Kish Becker liked her job.
She wasn’t all that good at handling weapons beyond the basic requirements of Alliance recruits; she couldn’t fly freighters or starfighters, and she wouldn’t know the first thing about battle strategy. When she’d joined the Alliance, she’d half expected them to laugh her off the base, though she’d figured she couldn’t be the only person to join up without being equipped to fight a war.
The Alliance did not laugh her off the base. Instead, Mon Mothma had picked up on something Kish herself had always taken for granted: she was keenly observant, good at reading body language, at telling if people were holding things back. It was a useful skill in an organization where trust didn’t come easy. So it was that she was rarely at the heart of the action, but she got to hear all about it during meetings she was asked to hold afterward—not formal debriefings, but follow-ups that, Mon Mothma said, were often far more revealing.
‘I have to say,’ Kish said to the pair sitting in front of her in the small office she’d been assigned, ‘it’s a miracle you’re alive. Exposure to these kinds of temperatures for that long, for a human? That’s terribly dangerous.’
‘On your own, sure,’ Han Solo said.
It didn’t take any particular powers of observation to be able to tell that this was not a man who appreciated even informal follow-ups about what he’d been doing and why. Kish had heard him complaining to his partner as they’d approached her door. But he’d come in at her quiet encouragement, and now sat, one booted foot lying across his opposite knee, its restless jiggling as he talked distracting. ‘But we were together, so we were fine.’ End of discussion, his expression seemed to say.
‘Well, we weren’t fine,’ Leia Organa amended, glancing at Captain Solo out of the corner of her eye. She’d been unbothered about this meeting at first, or maybe she just wanted to lead by example, but now she looked down at her hands, smile small and warm and distinctly private. ‘But we were much better off than we would have been.’
‘You had adequate… shelter?’ Kish asked, scanning the notes in front of her. By all accounts they should at the very least be in the medical bay with severe hypothermia.
‘We, uh,’ Han said, twisting briefly to look at Kish’s closed office door.
‘Improvised,’ the princess finished.
Kish’s brow furrowed. ‘Improvised with what?’
Han shrugged, slouching lower in his seat. ‘Each other.’
Leia kicked the leg of Han’s chair. ‘What Captain Solo means,’ she said, smile polished bright, ‘is that we employed one of the most basic tenets of survival in cold conditions and shared body heat to keep warm.’
‘You survived by huddling together out there for four hours?’
‘Circumstances made it necessary,’ Leia said firmly. Her fingers twitched against the arm of her chair.
‘Yes,’ Kish said, going for placating. ‘I do recognize the necessity, of course. It’s just that if people are aware of how sharing body heat can help, lives could be saved on future cold weather missions.’
‘Ah.’ Han gave another easy shrug, getting up from his seat. ‘Reckon anyone’d think to do it. Are we finished?’
Leia stayed put, but looked at Kish expectantly.
The speed with which both of them wanted out of there was telling Kish more than anything they’d said; she just wasn’t sure quite what it was telling her yet.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘We’re done for now.’
‘Let’s talk about where this mission didn’t quite go according to plan,’ Kish said, tapping her stylus against her desk.
‘Hey,’ Han objected. ‘This mission was a big success.’
‘Yes; “didn’t go according to plan” and “big success” aren’t mutually exclusive,’ Kish said wryly. ‘As you’ve both proven on several occasions. Almost every occasion, in fact.’
Han’s look of indignation gave way to one of pride, and he relaxed a bit in his chair. ‘That’s right.’ He glanced at Leia. ‘Huh, sweetheart?’
The princess…blushed? ‘To be clear, we didn’t mean to change the plan this time,’ she said to Kish, leaning forward, shoulder angled as though to shut Han out. ‘The hotel was in higher demand than we’d expected.’
‘Two rooms would’ve gotten us in trouble anyhow,’ Han said. He directed his words at Leia’s turned shoulder, rather than to Kish, though whether because he didn’t like telling Kish anything or because he was trying to justify himself to Leia, Kish wasn’t sure.
Han Solo did not, as far as she knew, have any power to book up an entire hotel. Nonetheless, it didn’t feel like the former, this time.
‘How so?’ she asked.
‘Well, if the Imps would’ve come,’ he explained breezily. ‘Would’ve been hard to take ’em on without backup.’
She hesitated before pointing out the obvious. ‘But, ah. But the Imperials didn’t come.’
Han waved a dismissive hand. ‘Yeah, but I’m saying if they had.’
‘All right,’ Kish conceded, making a note on her datapad.
‘Good place, anyway,’ he said, lacing his hands together behind his head, the picture of nonchalance. His eyes, flicking again and again to the back of Leia’s head as he spoke, were giving him away. ‘The hotel. Had a pretty good night’s sleep, if that matters to anyone. ’
Leia laughed, finally looking at him properly. ‘Really?’
‘You didn’t think so?’ he asked.
Leia laughed again. ‘Put down that Captain Solo hogs the bedclothes,’ she suggested, and then her eyes went huge with mortification.
‘Ha!’ Han, by contrast, looked delighted, and jerked his chin toward Kish’s datapad. ‘Put down that Her Highness’s feet are real icy in the morning.’
‘I don’t think that needs to go in my report,’ Kish said, though she filed the conversation away in her head for further examination later.
She could have sworn Leia did look well-rested.
Han, when he next loped into her office, an anxious-looking Leia behind him, was looking a little the worse for wear.
‘Have you been to medical yet?’ Kish asked, alarmed. The two of them didn’t appear to have gone anywhere yet; Leia’s hair had none of its usual neatness and Han’s clothes were very clearly from the mission. They must have left his ship and come straight here.
‘Don’t need it,’ Han said, sitting heavily in the seat Leia pulled out for him. She took the one next to him, looking at him with wide, worried eyes.
‘You really should go,’ she said, voice soft, as though she didn’t want Kish to overhear.
‘Nah. This is important, right?’
Han hadn’t once appeared to think these meetings important, and Kish was on the brink of pointing this out when he gave Leia a warm smile, eyes crinkling at the corners. ‘Got my own medic right here, anyway.’
Looking at their faces felt almost invasive. Kish peered a little more closely at the patched-up wound on Han’s shoulder, visible through the torn and bloodied fabric of his shirt. Though they couldn’t have had the supplies to tend to it properly, it didn’t look like it had been a hasty job: the skin around the wound was clean, the bacta patch and tape applied with care.
‘How’d you get hurt?’ she asked.
‘Ran into some Imperials,’ Han said. He looked at his partner. ‘We handled ’em okay, right, Your Highness?’
‘I handled them,’ Leia retorted, though she shot him a fond look. ‘You got gouged with a vibroshiv.’
Kish just about refrained from swearing. ‘Okay,’ she said, putting her datapad down. ‘I’m insisting you go and get proper medical attention before we continue this conversation.’
‘Ah, c’mon, I’m fine—’ Han began, shooting Kish a warning look.
‘I’ll take him,’ Leia cut in, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. She nodded to Kish. ‘I’ll make him go.’
‘Make me go,’ Han muttered, even as he stood up, allowing himself to be guided with Leia’s hand on the small of his back toward the door. ‘I don’t want you worrying about me, sweetheart.’
Captain Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa work very well together, Kish wrote.
Captain Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa were fast becoming some of Kish’s favorite and least favorite people to talk to.
They moved at breakneck speed between belligerent and seemingly devoted to each other, and sometimes both at the same time. One minute gleeful opponents, the next a united front. Each fiercely protective of the other and yet pushing their buttons without even meaning to. They obfuscated, both of them, and would probably have hated how easy they were to read.
And they always had an interesting story.
‘It was,’ Leia said, in a tone that brooked no argument, ‘absolutely necessary.’
‘Right. Needed real quick-thinking on the princess’s part.’ Han touched absent fingers to his lips, then tapped those same fingers against Kish’s desk. ‘Put that down.’
‘I’ll decide what to put down, thank you, Captain,’ Kish said, a little coolly.
‘Sorry,’ Han muttered. Fingers pressed again to his mouth, he chanced a glance at Leia, who was studiously avoiding both his and Kish’s eyes.
‘I have to ask if this means the nature of your relationship has changed?’ Kish asked. ‘I appreciate that the incident took place as part of a mission.’
‘It was barely an incident,’ Leia assured her.
‘Sure,’ Han said. ‘More like a small, uh… happening?’
‘Yes!’ Leia shot Han a grateful look and then averted her eyes again. ‘Or a—an occurrence.’
‘Hardly even,’ Han finished.
Leia nodded. ‘We didn’t bring it up with you because anything’s changed; we brought it up because we both find it perfectly normal.’ Her eyes widened and she added, ‘Now. I mean. We’re finding things normal after the fact.’
Kish was aware that Princess Leia was an excellent bluff. She’d seen her in action herself, the princess the picture of composure in debates broadcast back home on Koaan from the Imperial Senate. It was hard to reconcile those images with the flustered young woman in front of her, who’d sat down and, for no reason Kish could discern or Leia was doing at all well at explaining, immediately and somewhat giddily announced that she’d kissed Han Solo. On the mouth. For, by the sounds of it, quite some time.
‘Besides,’ Leia continued, because she couldn’t seem to stop herself, ‘it speaks to the very settled nature of the relationship between Captain Solo and I that I felt able to kiss him to prevent our cover being blown. If I’d been with, for example…’ She trailed off.
Han scrutinized her, frowning. ‘Who?’ he demanded, when she didn’t finish the sentence.
‘I only meant—’ Leia huffed. ‘I’m not talking about any particular person; I’m just saying if I were with anyone I didn’t trust as much as you.’
‘You trust me?’ Han asked, cheeks coloring a little with pleasure.
‘Obviously I trust you,’ Leia said, folding her arms. ‘That doesn’t mean I want our relationship to change.’
‘Well,’ Han said, shifting in his seat, rubbing his palms against his thighs. ‘Good. I don’t want it to change either.’
If she was writing a totally honest report, Kish should have put Both lying on her notes.
‘Well,’ Kish said, leaning up against the permaplex of the quarantine chamber in the medical bay. ‘This isn’t how we usually do things.’
‘I’ll say,’ Han groused, as he paced along the back wall of the chamber. ‘Can we get out of here?’
‘That’s hardly my call,’ Kish said. ‘Do you know what you were exposed to?’
Leia looked up from where she was hugging her knees in the corner of the chamber, catching Han’s eye in the process. He abruptly turned to pace in the other direction; she, flushing, turned her head toward Kish. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘I asked if you know what you were exposed to?’
‘No clue,’ Han said. ‘Some damn flower. Don’t know anything more than what’s in that file there.’ He pointed a finger. ‘It’s all right,’ he added, off Kish’s look. ‘You can look; we asked the med droid to leave it for you. Didn’t fancy explaining again.’
‘I don’t think it was any… malicious action on anyone’s part,’ Leia said, watching Kish as she picked up the flimsi. ‘It just caused an… interesting physiological reaction.’
‘“Interesting”,’ Han muttered.
Leia looked like she had a biting retort on the tip of her tongue. But then she thought the better of it, looking determinedly away from him.
The air was so thick with tension they’d need to redesignate the atmosphere type. Kish couldn’t for the life of her think why they’d quarantined them together.
She frowned down at the file. ‘It causes… uncontrollable…?’
‘No,’ Han cut in sharply, at the same time as Leia, tone exasperated, said, ‘Please don’t tell me they’ve written that.’
‘I suspect it’s a droid’s interpretation,’ Kish said hastily.
Han shoved his hands in his pockets. ‘Yeah, guess droids ain’t familiar with the word “horny”.’
Leia flushed deeper, but lifted her chin. ‘Just because you might be feeling—that—doesn’t mean you’re not still in full control of whether you act on it. I won’t have it suggested anywhere that anyone headed to Baskarn should think otherwise.’ She took a deep breath. ‘And I don’t get the impression it’s indiscriminate…desire. I, for example, found myself temporarily attracted to Captain Solo, nobody else.’
‘Right,’ Han said. ‘Same. To the princess, not myself.’
‘Temporarily,’ Leia added.
‘Sure,’ Han said. ‘Temporarily.’ He glanced at Leia. ’S going away, now.’
‘Yes,’ Leia said. ‘So unless the tests turn up any other results we need to worry about, people can be assured there’s nothing to worry about beyond perhaps some…emotional discomfort.’
‘And physical discomfort,’ Han mumbled.
Leia turned red as jaquira fruit and said, ‘Temporarily.’
‘The good news is we set up the deal all right,’ Han said.
‘What are you talking about, “good news”?’ Leia asked, batting him lightly with the back of her hand, half playful and half annoyed. ‘That implies there’s bad news, and there isn’t. We’re all ready to go back in tomorrow; it’s just with a very minor modification to our cover story, that’s all.’
‘A minor modification,’ Kish repeated, tapping at her datapad with her stylus.
‘We could hardly help that our contact so thoroughly misinterpreted our relationship,’ Leia said hotly.
‘Yeah,’ Han butted in, ‘what were we supposed to do? Tell him he was wrong about us?’
Kish did not point out that yes, that would have been an easy way to remedy the situation with little drama. She said, ‘For what it’s worth, I think you’ve made excellent progress with a difficult mission.’ She smiled up at the pair, who were giving her identical wary looks. ‘But given that I don’t often go on missions, it may not be worth a lot. I’m just not sure this counts as a “minor modification”.’
‘I misspoke,’ Leia said smoothly, ever the politician. ‘“Unimportant” is what I should have said. What does it matter if the contact thinks we’re business partners, or ah—’
‘Life partners,’ Han supplied.
Turning pink, Leia said, ‘So, I don’t know if we need to research… Belazuran marriage customs or—anything like that, to make sure the cover is as authentic as possible when we go back in.’
Kish turned her face down to her datapad to hide her smile. ‘No,’ she said, ‘I have a feeling you’ll sell it fine.’