the whole story, from start to finish. Well, almost everything. She left out one important detail and, sure enough, he had to ask her about it.
"You didn't try to fight back? Scream for help? Did he make any direct threats to your person?"
She shook her head for each question.
"But did you feel you were in danger if you resisted?"
She nodded.
"What made him stop?"
Lydia didn't answer him.
"Miss Han, did you do or say anything to make him stop?"
Still she said nothing.
"Remember that you swore to tell the whole truth. If you're holding anything back from me, I can't put my full confidence into your testimony. You're a smart girl. You've been raised in a military family. You know that I have to make a report on this, but I promise you, you will be protected. None of this will ever come back to you."
"What if Jean-Paul appeals?"
"You don't need to worry about that."
"That's not good enough."
"Miss Han, this is a serious accusation that's been made. Any other time, there'd be a general court martial for something like this."
"But you can't afford to lose a pilot and he didn't go far enough."
Somewhat shamefaced, the Captain admitted, "Yes. That's how bad the situation is out there. But rest assured, I'm going to see that Lieutenant Dalmier is punished to the full extent of my authority. To do that, though, I need the whole story. What made Lieutenant Dalmier stop his assault?"
Part of her wanted to tell the Captain everything, everything that happened to her over the past seven years. Everyone who had ever hurt her, everyone who made her feel ashamed, everyone who made her want to die. Her sister had pushed her to testify against Jean-Paul, but she couldn't go any farther than that, couldn't go any deeper.
She hung her head and shook it vigorously. She knew she was letting them win, but she just couldn't say it. It was too much. She didn't want all that coming back. She worked too hard to push it all down. She didn't want to go back there, even if it meant nothing would happen to Jean-Paul. He was small potatoes compared to some of the people who had hurt her in the past.
"Don't make me say," she pleaded. "Don't make me..."
The Captain sighed, not unsympathetically.
"Okay, Miss Han," he said. "I'm not going to force you. You've been brave enough for one day."
"Thank you," Lydia said weakly.
"You're hiding some serious hurt. We have people here on base who can help, civilians even if you're not comfortable around military doctors."
"I don't want any shrinks."
"It's too much for you to handle on your own. There's no shame in seeking help."
Not wanting to hear any more, she asked the Captain, "Can I go?"
"Yes, Miss Han."
With that she hurried out the door, but didn't get far when Leia caught her around the waist, bringing her to a dead stop. Lydia didn't try to break loose. She just stood there.
"Are you okay?" Leia asked.
Lydia nodded.
"You wanna go back to the apartment?"
Lydia nodded again.
Leia let her go and put her arm around her shoulder.
"Let's go."

* * *

Date: Wed 30 Jan 110
Time: UST 0047

Lydia was lying on her bed, not awake and not asleep. Things she never wanted to remember had gotten too close to the surface. She just wanted to forget, but the harder she tried, the harder it was.
The door opened. It was Leia. She slipped into bed behind Lydia, embraced her and drew her close. Lydia's whole body went rigid as a chill swept over her.
"Easy there, kid," Leia whispered into Lydia's ear. "It's just me."
Lydia started to shake involuntarily. She didn't want to be touched. She didn't want to be held. She didn't want feel another body against her own.
Leia only squeezed tighter.
Her voice low and soothing, she continued to whisper. "It's okay. It's over now. They're sending him away. He'll be gone by the end of the week and you'll never see him again."
Lydia was still shaking and Leia didn't let go.
On the verge of tears, Leia said, "I'm so sorry. I should've known... I should've seen it... But you're safe now. I won't let anything else happen to you. I won't let anyone lay a finger on you."
Even being only half-awake, Lydia knew Leia was making promises she couldn't keep and yet, somehow, she found comfort in those words.
Her resistance to Leia's touch began to weaken. This was different. This touch was different. This heat. This presence. It was good. It was safe. It reminded her... It reminded her of Mom.
Yes, that distant, all-but-forgotten memory. It was coming back to her. Curled up in her mother's arms, a refuge from whatever nightmare or boogeyman had scared her right into her parents' room.
It would be okay. Leia would protect her. Clutching at Leia's arms, Lydia was finally able to go to sleep.

* * *

Date: Thu 21 Feb 110
Time: UST 1947

A mere three weeks had passed, but in that short time a remarkable transformation had come over Lydia. She cut her hair, wore her uniform properly, paid attention in class, and stopped trying to break every rule she could just because she could. Rather than holing up in her room, she'd spend her evenings in the living room with Leia, where they would watch TV together, play video games or just talk.
Lydia realized that her rebelliousness and isolation wasn't the answer. She was trying to get away from her problems, to protect herself from getting hurt again, but she went about it all wrong. She still kept her secrets, but she was letting herself live for a change and actually wanted to make something of herself.
While she was working on homework, Leia was reading a report from her teachers.
"I see your grades have improved," she said.
Lydia looked up from her work and replied, "I'm trying to get on the accelerated track."
"What for?"
"I want to graduate next year and go to the Academy."
"Next year?" Leia asked incredulously. "But you'll only be 16!"
"I don't want to wait. I want to be a pilot like you, Sis."
Leia shook her head.
"It's way too soon."
"You were 17 when you went. That's only a year's difference."
"And one year makes a big difference at your age. Besides, you're gonna cram two years into one. Don't you wanna enjoy high school?"
"I don't care about high school," Lydia said bitterly. "There's a war going on and I want to do something about it."
Her voice taking a hard edge, Leia asked her, "Why do you think you need to rush to get out there in the shit? Do you have any idea what it's like out there?"
"No," Lydia replied, not even trying to put up an act, "how could I? You don't know what it's like unless you've been there, right?"
"That's right," Leia said, taken off-guard somewhat by her straightforward answer. "What do you expect to gain by rushing out there to get yourself killed?"
"I've been trying to straighten myself out so I can do something with my life," Lydia said. "Like you. Like Dad..."
Admitting the latter wasn't easy for her, but that's how much she meant it.
"I want to my life to mean something," she continued. "I want to make it worth something."
Leia's expression softened. She took hold of Lydia by the shoulders and touched her forehead to Lydia's.
"You crazy-ass kid," she said in a low, gentle voice. "You don't have to prove anything to anyone. You just need to do what you want to do."
"I want to do this."
Leia held on to Lydia and looked her right in the eyes. Lydia did her best not to flinch. She meant what she said and she only hoped her eyes were telling Leia the same story.
After what seemed like a really long time, Leia finally said, "Alright. I'll talk with Dad. If he gives the okay and you keep your grades up, I'll do what I can to help. You're the daughter of a Hero of the Union. You can get in the Academy easy. Staying in won't be so easy, though."
"You did it," Lydia replied.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Leia asked in mock-offense. "If I can do it anyone can? Eh?"
Well faster than Lydia could react, Leia's arm shot around her neck, bringing her into a headlock as Leia delivered the mother of all noogies. Lydia struggled quite fruitlessly, unable to break free until Leia finally let her go. While Lydia was rubbing the sore crown of her head, Leia crossed her arms and puffed out her chest a bit.
"I'm gonna hafta whip you inta shape, plebe."
Though she tried to put on a serious face, Leia couldn't help breaking into a smile. And Lydia couldn't help smiling back.
"Thank you, ma'am," she said. "Can I have another?"