Changing into the dress was a last-minute decision. She needed a boost of confidence and the green dress was added armor. Leia moved quickly through the halls, hoping she maintained a stride full of purpose rather than the nervous excitement she felt.
Han and Chewie were only supposed to be gone for a few days but were pulled into a rescue mission on Kochi. A Rebel cell was discovered and Imperial troops had captured or killed most of the members. The Falcon was in a nearby system when the emergency signal went out so they responded. And then the Alliance had days—almost an entire week—with no word.
Leia was in her morning meeting when General Madine reported the Falcon and the remaining cell members arrived safely. Some injuries on board but all-in-all a successful extraction. She broke into a smile then quickly put her game face back on. She let the others discuss the logistics of integrating the new Alliance members while she planned her quick exit.
They had argued before Han left, though she couldn’t remember exactly why. Well, she knew why. She got nervous when he went on runs into Imperial strongholds and she didn’t feel comfortable telling him she worried. So, she yelled at him. She suspected that part of him wanted to say he would miss her but yelled back instead. It was a part of their routine.
In the two years they’d know each other, this routine evolved from cautious colleagues to trusted friends. In that mix, there was bickering, all out arguments and, occasionally, a hurtful phrase thrown around. They were both stubborn and opinionated and neither one was likely to back down when challenged. It was both their fuel and their downfall.
He infuriated her with his casual, cynical responses to genuine concerns. He accused her of fighting a fool’s war. Not seeing that most of the galaxy was concerned about surviving the day not who was in power. Claimed he was always just about to leave. Said his main concern was money not conviction. She only believed him some of the time but he irritated her every time he said it.
But, in truth, that was only a portion of their relationship and much less than most people thought. They also spend long hours talking on the Falcon, somewhere quiet on base or on missions. Leia felt comfortable telling him things she wouldn’t say to anyone else. Han revealed very little about himself and she knew he would keep her secrets safe, too. He distracted her from her stress, anxiety. Made her laugh. Gave her space to feel like Leia and not princess, leader, martyr.
At some point, though Leia couldn’t say exactly when, physicality became a part of their routine. Sometimes, they held hands, loosely lacing their fingers together. He ran a finger along her hairline, tucking in loose strands, playing with the end of a braid while she talked. But inevitably, as soon as she felt they were getting too close, she pulled back. Shifted positions in her seat. Made him understand they’d hit her limit. Every once in a while, he would respond with a whispered, ‘C’mon, Leia’ but she always turned away.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to. She did. But she held herself back for reasons that always seemed valid in the moment. And in that moment, as she made her way to the hanger, Leia decided she didn’t want to hold herself back anymore.
Of course, she still had no idea what to do next. She had some experience with men but not a lot and she hated thinking of herself as an innocent. She didn’t like displaying the vulnerability that came with being new to something. Leia straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath. She’d walked into the unknown before and survived. She’d just have to trust this time would be the same.
The hanger was its usual buzz of mid-morning activity. Mechanics and pilots working on ships. Supplies and cargos arriving and departing. There was a small group gathered by the Millennium Falcon’s ramp with Han leaning against the support struts. He was laughing at someone’s story, his left hand wrapped in a bandage resting on his stomach.
Leia paused for a moment and smoothed the lines of her dress. She had hurried back to her quarters to change because he had once said he liked the dress. He liked the colour on her. She was a bit self-conscious by how form fitting it was but took a deep breath, reminding herself that looking special was the point, and moved toward the Falcon.
When they received no word on the rescue mission, days of checking for messages and communiques, Leia surprised herself. She thought she had successfully pushed aside personal concerns. She worried about every member of the Rebel Alliance, regardless of rank, on the same level. She was responsible for all their lives and one was not worth more than another. Of course, Luke and Han were friends, close friends, but they didn’t hold a higher position when it came to safety and survival. Losing Alderaan stripped her of the luxury of truly close relationships. To stay strong, determined, she needed everything and everyone kept at equal distance.
But she was lying to herself. She mourned for the Rebels killed or captured by the Imperials on Kochi, she worried about the remaining cell members. It ate her up that the rescue attempt may have failed and there may be more deaths. But she was consumed by Han’s fate.
Her energy, anxiety, was almost entirely focused on him. It was more than wanting him to be safe. She needed him to be safe. Leia barely slept, frantically going over their times together, berating herself for fighting with him. She should have kissed him when she had the chance. She should have taken a chance period. When Madine said the Falcon was back on base, Leia knew what she needed to do.
As soon as Han saw her approach, he smiled and her heart skipped a beat. Leia kept a steady pace and locked eyes with him as he left the group and walked toward her. She noticed he walked with a slight limp.
“Good to have you back, Captain.” She immediately felt awkward. She knew how to be authoritative, keep everyone at a comfortable distance. She also knew it was possible to feel perfectly relaxed and comfortable around him.
But she was suddenly worried this was a manufactured moment. Was this what someone did when they were interested in someone? Put on a bit of a show? She wanted to present herself as open and inviting but maintain a secure position as she gauged his reactions. How does one present themselves as casually optimistic?
She nodded to the bandage. “What happened?”
He flashed a quick, cock-sure grin. “You know. The usual.”
He looked like he’d just stepped out of bed, his hair sticking out in all directions, eyes red from exhaustion. She assumed there was much more to the story.
“Well, I suppose I can wait to read the report for the full story.”
“Ah, Princess. You know I save all the best parts for private conversations.”
Leia laughed and felt her body relax. This was familiar territory and one she could navigate. One she hoped she hadn’t misinterpreted.
He was a flirt. He liked to drop innuendos, lewd comments, anything that would make her blush. But that, in itself, didn’t mean he had any interest in her beyond someone to torment. It was the way he sought her out in a crowded room, made sure she knew he was there, that he saw her. How they could argue about every small detail on a mission but trust each other, know the other would always be exactly where they needed them, without saying a word.
It was the quiet times that made her think there was more. He brought back small tokens for her on his runs. He acted like it wasn’t a big thing or that he would do it for anyone but she knew that wasn’t true. He remembered her birthday, the anniversary of Alderaan’s destruction, her favorite candy and tea, a book she loved as a child, that she got cold on late night shifts and could use a small blanket.
The risk was not knowing if he wanted this to be anything more. Leia took a quick breath. If she was going to do this then she should do it. “I’m late, need to get back to command center, but maybe you could fill…”
She was interrupted by a pilot—someone Leia didn’t know—clapping Han on the back.
“Look who finally crawled out of their cabin!” The pilot laughed while Han smirked and gave a small shrug. “Weren’t feeling too social last night?”
“Something like that.” He dropped the smirk, looking like he was trying to avoid the subject.
“Or just keeping your party small?” The pilot slapped him on the shoulder again and winked at Leia. “Apparently this guy doesn’t waste any time. Disappeared almost as soon as we landed.”
Leia knew her face fell in that moment, knew the color suddenly drained. Han turned to her quickly as the pilot walked away but she couldn’t look at him.
She needed to compose herself, quickly straighten herself out. She could do it. This is what she did. How she survived. They called her the Ice Princess for a reason. Stand straight, focus, don’t let emotions get in the way. Push them down, put on the mask. She hadn’t risked too much. Maybe he didn’t notice the dress, her smile, the expectant eyes. Leia took a quick step back, putting more space between her and Han, and looked up.
In reality, only a second or two had passed. He was watching her, gauging her reaction. At first, she thought he looked worried but she was wrong. Why would he be worried? He didn’t have a care in the world, certainly not about her. She was wrong. Wrong about the whole thing. She couldn’t look at him, not for long. Her eyes kept darting away.
“You got back last night.” Her voice was flat, unemotional, but she knew colour was rising in her cheeks, on her neck, despite her best efforts.
She was stating a fact. He arrived the night before. He didn’t come to see her. Didn’t let her know. No one let her know. Why should they? She didn’t fit into this scenario. Didn’t matter to Han. Definitely didn’t fit into this group of laughing pilots and mechanics. She was the princess, high command, a boss.
“You’ve been back for some time and were busy. Entertaining.” She realized she was saying things out loud so she could remind herself. Center herself in this truth.
He reached a hand toward her but she took another quick step back and smoothed out her skirt again.
“I’m glad you and Chewbacca arrived safely. I’ll have C-3PO come by later for the supply manifest so I can review it.”
Then she turned and walked off as quickly, without looking like she was trying to walk quickly, as possible. She thought she heard him call her name but it was difficult to hear over the blood rushing in her ears.
As soon as he saw her in that dress, Han’s mind started the mental gymnastics. She knew he liked that dress, right? Did she wear it for him? She didn’t always wear military garb and he didn’t know who she was meeting with that day. Sometimes she needed to look more diplomat-like. But then she smiled and he knew it was all for him.
He was still a bit groggy from the med center and pain killers but felt a quick rush of excitement. He smiled at her, moved closer. Everyone around them was loud and wrapped up in their conversation so maybe they could talk without anyone listening in. Han knew it was better with Leia if she didn’t feel so observed.
But then Tucker had to be a jokester. They didn’t know what they were talking about, thought they were ribbing him, giving him a hard time. If Han had noticed Leia’s reaction sooner, he should have shut Tucker down, straightened things out. But he was in a good mood. They’d made it through another hair-raiser of an escape with no serious injuries or damages to his ship. Everyone on base seemed fired up and cheery. Leia came down to meet him wearing the green dress he liked and smiling. So, he laughed it off and then it was too late.
He saw Leia’s face fall. Saw the curtain drop. He was used to watching her back pedal, reset herself if she thought they were getting too close. He knew what that looked like. But this was something else. It wasn’t Leia denying something, not taking something for herself. It was disappointment. Profound disappointment. A door slamming shut.
Han followed her out of the hanger but he was moving slowly. His leg wasn’t hurting too much thanks to the meds but there was still a limp. He almost ran into Luke as he entered the corridor.
“Hey!” Luke took Han by the shoulders to avoid being knocked over. “Hear you got a bit banged up.”
“I’m fine.” His words came out more as a grunt. “Did you see Leia?”
“She also almost took me out. Is she okay? She looked upset.” Luke was suspicious. He guessed the two of them were fighting but Leia looked worse than usual. And Han didn’t usually race after her.
“Did you see where she went?”
“Said she was late for a meeting.”
Han gave a quick nod and turned toward the command center.
Leia was almost at her meeting when she decided to change her outfit again. The dress was a painful reminder of her foolish behaviour. She didn’t want to spend another minute thinking about Han or that she had, even for a moment, thought there was anything more between them. Not only had he arrived the night before and not contacted her, that pilot insinuated someone, probably one of the rebels from Kochi, was in his bunk. Why did she even give herself a moment of hope? How could she have been so stupid?
She hated feeling this way. Hated feeling vulnerable. Hated that she let her guard down. Hated that she wanted anything more with him. Hated wondering who was in his bunk. Hated feeling jealous and unwanted. What was wrong with her? She didn’t do this kind of thing.
She tried dating a few times on Alderaan and Coruscant but it always ended the same way. They all seemed to like the idea of dating the princess but disappointed when they discovered Leia. Even if she wasn’t taking it particularly seriously, she had to listen to the same speech over and over. She was always running at the wrong temperature, the wrong speed. She was too cold, too distant. Too intense, too serious. More than once she was told she was an aggressive kisser. She took control too easily. One told her that he could feel her teeth when she nibbled at his earlobe and she asked, without much mirth, “Wasn’t that the damn point?”
The speech was never a surprise. She saw their reactions whenever she refused to back down from an argument or insisted on correcting some fact. She had no time for people who wanted to explain how the Senate worked or what she should do when negotiating a deal. It also probably didn’t help that she also had opinions about speeders and blasters and combat training.
As she quickly made her way to her quarters to change out of this ridiculous dress that she spent far too much time primping in, checking lines in the mirror, adjusting it on her body to, she hoped, look her best, she hated that Han wasn’t intimidated by her intelligence and opinions. He encouraged the fight. He enjoyed the argument as much as she did. He wouldn’t admit when she was right (the same as she wouldn’t admit when the situation was reversed) but he would acquiesce and move forward. She hated that she liked that about him. She hated that it felt right and comfortable. She was an idiot for thinking it meant anything more than colleagues working well together.
The corridor leading to her quarters was crowded. Certainly far more people that she cared to encounter and she didn’t feel like going through the motions of even nodding hello. So, she veered once again.
Leia wasn’t in the command center so Han started looking in meeting rooms. He palmed open a door, did a quick check of all the faces turned toward the interruption, clearly annoyed but not surprised by the brash Corellian, and moved to the next one. He was just about through all of them when he found C-3PO.
“Princess Leia was expected at a meeting with General Riekaan and Colonel Trenoke but she sent her regrets.” The protocol droid appeared put out by Leia’s change in plans and Han’s question. “She said ‘something else came up’ but I am well aware of her schedule and have no knowledge of any new activity.”
Han didn’t even know Leia knew the term ‘sending regrets’ since she never said no to anything the Rebellion suggested. If she was happy, she worked. If she was upset, she worked. What did Leia do if she said no to work? Where would she go?
The night before he left, they fought about her overworking. Well, actually, she yelled about his inability to take anything seriously and he yelled back about her refusal to have any fun. He was worried that she would make herself sick when he wasn’t around to distract her, make her eat meals, or that she wouldn’t stop for any meals period. It’s what he tried to say to her but he somehow ended up telling her she had a stick up her ass.
He regretted it immediately. She wasn’t particularly upset that he said it, at least not more upset than before he did, but he wanted to take it back. He was honestly trying to end their evening on a good note. Tell her he would miss her. But the more even he kept his voice, attempting to be smooth and calming, the angrier she became. Speaking in a low rumble, dropping to a baritone, usually worked with women. Leia, however, responded like he was reciting an Imperial creed. He was suddenly glad she didn’t wear a blaster while on base.
“Comm me if you hear from her.” He shouted to Threepio over his shoulder and headed toward the officer quarters.
Her cabin seemed like the next best bet but there was no answer. He knocked louder, tried not to shout so people in the corridor noticed.
“Leia, open the door. Just talk to me for a sec.” Still no response. “Look, I’m gonna pop this lock so if you’re in there and you don’t want the lock popped you need to speak up.”
He pulled out his multi-tool and was poised to make a swift and easy turn to unlock the door when he reconsidered his actions. Whether she was inside or not, Leia likely wouldn’t be pleased to hear he entered her quarters without permission. Though maybe he should remind her how easy it was to break in.
Now he was stumped. It wasn’t a very big base and there weren’t many other places she could go. She wasn’t with Luke. She often hid out on the Falcon when she wanted quiet but that wasn’t likely this time. She didn’t have other friends to visit (which made him upset for other reasons). He needed to think of some place that didn’t have a lot of foot traffic and probably some cubby she could hide in.
He smiled to himself and headed back down the corridor the way he came.
I started with a what if… What if Han and Leia made the decision to be together much earlier? What if they opened up and admitted to themselves, each other, how they feel?
Also, I wanted to write, or try to write, something positive (mostly positive?) since I could use a bit of positive. Make your own, right?
I am trying to teach myself how to write long-form, chapters, plot. I now have renewed respect for everyone who writes multiple chapter stories. I already appreciated your work and now I am in awe.
* The line, ‘like the idea of dating the princess but disappointed when they discovered Leia’ was taken from Rita Hayworth talking about the men in her life. ‘They all wanted to go to bed with Gilda but woke up with me.’
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
She ended up in the storage room, tucked into a corner, hidden behind a few strategically placed crates. She sat on one of the larger ones, leaning against the wall with her legs crossed beneath her. She was going through her datapad, trying to concentrate on writing a report. If nothing else, she would get some work down. Slowly.
Leia looked up. Han stood in front of her, hands on hips, blocking the narrow entranceway to her hideout. Her face quickly clouded over with anger. She wondered if she was still puffy from crying but then decided she didn’t care. She clenched her jaw and stared at him.
“I’ve been looking for you for the last hour.”
Leia continued to stare. She kept control by maintaining a slow steady breath.
“Did you rearrange things in here? It’s a good set up.” He was going for casual conversation. He stepped toward her while examining the crates around her. He tried to convince himself that maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Maybe she’d calmed down since the hanger.
“What do you want, Captain?” Her voice was clear and calm, her words clipped.
“I wanted to explain.” He reconsidered the Leia having calmed down theory.
“I don’t need an explanation.”
“My apologies, allow me to clarify. I don’t WANT an explanation.” She didn’t break her steady gaze. He looked sheepish but didn’t turn away, either. “I’d like to be left alone. Thank you.”
With her dismissal, she turned back to her datapad.
“Look, your Worship, you got this all twisted…”
“Why are you here?!” She looked up again, her eyes alive with fury. “Why are you doing this? Why check in on me? Are you afraid you’ll lose money? That you won’t get another contract with the Alliance? You tell me over and over that you’re leaving so why don’t you?”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small cloth bag. He figured distraction was his best option at this point. Keep moving forward and pretend nothing was amiss. Eventually he’d right this ship again. “I picked you up something before it all went to hell.”
Leia sighed and took the bag despite her better judgment. It contained an old, tarnished bronze-colored ring, larger than the few delicate pieces she occasionally wore. It was beautiful and Leia felt the sudden urge to cry all over again.
“It reminded me of those trees in your garden. On Alderaaan.” He sounded almost shy. From the corner of her eye, she saw him stuff his hands into his pant pockets.
Months ago, they were stuck on a disabled, recently liberated, Imperial freighter and had to wait hours before the Rebel fleet arrived to retrieve them. For whatever reason, she and Luke started talking about trees.
Luke had never seen one in real life until they arrived on Yavin. For him, growing up on a desert planet, trees only existed in fantasy worlds. “The smell was overwhelming. I’d seen trees in holovids and stuff, but it never occurred to me they’d smell.”
Leia described the garden outside her windows growing up. The tree she climbed down when she wanted to escape. The pear trees that bloomed every summer and bore fruit every fall. The olivstim trees with gnarled, tangled branches that banged against the palace during storms but never frightened her. She always felt safer knowing they stood strong and tall despite the wind’s fury.
“Though, I guess they’re gone now, too.” Leia surprised herself when she didn’t have to swallow hard to dislodge a lump in her throat. Sometimes, in quiet times, she could speak of Alderaan and not want to disappear, too.
Han remained silent while she and Luke talked, sometimes closing his eyes, pretending to sleep. At the time, Leia thought he simply wasn’t interested. Later she realized it would have meant revealing something about his own past. She wondered how many trees were found on the streets of Cornet City.
The ring did look like an olivstim tree with its intricately woven branches. It was a knotted mass of metal tendrils that were twisted perfectly around each other, not touching, with no indication of where one ended and the other began.
“It’s not… Not very princess-like.” His voice was still soft. “But, you know, I thought it was Leia-like.”
She took a deep breath and sat up straight. She held the ring toward him. “I don’t know what to do with this.”
“It’s a ring, Leia. You wear it. Not complicated.”
“It is complicated.”
Han knew this was more romantic than his usual tokens—some tea, a holovid of a bad teen drama to make her laugh—and that seemed like the right move when he bought it. Despite screaming at each other in the hanger before he left, they’d been getting along lately. They’d sought each other out, had actual conversations, laughed. It all felt natural and comfortable.
He knew he wanted more of it and assumed she did, too. He wasn’t sure exactly when it happened, couldn’t name the exact date and time, but he’d been locked on to her for a while now. He needed to be around her. Craved her. It was an unfamiliar feeling.
Han understood lust, desire, and knew this stretched beyond wanting to go to bed with her. He never fell into the drug trap, knew what it did to beings, but this felt like an addiction. He wanted to be near her, make her laugh, see her smile, listen to her rant about some damn Rebel thing. He didn’t know exactly what he was experiencing but the only way he could describe it was to say he wanted more.
Actually, he knew that was a lie. He knew exactly when he first realized he was stuck. He’d been dropping clues for himself for a while. Staying with the Alliance when he should be paying the Hutt off. Jumping on her missions. All those supposedly casual gifts. All the times he sat with her, listening, genuinely interested and wanting to know more. But he kept things guarded. He protected his past like it contained the Death Star plans, the Emperor’s personal diary and the fountain of youth all rolled into one. Then, while on mission in the Montalie forest, he started talking.
They were sitting around a small fire, everyone else off in tents. They were talking about cooking, or, more specifically, that she didn’t know how to cook. It was one of those things they never thought a princess would need to know. It was one of the few things that made her feel self-conscious. She didn’t like relying on others, didn’t like it when she couldn’t do something.
“I guess it makes me feel a bit like a failure. Though I’m not sure I can fail if I’ve never really tried it.” The firelight gave her a warm, orangey glow. Her voice was low, gravelly but sweet. “Besides, you’ve managed it so how hard could it be? You haven’t burned anything down yet.”
“Always trying to wound me, Princess.” He slapped his hand on his chest like she’d shot an arrow. She smiled at him, pleased that she hit her target. He was mesmerized by that smile. “I almost did burn a place down once.”
She sat up straight with an exaggerated gasp and wide eyes. “Are you going to tell me a story?” She scooted closer to him, crossed her legs beneath her, hands on knees. It was a silly gesture, emphasizing how rare an event it was, and he felt a warmth rise from his stomach to his throat. How could the toughest, fiercest woman in the galaxy also be ridiculous and goofy?
He left out a few important details, like he was around eight years old, that he wasn’t sure if his father had died or abandoned him. It was enough to know that when he figured out no one was coming back, he went next door.
“The old lady was used to me hanging around so it wasn’t that different.”
Han couldn’t remember how long it lasted—maybe a couple weeks—but it was a pretty good deal for both of them. He stole food, or swiped some credits if she had any around, made meals for both of them and they watched her stories. The old lady was good company. She’d lost her mind, told some pretty wild tales, and they laughed a lot. She called him sweetheart and said he looked like his mother.
“No idea if she recognized me or if it was all playing out different in her head. Didn’t really matter much. She liked having someone around. I needed a place to crash.”
If he’d been older, he would have tried to sell stuff his old man left behind. Not that anyone would have given a kid much but he didn’t understand the hustle yet. Knew small scams and quick swipes but at that point he’d mainly been a little kid running wild without much supervision. He’d had a home. It was a shit home most of the time but a bed was a bed.
“I’d dragged over a couple things. Some clothes. Kid crap. Toys.” He laughed to himself at that one. There was a time when Han Solo had toys. “Couple holocubes.”
It all ended when he started a fire on the cooker. It was his first time cooking nerf steak and he didn’t understand grease. Han put it out but not before it wrecked half the kitchen. The old lady didn’t even notice. Kept watching her stories, laughing. But her kids were notified.
Han had lived beside her for years and maybe saw them a couple of times and suddenly they were all concerned. Called him a thief. Said he broke in. That he was stealing from her. They called the authorities and he was sent off to detention.
By the time he got out, or escaped, and got back to the building, there were new tenants.
“Figure her kids sold everything. Betting they threw out whatever I left there.” He didn’t add that his old place also had new occupants and he was left with nothing but the clothes on his back and those were already too small. He didn’t need to add that he turned away and didn’t look back.
He could feel the rising panic that would soon turn to anger. He hadn’t planned on telling that story. Certainly didn’t intend to reveal anything about his less than illustrious past. But once he started he didn’t want to stop. He liked looking into her dark eyes as she listened to his every word. He didn’t feel judged. He felt compassion and understanding. But those few seconds before she spoke were excruciating. He geared himself up to reject her sympathy, her pity.
Instead, she took his hand, pressing her thumbs into his palm. “That was both a cooking fail and a fire story. Always a competition with you, isn’t it, Solo?”
She deflected. Knew he took a risk telling the story and didn’t want him to feel more exposed, vulnerable, than he already did. Brought the focus back to her and kept the mood light.
“Remind me to decline if you ever offer me a steak dinner on the Falcon.”
He would have kissed her right then but didn’t know if he could move. He felt warm and numb. Lost in the slow massage of his hand and her soft voice talking about bad meals and favorite foods, failed attempts and embarrassing missteps. He was kidding himself every time he claimed he was about to leave. Knew he didn’t want to be far from this woman.
Han figured the ring was a way to push it forward a bit without taking too much of a chance and still easy to back pedal if all went to hell. But here they were—things were definitely slipping to the hell side—and he was desperately trying to figure out a way to get it back on track.
She took a deep breath and swallowed hard to stop the tears. “Why do you bring me gifts? They seem sweet. I think they’re sweet…” She shook her head like she was trying to shake loose a thought. “How do you want me to respond? You sometimes act like there’s something more. You berate me into admitting there’s something more. And then what?”
“Leia, I…” He reached out to touch her arm but she pulled back.
“What is wrong with you?!” She tilted her head back but couldn’t stop the tears. “I hate this. I can’t believe I fell for it. I was so worried when you didn’t get back on time. So relieved when I heard you were back. Happy.”
“That’s good, right? That you missed me. That you’re happy.” These were all things that he wanted to hear but it wasn’t going as planned.
“How is that good? Because it makes you feel good about yourself? That you won this game? This fucking game.”
He was really at a loss now. This was getting far out of his comfort zone. “No game. I swear.”
“You got back last night. Had a party. Entertained. Privately.”
He tried to break in with, “Whoa, hang on, back up” but she didn’t let him finish.
“You were here all morning. You didn’t tell me because it didn’t matter. I let it matter to me and now I feel like a fool.”
“Leia. Sweetheart.” His voice was quiet, gentle but there was a touch of desperation. “We landed late. Chewie made me go to the med center to deal with my hand and stuff. Took a while cos they needed the bone-knitter.”
Her head was still tilted back against the wall, her eyes closed.
“Went back to the Falcon and Chewie and the Rebs from Kochi were telling all the battle stories. Took a painkiller and guess with what they already gave me, knocked me out cold. By the time I woke up, you were already in meetings.”
She didn’t react to anything he said.
“Figured you knew we were back.” He swallowed hard. “Should have found you. Last night. This morning.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You should leave, Han.”
“Fine.” She started to get up.
“Leia, listen.” He stepped in front of her to stop her from getting off the crate. “You didn’t get any of it wrong. Not the last night, entertaining stuff. You’re way off base there. But I should’ve sent a message. I screwed up.”
“Apology accepted. Are we done now?”
He shook his head. Words were never his thing and suddenly he had to think of the right ones.
“Look, I know I sometimes give you a hard time but mostly just trying to get you riled up. Make you laugh. Pay attention to me, I guess.”
Most of his life was the contradiction of wanting to be seen, acknowledged, and wanting to fade into the background. He didn’t like holos of himself because he didn’t need to give Imperial checkpoints and bounty hunters extra ammunition. He wanted to control the narrative of his life story. Give people only what they needed and that was very little. They didn’t need to know where he’s been, only what he’s going to do next. Actions speak louder than words.
But he also wasn’t going to let some info get lost in the shuffle. Telling people he was a good pilot—the best—and that he had a fast ship—the fastest—was good for business. Also, he worked really hard for both. He’d perfected the casual attitude, acting like nothing bothered him and he could leave everything behind in an instant, but he took those things seriously.
Even when he was a kid, on his own or with the Worms, if he wanted to hotwire a speeder, he learned everything he needed to know and practiced till he was near perfect. Picking pockets. Swiping food. He rebuilt, modified and raced bikes, and hit the winner’s circle way more than anyone expected a scrumrat could. He hated the Academy, refused to abide by all the rules, resented the enforced discipline, but he learned to fly. He was one of their best cadets, why they put up with his insubordination for so long, until, of course, they didn’t.
There was a small part of him that knew the bragging, the boasts, the occasional trash talk, was also a way to say ‘fuck you’ to anyone who thought a street kid from Corellia would never amount to anything. And there was yet another part of him, a growing, much more obvious part, that knew he wanted to impress Leia.
He wanted her to know that he was hard working, that he got shit done, that he did care. Maybe not in the same way she did but he cared about the bits that mattered to him. She mattered to him. And that meant, by default, he cared about the things she did.
He could see her getting tangled up in work and grief and trying to do everything so he used the only tool at his disposal. He distracted her. Got her riled up. Angry. Usually at him but it was a release, something else to occupy her brain.
And there were plenty of times when it ended with her laughing. Or relaxed, talking about things that had nothing to do with the war, a chance to be just Leia, to renew her energy before returning to the fray. It gave him an odd little thrill when she started to seek him out. Looked to him for distraction, maybe even comfort.
There was a not so insignificant part of him that liked it when she looked at him, for him. Liked when she looked at him instead of Luke. Chewie claimed he was so starved for Leia’s attention that he didn’t matter if it was anger or laughter. He’d take whatever she threw his way.
She lifted her head, opened her eyes, but still didn’t look at him.
“You’re wrong about the entertaining part but I get you’re mad.” He rested his hands on the crate on either side of her legs. He leaned in but not too close. “Let me make it up to you.”
She locked eyes with him. “There’s no point.” She didn’t expect him to be quite so stubborn. She was giving him an easy out. “It’s best if we move on.”
He took one of her hands. Raising it to his mouth, he kissed her palm. She winced, almost like she was in pain, so he kissed it again, softly, then held it against his chest. He let her feel his heartbeat for a few moments, its rhythm, and didn’t drop her gaze. He needed her to know he steady and true. He was like an olivstim tree in a storm.
“What time are you done tonight?”
“I’m never done working. You know that.” Her face remained neutral but her voice was softer, warmer.
Han threw her a lop-sided grin. “Then I’ll find you at twenty-hundred hours. Command center or your quarters? Your call.”
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She was already feeling a mix of regret and hope. “My quarters.”
He nodded. “Okay.” He took a step back. “See you then.”
She watched as he left her hiding spot, making his way around the crates and out of the storage room. The smallest of smiles raised the corners of her mouth.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
He arrived at her door right on time, carrying a bottle of wine and a small box of food.
“Didn’t know if you’d eaten. Stuff we picked up on the run.” He put the mix of cheese, fruit, crackers on the table and looked at her. She was standing to the side, arms folded across her chest, watching him warily. “You look nice.”
Leia had changed out of the green dress into an oversized sweater, leggings and socks pulled up to her knees. She wore no makeup and her hair was pulled back into a loose bun at the back of her neck. Her intention was the opposite of this morning. She wanted to look as casual, non-descript, as uninterested as possible. She rolled her eyes at his compliment and felt a mix of irritation and excitement at his wide grin in response.
“I’m not drinking. Already lost a night to the meds. But I can pour you a glass.” He held up the bottle and she shook her head. She maintained her position and posture. “Gonna ask me to sit down, Princess?”
She gave her head a slight shake. “Of course.” He didn’t move. “Please, Captain Solo, have a seat.”
“Why, thank you, your Highness. Most generous.”
Leia felt a smile creep up despite her best efforts. His irreverent tone, if it didn’t slip too far into mocking or mean, often made her laugh. She watched him pull out a chair and sit with some difficulty. He angled himself so his long legs stretched out beside the table and toward her.
“How’s your leg?” She sat in the other chair, crossing and tucking her legs beneath her, resting her hands in her lap.
The report and debriefings described the Falcon arriving in the midst of the Imperial Forces’ final assault on Kochi. It was a harrowing tale of near escapes and too many casualties. They managed to escape with six members of the rebel cell and a surprising amount of equipment and medical supplies. Han was injured when a mortar blast collapsed a wall of the rebel hideout. The Rhodian he was with at the time did not survive.
“Almost there. Couple more days.”
“Are you going back to the med center to check on progress?”
He extended his arms and tilted his head in a ‘Hey, it’s me’ gesture. She sighed and smiled at him.
“This so-called Corellian Luck is going to run out sometime.”
“The secret is always assuming it’s there. You question it, things don’t go so well.”
He didn’t tell Chewie where he was headed that night. Didn’t want to hear the Wookie’s advice or cajoling. Didn’t want anything that would make him second guess any of this, what he should or shouldn’t do. Didn’t need to be reminded that his romantic record was spotty at best. Han needed to believe his luck was far from running out.
There was a moment of awkward silence. They both recognized they had willingly entered new territory. They had been alone before, many times. They’ve had long intimate conversations. But this was the first time they both admitted, they both agreed, to spend time alone together and see what happened.
“Would you like a cup of tea? I don’t have much else here. There’s instant kaffe. I think.”
Han grimaced. “Instant kaffe? Why bother?” This time she did roll her eyes at him. “But sure, I could do tea.”
Leia went about the business of heating water and filling mugs.
Her quarters were small. Much smaller than one would expect for a member of High Command. She claimed, since she spent most of her time in meetings, the command center or on missions, that more substantial accommodations were wasted on her.
In truth, she wanted to live a more spartan lifestyle since losing Alderaan. There was a significant part of her that felt she didn’t deserve those comforts. The therapist she was forced to talk to those first few months after Yavin called it survivor’s guilt. She called it a survival technique.
There wasn’t a lot of variety in these prefab Rebel buildings. There were bigger quarters with bedrooms and sitting areas, larger kitchens and refreshers, and real beds, but always the same beige walls, grey lockers, brown furniture.
They needed something that was easy to erect and rip down and if they had to abandon it all, it wasn’t a huge loss in time or money. Some planets offered old buildings, like the temples on Yavin, and some bases were carved out of natural formations, like the caves on Soundare, but most bases, like their present location on one of the moons of Essenite, were made up of portable structures hidden and isolated.
Han looked around the room and noticed a few personal items. He recognized a book of Alderaanian children’s stories he found on an early supply run. A holo of her and Luke that Chewie took at some Rebel morale booster shindig that Han remembered hating so he left early. He told himself that was why Luke got the holo shot and not him. There was a folded, colorful, definitely not Alliance-issued blanket at the foot of her bunk. It stood out in the room as the only thing not neutral toned. He felt a lump in his throat, thinking about all she had lost and knowing how much she denied herself still.
“What do you think about everyone you brought back from Kochi? Do you think any of them will officially enlist?”
Her back was still to him so she didn’t see him smile. Of course she’d keep her focus on the Alliance and possible new recruits.
“Didn’t talk to them too much. ‘Cept for Tucker—you met them this morning. Think they already signed the papers. Couple of the others seemed a bit… odd. Intense. So perfect for the Alliance.”
She placed a mug in front of him and sat down. “You like this Tucker?”
“Tuck? Yeah. It was rough getting out with losing people.” He stretched his legs closer to her chair. “Seems okay but there’s an edge. Definitely more to them than first look.” He gave Leia a half-smile. “Talks a bit too much.”
Han didn’t add that as soon as he left Leia in the storage room that morning, he had sought out Tuck and quickly set the record straight.
“You’re new here so I’m letting you know you’ve used up your one free pass. Don’t talk shit when you don’t know shit.”
Tucker was confused by Han’s anger but responded with laughter. “Did I get you in trouble, Solo?”
“Nothing I can’t handle. Keep out of my business from now on and we’ll be fine.”
Leia looked into her mug and took a calming breath as she remembered the events of that morning. Her emotions had flipped from conviction to disappointment and now rested at some mid-point. It was tiring just thinking about it.
“Here.” He pulled a small knife from his pocket. “Chewie was pissed that I brought these on board. Apparently, they don’t smell right to a Wookie so you’re gonna have to finish them.” He sliced off a piece from one of the blocks of cheese and handed it to her.
“I think you over-estimate my appetite.” She took the slice, careful not to touch his hand.
“Doesn’t have to all be tonight. We got time.” He winked at her and she blushed.
She nibbled on the cheese. “It’s good.”
He pulled his chair in closer and cut off several more pieces. She watched as he arranged the slices, crackers, pieces of fruit. He worked slowly, methodically, putting everything in easy reach. When he was done, he took her hand and gently kissed her palm.
They talked Alliance business, new recruits, new bases, old missions. She tried to get him to talk about his time in the Academy but he deflected all her questions and she somehow ended up describing the thrantas she had growing up. They talked about Luke and his training, fledging or otherwise, as a Jedi. He told her stories about Kashyyk and Chewie’s family. She stated the obvious that he was more willing to reveal things about Chewie than himself and he responded with his usual shrug. They both picked at the food on the table. He made them more cups of tea.
He made deliberate movements to bring them closer together. He grazed the back of her hand with his own. Listened to her talk as he traced patterns on her wrist and forearm. He watched her tuck strands of hair behind her ears, admired the lines that formed around her eyes and nose when she laughed. He watched her lips as she spoke, looking up to catch her gaze and smile.
“Where did you find that ring?” She was settled low into her chair, resting her legs on his lap as he gently massaged her feet. The lights in her quarters dimmed to evening cycle a while back but she could still clearly see his soft hazel eyes. She wondered why she had tried so desperately to not get lost in them.
“Marketplace. On Hayson.” He pulled off one of her socks then the other. He continued to massage her bare foot, pressing his thumbs deep into her sole. He was ridiculously casual about the whole thing, like this was something they did on a regular basis. She felt a rush of nervous excitement and did her best not to release a soft moan. “Some old guy selling jewellery, pottery, stuff like that.”
“Did you go to the market to look for a gift?” He held her gaze for a moment then looked down, concentrating on his massaging. “Did you go the market to look for a gift for me?”
It looked like there was a small smile but he kept his eyes lowered and remained silent. Leia decided to wait him out. The only sound was her sharp intake of breath as he kneaded her pressure points.
“Wasn’t looking for a ring.” He picked up her other foot. This time a hand slid up her leg as he massaged her calf. “Always keep my eye open. Never know what I’ll find.”
“So, whenever you’re on a supply run, you stop by marketplaces.” She put her mug on the table and rested her palms on her thighs. “You do a general sweep, looking for nothing in particular, with no one special in mind. It’s just the luck of the draw if you find something to bring back for me.”
She knew she wasn’t the only recipient of supply run gifts. He brought back alcohol for card games. Some strange Corellian fizzy drink for Wedge. He picked up things for Luke sometimes. They were usually joke gifts—a sand filled hourglass to remind him of Tatooine, a stuffed womp rat—or a part to modify Luke’s X-Wing. Then the two men would spend hours talking about all the ways they could ‘trick out’ their ships.
While she and Luke established a strange but welcome symbiotic relationship where they could practically read each other’s thoughts, he and Han were definitely acting out a big and little brother fantasy neither admitted to. At least Han never admitted the attachment. Sweet, wears his heart on his sleeve Luke was more obvious. It was a lonely life growing up on Tatooine and it was hard to hide his enthusiasm for a pseudo-sibling now.
Han hooked a foot around her chair leg and dragged her closer. She was now sitting directly in front of him. “Not sure I’d call that one luck.”
She reached up, brushing the back of her hand along his jawline. It was her first move toward him, touching him, and it wasn’t lost on either of them. “What would you call it then?”
Leia laughed. “Interesting that you posed that as a question. Because if you don’t know, Flyboy, no one does.”
He pulled her closer still, widening his legs so her chair nestled in between. The back of her thighs resting on his lap. His hurt let stretched out to the side. “Making most of this up as I go.” He cupped her face with his unbandaged hand, letting his thumb caress her cheek. “Is it obvious?”
She broke their gaze. Han worried she was pulling back but she turned her face slightly and kissed the palm of his hand. He felt a warmth wash over him with that simple move and knew he was standing at a dangerous precipice.
There were so many ways it could go wrong. So many ways he could fuck it up. Yet he couldn’t picture what everything going right looked like. The sex part was easy, he’d been picturing that for quite some time, but being together in whatever capacity, however this might turn out, was unfathomable. He had no template to follow. No role model to emulate. It really was a matter of figuring things out as he went. Making decisions that felt right at the time. Because he knew this one could crush him.
So, he tried not to overthink it in the moment and leaned in to kiss her.
One single, soft kiss against her lips. Then another. And again. Her hand went to the back of his neck. She tilted her head to the side as a gentle stroke of his tongue parted her lips. Talking ceased. They were entirely focused on touching, kissing. He pulled her on to his lap and they continued their gentle exploration. He didn’t want to rush things, in part, so he didn’t scare her off, but also because they would never have this first time again. He wanted to savour each moment.
He worked his way up and down her neck, along her collarbones. His hands moved under her sweater stroking her back, along her sides, carefully grazing the sides her breasts. She undid more clasps on his shirt so she could slide her hands under the fabric and along his chest.
Leia found it hard to hide her smile among the kisses. When he pulled back to look at her, she laughed.
“Don’t get me wrong, Princess.” He squinted at her. “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. But not sure I’ve had anyone laugh at my kissing before.”
“I think I might be laughing at myself.” She kissed him, exploring the new-found sensation of parting someone else’s lips with her tongue. “I haven’t spent a lot of time making out.”
“Guessing we were both busy doing other things as teenagers.” He ran a finger up her stomach to her breasts, she drew in her breath and arched her back, and his finger went back down to her waist band. He smiled.
It was time to shut this down. Her sense of control was slipping away. This was her first time in this position with Han—on his lap, hands on his bare chest—but she knew the feeling.
It happened when he waited with her after the evacuation of Soundare. They were betrayed by a Rebel officer, who worked as Leia’s assistant and someone she trusted. Han sat with her in an office on Home One while they waited for Mon Mothma to arrive so Leia could give her full report. She told him repeatedly that she was fine on her own but he refused to leave.
Then they sat in silence. Then he held her hand. Then his arm went around her shoulder as she cried. She felt his warmth envelop her, giving her strength, making her feel safe. She had an overwhelming desire to kiss him as she raised her head. He wiped away her tears and smiled, so sweetly, at her. Leia jumped up from her seat like she’d received a shock, claiming she needed to leave.
It happened when the base held a speeder tournament, unofficially, of course, though almost everyone was involved. She and Han were working the winner’s circle (he claimed it wasn’t fair for to compete) and she watched as him cheer, taunt and extol as pilots crossed the finish line. She never would have thought to describe him as enthusiastic but that best described his expression, his entire demeanor. She felt enthusiastic, joyful, watching him slap the Rogues on the back as they jumped out of the speeders. When he threw his arm around her and kissed the side of her heard, she wanted to fly into his arms. But she backed away and left as he looked at her with hurt and confusion.
It happened when they talked late on the Falcon and she maybe had too much to drink. It happened when they talked late on the Falcon and she’d had nothing to drink. When he told her a story about setting a kitchen on fire. When they sat in the cockpit on long flights talking and laughing, maybe arguing, sometimes in silence. She didn’t always run or make a scene escaping. Usually, she took a deep breath, several deep breaths, to calm her heart, stop her mind from racing. Whatever it took to turn her from the path she was on.
“Maybe we should move?” She spoke tentatively. Leia didn’t think he would object but she was still finding her voice in all of this. She was walking the line between asking for what she wanted and letting herself be carried away.
He kissed along her jawline then lifted her up. He placed her on her bunk then removed his jacket, boots and holster before lying down beside her.
Their kisses moved between tender and passionate. Their bodies pressed together, legs intertwined. Hands moved over each other, slid beneath shirts, traced patterns over bare skin. She could feel him hard against her thigh, her hip, her side, however they positioned themselves. But they removed no clothing. They both understood that moving forward meant no turning back.
Han whispered in her ear, against her neck, into their kisses. Told her she was beautiful. Exciting. Enticing. She wrapped her legs over his, kept him close, revelled in his strength and warmth.
“Tell me what you want.” He kissed along her neck, pulling her sweatshirt aside so he could trail his tongue along her collarbone. When she didn’t respond, he pulled back to look at her. He was having some trouble finding the right words. “I’m guessing I’m more ready than you. I don’t want to push you.”
“I’m unsure about all of this.” A look of hurt flashed across his face and she quickly corrected herself. “Not about this—not upset about you. I’m unsure what happens next. Emotionally.” She paused, bit her lip again. “Physically. I understand the mechanics. I’ve had some… experience but not much and nothing that lasted very long. It’s all unknown territory for me.”
Han broke out into a wide grin. “Well, you’ve probably been on more dates than me. I’ve only been in the ‘we both want to so we do’ situation. Lots of this is new for me, too.”
Not knowing what to say, Leia kissed him. It was a deep, passionate kiss as she pressed her body against his. Han broke away again and held her firmly by the hips.
“Princess, I’m asking you to make the call. Not saying it’s an all or nothing. Saying I’ll follow whatever pace you want. You want to go slow, we go slow. Don’t want to do something to fuck this up or send you running.”
She ran a finger along the line of his neck, across his collar bone, down his chest. That little speech made her want him more but she needed to keep her head on straight. She wasn’t an impulsive person. Well, she could be impulsive on missions when the situation called for quick thinking and a fast response but not in her every day. She was a princess and a leader, dammit! Planning ahead with her thing.
“I think I need to take things slowly. Stages. Steps. I’m not sure what to call them.”
“Okay.” He kissed her softly. “Next question. Do you want me to go now?”
She looked at the chrono. It was past two-hundred hours and probably fairly quiet around base.
She sighed then almost laughed at how petulant that sounded. “It might be a good idea. It’s probably best to keep this quiet. At least until we know what’s going on.”
“I know what’s going on.” His hazel eyes twinkled at her. “We’re finally figuring some of this shit out.”
This time his kiss was long and deep, eliciting quiet moans from both of them. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in tightly, letting her feel a taste of his hunger. When he pulled away, he kissed her forehead.
“I gotta make a confession, Princess.” He held her gaze, a serious, bordering on intense look. She didn’t know where he was heading but she felt more curious, excited, than worried.
“Don’t like tea. Never drink the stuff.”
She laughed, a relaxed almost belly laugh. He rolled on top of her, quickly kissing her neck, forehead, nose, then crawled off the bunk.
She watched him pull on his boots and jacket, reattach his holster, feeling like she was in a warm daze.
“I’ll find you tomorrow. Get some sleep.” He leaned down to give her a final kiss. He did a quick corridor check before leaving her room, the door swishing shut behind him.
She didn’t think she would sleep but she fell into a slumber almost immediately. It was a brief respite where her mind wasn’t tangled in the ills and ailments of the universe. A brief moment when things felt like they were moving in the right direction.
Chapter 4: Chapater Four
He was waiting for her as she left her morning meeting. It felt slightly brazen. They parted the night before with the understanding this was under wraps but there he was leaning against the wall, smiling at her.
She wasn’t angry, though. Her heart skipped a beat when saw him and she returned his wide, bright smile.
He handed her a cup of kaffe, looking down at her. “Thought I could walk you wherever you got to go next.”
She wanted to touch him, place a hand on his waist or bicep, but kept her distance. She knew that one touch would only lead to more.
“This may surprise you but I have another meeting. And another after that one.” She held the cup in both hands and met his gaze. Leia felt a warmth in her cheeks and knew there was a slight blush.
“Guess I got a busy day ahead of me. That’s a lot of escorting.”
She didn’t tell him her schedule (though she assumed Threepio could have provided it) but he was there at the end of every meeting. He tried to look casual. Feigning interest in base activities, talking with whoever was nearby, then dropping the conversation as soon as she walked out of the room.
She held her datapads and notes against her chest like she was a schoolgirl walking to her next class with her crush. At least that was the image of the schoolgirl Leia knew from holos or novels. It wasn’t her experience. Her teenage years were spent with tutors, internships, royal duties and a strict political education. This simple act of walking beside someone she liked, liked a lot as it turned out, and feeling excitement, curiosity, hope for what might come next, was foreign to her. Unexpected and nerve racking but also right. She’d only felt like this a few times in her life—like everything was falling into place.
Her only moment of real uncertainty came when leaving a late morning meeting to see Han talking to the pilot Tucker and a woman Leia didn’t recognize. She watched as the woman laughed at something Han said, putting a hand on his arm. Leia felt a flash of jealously, anger. She wasn’t sure if it stemmed from this woman touching Han or because it was something Leia didn’t feel comfortable doing. She should be the one touching his arm.
Then Leia noticed Han’s eyes on her. He smiled and immediately left the conversation to stand next to her. He leaned in, kept his voice low. “Did you miss me?”
“You know, there’s nothing you’ve said that could be THAT funny.”
“Hey, I’m known for my sense of humour.” His voice was dripping with mock outrage. “Women love that about me.”
“Are you sure they’re laughing with you?”
He scowled, threw her a slight smirk. “Where to now, Princess? Lunch time? I’ve been working up an appetite with all this waiting and walking. Escorting is hard work.”
Although she hadn’t thought of it before, she realized how much of their days were routine and how much of it included spending time with each other. No one was surprised to see them together. No one thought it odd when he carried her tray of food in the mess hall. The change in their dynamic felt so drastic to her but perhaps everyone else already knew. The charged space, the energy between them, was there for everyone to see. Leia realized, almost laughing to herself, that maybe she was the last to know.
She also knew, without a doubt, she was no longer interested in taking things slow.
Again, without making a plan, he collected her at the command center at the end of her evening shift. The base was slowing down for the night and they encountered few beings. They didn’t speak beyond their first hellos but offered sly smiles and side glances. Their hands brushed past each other and twice, as they turned a corner, he placed a hand lightly on the small of her back.
Their ability to communicate without speaking was a known factor. They often relied on it on missions. Subtle signals and understandings that saved their lives, proved their trust. It also helped in meetings, at meals, any time they needed a quick connection, joke, or ally. They didn’t discuss where they were heading and Leia wasn’t sure if she was leading the way or Han. When they arrived at her quarters, she palmed open the door and she was in his arms as soon as it closed behind them.
In holo-vids, sex always looked so serious. Everyone knew exactly what to do, how to do it and when. Leia knew her nervousness about physical intimacy was natural and that it was compounded by her need to be in control. Any hint at vulnerability was difficult for her. Not knowing what to do, especially with someone with so much more experience, made her feel awkward.
But Leia soon discovered that sex could be awkward and that didn’t have to be a problem. Hair got trapped and tugged. Bodies and body parts needed to be moved into position. Teeth knocked together. Knowing angles and how they would fit together wasn’t an entirely natural thing. They had to figure it out. At first, she was afraid she was doing it wrong but Han took everything in stride. She understood that she was supposed to enjoy sex but was surprised that it could be so much fun.
Han, knowing she was nervous and in danger of overthinking things, made the mechanics a part of the experience. He also knew how she tackled something new, understood how she learned to trust herself. So, he talked her through it, made her laugh, kept her in the moment.
They were lying on their sides, facing one another. Naked, having slowly peeled off each other’s clothes, taking the time to enjoy and explore each newly exposed body part. He caressed, grazed, sucked her nipples, cupped her breasts, ran his fingers, tongue, along her hip bones, spine, thighs. Told her she was beautiful, he was blown away by her.
But, knowing she needed to have some control, to understand her surroundings, what she was doing, what she wanted, he let her do most of the exploring.
And, of course, she asked a lot of questions.
“Do you like that, too?” She was running a thumb over his nipple. “Are you as sensitive?” Having so recently learned the intense pleasure of Han licking her nipple, she wondered if it was mutual.
“Sensitive enough.” He laughed at her look of concentration as she continued to brush against and squeeze his nipple. “Try licking your fingers than doing that. See what happens.”
She took his suggestion, wet her fingers then gently squeezed his nipple. His semi-erect penis suddenly bounced up and she jolted back in surprise. He wiggled his eyebrows at her and her head fell back in riotous laughter.
“You can control that?”
“You’re in control, Sweetheart.”
She reached down to tentatively touch his penis, managing only a single stroke with her finger before pulling back.
“I know.” His voice took on a serious tone. “It’s very large. It can be intimidating.”
Her voice took on a faux-innocent tone, though perhaps not entirely fake. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Trust me. It’s a thing of legend.”
“In your own mind.”
“Not just there.”
“Please keep in mind, I don’t want to know what other women have said about your penis.” She lost the innocent look and went for an authoritative one instead. “I’d like to shelve that topic for now.”
She tried again. With one finger, then two, she stroked along his shaft. She was utterly fascinated, watching as he became more rigid, responding to her touch. She could feel the heat between her own legs and shifted slightly to accommodate her growing wetness.
“Does it hurt?”
“A hard on? Doesn’t hurt. Not really. Sometimes uncomfortable if it’s not getting solved. Sometimes that’s very uncomfortable.” He rolled onto his back and she adjusted her body, moving up against his side.
She wrapped her hand around his penis, a light grasp, and followed the same up and down path. His flesh was smooth, warm. His breathing picked up, he let out a low moan. She tightened her grip slightly and increased her pace. Leia felt her own heart rate picking up. She bit her bottom lip, increasing her motion as his hips started to move with her rhythm.
Leia sat up for better access and used both hands. One stroked his shaft, caressed the tip, while the other moved along the base. She cupped, squeezed his balls then looked at his face, gauging his expression, delighted and fascinated by his reactions. She swung a leg over one of his and lightly rested on his thigh, feeling his muscles brushing against her excited her even more. Then, just as she noticed a small amount of liquid escape from the tip of his penis, his hand was on hers.
“Let’s press pause for now.” His breath was shallow, his face had more color.
She smiled at him, clearly very pleased. He pulled her back down on the bed beside him.
“You must have had dance lessons. That sounds like something they’d make a princess do.” He lifted her leg and swung it over his hip. Keeping his hand on the back of her thigh, he hiked her leg up near his waist. “All about rhythm.”
“I learned nice gentle dances that always allowed for a good six inches between partners.” She parted her lips, his tongue gently sliding in to meet hers. They kissed softly as his hand moved up and down her thigh.
“No princes crossing the line?” His fingers stroked her inner thigh, brushing against her pubic hair. Leia breathed in sharply. “No dance partners getting a bit too familiar?”
Leia lifted her leg slightly as he slid his hand in further. She smiled as they kissed. “My Aunt Tia taught me how to dance.”
“That could be hot. Was your Aunt Tia hot?”
Leia laughed, pulled her head back to look at him. “This image isn’t doing it for me.”
He gently bit her bottom lip and his fingers moved past her soft curls to graze her center. “Okay, let’s forget hot Aunt Tia for now.”
The tip of his finger slipped inside her. He moved slowly, smiling at her reaction. “I never took a dance lesson in my life. Surprised?” He increased his pace, going deeper each time. He grazed along her pleasure points, pressed against her clitoris, noting her reactions. With each new stroke he moved along the map he was already forming.
“I always said you were a natural leader.” Her breaths were getting shorter, faster. Her mouth hung open as she let the feeling start to take over. He noticed a quick look of concern and turned her on to her back.
“I think I need to hear more about these princes.” He started at her neck, kissing his way down her torso as she ran her fingers through his hair.
“There isn’t much to tell. Palace balls are remarkably tame.”
“Tell me whatever you want.” He spread her legs, pressing his palms gently against her inner thighs. She laughed, shaking her head, in response to the look he flashed her.
“Doesn’t have to be a fantasy.” His tongue moved along one thigh then the other. “Something must have caught your eye. Roguish smile. Cut of their jib.”
“Do you know what a jib is?” She sounded like she was having trouble catching her breath.
“No idea.” Her hips rose off the bunk as his finger slid back inside her. “Guessing it’s not how they fit in their pants.”
He quickly rearranged himself on the lower half of the bunk, moving one of her legs so it draped over his shoulder. “So, not their jib.” He nipped lightly at her thigh. “They could recite all the amendments to the Republic’s constitution?”
His fingers spread her as he moved his tongue from bottom to top along her folds. Her hand went back to his head, fingers tangling in his hair.
When her first orgasm came, the build-up and release, it surprised her. It was only at that moment (or maybe when she thought about it after since she was somewhat preoccupied at the time) that she could truly see how he was paying attention and gauging all her reactions. When she started to ride that wave, he focused entirely on her, pushing her up and over with his tongue circling, his hands spreading her wide, sucking and encouraging her to climax.
Immediately after, she felt a moment of embarrassment. Was she too loud? Did she move too much? Was she too intense? But he raised himself over her, supporting himself on elbows on either side of her body and said, “Good job, Princess. A-plus” and made her laugh.
He rolled onto his back, wiped his mouth with his hand then started ripping the bandage off.
“Should you be doing that?”
“Probably not to sanitary anymore.” He threw the bandages to the floor beside the bunk. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll pick it up later. Right now, come here.”
He pulled her so she laid on top of him. He held her face in both his hands and stared at her. Enough time passed that she started to feel embarrassed and tried to look down but he held her steady.
“You do something to me, Princess.”
Leia felt flushed, not sure if it was her orgasm or shyness. She pulled herself up so she rested higher up on his chest. He moved his hands from her face to her waist.
“I realize I don’t have a lot of experience but this isn’t an unusual reaction, is it?” She moved her hips against him and along his now very erect penis.
“No.” He offered a lop-sided grin. “That’s not a surprise.”
He ran his fingers up and down her back, almost tickling her. She responded by rocking against him, arching her back. He squeezed her nipple then flicked it with his thumb. She gasped then smiled as he leaned forward to lick then nip at her neck.
“I want to make this last all night.” His hands went back to her hips and moved her so she straddled him. “But I want you. Now. I want to be inside you. I want to watch you come.”
She didn’t feel embarrassed or unsure of herself. She felt his desire and it was empowering. Her heart rate rose, her breath quickened, she felt herself getting wet again. More wet.
He kissed her neck, breasts, sucked on a nipple. His voice was soft, almost pleading. “Leia, I want you.”
She lifted herself up then used her hand to position him beneath her and lowered herself on to him.
He still held her hips and didn’t let her drop too far. With his slight direction and the movement of both their hips, he moved in and out, a little bit more each time. She had a small flinch as he hit her barrier but it was only a brief pause that they both acknowledged. When he was fully insider her, he let out a long moan and breath.
“Fuuuuuuucckkkkk!” His eyes were closed and he leaned his head against her chest for a moment. “You feel so good.”
They kissed, her hands on the back of his head, with a passion that could no longer be contained. They started their rhythm again. As it increased, he laid back down and she leaned forward, hands now on his chest.
It didn’t take long for her to reach her peak again, still energized from her first orgasm. He held onto her hips, helping her pump, as her face contorted, her moans increased and she finished by calling his name.
He didn’t waste a moment but swiftly rolled them so she was on her back with him still between her legs. She wrapped her legs around his hips and dug her nails into his back. At first, he followed their established rhythm but that quickly broke as he thrusted almost in a frenzy. He swore, called her name, apologized, desperate to get himself over that edge. When he finally came, he was no longer speaking words. Only grunts and groans then a long release of breath.
He lowered his forehead to rest on hers. They were both sweaty and panting. She kissed him softly and smiled.
“I didn’t… hurt you, did I?” He looked genuinely concerned. “Things got carried away. I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry. Your first time.”
She laughed at him and tightened her legs still wrapped around her hips. “I’m going to be honest, Flyboy. That was fucking amazing.”
His grin was almost unbearably wide.
They kissed again. Soft, slow kisses. As he pulled out of her, she gave him an exaggerated pout and laughed as he laid on his side beside her. They both paused to catch their breath, not looking at each other, worried they might be overwhelmed. They spent a few moments in silence, caressing each other, settling into their new shared space.
“I know something we missed.” He propped his head on his bent arm and rested a hand on her stomach.
“Please don’t say birth control.”
“That’s never going to be funny, Princess.” He flicked her arm in jest. “Dinner. We need food.”
“It’s true. I’m suddenly famished.”
She watched him get up from the bunk and walk to her kitchen area. It was a nice twist that she could now, unabashedly, admire his form. The added bonus, of course, was that he was naked. His muscles rippled as he leaned down to open the cooler and she almost giggled.
“Good thing we didn’t get through this last night.” He put the cheese and fruit on the table and looked around for the crackers. She pointed to a shelf as she slipped his shirt over her head. “Do you want any of that wine?”
Leia shook her head and sat at the table. She was lost in wondering if she was hungrier for the food or him when he moved to sit down.
“Oh, no! That is not happening.”
“You’re not putting your naked…” She knew the words but couldn’t decide on the right one. “On my chair.”
With a stern look but no comeback, he pulled his pants on then stood in front of her with arms extended. “Better?”
He pulled his chair close to hers and sat down. They ate in silence for a few minutes, both suddenly ravenous.
“Are you going to tell me about your first time?”
He smirked but didn’t look at her. “I knew you were gonna ask me that.”
“Well, then, you must have prepared a response.”
He continued to eat in silence, trying to avoid her stare and her nudging him with her leg. Finally, he let out a sigh.
“Not sure what you want to hear.”
“Tell me whatever you’d like.”
“Don’t want to tell you anything.”
“Except that.” She nudged him again. “That’s not one of the options.”
She flicked his arm. He looked at her calmly as he continued to eat. She flicked his arm again.
“Come on. I know you’ve got some tawdry tale you want to tell me. Something to scandalize my Princess sensibilities.”
He turned to cut up more cheese and fruit. “Wasn’t tawdry.”
Leia felt a warm flush rise to her cheeks. She brushed his hair back from his forehead. “You loved her.”
He gave her the side-eye. “Don’t go overboard.”
“It meant something to you, then.”
He shrugged. “Guess so.” He swung his arm around the back of her chair. “But don’t over think it.”
“Are you going to tell me her name? Who was she?”
He looked serious but willing. “We ran jobs together on Corellia.”
“Did you love her?”
“Don’t know. Maybe. Was a long time ago.” He didn’t feel as uncomfortable as expected telling Leia any of this. He wasn’t going to offer information on his own but it all felt pretty natural.
“Aren’t you going to ask me?” She smiled as he turned to look at her. “About my first time.”
“I’m all ears, Sweetheart.”
She pulled him to her for deep, long kiss.
“Actually, you might be right.” She tilted her head back so he could lick along her neck. “The past is the past. I think I might be more interested in my second time.”
He honestly couldn’t say whether or not he was ever in love before but he knew, without a doubt, that he was in love now. He didn’t know how to say it. He’d never said those words before. But he wanted her to know and since he’d always insisted that actions speak louder than words, he decided to show her.
They gave themselves all the time they needed, savoring each moment, every touch. She explored his body more, becoming familiar with its contours, how he responded to her every move. When she was comfortable and ready, he spread her legs again and slipped inside. She let herself be carried away once again as he thrusted and they moved together. She watched him climax, amazed that something could be so intense and so tender at the same time.
They didn’t have another discussion about whether he should spend the night. There was no negotiation about when to see each other again.
He tucked into her side, an arm draped over her hips. He kissed behind her ears, breathed in her scent. His voice was a low whisper. “You don’t snore, do you?”
She feigned affront with a sharp intake of breath. “Princesses don’t snore.” She lifted her legs as he pulled his knees up beneath hers.
He nibbled on her ear. “Fair warning, smugglers might.”
When she woke up in the early morning, he was lying on his back with his head turned toward her. Her bunk wasn’t built for two but they made it work. She didn’t really want the extra space at that moment anyway. Leia rolled on her side to face him and traced the outline of his lips, along his jawline and back again. When she reached his lips again, she saw he was awake.
He shook his head, sighed. “You don’t have a kaffe machine.”
He rolled over, placing his elbows on either side of her, moving her legs so he could position himself in between. “That’s it. We’re sleeping on the Falcon until we rectify this situation.” He kissed her. “Completely unacceptable.”
She ran her fingers up his back and wrapped her legs around his hips as he pressed against her.
It was a strange thing to have spent so long protecting themselves, building barriers, maintaining walls, and then to suddenly feel so exposed. This was exactly what they had both tried to prevent and, yet, neither wanted to pull away. There were no internal struggles about how much to admit or reveal to each other. As soon as they opened up enough to let the other in, they took root.
Didn’t look back.
The most they discussed their relationship was to admit that neither knew what they were doing. They were attempting the unknown, the unknowable, the unthinkable. Trying to find a balance between her need to set and follow rules and his to play it by ear. The balance between living and working in a public space and their all-consuming time alone. They knew they needed to figure it out, to discover and explore on their own before sharing that space with others.
They made it through less than a standard week before being discovered.
Leia was working late, later than expected, and Han arrived with food to get her through the night. They were alone and he kissed her and that lead to another and they quickly let themselves get carried away. It wasn’t actually obscene but it was more than obvious and a definite shock for the unsuspecting.
General Rieekan nearly dropped the cups of kaffe he was carrying, stumbling back out into the hall as he tried to recover. There was a moment of quiet shock then Rieekan and Leia offering hurried apologies as Han chuckled.
“S’okay, General.” Han clapped Rieekan on the shoulder as he walked out. “Just be glad you didn’t arrive five minutes later.”
After that, she set the rule of no public displays and no more taking chances. Keep their distance, don’t make any obvious moves like hands on arms or small of back. Definitely no lustful smiles or leers or disappearing together. She thought that if they kept everything perfectly natural, business like, no one would suspect otherwise. Of course, it was easier said than done.
Leia remembered a conversation with two women who worked at the Senate with her. One of them had started dating someone new and her friend joked, at least Leia assumed it was a joke, that she’d see her friend in three months. Leia thought that was ridiculous. How could anyone be so wrapped up in another person they would ‘disappear’ for months? Now, she wasn’t so sure.
It was like they had spent the first few years talking and had moved on. They didn’t need to talk anymore. She laughed to herself thinking of all the times he’d said, Doing is better than saying. They were all action now, relying on the physical to express whatever they wanted. As soon as they were alone, they were wrapped up together. When they were apart, she longed to be behind closed doors again.
Work still occupied most of her waking hours but she hadn’t noticed all the in-between moments until she wanted something else to fill that space. She wanted to grab every moment they could. Distracted whenever they were apart. Distracted when they were in the same room and pretending to ignore each other.
During meetings, he sent messages designed to get her attention, make her smile or blush.
Did she know where he left his hydrospanner?
Since she kept him up all night, could she wake him up when this speech was over?
He could still smell her on his fingers.
When she explained the long history of Alderaan’s modest style, dresses that covered the delicate features on a woman’s body because only a spouse should see them, he sent her the message, I can see your wrists, and it felt like the most intimate thing he’d said yet.
Han did his best to respect the boundaries she’d set but he couldn’t help himself now and then, trying to nudge the line a little in his favour. He took advantage of the moment when he could.
Walking from the mess hall back to the main building at night, he veered them off the lighted path, pressed her against the back of the barracks. She didn’t argue, kissed him passionately, ran her fingers through his hair, but it was over a few minutes later.
He leaned in as they passed in the hanger or between buildings, whispered in her ear. It didn’t matter what he said. His goal was to make her laugh, to have a moment of closeness.
After many hours in the briefing room, and too many beings offering their opinions and arguing about tactics and maneuvers to support another base’s assault on an Imperial munitions facility, he pulled her into a quiet office during a break. His initial intention was to give her a chance to vent, maybe rub her shoulders to help her relax. But it didn’t take long before his head was between her legs and she was biting her bottom lip to keep quiet, which, he supposed, was also a good way to relax.
One night she arrived at the Falcon in the middle of a card game. She was supposed to be on shift and didn’t expect her until much later. They were in the midst of calling Janson a pitten-shit player afraid to make a real bet when Luke perked up.
“Hey, Leia!” Luke was tilting toward drunk and was extra enthusiastic. “Just in time. Think I’ll be out after this hand so you can keep me company.”
“You gotta work on your bluff, Skywalker.” Tuck threw down two cards and accepted two more. “Your tell shouldn’t actually be you telling us.”
Han quickly covered up his excited, wide-grin with a casual, “Hey, Princess. Nice of you to join us” but he doubted anyone was fooled. He was trying to stick by her rules but he didn’t care who knew. He was crazy about her.
With all bets down, they revealed their cards.
“Once again, I’d like to thank each of every one of you for your generosity and poor cards.” Wedge dragged the pile of chips and credits toward him while everyone else groaned.
“No one likes a sore winner, Antilles.” Tuck took a long drink then smiled. Clearly no hard feelings.
“Don’t let me interrupt.” She stood at the edge of the lounge, not sure what to do next. “I was only stopping by.”
“Well, you might as well get a drink out of it.” Han stood up from the table. “Anyone want another round?”
“You giving away booze, Solo?” Wedge looked suspicious.
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” Janson counted the last few chips in front of him. “Is it free? My bank is getting a bit low.”
“This door’s closing in three seconds.”
Everyone but Luke raised their hand.
“I really am done. Cards. Drinks.” Luke was still smiling but also looked like he might fall asleep any minute.
“Come on, Princess, you can help carry the goods.”
As soon as they were around the corridor and in the tiny galley, he lifted her on the even-too-small-for-Leia counter. They quickly wrapped around each other and locked into a passionate kiss. There was enough talking and laughing, and the occasional growl from Chewie, coming from the lounge that they didn’t have to be entirely quiet but then a stack of canned goods crashed off the counter and all ears were on them.
[What did you break?]
“Don’t blow a fuse!” Han helped Leia down then handed her a bottle of whisky. “Nothing broke.”
[But you’re cleaning up, right?]
He pulled her close again for another kiss. “I’ll be out in a couple minutes.”
She placed her hand on his groin, gently squeezing his erection, and he inhaled deeply and straightened his posture.
“Are you going to be okay?” She ran her finger up and down his bulge, smiling.
He shook his head. “Not until these bums get the hell out of here.”
Leia gave him an over-the-shoulder smile as she walked away and he tried to calm his body parts back to their normal positions.
Up until that point, their pattern when away from the bunk was set with Han as the initiator (or the instigator, as she sometimes accused him) and Leia responding. When they were alone, it was a different story. If they wanted something, they asked, wordlessly, reaching out and granting access. But outside their private space, she made no admission to their private world. He was the one to make the first move, leaned in for the kiss, pulled her into a new distraction.
So, he was pleasantly surprised when she arrived at the Falcon midday saying a meeting was cancelled and they needed to act fast. They were in his cabin, in the bunk, in record time.
Afterward, he sat up, resting against the end of the bunk as she straddled him. Their hands were clasped, hanging by their sides, as he blew on her neck, along her torso, to cool her down.
“What time is it?” She rolled her head to look at the chrono beside the bunk. She was out of breath and really needed a drink of water. “I better go. I’m already cutting it close.”
She kissed him, parting his lips with her tongue, a deep, slow kiss.
“Guess we’re in the quickie stage.” He smiled at her as she crawled off the bunk and started collecting her clothes.
“Are you complaining?” She looked around the cabin. Her bra was thrown farther than expected in their rush to disrobe.
Han put his hands behind his head and stretched out. “Got no complaints. Specially if it proves how irresistible you find me.”
“I suppose that’s true.” She held her bundled clothes against her chest. “Of course, I don’t really have anything to compare this to.” She smiled at him before turning to walk to the refresher. “I might have to increase my sample size to answer that conclusively.”
He’d been in relationships before, or at least some semblance of one. Most of his encounters, which was a fair way to describe them, were easy, usually one-offs, and fun. He liked being there, he was happy walking away.
But every once in a while, there was someone he spent a period of time with, often a concentrated period of time. It never lasted long. He rarely thought about it or them later. No hard feelings, or not often, and when it was over it was over. He didn’t necessarily call them girlfriends, though he never minded referring to them as ex-girlfriends. He definitely didn’t worry about what they were doing when he wasn’t around.
Han never considered how much of his life was designed to carry very little consequence. He was always on the move. Jobs took him across the galaxy and back again. The Falcon the only home he needed. He didn’t fully recognize this pattern until he felt the full weight, the need and desire, of being with Leia. He didn’t quite understand it, didn’t know how to define this pull, but knew he wasn’t interested in escaping it either.
She was already in the shower when the refresher door closed behind him.
“You can come in if you want but no funny business. I really do need to be in a meeting in five minutes.”
“S’alright.” He leaned against the wall. “Not coming in.”
“What are you doing then?”
“Were you serious?”
She turned off the water and looked at him as she started the sonic dry cycle. He watched her move beneath the dry heat, her naked body on full display. He felt himself get hard again.
“Serious about what?” She thought he looked serious. And a maybe a bit confused.
“What you said before. About sample size.”
Leia stepped out of the stall and started to quickly dress. She was glad she’d worn a dress today. The undressing and dressing was a lot easier without rows of buttons. “Sample size?”
She was already readjusting her braids, wondering why he was looking at her so intensely and not providing any more information, when it hit her. Laughing, she placed both her hands on his cheeks.
“Are you worried I’m going to start shopping around? Looking to compare notes?”
“No. Not worried… But, yeah…” She found it endearing when he tangled himself in his words. Well, she found it endearing in that moment. Another time she might want to strangle him. “Guess I can’t, you know, hold you back or hold you to anything. You’re just getting started and everything. Maybe want to… Not. You know.”
She stepped back, arms crossed.
“Are you suggesting I should sleep with other people?”
“Fuck, no! Not suggesting it. Just… I mean… I’m not. With other people. You know.”
She placed a hand on her chest. “Be still my beating heart. Your statement of commitment is overwhelming.”
She watched his wide, somewhat goofy, grin spread across his face and, despite her intentions of playing the part of a disgruntled lover, she couldn’t help but return it. She waved her hands, indicating he should back up and out of the room. “You’re still naked and sweaty.”
He let her pass by then seized her from behind, arms around her waist, pulling her close. He kissed the side of her head. “See you later, Princess.”
Then with a quick, wave over her shoulder, she was gone.
They were both feeling clever, like they’d bucked the system, figured out how to avoid the onslaught of prying eyes but their next big reveal happened only a few days later.
It was early morning. They were on the Falcon, eating breakfast, not thinking about life beyond the ship. Certainly not considering whether or not Chewie left the ramp down when he went to the mess hall.
They were sitting at the games table with an empty bowl in front of Han and a half-eaten bowl of fruit in front of Leia. He leaned in, picking at her bowl, eating the fruit with his fingers.
Leia looked up from her datapad, lids lowered. “Do you mind?”
He gave her a small smile. His voice was low, a near whisper. “Guess you should eat faster.”
“Should I follow your example?” She ran a finger along the ridge of his ear. His hair was always a bit of a mess. Always looked like someone just ran their fingers through it and, in this case, that was true.
“Hold over from ‘eat fast before you lose it’ days.”
He kissed her neck then turned back to the bowl of fruit. He put a piece halfway in his mouth and she bit off the other half. He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Nice one.”
She smiled and turned back to her datapad. “You have a spoon.”
“You got a problem with my fingers?”
“Don’t know where they’ve been.”
He leaned into her neck again. “You know exactly where they’ve been.”
“But I still don’t…”
They were interrupted by the sound of a throat clearing. They looked up to see Wedge standing in the lounge entranceway.
“Antilles.” Han’s voice was even and measured.
“Rieekan asked us to escort you out.” The Rogue squadron pilot attempted to look casual, like he didn’t just walk into the best gossip the base had seen in months, maybe years. “Too much meteor activity to know it’s clear. What time you taking off?”
“About nine-hundred hours.”
Wedge stood still for a moment, not sure what to do or say next, then nodded. “Leia.”
She nodded in response. “Wedge.”
He had just stepped off the Falcon’s ramp when Han caught up with him.
“Listen. About all that… you know.” Han ran his hand along the back of his neck. “We’re trying to keep it lowkey right now.”
Wedge cocked his head to the side. He waited to hear what Solo came up with next.
“For Leia.” Han figured that was the best option. The Rogues would do anything for the Princess. “She hasn’t talked to brass yet. Want to do that before we go public.”
“Sure.” Wedge had a sly twinkle in his eye. “And she’s smart to hedge her bets. You’re bound to fuck it up then she won’t have to worry. Maybe she’s just waiting it out.”
“Nothing to wait out, pal.” Han knew Wedge was giving him a hard time but also didn’t want this to seem like a joke. “Taking it slow in telling people cos it’s nobody’s business, that’s all.”
Wedge gave Han a mock salute and walked off. It was still early but the hanger was already busy. Several people waved to Han as they walked past. Chewie called as he walked back from his breakfast.
Han took in the activity, processing outside information like it was his first time in a week, then turned back inside.
Leia looked up at him and smiled sweetly. “Did you catch him?”
He dropped onto the bench beside her and threw an arm over her shoulder. “I think we better tell Luke.”
Leia didn’t want to hide it from Luke. They were in it, knew it was continuing, and Luke was an important person in both their lives. It would be wrong to not tell him. It would be wrong to let him find out from someone else. But it also made her nervous.
First of all, the four of them had developed a dynamic that worked well, on missions, on base, as friends, and two of them pairing off would likely change it. She didn’t want Luke to feel cut off. There was also the old but not forgotten business of Luke’s crush. She was sure it was long gone but was still cognizant of it. She really didn’t want Luke to be hurt in any way.
The truth was, though, Leia was feeling selfish. This was hers, and Han’s, and she didn’t want to share. Not yet. Chewie was one thing, they couldn’t avoid that one, and he was good about giving them space. He was also well aware how much it all meant to his co-pilot.
But she was still learning how to be with someone, to be with Han. She was slowly finding her voice beyond expressing pleasure in moans and calling his name. To understand her desires, acknowledge them, ask for what she wanted. They weren’t in perfect sync. They were two stubborn, opinionated people learning to trust each other in a new environment, learning to cede and retake control, push and respect boundaries. It could be messy, sometimes confusing, but also, remarkably, secure.
She felt open, vulnerable, exposed and safe with Han. She didn’t understand it, didn’t expect it, but it was true. Leia worried that letting too many people in on the secret would make her shut down. Being in public, having so public a persona, is one of the reasons she was so careful with her emotions, friendships, love. She was still processing this new relationship and didn’t want to add public scrutiny to the mix.
They had barely discussed it on their own, beyond his slightly awkward but endearing declaration he wanted it to be exclusive, and saying it out loud, admitting it to Luke, might force them into a conversation they weren’t ready for. So, Leia took charge of the situation. That’s how she faced any challenge. She took care of it herself. Decided exactly how they would tell Luke over dinner on the Falcon, control the discussion, define the parameters and details provided.
But then Han blurted it out almost as soon as they sat down.
“The Princess and I are hooking up.”
“That’s how you tell him?” She was so shocked by the outburst that she didn’t even have time to feel angry.
“It seemed stupid to wait.”
“And hooking up? That’s what best describes us?”
“It gets the point across.”
“We had a plan.” Leia had served in the Senate, sat at high-level negotiation tables, faced Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader and maintained an even-keel. But it was a Corellian pilot and smuggler who routinely threw her off balance.
“You mean you had a script. How much more information does he need?”
She shook her head. They were arguing but neither was angry. That was the other strange thing about this new relationship, she had yet to feel the same level of anger toward him. Though she suspected that would come. “I suppose I should have expected your usual brand of subtlety.”
“Expect me to recite a poem?”
“Oh, I wasn’t expecting anything romantic.”
“Hey, I’m romantic.” He jabbed a thumb against his chest to emphasize the point.
“I think you’re confusing foreplay with romance, Captain.”
Han laughed and gave a slight shrug.
They both turned to Luke and realized he was staring at them wide-eyed. He didn’t look shocked so much as caught in the crossfire. They waited, not sure what to expect, as Luke’s blue eyes moved from one to the other.
Finally, he gave his own slight shrug in response to Han’s. “So,” he said slowly. “What’s for dinner?”
Han laughed again and slapped Luke on the shoulder. “I knew you’d take it well.”
“Not exactly a surprise.” Luke was laughing, too, looking at his friends. “Sort of surprised it took this long actually. How long has it been anyway?”
“About a week.”
Leia narrowed her eyes at Han. “Almost two.”
He shrugged again. “Time flies.”
“Anyone else know? Want to make sure I don’t reveal anything I’m not supposed to know.”
“General Rieekan and Wedge know.” Leia almost sighed. “We didn’t intend for them to find out but there you have it.”
“Rieekan’s was a calculated risk. We misjudged the time allowed. Antilles was cos someone didn’t bother putting the ramp back up.”
[I’m not your parent.] Chewbacca put bowls of food on the table. [You understand how ramps work. You were too distracted to look.]
“Yeah, yeah.” Han stood up from the bench. “I’m getting drinks.” He left for the galley and the drinks while everyone else tucked into their meals.
“You know,” Luke nudged Leia with his elbow. “This probably doesn’t change much. From my perspective, I mean.”
“How can that be true? This is a 180-degree turn.” She was also a bit unnerved that Luke hit exactly on one of her main concerns.
“Not quite. I’m glad you both decided to do this and glad that you’re happy.” Luke couldn’t stop smiling. “But, c’mon, if I’m not surprised by this, how obvious do you think it was?”
She levelled her gaze at Luke and considered arguing the point but knew it was useless. They could do their best to control the information but there was no way they could contain it.
It didn’t take long before all the Rogues and any being working near the hanger, with full view of her walking in and out of the Falcon, were in the know. News spread through the communication center, the techs and engineers. At first there were whispers and stares and the occasional joke but then everything settled down into a new normal. Leia assumed the other officers knew but she couldn’t say for certain. No one said anything and that was good enough for her.
It wasn’t quite a balance but Leia was starting suspect that balance was an over-rated concept. She might gain it in one area and lose it in another. Maybe the secret was to not try for symmetry but to learn how to ride the waves. Trust Han to not let her fall or tumble too far down either side. And, if need be, figure it out together when they got there.
'I can see your wrists' is a reference to Mark Rylance saying something similar to Kristin Scott Thomas in Angels and Insects.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
“Princess, we’re all good.” Tucker looked over at Leia from the pilot’s chair. They were aboard The Seven Stars, a small personnel transport assigned to Lt. Tucker, heading to Rohinda to meet with Alliance leaders. “You can unclip, if you’d like.”
Leia was so lost in thought, staring through the viewport, she had barely noticed the jump to hyperspace.
“My apologies, Lt. Tucker.” Leia laughed to herself and lied to the pilot. “I’m already thinking ahead to the days of meetings.”
In truth, she was remembering standing in the Falcon’s main hold, kissing Han goodbye. After many weeks together, with very few breaks, they were facing extended time apart. Han left on his run a few days earlier and she was now gone for at least five more.
Leia was so certain that their separation wouldn’t be a problem. They had been apart before. This was nothing new.
“You never know. If I can maintain focus for several days in a row, I might solve this whole Empire problem.”
“Wait and see, Princess. You’re gonna miss me more than you think.” He patted her backside as she walked out, throwing him a last scowl.
Leia spent the next few days working and preparing for her trip. Reading reports, organizing notes, researching contractors and needed supplies. It occupied her time, her mind, and she was, in general, distracted from missing him.
“Don’t envy you that. Being stuck in meetings for days.” The pilot did a quick check of the sensors before standing up from the console. “And you can call me Tuck.”
“Your name is Tuck Tucker?”
The pilot laughed. “No one calls me by my given name. Even my family calls me Tuck.”
She’d had only a few interactions with Tucker—Tuck—since that first morning. The pilot had quickly made friends with the Rebels, including Han and Luke, but Leia was wary. Tuck’s casual familiarity and comments about Han ‘entertaining’ set off Leia’s alarm bells. She kept her distance from anyone who gossiped. Leia had lived her whole life in the spotlight. She chose her friends carefully. Her confidants were very few.
The trouble was, Tuck was friendly. They didn’t seem to hold back on anything they were thinking, or feeling, or considering. It wasn’t constant chatter—not a Threepio-level situation—but Leia was amazed by how much, and how quickly, she learned the details of their life.
Tuck and three older brothers were born on Kochi but the family moved, and moved often, after their mother died. Their engineer father took new contracts across the galaxy and married a few more times but wives and residences never lasted long. They had to make a home wherever they landed.
Leia suspected Tuck’s friendliness was a survival tactic just as guarded diplomacy and too much work were hers. But Leia could sense there was something more, perhaps what Han referred to as an ‘edge’, to Lt. Tucker than casual enthusiasm.
“My dad retired back on Kochi. Guess he wanted to be near our mom in the end. So, two of my brothers and I went back with him. Didn’t really have anywhere else to be.” Tuck had settled into a chair at the workstation in the ship’s lounge, feet resting on the table. “My brother Tannis helped form the cell, he made all the initial contacts, and it seemed like the right thing to do. So, I stuck around.”
“You did good work. A lot of valuable information came out Kochi.” There was an Imperial training camp on planet and they were able to uncover a remarkable amount of detail about troop movement. “The Alliance is grateful for all the work you did.”
“My brothers didn’t make it out.” Tuck looked out the viewport. “We had to leave. There wasn’t time.”
“I’m sorry,” Leia said. She knew this feeling. Watching loved ones die and knowing there was nothing you could do. Knowing there would be no burial or grave to visit. “I understand how devasting that can be.”
Tuck smiled at Leia. It was a kind, gentle smile. “I’m sure you do. Probably a lot actually.”
Leia sat on the bench by the lounge table with her work in front of her. They still had hours before landing on Rohinda and even though Leia knew she should be deep in preparation she didn’t want to turn away from Tuck right now. It was more than being a responsible and responsive leader. She could feel herself starting to like the pilot.
“I’ve got a half-brother stationed at Kuat but we haven’t talked in a long time. Obviously.”
Leia nodded. Stationed at Kuat meant Imperial.
“My oldest brother is on Tighe. But haven’t talked to him in a long time either.” Tuck turned in the chair to face Leia. “He’s not Empire or anything. At least he wasn’t. He’s against taking sides period. Thought we should be helping not hurting. He’s an engineer, too. Builds wells and bridges, works in camps, helps with transport lines. No hard feelings, really, but it’s tough when we thought we should fight and he didn’t.”
Tuck looked out the starboard viewport again. “Don’t know if he’s heard about our brothers. Not like you can send a postcard for this kind of thing. I couldn’t get a message out. Not sure if he’d even want to hear it.”
“There’s no easy way to deal with these moments.” Leia felt a rush of sympathy for Tuck. “Which, I suppose, is a good thing. I hope it never becomes easy.”
She tried to write personal messages to families of Rebels who gave their lives but it wasn’t always possible. Not everyone listed a next of kin when they enlisted and some indicated they didn’t want their families to know. It wasn’t safe to contact them. Leia still wrote the messages. She saved them in case a time came to memorialize them properly or someone came forward wanting information.
She thought of them as Alliance orphans and until recently she included herself on that list.
“I couldn’t do what you do,” Tuck said. “I like being a worker. Knowing my job, getting that job done. Endless meetings and negotiations, arguing out the big picture. Sounds like a bit of hell to me.”
Leia gave a small smile. “I understand and sympathize with your position more and more. It does seem pointless sometimes to be arguing in a room when there’s real fighting to be done elsewhere.”
She was raised as a royal, trained as a diplomat and politician, but the longer Leia was outside the palace or Senate walls, the more she respected the act of doing rather than the burden of talking. But her one of her main roles in the Alliance, at least the one she had at the moment, was to find ways to keep the Rebellion going. She needed to prepare for, think about, what happens a day, a week, a month, maybe a year away. Being in the moment wasn’t a luxury that Leia often had.
Thirty years earlier, most of Rohinda was destroyed in a civil war and largely abandoned by its population. Those who stayed collected in communities near arable land and fresh water. Leia, representatives from three other bases, a few donors and contractors, and Mon Mothma were gathering in a deserted and crumbling mountain village far from other towns. An old school had been quickly converted to accommodate meetings, sleeping quarters and meals.
These kinds of meetings were second nature to her. Leia had participated in many with the Alliance and the Senate. Before that, she assisted her father as he prepared for lengthy negotiations. She knew what to do, how to get what she wanted and always went that extra step to ensure she didn’t fail. Leia expected it to be exhausting and that negotiations with contractors might be tense, but she didn’t expect her biggest challenge to be a fellow Rebel.
Colonel Saje Dunsteen was a recent recruit and a member of command on the Herrotii Two base. Leia immediately recognized what Han called a private school stink. Originally from Coruscant, Dunsteen carried himself like someone who moved in elite circles and expected to be treated as such. His family’s company was taken over by the Empire, which explained why he arrived at the Alliance’s door with funds to donate and expecting a leadership position.
He was jockeying for position and decided Leia was the one he needed to usurp. He had no military training or experience, which explains why they gave him the rank of Colonel opposed to General. During internal meetings, he openly challenged her, questioning her every position. When meeting with contractors, he used a condescending tone that suggested she was naïve and didn’t understand how war or the real world worked.
“We all know the Princess means well.” He smiled in her direction and it took all Leia’s will power to not react in anger. “But we are at war and our focus is on weapons and not amenities.”
“A war that is fought by soldiers and we need to provide them with more than the bare minimum of hand-me-down uniforms and ration bars.”
She kept her voice pleasant, almost friendly, but she really wanted to add, Come at me all you want. You won’t win this fight.
Thankfully, everyone else in the room knew Leia and no one doubted her abilities or intentions. She had dealt with beings like Dunsteen many times. It was an unfortunate aspect to life in the public sphere and a position of leadership, for a woman in particular. Even Mon Mothma, Chancellor of the Alliance, was not immune.
As they concluded the final meeting on the first day, Mon whispered to Leia as they left the room. “I will speak with Colonel Dunsteen in private. I believe he needs a reminder on how we conduct business.”
Leia thanked Mon, an old friend of her father’s and a mentor during her time in the Senate, and bid her a good night. Most of the officers and leaders were gathering for dinner, probably drinks, but she was feeling the weight of long travel and negotiations. She needed time to collect her thoughts and prepare for the next day.
Leia rarely asked for any kind of special considerations on base or missions or wherever she might find herself. She would never cut in line and ate the same meals as soldiers, used the same style of bed roll. But she liked her own sleeping quarters, if possible. It didn’t matter if it was a converted closet with a cot, she needed a few hours alone for sleep, work or staring at a wall on her own.
At least she did. Now she wanted that secluded space to share with Han. As soon as she closed the door behind her, she missed him desperately. How was she already so used, so attached, to connecting at the end of the day or starting a new one together? It was a small room but it felt large and empty and she realized she wasn’t falling asleep anytime soon.
Leia tried working. She reviewed and compiled notes from her day. She read reports, again, contracts and proposals for the next day. But her mind drifted. She wondered if Han was back on base. How he would have responded to Dunsteen. How they would have arranged themselves on the small bunk in her room.
Leia was still surprised things with Han was running smoothly. They argued about the things they always argued about—he was brash and didn’t think anything through while she over-thought everything—but they hit very few snags. The issues they did encounter caused more confusion than actually fights. They had easily adapted to the physical aspect but were still working out what the rest of their relationship might look like.
They spent every night together, usually on the Falcon which provided more privacy and a wider bunk. It wasn’t something they discussed but simply a pattern that didn’t vary unless one of them was off planet. For their first few weeks, neither considered doing anything, being anywhere, that didn’t include the other.
So, it was a small shock when he said he was going to a card game. She noted that he didn’t ask about going to the card game or hinted around the subject to see how she felt. He announced that’s what he was doing and Leia felt a wash of happiness. She thought it meant they were doing things right.
The game coincided with Hobbie’s birthday and she knew that meant drinking, more drinking than usual, and likely a late end time. Leia made sure she saw Han before he went, got in some kissing and promises for more later, and left him to it. She went back to her own quarters, did some work and tried going to bed at a decent hour.
She woke up, well into the early morning hours, to a drunk and slightly irritated Han Solo entering her quarters.
“What are you doing?” He stood over her in the dark. He tossed his jacket aside, roughly, missing the chair, and started to unsnap his holster. “Why aren’t you on the Falcon?”
Leia was groggy, confused. “You thought I’d be on the Falcon?”
“It’s where we sleep, isn’t it?” It took him three tries to hang the holster up. He plopped down on the bunk and pulled his boots off.
“Why would you think I would be on the Falcon?”
“Why would I think you would be here?”
He pulled off his shirt then pants and crawled over her, awkwardly, to get in the bunk. She was pushed to the side as he got under the covers then slightly manhandled as he positioned himself around her.
“You expected me to wait on the Falcon for you?”
He was almost asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. She had to nudge him with her elbow.
“Answer me, Flyboy.” He opened one eye, barely. “Why did you think I would wait for you on the Falcon when you were going out to get drunk?”
“Going out to get drunk.” He closed his eyes again and snuggled into her side. His nose pushed in close just above her ear. “But coming home to you.”
He was asleep and lightly snoring before she even thought of a response.
On Rohinda, in her tiny room and surrounded by too many notes and datapads and knowing sleep wasn’t coming any time soon, Leia wished there was a way to get a holo-message out. Maybe it would help if she could say good night. If she could see his face, hear his voice. Maybe that would make sleep feel like a possibility.
She felt a moment of regret that she didn’t leave him something to remind him in her absence. What did people leave in those instances? She could have left a note but didn’t. She didn’t even have a holo to leave behind. Was she that worried he wouldn’t think of her that she thought he might forget what she looked like? She knew that was an insane thought but it didn’t stop her from thinking it.
It occurred to Leia that she had very little access to things. She didn’t take a salary from the Alliance. Whatever personal funds were available to her when Alderaan was destroyed were mostly funnelled into Alliance coffers. None of this bothered her. She didn’t need anything beyond what the rebellion offered. She had food, shelter, uniforms. If she needed a new dress, something appropriate for meetings and negotiations, she had access to a small bank account.
She thought about buying something special, something for Han. She’d never owned lingerie before but it seemed like something she’d like to try. But considering her only access to stores and non-Alliance purchasing was Han’s supply runs, that wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Leia played with her ring. She didn’t wear the olivstem ring, as she thought of it, every day but it was a nice reminder while they were apart. They could see each other, saw things in each other, like no one else did. She was more than a princess or rebel leader to him. He was so much more than a smuggler or pilot. It bothered her that she couldn’t contact him whenever she wanted. It was frustrating that she didn’t even know where he was in that moment. But she still felt the strength in their connection. She had to trust that he did, too.
Leia thought about all the times Han said he was leaving. All the times he said commitment wasn’t his thing. The stories of his exploits that he’d never detailed to her but she heard them anyway. He hadn’t mentioned any of these things since getting together, and he’d given every indication that he wanted it to continue, but people changed their minds. Especially when they’ve had some time to think it all over.
She felt exhausted by the day’s meetings and the unexpected conflict with Colonel Dunsteen. It was affecting her more than expected. Leia realized what she missed most right then was Han’s ability to cut through the noise, to comfort and distract her. He had an uncanny ability to help her clear her head, to do something for no other reason than enjoying it together, even if she fought it every step of the way.
He had attached a holo-screen to the end of his bunk, forcing a night of fun and distraction on her. Leia sat at the other end, leaning against pillows, her legs tucked in front of her. She held a bottle of ale in both her hands and watched him with half-lowered lids.
“This is ridiculous. An utter waste of time.”
“Against trying new things?” He did a final check that the screen was secure and straight.
“This isn’t learning a new language. Trying a new cuisine.” She made room for him beside her and kept up her stern look. “This is a soap opera.”
“It’s a holo-vid.” He took her bottle and drank.
She took the bottle back. “It’s a sweeping saga.”
“It’s distraction. Got nothing to do with the war.”
“There are other distractions.”
“Sweetheart, you’re the one who said we can’t fuck all the time.”
They paused to look at each, both holding back a smile.
“I meant books. Conversation. A walk in the woods.”
“No woods near here.”
She sighed and readjusted herself so she faced the screen. “Fine. The sooner we start this, the sooner it’s over.”
“That’s the spirit.” He grabbed his own bottle from the crate beside the bunk and pressed play on the remote.
The holo-vid was ridiculous. Over the top, overly dramatic, over acted. There were a lot of explosions and high-speed chases for something that took place during the Old Republic. Women swooned. Men swashbuckled. The main couple kissed on a windswept cliff, on a windswept balcony, in a windswept hanger.
He tried to get her to play a drinking game every time someone said, M’Lady. She bet him she could predict all the dialogue in the love scene. When she demonstrated her perfect mimicry of an Old Republic mid-rim accent, he laughed so hard he didn’t make a sound. They yelled at the screen when the villain suddenly reappeared and booed when the couple reunited for the finale.
The holo-vid ended but they kept going. Mocking, laughing, egging each other on. They finished the night talking, hunkered down in the bunk, both falling asleep with their clothes on.
Leia got into her bunk with a datapad and pulled up notes for her morning meeting. She sighed and let out a low laugh. If she was going to overthink things, she should probably focus on getting the best price for bacta gel and field medical scanners instead. There wasn’t much point in worrying about whether or not her boyfriend, for lack of a better term, missed her. She still had days on Rohinda and more than enough to occupy her time.
She ate her meals, when she ate them, with Tuck. Leia felt herself warming up to the lieutenant. Tuck usually kept her entertained with stories picked up in the crew area on Rohinda or from Kochi, living and working with the other Rebels in the cell.
Leia marvelled at the pilot’s ability to talk about the recent past, acknowledging the pain and loss yet they weren’t necessarily sad stories. It took Leia so long to talk about Alderaan. All her happy memories felt like tragedy. She still struggled at times to tell her stories and not want to break down.
“You’d be surprised what they could come up with.” Tuck finished the bowl of rehydrated rations and licked the spoon. Leia wasn’t sure she’d seen anyone enjoy rations quite so much. “She and Tannis could work minor miracles in the kitchen. Classea is an okay mechanic but she’s a great chef.”
Leia smiled, maybe more to herself. “Perhaps we should consider reassigning her to the mess hall.”
Most of the Kochi rebels had moved on to other bases. Only Tuck and Classea remained. Leia had seen little of the mechanic other than from a distance, usually with her hand on Han’s arm.
Tuck looked back toward the food counter. “Do you think it’s worth checking for dessert? Usually, if you wait around long enough there are extras. Just have to be patient.”
Leia laughed. “I see why you get along with Captain Solo and Chewbacca. I believe that’s number five on their how to travel the galaxy guide.”
“Not sure if I’d describe Solo as patient.”
“You’d be surprised.” Leia felt suddenly embarrassed, like she had said too much. She turned back to her meal, pushing the food around in the bowl.
“Solo should be back by now, right?” If Tuck noticed, but didn’t outright acknowledge, her moment of discomfort.
“He should have arrived a day or two after we left. So, assuming he returned on time and didn’t take another contract…” Leia didn’t finish her thought. She had only been thinking about how much she missed him, hoping he missed her. It hadn’t occurred to her that he might have left again.
“How are things going with you and Solo?”
Leia’s protective instincts clicked in. There was a sudden clench of her jaw, her shoulders straightened.
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean. Everything is perfectly fine between Captain Solo and I.”
Tuck smiled. It was a knowing, not falling for it, kind of smile. “Got it. Don’t mean to pry.”
Leia kept her head down and her focus on her rather disappointing meal. She knew she was blushing and wasn’t pleased. She also wasn’t happy with her reaction to Tuck’s question. She knew there was nothing mean spirited about it. But her auto-defense system was second nature and it went into place without her thinking.
“Just so you know, Solo’s never said anything. Other than telling me to mind my own business.” Tuck laughed again. “Far as I know, he hasn’t talked to anyone. Pisses off the Rogues off since they always want gossip. They’re worse than a bunch of old aunties. Thing is, my Shyriiwook is rusty but I can pick up the important bits.”
Leia straightened her shoulders again but this time in interest not defense. Her mind did a quick run through of whether or not she could ask questions and still maintain the level of indifference she was attempting. Thankfully, Tuck didn’t need encouragement.
“Guessing Chewbacca’s not too worried about anyone listening in. He doesn’t hold back much.”
“No.” Leia, forgetting the defensive wall she was trying to maintain, chuckled. “The fact few can listen in is coincidental. Chewie speaks his mind and isn’t too concerned who understands. My Shyriiwook is more than rusty. I’ve only picked up pieces. I’d like to improve but need some concentrated time to learn.”
“One of the advantages of moving around a lot. Picked up a lot of languages. Definitely comes in handy sometimes.”
Leia wondered if this was something she wanted to pursue or if she should let it drop. She didn’t have much experience talking about relationships, or even crushes, and certainly not her own. Leia had friends growing up and on Coruscant but friendships could be hard to maintain in the midst of royal duties. Until she met Luke and Han, Leia’s closest confidant was her father and she definitely didn’t discuss boys with him.
Leia took a deep breath and decided to throw caution to the wind.
“What did Chewbacca say?” Leia knew her casual tone wasn’t working but she pressed on anyway.
“Well, now, repeating that might be gossiping.”
“Of course!” Leia felt her face redden. “I shouldn’t have asked.” Once again, she turned back to the meal she wasn’t likely to finish to hide her embarrassment.
Tuck laughed again. “You’re surprisingly easy to rattle, P.”
A couple of days into their trip, Tuck had decided Leia needed a nickname and P was the winner. Leia smiled, knowing full well her face was still red.
“Basically, Chewie’s pleased. Said Solo looked happy and wasn’t as much of an asshole as usual. Then there was some stuff you don’t want me to repeat and I kind of wish I didn’t hear.”
At this point, Leia worried that her face was going to stay this bright colour for the remainder of the trip. “You’re right. It’s probably best if I don’t know all the details.”
“But things are good?”
Leia nodded. “Things are good.”
“You’re not getting a hard time from the big wigs? Not accusing you of fraternizing?”
A server droid stopped by the table and they both placed bowls and cups on its tray.
“I filed a report with personnel but no one has said anything about it.” She didn’t add that she had filed the report only a couple of days after they started sleeping together. Leia took a deep breath. She had taken a lot of personal chances lately, trusting her instincts, and she made the conscience decision to take one more. She was going to trust Tuck, too.
“It probably helps that I’m usually the only one who reads updates to personnel files. Also, he’s not enlisted so seniority isn’t as much of a concern. I no longer schedule supply runs. And as far as missions go, we argue a lot less now so that’s to everyone’s advantage.”
Tuck chuckled. “You’ve got it all worked out.”
“I’m ready to argue if anyone wants. So far, though, no one seems too concerned.”
Leia recognized one of the reasons she was learning to trust Tuck. She felt more like the Leia she had become in recent years when with the pilot. Someone who lived on bases. Planned and fought in campaigns. Who could sit and enjoy a meal, however brief and however unpalatable, and think about something other than defeating the Empire.
They finished the meetings earlier than expected on the last day, almost an unheard-of accomplishment. To celebrate, Mon Mothma invited the officers and any contractors still on Rohinda to her quarters for wine and food.
Leia was glad to have a moment to speak with Mon outside official business, although the Chancellor rarely veered too far from Alliance topics, and some of the other officers. Leia had known most of the attendees for a number of years. She wouldn’t call them friends but they had a friendly acquaintance. She walked through the room, sipping her wine and making small talk.
Dunsteen arrived last, making a bit of a show at his entrance, and made his way to Leia’s side.
“At last, Your Highness. We finally have a moment to talk.”
“I recall speaking many times over the past few days. Was there something that we missed discussing?” Leia held her wine glass with both hands. She didn’t want to shake his hand and hopefully he picked up on her subtle hint. Or maybe a not-so-subtle hint.
“You didn’t attend any of the officer meals. There has been no time to catch up.”
Did he think they were friends? Leia tried not to shake her head in confusion. Or start laughing.
“I ate my meals with my pilot. It was a good opportunity to clear my head.”
“With your pilot?” He laughed. “You really are the Rebel Princess, aren’t you? Or did they call you the People’s Princess?”
“That doesn’t sound familiar.”
Mon appeared beside them. Leia knew the Chancellor was doing her good hostess duties but also suspected she was offering Leia a reprieve.
“I’d like to thank you both for a successful few days.” Mon’s voice was gentle but firm. She could command a room with a whisper. “Leia, we appreciate your leadership throughout negotiations. We made considerable headway on a number of fronts.”
“You are generous.” Leia smiled at her mentor. “But it was a team effort and a team success.”
“Princess.” Dunsteen looked smug as he spoke. “There’s no need for modesty. You should take a compliment if given.”
“Trust me, Colonel Dunsteen. Modestly is not an issue.” Leia kept her voice light but gave him a hard stare. “But I believe in giving credit where it is due.”
Leia may have been experiencing a few moments of insecurity in her love life but had every confidence in her abilities where politics and negotiations were concerned. She certainly wasn’t going to be thrown off her game by a smug recent-Colonel.
“Well, again,” Mon nodded to them both. “Thank you. Enjoy your wine, there’s some food, and, Leia, we will speak when you’re back on Essenite.”
Mon nodded to them both as she walked away and Dunsteen took a step closer to Leia.
“I am glad for the opportunity to speak with you in private.”
He talked but Leia barely listened. She caught a few things. He knew one of her cousins. A very distant cousin that she had only met once but that didn’t register with Dunsteen. He talked about his family’s business and his hatred of the Empire. He mentioned, several times, the money he donated to the Alliance when enlisted. He was looking forward to working with her. On something. Sometime soon.
Leia thought about the last mission she went on with Han before they started sleeping together. They were meeting a contact on Forchard, retrieving datafiles from Imperial intelligence on double agents working within the Alliance.
They were thrown by how easily it worked out. They had the chip in a matter of minutes. No one shot at them. They walked back to the Falcon in silence, occasionally giving each other small smiles. As they walked up the ramp, he lightly pressed a hand on her hip.
She thought they might kiss. It felt right. She felt ready. But nothing happened. They spent the flight back to base sitting together at the games table. She read her datapad. He worked on his logs. She drank tea. He drank whisky. He told stories of heists gone wrong. She told stories about palace rules and every time she slipped past her aunts’ security systems. It felt quiet and content and easy. Like they’d nestled into a cocoon, a nest that existed only for them.
“Pardon me.” Leia interrupted Dunsteen mid-sentence. “I’m afraid I must be going.”
“Now? You’re not staying for dinner?” He looked perplexed. It was incomprehensible to him that someone would leave before a meal, especially when there was wine. Unheard of that anyone would interrupt him.
“I’m due back on Essenite.” She placed her empty wine glass on a table. She gave him an easy smile. “Until next time, Colonel Dunsteen.”
Leia found Tuck in the cafeteria sitting with other pilots.
“Are you ready for take-off, Lt. Tucker?”
Tuck wasn’t thrown by this sudden announcement. They both acted like this was the plan all along. “We can be off planet in thirty minutes.”
“I’ll get my bag and see you on board the Seven Stars.”
When they arrived on base, Tuck watched Leia scan the hanger and the quick look of disappointment when she didn’t see the Falcon. Leia quickly recovered and was back in rebel mode in matter of seconds.
“I’m walking your way, P.” Tuck picked up one of Leia’s bags. “I’ll walk you back to your quarters.”
Leia was already answering messages on her commlink. Threepio walked with them part of the way, detailing her schedule over the next few days. Riekaan and Madine were expecting a full debrief and since she was back earlier than expected he was happy to rearrange her meetings for that afternoon.
“No,” Leia said quickly and Tuck almost laughed. “Thank you but I am rather exhausted. I would prefer to start fresh tomorrow morning.”
They stopped outside her quarters. Leia palmed open the door and turned back to Tuck and Threepio. “Thanks again Lt. You helped make a stressful few days far less stressful.”
Tuck nodded over Leia’s shoulder and she turned again to see Han sitting inside, his feet propped up on the other chair. He was at the entranceway in two quick strides, grabbed one bag then the other, tossing them into the room. He then grabbed Leia by the waist, lifting her up.
“Hey, Tuck.” Han didn’t break his gaze with Leia as he turned back inside.
“Hey, Solo.” Tuck turned away, smiling, as the door closed.
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
The day started out well. They were in the habit of having quiet early mornings together. Making love then drinking a cup of kaffe in bunk, saying very little and keeping close, before starting the day. Neither of them had said, I love you, but they were getting the message across.
But after a morning of meetings Leia was fighting off a dark feeling, something she hadn’t experienced in quite some time. She walked up the Falcon’s ramp and stopped at the entrance to the main hold, locking eyes with its sole occupant.
Classea was standing in the lounge casually looking through a box of parts. She was startled by Leia’s sudden appearance, emitting a nervous greeting. “Oh, Princess. Hello.”
She crossed her arms and stared at the mechanic. “Good morning.”
Leia’s voice was even, controlled, but she felt pangs of jealousy. She didn’t think of women as competition, refused to believe that others worked that way. But there was Classea, casually going through Han’s things, and Leia wanted to tell her to back the hell off. She didn’t like feeling it, wasn’t happy about it, but that didn’t stop it from happening.
“Hey! Skipping out on work?” Han called to Leia from the cockpit corridor.
Leia didn’t respond but waited for him to enter the lounge area. He was wearing his toolbelt and gloves, goggles propped up on his forehead. In other circumstances she would have laughed. He looked more disheveled than usual and the goggles pushed his hair back in an almost comical fashion. But she didn’t feel much like laughing in that moment.
He stopped with hands on hips when he saw the two women and nodded to both of them. “Ladies.”
Again, Leia didn’t speak but let it play out.
Classea stepped away from the box of parts toward the entranceway, toward Han. She kept her eyes focused on him. Her mouth was turned up in a slight smile. “Thought I’d see if you needed any help with things today. Had some extra time.”
“Nah. We’re good.” His tone was friendly. He looked nonplussed. “Thanks, though.”
Classea smiled again, still not looking at Leia. “Okay. See you around then.”
“See you around.”
She left, with almost a Han Solo swagger, after giving Leia a brief nod goodbye.
Han, not turning to watch Classea, moved to kiss Leia but she pulled back.
“What was that all about?” Her arms still crossed over her chest.
She felt herself being pulled in a direction she didn’t want to go. She had this under control, didn’t she? She didn’t have to feel this way, did she? Leia had a sense that jealousy wasn’t the problem but a convenient excuse.
He shrugged. “She offered to help. We don’t need help. Pretty much covers it.”
Han braced himself. Something was spinning in Leia’s head. His first guess was that it was Classea-related but that was old news. He tried to think of something else he might have done to piss her off but everything had been good lately.
He moved into the lounge and rooted through the box of parts. He thought his best option was to move past whatever the issue was, to wait this out.
“Does she help with the Falcon often?”
“No. Couple times. Mechanics like to work on the old girl. She’s a marvel of engineering.” He found the circuit board he needed and waved it at her. He was trying for distracting and friendly.
“You’ve never said.”
“Why would I? Do you need me to file a report on Falcon maintenance?” He could feel his defenses going up.
“She’s flirting with you. She’s coming by hoping to start something.”
Han smirked, held his arms wide in a c’mon, look at me gesture. “Sweetheart. It’s gonna happen.”
“You flirt with her.”
“No, I don’t.” He couldn’t stop the finger coming out, pointing sharply at her. Realizing he might look a bit too defensive and since he had nothing to defend, he dropped his finger and his voice. “Not really. Just harmless stuff.”
“You’re leading her on.”
“Worried she can’t control herself?” He smirked again and walked back to the cockpit. Leia followed.
The cockpit was in a mid-repair disarray with several panels along one wall pulled off, wires dangling. He picked up the fuser resting on the console.
“You’re not actually jealous, are you?” He glanced at Leia, gave her a smirk. “You know nothing’s going on.”
“I don’t care what she does.” Leia was back to standing with arms crossed. “She can act in whatever manner she wishes. It’s your reaction that bothers me.”
“My reaction?” He pulled the wires a little too hard and didn’t turn to look at her. “What is it you expect me to do?”
“Stop flirting. Give her a definite no.”
“Leia, for fuck’s sake, nothing’s happening. Calm down.” He didn’t mean to snap. He wanted aloof and unflappable but he was getting wound up.
When she didn’t respond, he counted a few beats before turning around. He knew angry Leia. She directed it at him often enough that he recognized all the signs and signals and this one was feeling a bit off.
Up until this point, everything between them had been great. Other than a few quick to navigate snags, things were easy and fun. Han was surprised by how intense he was feeling it, how deep he was in, but also not freaking out. They were both a bit nervous about how to make it work but neither was questioning it.
So, he took a deep breath and kept quiet. Waited to see what happened next. Not so he could figure out an escape plan but to find something he could hold on to. He needed to understand what was happening and find a way to fix it.
“You could tell her you’re with me.”
His jaw may have actually dropped. “Maybe you should make up your mind. You want me to tell people or not?”
Leia’s face fell. For a brief flash, she looked like she might cry. Han saw and felt the sudden shift in her stance. She was no longer angry. She looked almost distraught, confused.
“Sweetheart, what’s happening right now?” He reached for her arm but she quickly stepped back.
“No.” With hands now on her hips, she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. When she looked at him, she was composed. Her mask in place. He tried to reach for her again and she spoke in a calm, almost cold voice. “I said no.”
Han stared, not sure what his next move should be.
“If I’ve done something, and I mean actually done something and not whatever this thing is, you gotta tell me.” He was in no mood for this grey zone, this guessing game.
“You can’t what?” He knew he sounded angry but wondered if he was actually feeling fear. “You can’t tell me what I’ve done wrong?”
“I need to go.” She turned to leave but he called her name before she reached the hatch.
“Leia!” He tried to not sound angry or panicked. He was not entirely successful. She stopped but didn’t turn around. He hadn’t really expected her to stop. “You gotta talk to me, Sweetheart. I got no idea what’s happening here.”
She turned to him and slowly lifted her head. She tried to smile but looked mostly embarrassed. “I’m not sure I know either.”
They stared at each other for a few moments, both of their panic levels lowering. They were in that state they had come to recognize as the ‘great unknown’ when they didn’t know how to proceed and didn’t want to walk away.
“Wanna just hang out while I work?”
Leia nodded and moved to the pilot’s chair. She sat so she faced him, her legs pulled up and arms wrapped around her knees.
He gave her a slight half-smile. She looked so tiny sometimes. Everything about Leia seemed bigger-than-life. Bravery, smarts, attitude, her sheer force of will, her laugh when she really let go. Even when he held her, making love and simply being together, she was always his match. So, it was often a surprise when he noticed how small she really was. She actually took up very little physical space yet filled a room. Filled him up.
“This is what women like, right? Watching their men work. Getting dirty.” He took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “Some kind of primal instinct. All those pheromones.”
“You can stop talking anytime.”
“Probably the smart move.”
“It would be wise.”
He dropped the goggles over his eyes and set to work, untangling wires, attaching a new circuit board, checking the connections.
“Didn’t you replace those boards already? I seem to remember the same pieces pulled out not that long ago.”
“That was an emergency repair. A work around with a spare board to keep the sensors going.” He waved one of the boards at her. “This is a brand new part.”
“Didn’t you take that circuit board from the junk box out there?”
“Spare parts. Not junk. Careful, Princess.” He gave her a stern side glance and she chuckled. He pointed to the top panel. “New part goes here.” He pointed to middle panel. “Spare part goes here.”
“And the cycle continues.”
He expected more questions. That she would start talking out whatever was bothering her. But she remained quiet. Whenever he glanced her way she was watching him in silence, sometimes smiling back, sometimes lost in thought.
She was right. He did flirt. Not all the time and not with everyone but it happened. It wasn’t something he thought about, whether he should or shouldn’t, or even who he was flirting with sometimes. It was just something he always did. Most of the time, it didn’t mean anything. If something happened, he wasn’t going to complain but usually it was a fun way to pass the time, maybe get a rise out of people.
Until Leia. Even before he acknowledged he was interested, before he admitted to himself that he wanted her to respond in kind, he only made an effort with her. Now, there was only her. But she was right. He might not be flirting-flirting with Classea, or whoever, but he wasn’t exactly not flirting. He wasn’t being completely obvious about the fact that that door was now closed.
He finished screwing the panels back on and tossed the goggles and tools back into the toolbox.
“Did you get anything for lunch?” He sat on the arm of Chewie’s chair, resting his hands on his knees.
She shook her head. “I was going to get something then work in my office. But I came here instead.”
“Can rustle up something for you. Step up from a ration bar.”
“I’m not really hungry.”
She held out her hand for him. He kissed her palm then massaged it with his thumb.
“Look, I’m sorry about earlier. With the sorta flirting.” He gave her a half-smile. “I’ll try to hold back on my charms from now on.”
She rolled her eyes at him and returned the half-smile.
“I’m sorry, too.” Her voice was low and cracked a bit as she spoke. She shifted in her seat and looked down. “The day felt off. I felt off. I wanted to be somewhere where it didn’t feel so difficult.”
Leia had noticed a shift since being with Han. She was aware of her surroundings in a way that she hadn’t felt before. Maybe not for a long time. Maybe not ever.
Her parents taught her, even when things were tough, to smile and move on. As royals, leaders of Alderaan, they didn’t have the advantage or time to let their true emotions show. It wasn’t their place. They were there to serve others. She carried this with her to the Senate and her early work with the Rebellion.
Then Alderaan was destroyed and her world went with it. Her heart and mind were left in shambles. She thought there was nothing left of her to pull back in. She took all those early lessons and pushed things down, pushed them aside. She didn’t smile and move on—she was full of fury and determination—but it was still another exercise in putting everything else ahead of her own feelings.
Not too surprisingly, though, other feelings were rising to the surface lately. She was letting herself feel happy, excited, sometimes confused, curious. Letting a different version of Leia emerge and she wasn’t sure how to identify this new self.
“Did something happen?” He held on to her hand, his thumb still moving in circles on her palm.
Leia sighed and readjusted herself in the chair, taking her hand back.
“We were in an intelligence briefing. Madine was detailing reports about Imperial activity, assumed weapons-building. They don’t know what exactly but they know it’s big. So, everyone started speculating. Where? What? When they’ll be done?”
Han leaned forward again, both hands on his knees. He was trying to find the balance between giving her space but being available.
“Someone mentioned a new Death Star, which seems likely.” Leia nervously tucked some hair beyond her ear. “They have the technology. I’m sure they’ve improved it. Everyone was talking quickly, throwing ideas out, and Madine mentioned Alderaan. That we needed to prevent another Alderaan. And the conversation stopped. Everyone turned to look at me. They all looked nervous. Worried.”
“They didn’t want to upset you. You don’t show it much but they know it tears you up.”
“They didn’t look at Rieekan. They weren’t afraid of upsetting him. He was looking at me with the same sad, concerned eyes. He lost his entire family, too. His wife, sons. He was about to be a grandfather. No one thinks he’s going to break every time he hears the word Alderaan.”
“He didn’t watch it blow up.”
She rubbed her face, trying not to cry. “I make people uncomfortable. They don’t know how to behave around me. I make them nervous.”
“Not Luke or me or Chewie.”
She gave him a faint smile but her eyes had a flash of gratitude, caring. “No, not Luke, you or Chewie.”
The women at the Senate were right. She and Han did disappear for a while, taking every available moment to be together. Eventually, she felt guilty about Luke and tried to find ways to reincorporate him into their reordered lives.
It was something of a shock to Leia, though Han didn’t seem too surprised or bothered, that Luke was perfectly fine. Told her he missed their old routines, early morning kaffe together, walks around base while they talked about whatever was on their minds, but knew it wasn’t lost.
“And I started training again. Trying stuff from those books we found on D’Qar. I know it’s a bit sketchy but I don’t have a lot of choice.”
The Empire had destroyed records, archives, any information on the Jedi they could locate. Luke searched as best he could to find anything to help him in his training. It was Chewie who arrived with novels about the Jedi glory days. They might be historical romances but they described Jedis studying and some of the religious practices. Leia thought it was risky since he had no idea what was true and what was written for dramatic effect.
“I’m only using it as a guide. Maybe it will push me in the right direction until I find something else. I’d never thought about mediating before. So, that’s a start.”
She did admire Luke’s optimism. He believed he would become a Jedi, learn to use the Force, by sheer determination, if that’s all he had. Maybe it was his life growing up on a farm. He understood the benefit of slow and steady work. He wasn’t going to give up until he had what he wanted.
In recent weeks, she made more of an effort to see Luke. Even if it was only for a few minutes, she wanted them to touch base. Leia recognized that there was something integral to her relationship with Luke. Different than her relationship with Han but it still felt vital.
She also knew that whenever she discussed this with Han, he reacted with a touch of jealousy. It was ridiculous, of course. There was no cause to be jealous because there was no comparison in how she felt about both men. She couldn’t explain her connection to Luke, it was simply a truth in their lives that Han would have to accept. It didn’t infringe on anything that they shared.
As she sat in the pilot’s seat, thinking about Luke and Han and their changing lives, she also recognized how unfounded jealousy could too easily take hold. Leia looked at the handsome scoundrel across from her and smiled.
Han took the arm of her chair and spun it to face him, holding it in place. “Tell me what I can do. You want me to talk to somebody? Get Chewie to rough somebody up?”
She shook her head. “There’s nothing you can do. The truth is, I’m used to it. For the most part. It’s normalized when your school friends refer to you as, Your Royal Highness. When you go to a birthday party with bodyguards.”
“Bodyguards? Did that happen a lot?”
“Just enough to remind people.”
Han knew his strengths. He could fly or shoot his way out of almost any situation. Create a diversion, like run at a group of stormtroopers in halls of the Death Star, to get the job done. He was getting better at listening thanks to his time with Leia and wanting to absorb everything she said. But talking, asking questions, comforting rather than riling up, or distracting her from the problem with some hot sex, was something new and he wasn’t entirely confident in his abilities.
“I wanted to feel not so… removed so I came to find you.” She sat up straight to look at him.
“Leia.” He clenched his jaw, tried not to sound too exasperated. “It wasn’t anything. Honest. Definitely not on my part.”
“You flirt and so does she.” Leia didn’t look angry. Her soft stare held affection, kindness, appreciation. “Maybe I was bothered because she reacts like there’s an implied next time. Or because if I wasn’t around you would be sleeping with her.”
“If you weren’t around, I wouldn’t be here at all.”
“Are you saying she’s not someone you would have slept with in an alternate timeline?”
“Maybe? But it’d be like any time before you.”
Leia took a deep breath.
“Nothing’s gonna happen. Got no interest in anyone but you.”
“I know. I trust you.” She touched his chin, running a thumb along his scar. “Honestly, I do. Most days, none of this would bother me. But today I just didn’t have the armor.”
“Come here.” He pulled her from the chair, sat down in the co-pilot seat and placed her on his lap. He held her close and kissed behind her ear.
She leaned into him, resting her head against his temple.
“You always think the issue is people accepting you with me. That people think a smuggler has no place in my life, doesn’t fit in to my world. But that world is gone. This is my world now. The Alliance. These bases or wherever we end up. I was a princess and now I’m not. I still have to prove myself as a rebel leader to some. No one I respect but they make a lot of noise.” Her hand traced along his neck and chest.
Han sighed. “Sweetheart…”
She cut him off. “It’s not Classea. It’s not you flirting or not flirting. I was jealous. But I don’t think I was jealous about her or whether or not she thought she had a chance. It was more about the ease of being who she wants to be. Wanting something and going for it. I can do that in certain circles. I’m very good at it, in fact.”
“You know you can tell me anything. Whatever you want.”
She knew that he meant to speak to her in a low, comforting voice but it came out as sexual, dripping with desire. Her heart skipped an extra beat as she looked at Han, working hard to become more than just a man of action for her. He was trying to be, to do, whatever she needed. If she didn’t already know she loved him, this would have been the turning point.
“You make me feel safe.” She pressed into him. “Like you won’t judge me. I can try, I can discover who I am now, who I might become. I wasn’t raised to believe I could grow up and be anything I wanted. I was a princess. Someday a queen. Politician. Then Rebel. But now I’m Leia and I’m not sure who that is exactly.”
“I know who you are.” He kissed her forehead. “I see you.”
She bit her bottom lip, holding back a small smile. “I know. And that means everything. I think I just need to catch up with whatever it is you see. Decide who and what I want to be.” She ran the back of her fingers along his jawline. “To be clear, I don’t care who does or doesn’t know about us. I like us. I like where we are. Or maybe I like where we’re going. I’m not sure. I haven’t thought it through, yet.”
“Huh. Doesn’t sound like you.”
She sat up, resting her hands on his shoulders. Her thumbs rubbing his neck. “That might be the thing. It’s the princess-but-not-a-princess, rebel-leader-without-a-title, politician-without-a-planet issue.”
“Sure. That old story.” He wrapped his arms around her waist.
“But I’m not a princess anymore. Or a politician. I’m a Rebel but not a soldier.”
“Do you want me to stop calling you Princess?” He gave her the lop-sided grin. “I mean, it would be hard but I can try.”
“It doesn’t bother me that much when you say it. Not anymore.” She kissed him. “And I recognize the irony that you are almost the only being who doesn’t treat me like a princess.”
“Does this mean I have to stop the high and mighty jokes, too?”
“You told high and mighty jokes?”
“Maybe they were too subtle.”
“Hmm. Yes. Subtle describes you.”
Han couldn’t stop a slow smile spreading across his face.
“You’re thinking of some unsubtle things you’d like to do to me, aren’t you?”
He nodded slowly. “The cockpit version.”
They spent the next few minutes occupied. One hand cupped her cheek and the other rested on her hip. Her hand slipped inside his shirt and stroked his chest. They moved slowly. Their kisses were soft, lips and tongues brushing gently. Eyelids lowered, they kept each other’s gaze. The sound of their breaths mixed with very low sighs.
Something hard and loud hit the outer shell of the cockpit and they both snapped to attention. Leia jumped and Han winced.
“What the hell are those assholes doing out there?”
They were suddenly aware of light from the hanger coming into their small space. It was still midday and work was happening all around them. They’d been lost in the moment and each other and completely misplaced the outside world. Again.
Leia sighed. The tension gone from her neck and shoulders. She felt revived. “I should get back. I’m sure there’s someplace I need to be.”
She started to rise from his lap but he held her in place.
“Hey.” He kissed her. Another soft, gentle, slow kiss. “You belong here.”
Leia wondered how many ways a heart could break. This wasn’t sadness or regret. It was feeling her heart snap just enough to let the light out, let more in. It was a muscle tearing so it could repair and grow stronger.
His comforting, low, sexy, full of want and desire voice was back. “You belong with me.”
She ran the back of her hand along his jaw and thought there might be tears. “You are unexpected.”
His chuckle was muffled by the return of her lips. Once again, they pushed the world aside and settled into their quiet space. It might only be theirs for a few moments more but they would make the most of it.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
Reports of mudslides and flooding on Nemerne V were all over the holo-news. It was a devasting natural disaster with hundreds dead, thousands injured and homeless. Cities suffered tremendous damage, entire towns and villages were destroyed.
The Imperial response—arriving to rebuild, reconstruct, provide medical aid—was a holo-op. Perfect propaganda. Everyone interviewed thanked the Empire, the Emperor, the only ones who had come to help. Of course, the reports left off the part about only helping cities with a strong Imperial presence and supporters, leaving rural communities with nothing.
The Rebels arrived in Julenee with all the supplies, food and labour they could spare. They dug new channels to bring water in. Repaired buildings. Set up a medical tent for the injured, large enough that beings from other towns could be brought in. Worked with town leaders to organize a repair schedule. Got a school back up and running.
Five days later, most of the Rebels and their transports were gone. Only the Falcon was left and they were waiting for Leia as she made her last round through the medical tent.
Han stood to the side, watching as she sat on the edge of a cot. She was taking dictation, writing a letter for a patient too weak to even sit up. Leia leaned in so she didn’t miss a word.
They were there because of Leia. It was her sense of duty, her urge to help, that got them the resources they needed. She had to convince the brass that it was worth their time and effort, especially considering the Alliance was often scrambling for their own goods. Other than the Herrottii base, who dismissed her request outright, High Command agreed to give them a week and a limited amount of supplies. Leia had no trouble rounding up volunteers. In fact, she had to turn many down.
“Do you want to try signing on your own?” Leia held out the letter to the patient. He held the stylus with some difficulty but managed to write his name.
“Thank you, Your Highness.” He leaned back against his pillow. “You are kind.”
“I only wish we could do more.”
Han was exhausted. He had a couple days flying between pick-ups getting supplies then days digging ditches for water lines, repairing buildings, helping to construct new structures. Others, including Luke, Chewie and Tuck, worked clean up, helped the injured, cooked, organized the donated supplies. Everyone chipped in, no matter what the duty, to get the job done.
They all slept infrequently and in short bursts. Han had several arguments with Leia to get her to sleep at all. She always claimed there was one more thing to do. When he found her actually falling asleep at a table, he had enough.
“Got a choice, Sweetheart. You head to bed right now or I throw you over my shoulder and carry you. Your call.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m fine. I need to finish this before I can even consider sleep.”
“And you’re the only one who can do it?”
“It’s my job.”
He pulled the datapad from her hand and read it. “You’re writing duties out for tomorrow. You think no one will know what to do if you don’t give them a list? If you’re out for a few hours?”
“It’s helpful to know what needs to be done. More efficient.”
“Only you have this info? Think the work will stop without you watching?”
“Of course not! Everyone is more than capable. Dedicated to the work.”
“So, you could sleep a few hours and the work will get done.”
Her shoulders sagged and he wasn’t sure if it was exhaustion, frustration or an admission. Maybe a combination of all three. “What if something happens that requires…”
“You think if there’s an emergency no one will come find you? Sweetheart, you can be scary but not that scary.”
“Fine. I’ll lie down in the crew tent for a bit…”
“Screw that. You want to stay there so you’ll hear if anything happens. You’re going to the Falcon. Dark. Quiet. Real bunk.” Leia started to protest but he kept going. “I’ll make sure you’re up in six hours.”
“Fine.” She was giving in but not happy about it.
“Look. Trust me. Trust everyone else here. Nothing’s gonna fall behind.”
They had accomplished so much in only a few days. Julenee wasn’t completely set up but it was a start and they could now, hopefully, return the favour and help the nearby communities. The Rebels were leaving some equipment behind, machines to help with building and irrigation. And most importantly, the residents seemed to have a renewed sense of hope that they could get the job done. Yet another thing that Leia made happen.
“We’ll do what we can to check in.” She put the letter on the table beside the bed. “Communication is limited with so much Imperial activity but we will try.”
The patient nodded, indicating Leia should look over her shoulder. “I think you’re wanted.”
She turned to see Han and smiled. A wide, warm smile that made him almost blush. His first thought was, She’s definitely too good for me.
“No rush,” Han said. “I can wait outside if you need more time.”
“No, we should go. I’m sure we are already behind schedule.” Leia put a hand on the patient’s arm. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
Han took her hand and led her out of the tent. It was evening, well past dinner time and their last meal, and they were losing light. They walked mostly in silence past the collection of tents and temporary buildings toward the landing pad.
Han focused on her warm hand in his. Even this amount of public affection was unusual for them and likely only because they were the last of the Rebels on planet. Han hoped there was also a part of Leia that needed this small connection as much as he did. They hadn’t had much time to be together on this mission.
It wasn’t that he needed sex every night to feel close to her. In the months they’d been together—almost five—their desperate need for each other had slowed down. It was unusual if nothing happened but not unheard of. They slept in the same bed together because they were a couple and sometimes that meant just sleeping. He was slowly adapting to what a couple did and didn’t do.
How he managed it, started a thing with Leia and somehow kept it going, surprised him more than anyone.
They’d been calling it their cabin and their bunk for a while. Almost since the beginning. Her clothes were in the storage locker, personal products in the ‘fresher. She had rearranged things in the room. Set up one of the bunk lights so it was better for reading, a shelf held her datapads and books. She brought in extra, not flat and ancient pillows. Chewie was surprised Han didn’t get defensive, feel territorial. But it didn’t feel like an invasion of his personal space. He was making room. They were fitting in.
They had routines. Nighttime rituals as they settled in. Morning disagreements about who would get the kaffe, and Han insisting it was strange that it never seemed to be her turn. Almost everything in their lives was chaotic, dangerous but they could find each other when they turned out the lights, or as they woke up in the morning, connecting in quiet, quick comfort. They didn’t have to speak. They knew what they both wanted and it was a quick, sweet release.
It was the opposite of their fiery times filled with urgent desire. They’d been throughout the Falcon, on almost every surface. Her office. The briefing room, late at night and far from prying eyes. It amazed him that she could be a controlled, careful leader at one moment and passionate, not holding anything back lover later. It was amazing that one person could contain so many seemingly opposing forces and that she let him see them all. That he was the only one who know all sides of Leia.
She’s going to figure this out. She has to realize that he is nothing compared to her.
They were stopped several times as they walked to the landing strip. People wanted to thank her for coming, for helping them in desperate times. She spoke to everyone. Hugged them when they wanted hugs. Never let anyone think she was rushing them, even though they were already behind schedule. Making sure everyone knew those few moments they spent talking were just as important to her.
“Do you think they’ll be able to keep this quiet?” He recognized the look on the Nemernian faces. They were feeling the Alliance fervour. A good thing when you wanted to drum up support for the cause. Not so great if the Empire retaliated because you accepted help from the Rebels.
“I hope so.” She squeezed his hand and smiled at a group waving at her. “Hopefully, we can come back with more support. Means we have to win this war sooner rather than later.”
Leia sometimes wavered in her steadfast belief that the Rebellion would be victorious and a new galactic republic would be formed. There were times when it was all too much and she was exhausted. He knew it wouldn’t last and she just needed to reboot. So, he listened if that’s what she needed. He argued if she needed to fight. He distracted her with sex, a card game, some menial task, anything that got her mind off of it.
But she never stopped working toward that victory. She might think it would never happen in her lifetime, not knowing how long or how short that lifetime might be, but that didn’t slow her down. It didn’t matter what anyone called it—hope, purpose, obsession, devotion—it powered her forward and she never lost sight of her goal.
Leia had lost everything. Her entire world destroyed before her eyes. Her father, who was her lodestar, gone in seconds. Yet she still had faith they could save the galaxy. That for the most part, there was good in beings and they could somehow make it right.
Han had so little faith in anything, and in only a handful of beings. For most of his life, he could only rely on himself. No one else would look out for him. Everyone would turn on him eventually because that’s how it worked. He would turn on anyone if it meant his life or theirs. He’d shot first and there was no shame in it. He got off Corellia with the clothes on his back and anything he’d gained since then was from hard work, side deals and the occasional double cross. He didn’t like talking about his past because he didn’t always want to think about it. Some things he wasn’t proud of, some things he didn’t want to deal with, other things were best unmentioned in case the statute of limitations was still in effect.
He’d cared about some beings here and there. There were some who looked out for him for a time. But until Chewie, there was no one who mattered more than his own survival. Then Luke. And now Leia. It wasn’t a matter of his life over theirs. Sometimes it felt like his life depended on theirs and, to be honest, that was the only thing in the universe that actually scared him.
He wasn’t supposed to be here. Whether or not he said it out loud, he knew being with the Rebellion was the right thing to do but it definitely wasn’t part of the plan. He’d set up a life of the loner smuggler making his way across the galaxy, making his own rules, breaking everyone else’s. He still hadn’t enlisted so he could claim that as an excuse for not taking orders but it only went so far. He didn’t really fit in no matter how long he hung on.
He definitely wasn’t supposed to be to be with the Princess. He’d joked about it when they first met. Asked Luke if there was a chance for a princess and a guy like him and got the intended, offended reaction from the Kid. He meant it as a joke because it was a joke. An impossibility. Yet, a couple years later, they were together. They belonged to each other.
Not everyone was thrilled. They’d had a couple of run-ins with General Piltrix who wasn’t shy about expressing his disapproval. Even though everyone on base knew they were together, and lots of other bases since it was a pretty open secret, Piltrix had managed to avoid it for months. Until it was far too obvious, even for his blinders.
They’d returned from the assault on Zilurous. After days in battle with no sleep, retrieving schematics of an Imperial weapons factory, getting past destroyers then chased through five systems, they were back on Home One and waiting for debriefings.
Everything was taking longer than expected and as soon as the adrenaline depleted, they were exhausted. When Luke, Wedge and Hera were called in for their turns, Leia curled up next to him in his chair. She meant to be there for only a moment but they quickly fell asleep.
He was slowly waking up, not really paying attention to where they were, lazily drawing circles on Leia’s back when he heard a sharp, authoritative voice. “Captain Solo!”
Piltrix always looked irritated and ready for an attack so it took them a moment to process he was angrier than usual. It probably didn’t help that Han, in his shocked awake daze, checked on her with a gentle sweep of her loose hair, before standing up.
“May I remind you this isn’t a cantina back room. Decorum is required.” Piltrix’s hands went behind his back. He looked like his next command would send Han to the brig.
“Don’t need reminding. Cantina’s got more comfortable chairs.” He winked at Leia before walking out of the room.
It didn’t end there. Piltrix couldn’t let it go. He seemed determined to catch them at something, to save the Princess from an unsavoury fate. He tried reorganizing missions but Leia reorganized them back. He tried transferring Han to a different base but Riekaan and Madine stepped in. Then, thinking he would catch them in the act and that the Princess needed him to defend her honour, he stormed on to the Falcon in the middle of the afternoon.
He stomped loudly up the ramp and stopped outside the main hold. “I demand to see Princess Leia!” He was an old man but his voice carried, echoed through the ship’s interior. “Do you hear me? I demand to see Princess Leia this minute!”
“How can I help you, General Piltrix?”
He spun around to see Leia sitting at the games table. She had datapads and notes in front of her. An empty cup and plate pushed to the side. She had been there a while.
Han was standing in the opposite corridor entranceway wearing his tool belt and gloves. He nodded at Piltrix. “General.”
“Oh, Your Highness.” It was rare to see the General flustered. He quickly put his hands behind his back, trying to maintain his composure. “You weren’t in your office.”
“I often come here to work. It’s quieter and there are fewer interruptions. Usually.”
Han didn’t know what Leia did after Piltrix slunk off. She said she took care of it and it must have worked because Piltrix went back to avoiding them.
Night had fallen and their path was lit by moonlight from a cloudless sky. Leia’s skin looked even paler than normal against her dark hair. He knew there were circles under her eyes but she looked lit from within.
“Did everyone else get away?” Leia didn’t sound tired. He expected her to be fading, likely planning to sleep the entire way back.
“Yeah.” He squeezed her hand. “We’ll get you back to Essenite in no time. Then Chewie and I are heading out on another run.”
“Is it something we could do on our way back? Cut down on your trips.” She leaned into him for a beat. “We could pretend we’re on vacation.”
He gave a short laugh and kissed her temple. “We have very different ideas about vacations, Princess. Besides, you got more important things to do.”
Han knew the Rebellion always came first. It drove him crazy sometimes. He hated it when she worked herself to the bone. But she was dedicated and didn’t believe in backing down and wasn’t too fond of slowing up. On anything. It was one of the things he loved about her.
Because he did. He loved her. He’d finally managed to say it in the most Han Solo way possible but he did it. Afterward she accused him of using it as a last resort to win the fight.
They’d started arguing in the corridor as they left a meeting. Nothing too dramatic—a disagreement about new compressors they’d ordered. He knew a guy, a place where they could get a better deal. She didn’t think they should trust someone he only knew from underground card games.
By the time they reached the hanger, standing close to the Falcon’s perch, they were deep into arguing about how best to obtain needed medical supplies. He thought they should raid Imperial hospitals. She thought people other than Imperials were served in those centers and would be the ones who suffered.
“Is this where you give me the speech about arrogant leaders not recognizing the plight of the people?” Even though she was a full head and shoulders shorter, she seemed to be looking down at him. Which, of course, drove him to new rounds of furious frustration.
“Nah, Princess, you already know it. Maybe you need to ask yourself why you still can’t see it.”
“The only reason we’re having this argument is because I suggested you think twice about who you rob.”
“I think if robbing a supply that’s easily refilled cos they own all the supply, it isn’t really robbing.”
“And in the meantime, people in need of those supplies will go without.”
He stopped pacing and stood close in front of her with hands on hips. “You think those people can afford to go there? You think the Empire’s giving it out for free?”
One of their spectators, leaning against an X-Wing ladder, knocked over a toolbox with a thunderous crash. All eyes turned to the sound then Han and Leia noticed all eyes turn back on them. They held their places but lowered their voices.
“You’re being reductive.” Her voice was calm, a sure way to infuriate him more, her eyes intense and glaring.
He muttered under his breath. He almost grimaced, rocking back and forth on his feet, holding a finger up between them.
“Got something to say, Hot Shot?” She still had her arms crossed, feet planted firmly in place. “Don’t tell me you’ve lost all your words. Whatever will we do?”
He kept his finger up, held close to her face. He looked about to say something then swallowed hard.
“Should I keep waiting?” She was almost smiling but working hard to hold it back.
Han leaned in closer, gave one more shake of his finger before putting both hands on his hips. He took a deep breath but didn’t exhale until he spoke. “I love you, Leia.”
He stepped back, lifting his arms to his sides, with a wide grin. He continued backing up toward the Falcon, walking with the arrogance of someone who dropped the ultimate last word.
She watched him, her face slack with wonder and confusion. When he reached the ramp, he turned to walk on board.
She called after him. “You’re not playing fair, Solo!”
He shouted back without looking over his shoulder. “What are you going to do about it, Princess?”
She laughed and headed out of the hanger, ignoring all the eyes still watching her every move.
After that, he noticed a shift. Not in what he was feeling, necessarily, but what he said. How he talked to her. It used to be all about want. He wanted to kiss, hold, fuck her. He understood want and wanting something for himself. His life was want. Food, shelter, sex, credits to get him out of whatever mess he found himself in. But then he wanted Leia. To be with her. For her to be happy and get everything she deserved.
Now, it was all about need. He needed her. Needed to feel her, to be inside her. He needed her touch. He said it for more often than I love you. He whispered it. Called it out when he wanted her to climax. I need you. There were times when it felt overwhelming, like it might take over completely. Other times it was a truth that he simply accepted, didn’t question.
An older woman stopped them in their path by gently placing a hand on Leia’s arm. Han had seen her a few times, usually in the make-shift school they had set up.
“Princess, I know it’s small but I wanted to say thank you.” The woman passed her a small square of cloth. “For helping with the children. For everything.”
Leia let go of Han’s hand and took the piece of fabric from the woman. It was embroidered with the Nemerne landscape outside Julenee, or what it looked like before the mudslides, and the small schoolhouse before the floods. It was a colorful, intricate design of wooded hills and clear streams that were now gone.
“It’s beautiful.” It was hard for Leia to speak. She sounded close to tears. “My mother had a school. Well, it more like a small tutorial but students came from all over.”
Han knew she could see Alderaan in the delicate thread work. The detailing of a lost but not forgotten world.
“My mother was also a teacher. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why I became one.” The woman kept her hand on Leia’s arm.
“Maybe I missed my calling.” Leia was still looking at the embroidery, her fingers tracing the edges of the thread.
“No,” the woman smiled. “I think you know exactly where you should be.”
Leia smiled at the woman, looking almost embarrassed.
The woman turned to Han. “You’re very lucky to have the Princess with you.”
Han nodded. There was nothing to add. He didn’t want to break the spell.
Leia, of course, laughed. “Captain Solo might not think he’s always so lucky.”
He looked at Leia, deadly serious. “Always.”
The women hugged and Leia held on tightly. When they parted, she and Han started on their path again.
The Falcon was now in sight. Chewie was walking around the hull doing a last check before takeoff. Han let go of her hand before they stepped out into the open. She turned to look at him and saw his hands now shoved in pockets, his brow furrowed and jaw tight.
“Are you okay?”
He exhaled a long breath. “What are you doing with me, Leia?”
She laughed. “Nothing at the moment. Let’s see what happens when we get off planet.”
He lifted his head, took another deep breath. When he looked at her again he looked almost pained. “I’m serious. You deserve a lot more than what I got.”
She didn’t respond but let him find the words to fill in the gap.
“All this. Everything that happened here. You made it happen.” He kept his hands deep in his pockets. “You’re the real deal. Sure you want to waste your time with me?”
Leia placed her hands on her hips.
“I mean it. I don’t… You can do a lot better than me. That’s all I’m saying.” His hand left his pocket long enough to rub the back of his neck before dropping again. “You should have more.”
His voice was a near whisper but not the low rumble that could so easily seduce her. His eyes were soft, pleading, though he couldn’t name what he wanted. Other than her. Other than wanting her to be happy. To have everything. Everything she deserved.
It was a new feeling, something he was trying to grasp, to want everything for her. He wanted to give her everything. And if he couldn’t provide what she needed, he wanted to her to find that person. To have all the support and love she needed to do all the things she was going to do.
“Not trying to talk you out of any of this. Here for whatever. Can fly you out of or into whatever trouble you find. Dig all the ditches you need.” He broke away from his serious mood to give her a smirk. “Can also keep you good and happy on your off hours.”
She let out a quick laugh.
“But what are you gonna to do when this is all over? Gonna take the street kid to the fancy galas? Let me loose with dignitaries. I’ll fuck it up for you somehow. Embarrass you. Use the wrong fork at dinner.” He offered her the half-smile but it wasn’t very convincing.
“Sweetheart, you’re gonna change the world, the galaxy. I’m not built for politics or government. I barely fit in with the Rebellion and you’re all a bunch of criminals. Do gooders but criminals.”
She still didn’t speak and he was getting flustered.
“I mean, if the job description is making you come a couple times a night and knowing how you like your kaffe then we’re good. But you got bigger things going on. I want you to do, be, go wherever you need. Don’t want to hold you back.”
“What job do you think you’re applying for?”
The half-smile came back. “Dunno. Princess side piece? Keep you warm at night. That’s something that happens at court, right? Pretty sure I read that somewhere.”
She laughed at his rambling. He wasn’t a rambler. He talked out of his ass sometimes but still with as few words as possible.
“Use the wrong fork for dinner? Where did you come up with that one?”
“Okay, that’s it. No more sweeping sagas for you. They’re clearly warping your mind.”
“Look, Leia.” He wasn’t smiling. There was no half-grin. “I don’t want you to regret this and I don’t want you to stick around cos you don’t know how to get out of it.”
“How often do you think I do anything I don’t want to do? That’s not Alliance related.”
He thought about it for a moment. “Not often.”
“Exactly. And what’s the other thing about me that’s very hard to miss?”
“You have an unnatural obsession with wearing white?”
She stepped toward him and grabbed a hold of his belt buckle. “I don’t like anyone telling me what to do or what I want.” Leia pulled him, yanked actually, a step closer. “Do you think you know better than me what I want? Are you telling me what to do?”
One corner of his mouth turned up. “Nope. Wouldn’t think of it, Princess.”
“That’s what I thought.” She stepped backward, pulling him with her. “Let’s get moving, Flyboy. This war isn’t going to win itself.”
He followed her up the ramp and into the Falcon. Ready to go wherever they were headed.
Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
Leia fell back on to the bunk. She was naked, flushed and trying to catch her breath.
Han rolled on his side and place a hand on her stomach. He laughed as she pushed it off. He loved that Leia could feel so overstimulated after sex, her body a bundle of nerves that needed time to recover. He loved that he was responsible.
He raised his hand again, threatening to lower it. She swatted it away with a laugh.
“Hands off.” She shifted in the bunk so she was closer but still not touching him.
He rubbed his hand over his face, amazed at the sight before him. Fuck, he loved her.
“You know,” he said. “We almost didn’t make it through that one.”
They were back on Home One after a quick evacuation from Essenite. They had little warning before the Imperial fleet arrived but suffered remarkably few losses and left very little behind thanks to practice, quick thinking and a lightning response time. The Falcon pulled out more than a dozen rebels and filled the holds with recovered supplies. They then spent who knew how many hours, maybe days, making random jumps to drop any tails before rendezvousing with the fleet.
“How was it different than the last time? Or the one before that?” Her breathing was starting to even out.
“Or maybe the next time.”
“Okay,” she gave him the side-eye. “Now you’re just being morose.”
Her hair was pulled from her long braid and spread over her pillow. She brushed loose strands off her forehead.
“Gonna be a next time, Sweetheart.”
“What’s happening right now?” She laughed. “Worrying that the Solo luck is running out?”
“Nope.” His fingers lightly touched her stomach and this time she didn’t stop him. “Feel very lucky.” The back of his hand grazed her nipple as he leaned in to nibble her earlobe.
She tilted her head back to give him more access. “How are you not exhausted? You’re an old man. Shouldn’t you already be asleep?”
“I’m your old man.” He continued down her neck with light kisses.
“See? Saying that just confirms your old man status.” Leia put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him back. “Okay, okay. I have to go to the sani. When I get back, I expect you to be sound asleep like a responsible old man.”
But when she returned, he was in the same position. Still on his side, sheet pulled up to his waist, bent elbow, head resting on hand.
“Did you drink a pot of kaffe when I wasn’t looking?” She grabbed a t-shirt from the storage locker and pulled it on.
He lifted the sheets so she can slide into the bunk.
“I got an idea.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her and she responded with a wary look. “Hear me out. Don’t say no right away.”
“Hmmmm. That isn’t a good start.” She bunched up the pillow to prop herself up more. She made a let’s move this along gesture with her hand.
“I think we should get hitched.”
She stared at him, wide-eyed, in shock. “Hitched? Like married? Do you have a concussion?”
“A bit wired after the near death and great sex but all the faculties are there.”
Leia propped herself up on her elbows to look at him, staring at him in confusion. Then sat right up and leaned against the bulkhead.
“You can’t be serious.” She didn’t look like she was going to laugh anymore. She looked more like she might have missed a joke and maybe the joke was on her. “What brought this on?”
“The near death. The great sex.” He looked up at her, grinning like a madman.
“We’ve been together for six months.”
“The best six months. And we’ve known each other for years.”
“We didn’t even like each other half the time.”
“Sure we did. Just took some time figuring it out.”
“Fine. I didn’t like you half that time.”
“But you like me now.” He wiggled his eyebrows again.
“Stop doing that.”
“And you love me now.”
“This doesn’t seem a bit rushed to you?” She’s not mad, just confused. Maybe intrigued. Excited that he’s brought it up but still confused. Very, very confused. “Have you forgotten that you’re the man who shuns commitment? I’m the woman who plans three weeks in advance for an orgasm.”
Han smiled at that comment. He’d yelled that at Leia about a year earlier. It was the meanest thing he could think of to say, thought it would send her scurrying. But her response, Somethings are worth the wait had shocked and delighted him.
“Well, that commitment thing was tossed a while back.”
“Committed to you, Sweetheart. Better than enlisting. I won’t go AWOL on you.”
“What will people think? Not everyone knows.”
“They all know. Maybe not your high-ranking pals off-base but every who matters knows.”
She ran her hand over her hair. The feeling of excitement was growing but it still felt like an ill-conceived plan. “We don’t have to rush. Unless you’re pregnant. Are you pregnant? You said you had the shot. Are you trying to trap me in a marriage?”
“We’ve already covered this. Pregnancy jokes aren’t funny.”
He sat up and turned to face her. “Here’s what I’m thinking. I know you haven’t seen or done or been around as much as me.” He held his hand up. “Yeah, yeah. Insert old guy joke here. My point is, I know you and me are different, I know this is different. We were dancing around it a long time but once we were in, the deal was sealed. Right? You got any doubt this is the real deal?”
She shook her head. “No.” She loved him. She knew she wanted to be with him. But this seemed crazy. Everyone would think they were crazy.
“My whole life has been one hustle, escape, battle after another. This is the first time I don’t feel like running from something or to the next thing.”
Her deep brown eyes were locked onto his. She took deep breaths trying to remain calm. He took hold of her hand.
“We got a good thing here. What more do you need to know?”
“What about you leaving? There’s that little matter of your Hutt and the ever-increasing debt.”
He nodded slowly. “That is a problem. But it’s a problem whether we get married or not.” She lowered her eyelids and gave him a try again look. “Can only focus on one monumental life decision at a time.”
“So, you’re not leaving.”
“Sticking with you, Sweetheart.” His lop-sided grin suddenly appeared. “We’ll figure the rest out later.”
She’s still in a state of shock but is beyond even shaking her head at him. “You know you’re insane.”
“Sure. But I’m your insane. That’s all that matters.”
“I have no idea what to say.”
“Look, you don’t have to answer now. Let it rattle around for a while.” He kissed the back of her hand, the palm, then wrist.
“You should do the same, you know? Take some time to think this over.” He continued kissing up her arm. He pulled aside the t-shirt to run his tongue along her neck. “You’re pumped up on endorphins. A mad escape, sex, and you suddenly decide we should get married. I think you might be hysterical.”
“Isn’t the first time I’ve thought about it.” He kissed her softly on the mouth. “Just the first time I mentioned it.”
Leia pushed him back and kept him at arm’s length with her hands against his chest. “Again, we’ve been together six months. How often could it have come up?”
He considered going through the list.
There was the time, long before they were together, when some son of a donor rich kid was showing them around his expensive yacht and Han kept a few paces behind feeling annoyed every time the guy pointed out some expensive gadget or part, annoyed that Luke and Leia responded with interest and awe. He realized some of it was jealousy that he’d never have anything close to it and he could really use that state-of-the-art cloaking device. Then Leia turned back to look at him and mouthed, Pure Cathomon Hydrolathed Duralex Leather? Oooooooo while imitating the rich kid rubbing his hand over the couch, then turned back to the tour like nothing had happened. Han laughed and the first thing that popped into his head was, Yeah, I’d marry this one and then spent the rest of the tour perplexed and slightly pissed that he’d thought it.
There was the first morning they woke up together when he didn’t actually think about marriage but did get a quick flash that this was something he could do forever.
Then there was the briefing for an upcoming mission when he looked across the table and felt a rush in knowing she was his. Not so much an ownership feeling as missing pieces fitting together.
When they had many days apart because of conflicting trips and he was so distracted in missing her that he almost proposed as soon as she returned. He knew then he had no escape and wasn’t particularly interested in finding one.
There was the time she was riding with Hera on the Ghost and they ran into Imperial fire. Communication was down for a couple days and he thought he’d lost her.
Or when they were playing cards with some of the Rogues and she won the rather substantial pot. In a very un-princess-like move, she gloated over her winnings, practically danced in her seat as she claimed all the credits and he felt chuffed and excited that he could spend his life with this competitive, fierce and funny woman.
Then during their escape from Essenite when she led the evacuation, making sure supplies, equipment and people got on ships, while remaining calm, keeping everyone focused and on task and they all made it out alive. On the Falcon, they worked together to organize their extra passengers, figure out food rations and sleeping arrangements, not knowing how many days it might take to rejoin the fleet. He could see the strain beneath her surface but she looked undefeated, unflappable, as wounds were tended, morale boosted, plans made, and she didn’t slow down until she fell asleep curled up on his lap in the pilot’s chair.
“Once or twice.”
“Okay.” She moved on the bunk to sit up higher. “I’m not saying I don’t want to ever get married. I’m saying perhaps this is something we could discuss in a few years.”
“What’s going to be different in a few years? Gonna love me more?”
“I don’t even know your mother’s name. Or the details of how you met Chewbacca. The only things I know about your childhood is that you learned how to hotwire a speeder and didn’t know how to cook nerf steak.”
“Both very important points.”
“You don’t talk about ex-girlfriends.”
“There was no one before you.”
“When did you learn to speak Shyriiwook?”
“Before I met Chewie.”
“What happened on Mytus VII?”
“A gentleman never tells.”
She dropped her head into her hands and let out a long, frustrated groan. “Maybe I’m the one who’s insane.”
“You love me without knowing any of that stuff so why does it matter?”
“It’s not the specific details that matter.” She held up a finger. “Unless, of course, they do matter and you should tell me right away.”
“You’ve got all the pertinent information.”
“It’s more about sharing the information.”
“You think I don’t trust you?”
She looked at him, one side of her mouth turning up in a half-smile. “I know you trust me.”
He kneeled in front of her. “I got this far, found you, by following my gut. And I got a good feeling about this.”
She ran her finger along his jawline. “Okay, you’ve made your point.”
“Oh, I have a few more points to make.” Taking hold of her legs he pulled her down on the bunk. He moved over her, sliding his hand under her shirt. His thumb circled her nipple.
They kissed, slowly, as she spread her legs so he could lower himself on top of her. They moved slowly, savouring each kiss, each touch. She arched her back and moved her hips to meet his.
He leaned into her ear. “I love you, Leia Magret Breha Nalo Amidala Organa.”
She smiled. “You remembered all my names.”
He moved to her other ear, nibbled on the lobe, and whispered in a low voice. “Jaina.”
Leia pulled her head back quickly, looking more curious than shocked.
“My mother’s name.”
She wrapped a leg around his hip and murmured, “Okay, hot shot,” keeping him close.
Han opened his eyes, squinting against the light. The cabin wasn’t very bright but still seemed a bit much first thing. Leia was sitting up beside him, leaning against pillows and the bulkhead, her datapad propped up on her knees.
“What time is it?” His voice was low and sleepy.
“Early.” She pushed the hair back from his forehead as he closed his eyes again.
“I thought you didn’t have meetings this morning. Or not early ones anyway.”
“This isn’t work. This is personal business.”
He opened his eyes, looking up at her. She was smiling down at him but looked almost shy. With a tired groan, he sat up and leaned against the bulkhead beside her. He took the datapad, read it over and chuckled.
“Looking into marriage laws?”
“Not laws, per se. The Alliance doesn’t have anything pertaining to marriage in its charter.” He nodded toward the cup of kaffe sitting beside the bunk and she handed it to him. “And we’re not in any jurisdiction that might dictate procedure.” She watched him slowly sip the kaffe. “Did you look into any of this?”
Han shook his head and handed her the datapad. “You’re all about the paperwork. I’m the ideas man.” He nudged her with his elbow. “What you thinking, Sweetheart? You want to do this thing?”
“You haven’t changed your mind?”
“I’d want to keep it small. Very private. Maybe just Luke and Chewie. Intergalactic law under the Old Republic, and the Empire actually, said an officer could perform the ceremony.”
“That seems doable. When you want to do it?”
They considered all the likely scenarios over the next while as they searched for a new base, regrouped, went out on missions and runs, plus the chance of anything unexpected happening, including but not limited to another battle with Imperial Forces. Planning ahead, knowing what to expect or where they might be, simply wasn’t a wartime luxury.
“How fast can you get organized? We’re all in one place right now.”
She took a deep breath. “For today? I don’t even know if I can locate my things that quickly. Not all the transports dropped off on Home One so I might not see them for a while.”
“Not rushing you.” His lop-sided grin popped up. “Other than the whole get married after six months thing. But I’ve never thought about a wedding so there’s nothing or nobody I need there ‘cept you. Don’t want you to feel disappointment or regret cos you didn’t get the dress you wanted or something. I can wait.”
“I haven’t thought about my wedding since I young. Certainly, before I was a teenager. And that world, that wedding, is long gone. I wish my parents could be there. My aunts and cousins. Having the perfect dress isn’t going to fix that part. I want to get married to you. I want Luke and Chewie with us. Everything else is circumstantial.”
He kissed her on the forehead, nose, then lips. “Let’s get moving, Sweetheart. Busy day.” He crawled over her and out of the bunk. “And gonna need a lot more kaffe to get started.”
Leia took his hand and followed him out of the bunk and cabin.
For an outside observer, their day didn’t look unusual. Leia still went to meetings. She addressed the troops gathered in the hanger, thanking them for their dedication and hard work, promising they would soon have a new base, that the Empire would get their due. Han and Chewie helped with repairs on fighters damaged during the attack. He met with supply officers to schedule retrieval of goods dispersed during the evacuation.
They crossed paths a few times during the day—the mess hall, outside meeting rooms, during her speech—but they kept their distance. Much like their first morning-after, they felt an intensity, energized. They didn’t want to break the spell. They didn’t want to appear too obvious.
Han was tasked with telling Luke. As soon as he asked to talk in private and they were in a small room off the hanger, he was nervous. Saying it out loud to someone other than Chewie, Han realized how crazy it must sound. It all made sense in his head, and clearly Leia agreed with him, but it was going to be a chore convincing everyone else that they hadn’t lost their minds.
“What’s up?” Luke leaned up against a table waiting for his friend to speak. Han had one hand on his hip and the other covered his mouth. He looked like he might be sick or had some awful news to report. “Are you okay?”
Han tried to find the words. His first instinct was to make light of it. Some kind of ball and chain or don’t worried she’s not knocked up joke to deflect his nerves and excitement. He didn’t expect to feel so vulnerable in this moment. Admitting his feelings to Leia was one thing but being honest with Luke was something else. He trusted the kid, liked him more than he liked anybody, but this was new territory.
“Leia and I are getting married.” He stood up straight, both hands on hips. “Tonight. And we both want you there.”
Luke looked stunned. For several moments, he didn’t move. Only blinked. Processing Han’s words. Then he sprung into action.
“That’s amazing!” He wrapped Han in tight hug, clapping his friend on his back. “Definitely not what I expected. Don’t know what I expected but this wasn’t even close.”
Han was grinning now, still locked in the hug and very grateful for Luke and his eternal optimism. “It’s just you and Chewie. And somebody has to marry us. But that’s it. Not telling anyone else right now.”
“Got it!” Luke made a motion like he was locking his lips. “I’m going to go find Leia. Is that okay?”
“Yeah, Kid. She knows she’s getting married.”
For Leia, she found ways to work in all the things she needed to do. Threepio located her personal items and she pulled out her green dress. She didn’t have many dresses anymore and a Senatorial gown or something she wore to negotiate a trade deal didn’t feel very romantic. Although, to be fair, Leia wasn’t exactly sure what qualified as romance these days. They really were making it up as they went along.
Much like Han, she felt grateful for Luke and his enthusiasm. She could be excited around him. He didn’t know anything about planning a wedding but he offered encouragement, side hugs, helped in any way he could. Leia felt very lucky to have these two men—who complimented her and each other in different ways—in her life.
She was surprised that she wasn’t more nervous. Like many things in her life, once she made the decision, she felt confident in it. Or mostly confident. She was nervous about some of the details but she knew they were doing the right thing for them. This feeling certainly helped when she asked General Rieekan to perform the ceremony.
“I won’t take much of your time.” She found him in the small office assigned to him aboard Home One. The logistical chaos of accounting for everyone at the rendezvous was calming down but the arduous process of determining next steps continued. “This is a personal matter.”
Rieekan indicated she should take a seat. “Of course, your Highness. I always have time for you.”
Rieekan was as close to a family member as Leia had left. He had also been a supportive mentor for her during the past few years.
“This is one of those times when I would prefer to be Leia. I have a request and it does not concern my role as the Last Princess of Alderaan.” Saying that title made her feel uncomfortable. She still felt responsible to the Alderaan diaspora and her parents’ legacy but she hadn’t felt like a princess in some time.
“I will certainly help, if able.”
“First of all, let me preface this by saying, I know what I’m doing and this is what I want to do. I will always appreciate your opinion and advice but this isn’t a time when I require council.”
Rieekan leaned back in his chair, resting his hands on his stomach. “Well, I’m certainly intrigued.”
“Captain Solo and I are getting married and we would like you to perform the ceremony. I’ve looked into the legalities and this falls well under your purview as an officer and most definitions of intergalactic law. We won’t have a license to file, so to speak, but some concessions need to be made as we are at war.”
Rieekan had a slightly bemused look on this face. “Well, that is a well-ordered argument.”
“I wanted to ensure you that I’ve thought this through. We both have.” She shifted in her seat. Placed her hands neatly folded in her lap. “I realize that it looks rather sudden, that it is rather sudden, considering, but it’s not a rash decision.”
“Leia, I’m not going to try to talk you out of this. I know there’s little point arguing when you’ve set your mind to something.” He leaned forward, resting his arms on the desk. “However, I do have to consider what your father might have said in this situation.”
“Bail didn’t have the opportunity to meet Captain Solo or know about his contributions to the Rebellion so I can’t presume how he would have reacted to this announcement. He also didn’t have the opportunity to see how much you’ve grown and accomplished in these past years. I do know he would have been eternally proud of the leader, the fighter, the person you’ve proven yourself to be time and time again.”
Leia dropped her head slightly and tried not to cry. She took a deep breath and looked up again.
“And I know that he respected your opinion, trusted you, as much if not more than anyone. He told me many times how much he admired your courage and independent spirit. True, sometimes he was frustrated by both but he loved seeing that in you.”
“Thank you.” Her voice was quiet but strong.
“The one piece I would like to confirm before agreeing to your request is the one thing you haven’t yet said. Are you happy?”
She couldn’t stop the tears now. Leia broke out into a wide grin as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Yes. Very happy. We both are.”
“Then I would be honored to officiate.” He walked around the desk to embrace Leia in a warm, fatherly hug.
“I was so certain you would give me the it’s too soon speech.”
“Well, I considered it.” He held Leia by the shoulders for a moment then let her go. “You know, Iriini knew right away.”
Rieekan rarely mentioned his wife and family. Even though almost three years had passed, it was still difficult for either of them to comprehend the enormous loss since the destruction of Alderaan.
“I took a few years to catch up. I thought there were so many things I needed to do before officially settling down. But then, I couldn’t imagine living without her.” Leia took his hand. “Still having trouble with that part.”
This time, Leia wrapped him in a hug. It felt like a moment when actions meant more than words.
It took some maneuvering but Han and Leia managed to not see each other until they had all gathered on the Falcon that evening.
He was dressed in a dark blue shirt, the closest thing he owned to a dress shirt, and a slightly nicer jacket but was still far from formal. He kept out of the way while she went to their cabin to change then waited in the lounge for everything to start.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Han wasn’t nervous, exactly, but he wasn’t great with standing around.
“Think we’re supposed to mingle among the guests.” Luke shrugged and looked around the room. It was just the four of them and mingling didn’t really seem like an option.
[Maybe we should eat.]
“You can wait.” Han almost growled back. “Not going to starve in the next thirty minutes.”
Chewie had managed to find a few things that made for a better than average meal but there was only so much he could do. Nuts, dried fruit, some recently thawed cake and a collection of rehydrated meals that didn’t feel like they came straight from the mess hall.
Han’s heart broke a little looking at everything set up on the game’s table. He was marrying an actual princess and he couldn’t even locate fresh food for the wedding. Maybe he should have waited until they were set up somewhere else. Getting in a few supply runs might have helped.
“I’ll go back and check on her.” Luke bounded down the ring corridor toward the cabin.
“I did bring a bottle to celebrate.” Rieekan pulled wine from a bag and placed it on the table.
“How many bases and evacuations did you manage to keep that safe?” Han grabbed tumblers from a cupboard. They were mismatched but only one had a chip out of it. Again, he realized how little he had to offer Leia. She never complained, never seemed to mind, but he’d like to get it together enough someday to offer her more.
“A surprising number. I’ve been saving it for something special.” Rieekan didn’t know the pilot well but he liked him. And he knew that Han loved Leia. “This seemed like the appropriate occasion.”
Han put a hand on Rieekan’s shoulder to say thanks just as Luke stepped out of the corridor. They turned to look at him as he cleared his throat.
“We’re ready to go. Places everyone.” Luke stepped to the side and stuck his elbow out. Leia moved into position beside him, slipping her arm through his, and they walked into the lounge.
Her hair was woven into braids and pulled into a bun. Loose and carefully arranged strands of hair fell around her face. She wore an altered version of her green dress. She’d asked the quartermaster for a favour and now the hemline was just above her knees, the bodice fit more snugly, the collar opened up more across her shoulders. She smiled at Chewie and General Rieekan as she approached then locked eyes with Han when she took his hand. She didn’t cry and she couldn’t stop smiling.
Han was in awe. Overwhelmed. Energized. She could be anywhere, be with anyone, and she chose him. She planned on saving the galaxy, freeing it from tyranny, and she was tying herself to street kid from Corellia who barely managed to keep his ship flying and definitely didn’t fit in with anything resembling high society. He knew Rieekan was talking but didn’t hear the words. Han hadn’t cried in years, not since he was a little kid, but started to think his run might be over.
“Captain Solo, do you have anything you would like to say?” Rieekan waited for Han to break his gaze with Leia and look at him. “Did you write your own vows?”
“We were supposed to do that? Thought that was your job?” He bristled and looked quickly between Leia and Rieekan.
The General raised his hand to calm Han’s nerves. “Entirely optional.”
“Huh. Think I used all the good stuff for the proposal.” Han turned to Leia and took a deep breath. It really was something to see her standing there. He gave a soft chuckle and a what are you going to do shrug of the shoulders. “I fucking love you, Princess.” He paused and smiled. “Leia.”
He cupped her face and ran his thumb along her cheek. “I probably should have prepared something.”
Her smile grew even wider. “It was strangely perfect.”
He kissed her then kissed her again, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close.
“Excuse me.” Rieekan raised his voice to get their attention. “We’re not done yet. Leia, would you like to say anything?”
“No, I’m good.” She laughed at Han’s slightly perturbed look. Leia put a hand on his cheek. “Not sure how I could lose everything and find my everything at almost the same time but I also can’t argue with the facts. I am very glad we found each other.”
It took a few more pronouncements from Rieekan, some repeated vows from Han and Leia, and that was it. They were married. They kissed again as he lifted her up and swung around. There were more hugs, toasts with Rieekan’s bottle of Alderaan wine, and they all sat down to dinner.
The party didn’t go on too late. Luke had an early start the next day, heading off for a patrol over their new base on Hoth. Rieekan had overnight watch. Chewie headed to bed, claiming he was tired but actually giving the couple some space. Han and Leia sat on the bench, on opposite sides of the table, exhausted from the long day and a little unsure about what happened next.
“I can’t believe you fell for it.” Han picked at the remnants of dinner still on the table.
“You’re acting like you had a master plan.”
“Nah.” He smiled at her. “Making it up as we go along, remember? Trick is knowing when it’s right time to strike. Just lucky you’re the immediate gratification type.”
She laughed. “Hmmm. Not sure if that’s how people would describe me.”
“Those people aren’t your husband. I got the inside scoop.”
“Husband. That might take some getting used to.”
He responded by kissing the back of her hand, the palm then wrist. They both took deep breaths and exhaled then laughed.
They moved about the Falcon in an easy, comfortable routine. Cleared the table, putting dishes and any leftover food in the galley. Moved to their cabin, undressing and talking about nothing terribly important but pieces of the life they shared. Nothing felt new but rather lit from a different angle. Everything was familiar yet different.
When Han returned from the refresher, Leia was wearing her night t-shirt and starting to pull the pins from her hair.
“Hold on!” He took hold of her hand. “That’s my job. We gotta get at least one tradition right.”
She faced him, her hands on his hips, as he slowly removed the hair pins then unbraided each plait. When her hair was down, draping along her back, he ran his fingers through it, pushing it back from her face. They kissed without stepping closer. It was a tender, almost chaste, kiss.
“Kriff, you’re beautiful. Don’t think I tell you enough.” His hands cupped her face. His hazel eyes moving to intense green.
“You do a good job of showing me what you’re thinking.” Her hands were still on his hips.
He took hold of the hem of her shirt and pulled the garment over her head. He lifted her up with his hands on the back of her thighs. She wrapped her arms and legs around him, her bare breasts pressed against his chest.
He kissed down one side of her neck as he stepped toward the bunk. Then kissed down the other side before setting her down. She slid back on the bunk and stretched out.
Han put both hands on the bulkhead over the bunk and leaned in.
“Are you just going to stand there?” Her foot gently pressed against the growing bulge in his underwear. She arched her back slightly.
“Taking it all in.”
“You’re acting like you’ve never seen me naked before.”
“Everytime’s like the first time, Sweetheart.”
She laughed again. “You’re ridiculous.”
Leia sat up and knelt on the bunk in front of him. With both hands, she pulled down his underwear and he quickly kicked them off.
“Enough stalling.” Her hand lightly ran up and down his thighs, his hips, his lower abdomen. Everywhere but that place he was increasingly hoping she would touch.
She kissed along his neck and down his chest, along his stomach and hips. He kept his hands on the bulkhead above him, his long frame leaning in. His body was reacting but he stayed in place. His mouth was turned up in a small smile as he watched her.
Leia pulled back to look him, eyelids narrowed. “What’s going on, Flyboy?”
“Just admiring my wife.”
She dropped her arms to her side and shook her head. “Is this what married life is like?” She flopped back on to bunk, landing on the pillows. “I want a divorce. This isn’t working out.”
“Guess you should have signed a prenup.”
“Are you forgetting that I have little to my name? No princess dowry. No prenup means I get half the Falcon.”
“You can have the broken half.”
She put her hands over her head and positioned herself better on the pillows. “It’s getting chilly. And I’ve got all those early meetings.”
In one swift move he jumped on to the bunk, landing with hands on either side of her torso. He lowered himself down on to his elbows. His hips nestled between her thighs.
“Sorry, Sweetheart. You might be a bit late for those meetings.”
She wrapped her legs around his hips, putting an end to the almost chaste kisses and any question about what they should happen next.
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
“Where is he?” Leia sat up in the medical bunk. She was attached to monitors and an IV drip. Her voice was rough and scratchy. “I know what he’s doing.”
[He’s coming. He’ll be here.]
“If he’s not here in ten minutes, I’m coming to find him.” Her jaw was clenched and eyes glaring. There was a faint trace of a bruise on her cheek. Her hair pulled back in a messy braid. “I mean it, Chewbacca.”
Chewie left with promises to return with Han.
Leia straightened the pillows behind her. Flattened the sheets covering her legs, smoothing out the wrinkles. She tried to calm her breathing, center herself but could feel herself falling off an edge and needed to hold herself back.
It had been days-upon-days of things going wrong and then things moved from bad to worse. Colonel Dunsteen’s intel on their Kairuss mission was compromised and they barely made it out with the datachips and their lives. Then they ran into more trouble on Ord Mantell when meeting their contact for the drop. A bounty hunter, trying to collect Han’s mark, grabbed Leia instead and she was injured when the speeder crashed during the high-speed getaway.
Han barely spoke on the trip back. He tended to her injuries as best he could on the Falcon but he looked more in pain than Leia. On Hoth, he got her to the med center then did his best to stay away. There was always an excuse. She had work. Gave Luke or Tuck time to visit. Said he had to help out around base. She needed to rest.
But she couldn’t relax. She needed to see him and set things straight.
It wasn’t that long since most of their relationship was based on conflict. When she looked for ways to block, confound and confuse him. Tried to convince herself that Han Solo was the opposite of what she needed or wanted. Yet it felt like she had lived a lifetime since then.
He arrived looking sheepish but trying to convey detached cool. He didn’t lean in for a kiss or even a gentle touch on her arm as he normally did. His hands were in his pockets as soon as he was at her bedside.
“You’re looking better. Getting out soon?”
“I know what you’re doing.”
“I’m visiting you. Pretty obvious.”
“Where have you been? I’ve barely seen you since you dropped me off yesterday.”
“Helping out. This base of yours is going to fall apart before you get it set up.”
They had been on Hoth for little over a month. Crews were still carving out tunnels, setting up rooms and the hanger, securing the perimeter. More Rebels were arriving every day and they were struggling to keep up with capacity. There was also the not so small matter of the shield generators and speeders not working in the frigid temperatures, attacks by mysterious ice creatures, and so much meteorite activity surrounding the planet it was dangerous to enter or leave and difficult to tell when a ship might be approaching.
She and Han were some of the first to arrive on planet and their past month had been a hectic mix of supply runs, construction supervision and trying to create some organization amid the chaos. Tensions were high amidst all the Rebels but they found solace whenever or wherever they could.
The Falcon was a much-needed oasis. Han and Leia made a cocoon of their bunk, keeping warm beneath blankets and wrapped in each other’s bodies. Every morning one of them wondered if they could conduct all their business from the confines of the cabin and every night they tucked in with the promise to stay put as long as possible.
Leaving on the mission, though they knew it would be dangerous, felt almost like a relief. A few days with a focused plan and targeted seemed like a good distraction from constant freezing and concern that an ice ceiling might collapse. They were looking forward to a few days without parkas and quilted winter wear. Then it all went to hell.
“You’re planning on leaving.”
Han didn’t respond. He briefly lowered his eyes and tried to reinforce his detached cool look. His hands were still shoved into his pockets.
“Did you plan on saying something or just taking off and wondering if I would notice?”
“Come on, Leia. That’s bullshit.”
“Bullshit that you’re leaving? Or bullshit that you’d leave without telling me?”
She reached out and grabbed his wrist, pulling his hand out of his pocket and toward her. She grasped it tightly.
“Look at me.” He kept his eyes lowered. “Han Solo. Look at me.”
He raised his eyes with a low sigh just as a medical droid entered the room.
“Princess Leia.” The droid’s voice sounded more mechanized than most. It was built for efficiency rather than a warming presence. “You’ve been cleared for release.”
As the medical droid moved around Leia’s bed, removing the IV drip and monitors, she continued to hold Han’s hand and gaze at him. He looked like he couldn’t decide if he wanted to dart out of the room or into her arms. His jaw was clenched and she watched his throat move with each deep swallow.
When the droid left, Leia got up from the bed and moved to the small storage locker. “Lock the door.”
Han watched her as she pulled out her clothes and started dressing.
“Tell me what you’re thinking.” She started with her pants. Her hands were shaking—she wasn’t sure if it was rage or fear—and this seemed like the simplest activity to try first.
“They were after me and they almost got you.”
“The bounty hunters.” It wasn’t a question and she didn’t wait to see if he nodded in response. “And this time seems more significant to you than the last time. Or the time before that.”
“You didn’t get hurt because you were in the line of fire. They knew we were together.”
“I have my own bounty. We all do. We’re chased by bounty hunters, the Empire, war lords, crime syndicates. None of this is new.”
“But my bounty hunters are better at it.” He looked at her directly this time. “They found us. The rest didn’t.”
“So, we have more information now. We know what to look for.” She pulled off her med center gown. She stood before him, topless, and they both felt a wave of vulnerability that they hadn’t experienced since before their first time. There was want but not desire.
She was still amazed that they were married. That he was her husband. At times it felt like both the easiest and the most extraordinary thing she’d done and she had delivered the plans for the Death Star. They had somehow managed to build a life together on Rebel bases and between missions. To admit that they wanted a future together but never discussing what that future might look like.
They had put things off. They didn’t know if and when the war would end and if they would be on the winning side. Both of them assumed she would be involved in politics, setting up a new government, but there was no discussion of how he fit in. What does a smuggler do if they are no longer living outside the law? They didn’t discuss having children. Where they might live. What they wanted beyond being together and each other. They avoided the topic of his death mark and the fact that Jabba the Hutt was not known for his acts of forgiveness and generosity. Now some things were catching up with them sooner than they hoped.
“You don’t want the Hutts mad at you. I don’t want the Hutts coming for you.” He didn’t raise his voice or even sound angry. He sounded sad and resigned.
“You’re not leaving.” She pulled on her formed tank top then uniform shirt. “That’s not happening so we better start thinking of a plan B.”
Han let out a quick, scoffing chuckle. “You going to throw me in the brig, Princess?”
“If that’s what it takes until you come to your senses, then yes. The brig it is.”
“Leia, you know this isn’t what I want.”
“I don’t know what else to do!” He was relying on his base instincts to protect and defend. His world was wrapped up in Leia, his existence depended on hers and Leia was always the priority.
“Well, leaving me isn’t the answer.”
“It’s the answer if it means you live. That you have one less thing chasing you down.”
She could see his wheels spinning. His mind was leaping through terrible thing he had done in his life, everything that brought him to this point with tremendous debt, an angry crime lord after him and very few options. She knew he was, as he would put it, freaking out. Desperate to act, to solve, to fix, to save.
One of the things that drew them together, although it took them some time to recognize it, was loss. He was very young when he lost his parents, his home. His life since was designed to prevent that kind of monumental loss from happening again, to keep his world very small so he had complete control over who came and went. It was an immense thing for him to open himself up to her. To make her a part of his world. To make her the center. Losing her would be losing his world and she knew he had decided it was better if he lost her then everyone else did. He would sacrifice himself in this scenario.
“You stuck with the Alliance for me all these years. I’m here to help with Jabba. Paying the debt. Fighting the debt. Fighting Jabba. Whatever it takes.”
“It’s not the same thing.”
“How is it not the same thing? We made a choice to be together. We fight together.”
“You’re not safer with me. All I want is you safe.”
“That’s a lie. That’s not all you want. You want me. You want to be with me.”
“Leia, try to understand…”
“Say it.” She finished buttoning her shirt then crossed her arms against her chest. Her feet were placed at hip width apart, back straight. It was the Leia power pose.
“Say what?” He crossed his arms and mimicked her pose.
“You know. Say it.”
He clenched his jaw and stared at her but couldn’t outlast her stare. “I want you. I want to be with you.”
“But I also wanted to land a million-credit job. I wanted to be swoop bike champ in the Lacoona Run. I want the Falcon to not leak fuel. Don’t always get what I want. Always been like that, always will.”
Leia pulled the tie out of her hair and loosened her braid. Han watched as her hair cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. She noticed him catch his breath in one quick moment.
“You seem to be forgetting a few important facts. Like, you aren’t making decisions for just you anymore. We are making decisions together.”
“I made this one for the both of us.”
She separated her hair into section and started to quickly twist new braids.
“Do you remember your wedding vows?”
“My vows were I fucking love you, Princess and that one still stands.”
“Fine. Your proposal. You said you weren’t leaving.”
When one braid was finished, she wrapped it over her head and pinned it in place. She then started working on the next one.
“You say your concern is keeping me safe, taking care of me. What do you think happens when you go? What happens to me? Do I just add a new notch to my dead and missing post? We both know the chances of you surviving Jabba are slim. And if you do survive, then what? How will you find me again?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Don’t know how any of it will go. But if I leave, that fixes one problem.”
“No, it doesn’t. My life isn’t safer with you gone. We’re at war. Nothing is safe. The only thing you’ve accomplished is the both of us end up alone. I’ve been alone and we’ve been together. Together is better.”
She finished fastening the last braid and ran her hands over her hair. “How do I look?”
“Perfect.” He lost his stern look, his eyes softened. “Like my wife.”
She stepped forward and placed her hands on his hips. His hands went to her shoulders as he kissed her forehead.
“You’re trying to fix things that you can’t fix.” She kissed his chest then looked up at him. “Ideally, this debt would have been taken care of years ago. It might have even been easier to get back to us and the base then, too. Or maybe you would have left and we never saw each other again. We’d never have this.” She gave him a small shake.
“I like this.” His voice was soft, low. No trace of a baritone rumble.
“But we can’t go back and do what maybe should have been done years ago. We can only move forward.”
“I’m trying to make sure you have a future. That you can fight for all the things you need to fight for.”
“My future is you. My future includes you.” She pressed herself against him and his arms went around her back. “If I ever do lose you, and I know that will happen one day, I know I will survive. I’m a survivor. You’re a survivor. But I intend to wring the most out of every day, every moment, we have between now and then.”
Han made a motion like he was pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear, even though everything was perfectly in place. He gazed down at her, offering a half smile. His chest was rising and falling as he took deep breaths, trying to keep calm, regulate his heartbeat.
“Listen to me, Solo. You aren’t leaving out of some twisted sense of responsibility.” She tightened her grip around his waist. “We got married so we wouldn’t live half-lives. Because we both understood losing everything. You are not going to throw this all away. We are not going to lose everything again, not when we can still have it.”
Leia tried to think of all the times they said I love you and realized it was remarkably few. It was a truth, an understanding, a deep feeling that they didn’t need to say out loud. That was the universe they existed in. They loved each other. They were in love. There was no need to question that foundation, its strength or its reach. It enabled them to do whatever else needed to be done.
Their lives were almost constantly at risk. They found moments of rest and solace with each other, friends, but they knew it was temporary. Attacks were imminent. Assignments and missions were dangerous. Their physical circumstances might be fleeting, tenuous, but not their hearts, not their core. Until now. And Leia wasn’t going to let that happen.
He kissed her. Maybe because he didn’t know what else to do. Maybe he thought he could change the topic. Maybe that was all he truly knew or understood in that moment.
“See? You don’t want to give that up.” She bit her lower lip and smiled at him. “You want that as much as I do.”
“I fucked up, Sweetheart. Big time.” He shook his head when she tried to speak. “I didn’t realize I was only scraping by till I got here. Not Hoth. This is definitely barely living. I mean with you.”
He kissed her on the forehead again, giving himself another moment to collect his thoughts.
“Guess it didn’t really matter to me. Figured I’d always get by. Find a way out of whatever hole I found myself in. And if I didn’t, didn’t matter. Don’t mean I had a death wish. You won the game if you survived another day and the idea was to win the game. But I didn’t think much about consequences. Didn’t feel like I was leaving a trail. Whatever was next was next.”
She pressed her cheek against his chest and held him tight.
“Never thought I’d find you. Never thought I’d care much about tomorrow. If I could pull in some credits, maybe a lot of credits, keep the Falcon going, keep Chewie and me in business, I was good. But I fucked up. Found the one thing that matters and the shit I’ve done is gonna pull it apart.”
He put his hands on her shoulders again, pushing her back slightly so he could look at her.
“We’ve covered this before.” He tried a poor attempt at a smile. “You got more happening than just me. More people, beings, relying on you. I need you. I can’t be the one to put you in danger.”
Leia almost sighed. “As far as your debt and bounty are concerned, nothing has changed in the past six months other than you fully recognizing they are real.”
“Hey, I damn well know how serious it is. Got distracted by other things, sure, but I knew it was bad.”
“You promised me you wouldn’t leave me.”
“I promised to love and take care of you, too.”
“I am trying to keep those options open.”
He put his hands back on his hips, dropped his head for a moment. “It’s not like I’m breaking up with you. I don’t want to leave.”
“Then make the right choice. Are you going to run off like the old Han Solo avoiding responsibility and commitment? And no! The responsible thing isn’t leaving me. Being responsible means sticking with your commitments.”
Now it was his turn to sigh.
“So, what do you say? Are you going to double cross me or stick to your word?” She crossed her arms again and resumed her power pose.
“You’re a bit stubborn. Anyone ever tell you that?”
“May have heard that once or twice.”
He stared at Leia, holding her gaze for a few moments before breaking out into a reluctant smile. “Not gonna double cross you.”
“And you’re not leaving.”
He smiled again, noting that she didn’t phrase it as a question. His hand went to her cheek and his thumb turned soft circles as she leaned into her touch. “Agreeing to try for a plan B. But you gotta know that plan A might still be the only option.”
“We can agree to disagree for now.” She stepped in closer. “I am willing to open negotiations on this matter at a later date.”
He kissed her again. A gentle, soft touch of their lips. “I am sorry.”
“We’re moving forward, Flyboy. Remember that.”
She stepped away from him and headed for the door. “I should probably go and deal with whatever new problem has cropped up.”
“Don’t know if there’s anything new. Just plenty of the old.” He picked up her bag then unlocked the door.
“Where are you heading to now?”
“Got patrol with Luke. Checking the perimeter, dropping sensors.”
She placed a hand on his chest before they stepped out of the room.
“I love you, Han Solo.” She gave him a slight shove. “Don’t piss me off.”
“Wouldn’t think of it, Sweetheart. You must be thinking of your other husband.”
She took his hand as they walked out into the hall.
Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
Their suite had a wall of windows. After almost four weeks on the Falcon, moving through deep space at sub-light speed and relying on an adjusted chrono and synchronized lights to distinguish day from night, Han was tempted to squint against all the sunlight. He felt exposed, slightly confused. It had also been a long time since he’d spoken with anyone other than Leia and Chewie.
Lando was being his usual charming self, moving around the suite like he was trying to sell it. It was sparsely decorated but still seemed to have a lot of features that needed pointing out. Things he seemed to think would impress Han.
“When moonlight hits the sculpture, it lights up the whole space. It’s magnificent.” Lando waved an arm toward the large glass piece in the middle of the room.
“Good to know.” Han really didn’t have any thoughts about artwork or how anything looked in this all-white room. He was happy they arrived safe, that Lando didn’t shoot him as soon as they landed, and the Falcon’s hyperdrive was being fixed. That was good enough for him.
“Forgot you’re more comfortable in backwater cantinas and hangers. Fine art goes over your head.” Lando smiled at Han. They were both more comfortable throwing insults and jibes at each other.
“Well, if I was in a cantina, I’d have a drink by now.”
“Of course.” Lando bowed slighting in mock deference. “I’m negligent in my hosting duties. I suppose free, luxury accommodations didn’t convey enough.”
Lando walked to the fully stocked bar by the windows. “What can I get you, my friend. We have an excellent Dikup reserve that puts your Whyren’s to shame. Wine. Brandy. I could order you up some ale.”
“A tumbler of your finest works.”
Han walked over to join Lando by the window. He had to admit, the view was impressive. From their vantage point, he could see more structures popping up amid the multi-coloured clouds, cloudcars weaving in and out. It looked both busy and serene.
Lando handed him a whisky and they held glasses up in a quick salute.
“Thanks,” Han said. “For everything. Good to know the Falcon’s being cared for.”
“You know I love that old girl.” Lando gave Han a very wide grin. “Still like to think of her as mine.”
“Well, she’s not. Case closed.”
Lando laughed and slapped Han on the shoulder. It was far too easy to rile Han up when he wanted.
“She’s pretty banged up. Looks like you’ve run into some action.” Lando leaned on the back of a sofa and gave Han an assessing stare.
Han turned back to the window. “Some.”
They arrived in Cloud City asking Lando for help but, truth was, Han wasn’t sure how much he could trust him. They’d known each other for years—they first crossed paths on one of Han’s first jobs after the Academy—and they’d saved each other’s asses more than a few times. But they’d also butted heads, argued about final tallies and stakes in scores, and turned on each other more than once. There was also the sore spot of Han winning the Falcon and Lando accusing him of cheating. But really, all he did was prevent Lando from cheating. Either way, it continued to be a point of contention.
They didn’t have a lot of choice, though. They had no hyperdrive and a finite amount of fuel and supplies. It was Bespin or nothing.
She had a bad feeling about it. It had been awhile since she had nightmares but they were back during their sub-light trek. She was convinced something was going to happen, specifically that something bad was going to happen to him. And she almost had him convinced because she was usually right about these things but Han tried to stay positive, or as positive as he got. Tried reassuring Leia and Chewie that everything would be okay. She was just feeling all the stress because, sure, Lando was a self-serving gambler turned administrator who may or may not have issues with Han but he wouldn’t double cross Chewie.
“Everyone loves Chewie! And wait till he gets a look at you. He’ll be too busy turning on his slimeball charm that he’ll forget all about seeking revenge.”
“Great. Now, I’m worried about something completely different.”
Lando was being friendly enough, talking up his new digs and all the hassles of running a mining organization, but something seemed a bit off. Like he was being a bit too friendly. Or maybe it was Han. Maybe he wasn’t reading things in the same way. He had Leia to think of and maybe he was seeing things through her eyes.
“I’ve heard rumours about you.” Lando leaned against the back of a sofa and smiled over his glass at Han. “You’re the talk of the town.”
“That so?” Han took a long drink of his whisky then walked back toward the center of the room. He looked to the bedroom door, wondering what was keeping Leia. She went in to use the ‘fresher and didn’t come back. He considered checking to see if she was lost. The place couldn’t be that big, could it?
“Story is you’ve hooked yourself up with the Rebellion.”
“Doesn’t sound like me.”
“Well, that’s exactly what I said.” Lando moved to sit on the couch. He crossed his legs, using one hand to brush out the creases. “Han Solo’s not sticking his neck out for anyone but Han Solo.”
“Of course, then you show up at my establishment with the last princess of Alderaan.”
Han glanced back at Lando but didn’t say anything. He kept his neutral mask in place. Lando, on the other hand, was outright laughing.
“Is there good pay in piloting around the Rebel Princess?”
Han grumbled, “Ain’t her pilot” even though he kind of was. He continued his path around the room. Lando was in full mocking mode and Han wasn’t really feeling the humour at the moment.
“I never thought of you as a sucker for a pretty face.”
“Not really like that.”
“Are you asking me to believe that you fell for the Rebel cause? There’s something I’m missing here. What’s your angle?”
He honestly wasn’t sure why he stuck around in the early days. She did have a pretty face. He figured that one out quick. The Rebels did pay, most of the time, though it didn’t add up to much. He and Chewie gave back most of the reward when they realized how strapped the Alliance was. It was a good place to hide from debts and bounty hunters and he made full use of that until it became too big to ignore.
At some point, he admitted to himself that he did care about the rebellion, sticking it to the Empire, but didn’t know how much that drove him. He knew it felt good to belong to something, with other beings, to fight together. He finally understood what it meant to belong to someone else.
“It’s a long story.”
“As cagey as ever, Solo.” Lando leaned back and assessed Han. His gaze had a harder edge. Like keeping up the charm routine wasn’t so easy. He was feeling the weight of that moment. Then, like a switch turned off, he was back to his usual routine.
“There’s always a good card game going here. Some real high rollers. I can get you in if you’re interested.”
“Nah. Not too flush at the moment.” Han made his way back to the middle of the room and sat on the other sofa. He leaned forward with elbows on knees, holding his glass with both hands.
“Even a broken Millennium Falcon would get you started on a good pot.”
“Not happening.” Han gave Lando a cold but knowing stare.
“Alright, alright. Point taken.” Lando held his hand up in a defensive but friendly gesture. He was smiling again. “Well, we have more than card games if you’re interested in amusement or distraction. I could introduce to you a lady or two as long as you keep in mind if I say hands off I mean hands off.”
“Nah, I’m good.” Han did a quick shoulder check back to the bedroom. He took a drink and leaned forward again. “Actually, though, maybe a good dinner out.”
“Are you asking me for a recommendation?” Lando’s devilish, and slightly amused, grin came back.
Han shifted. He felt nervous asking, especially since he was already asking a big favour in getting his ship fixed and that probably wasn’t the last favour he’d need.
“Yeah. I guess. Something nice. But not too fancy.” Han thought about it for a moment. He wanted to take his wife out. Go on something that resembled a date, an attempt at romance. He felt grossly unqualified for either but when had that ever stopped him? “Actually, no. Fancy. The nicest you got.”
Lando raised an eyebrow. Once again, he was trying to assess this situation and was falling short.
Han did another shoulder check. “But the thing is…”
“You’re not too flush at the moment.”
Han responded with an embarrassed half-grin. “Something like that. We hit a bit of a rough patch getting here so we don’t…”
“You only have the clothes on your back.”
“I got more on the Falcon.”
“So, a brown or a blue shirt instead of an off-white one. That is off-white, right?”
“You’re a regular comedian.” Han watched as Lando hedged his bets. Considered all the favours and when he would ever be repaid. Han realized there was no real reason for Lando to agree to any of this so he was surprised when he got the slight nod in return. Han wondered if Lando was playing a con that he had yet to identify.
Han was always up for the game. Being agile was key. You might get dropped in at any time and things could shift at any time. The only real rule was never assuming that you knew the rules. But maybe Leia was rubbing off on him a bit. He wondered if he should offer up a bit more since Lando was really helping them out of a tough spot.
But he wasn’t going to be so honest that he’d admit the rough patch described more than the Falcon and their sticky situation.
He’d almost fucked up his relationship for a number of reasons and in a number of ways. He was going to leave. Face Jabba. Protect Leia from one more vengeful being hunting her down. He didn’t really think it through past 1) his bounty hunters and 2) save Leia. Leaving her, losing her, would tear him apart but not as much as her dying so he tried to push past his pain and do what he thought was right. He understood losing. He could do it again.
But she stuck with him. Insisted that he stick with her. That might have been the hardest thing for him to process. If things were tough, he took off. If someone was tired of his bullshit, they left. There was nothing to work through, nothing to overcome, because it wasn’t worth the time or effort. Leia was worth the time, the effort, the everything and more, but leaving was the fix he knew. He wanted to save her, protect her but, once again, she saved him.
Escaping Hoth felt as close to near death and near capture they’d come so far. It had been a gruelling day and a half but they somehow escaped an invasion, Vader, dozens of TIEs, star destroyers and asteroids. Then they were left on their own for weeks on end and he should have felt exhausted, frustrated, claustrophobic but he felt renewed. Strong enough for whatever came next. He was whole, maybe invincible, having her at his side.
If he’d ever thought about spending that much time on the Falcon with Leia, he would have pictured something more pornographic. That certainly took up a chunk of their time and it was a particular kind of amazing to drop everything, whenever, and make love. Fuck. Screw. Whatever they were in the mood for. It was playful, fun, desperate, longing. It was everything.
But he wouldn’t have predicted how much time they spent talking. At first, they could only think about repairs, supply inventory, and what happened with the fleet. Then, once they acknowledged they were faced with time and more time, they talked about new things. He finally told her more about his childhood, what he could remember about his mother, surviving on the streets. They tried mapping out what they wanted if the war ever ended. How they wanted to be together.
Han didn’t exactly say he would follow her anywhere but they both understood her ambition was the more obvious and pressing one. They discussed the pros and cons of him enlisting. If there was legitimate work to be had in trade and transport and if it was something he could do. They didn’t come to any conclusions but found strength in asking the questions together. They were open to listening and open to trying.
Sitting on the edge of the sofa in Lando’s too fancy suite, Han felt a warmth run through his body he knew could only come from Leia.
“It’d be nice to treat her. Something a bit better than the usual.”
“Trying to impress a Princess, Solo? How far will that get you? She must have pegged you by now.” Lando finished his whisky but held on to the glass.
“Yeah, she’s got my number.” Han rubbed his hand on the back of his neck. He hassled Leia every time she complained about telling one of her Alliance cronies. Didn’t understand what the big deal was. Han realized this was the first time he’d told someone from his old world and finally got her point. It was a bit strange.
“Thing is, Leia and me. We got married a few months back.”
Han wasn’t sure how he would describe Lando’s face. Shocked, sure. But then almost nauseous. Then angry. He looked like he thought Han was pulling the ultimate con on him. That a blaster or trap door was next.
“Married?” Lando’s voice cracked when he spoke. “You and the princess.”
Han started laughing. “Yeah, shocks me sometimes, too.”
“Never saw you as the marrying kind.” Lando spoke tentatively, still not trusting his words. Or maybe his ears.
“Me neither. Not even close.” Han was having trouble controlling his smile. No hope for the neutral mask now. No sabacc face. “I get that it seems crazy from the outside but we’re solid. Good.” The smile got even wider. “The best.”
It took a lot to knock a gambler off his game but Han managed it. Lando looked flummoxed. Han thought he should be offended that his friend was so confused and confounded that Leia would marry him but it only made him laugh. Maybe it was hard to see from the outside considering the mess they were in but it was pretty hard to knock Han off-balance now. They had everything in place.
“How’s that going to work?”
“Pretty easy, actually.”
Lando leaned forward to emphasize this point. “You’re going to be her consort? If this war ends and the Empire doesn’t come out on top, your wife is going to be moving in different circles. I’m not sure if hot-wiring a speeder and smuggling illegal goods will be necessary skills.”
“I got a few other options.”
“Solo, we’ve known each other a long time. I know you would double cross me for a good score the same way I would double cross you. I know you. I know the people in the same league as your princess. There’s not a lot of cross over except what they think you can do for them.”
“Sure.” Han kept his smile. He wasn’t going to break on this one. Not anymore. “But you don’t know Leia.”
Lando shook his head. He looked like he needed to talk Han out of this predicament but knew his friend was unwilling to see the truth. In Lando’s eyes, Han was a lost cause.
“And she knows you? She knows what you’ve done, where you’ve been?”
“Most. Some.” Han shrugged. He didn’t feel so concerned about these pieces right now. “She knows about Jabba. Still have to figure that one out but we got time.”
Lando went through the cycle of shocked, nauseous then angry again. He shook his head to return to his charming visage.
“Well, she has to be something special if she’s wasting any time on you.” Lando tried for the sly smile again. “And I’m sure she’ll come to her senses. Figure it out soon enough.”
“Don’t be so sure. Even talking kids. Not now. Not soon. But sometime.” Han looked down at his whisky glass. He could feel his face reddened slightly. Knew he was trying to mask a small smile. “Probably.”
“Kids? That’s…” Lando didn’t look confused or angry or curious anymore. For a quick moment he looked stricken then dropped back into his salesman mask. “Let’s hope they come out looking like the princess.”
Neither of Han or Leia intentionally brought up the topic of kids but that’s how things worked lately. If they started talking and the door was open, they stepped through it.
They were into their third week of the trip and had given up on formalities like dressing for day or night. It was all one wardrobe of comfortable clothing. They sat at the games table slowly finishing the remains of their dinner.
“Do I look older?”
“Older than what?” Han added some hot sauce to the last of the rehydrated rations in his bowl. It wasn’t the greatest of meals but he didn’t want to waste when things might soon be sparse. “Since this trip started?”
“I feel like I’ve aged a dozen years since we met.”
“Lot happened in a couple of years.”
Leia pushed her hair back from her face. She’d given up putting her hair in anything other than a simple braid or bun. When it was just the two of them, and Chewie, their lives were built on comfort and ease. “And now it feels like time has stopped.”
Han held up the bowl with the last of the meat dish and she shook her head. He added more sauce to finish it off.
“I think we need to pay some attention to the calendar, though.”
“We can’t make it any faster.”
“We have other things to consider.” She smiled at him and stroked his cheek. “For example, when I’m due for my next shot.”
He looked up at her. “Right. How close are you?”
“Fine until we reach Bespin, assuming we stay on track. But we might want to consider options depending on how long it takes us to find the fleet.”
“I’m up-to-date. Got a while.” Han watched Leia pile the dishes up on the table. “But I guess two are better than one.”
She smiled at him. “Safety first.”
Han moved around to her side of the bench and put an arm around her waist. He kissed behind her ear and down her neck.
“Making your move, Flyboy? Now that you know the coast is clear and there’ll be no surprises.”
He pulled back and gave her a discerning look before leaning in again.
She tilted her head for him and placed a hand on his thigh. “So, what do you think would happen? If there was a surprise.”
He moved back to his discerning position. “What would my reaction be?”
She nodded and smiled sweetly. She knew she was putting him on the spot and was enjoying, maybe a bit too much, the prospect of making him squirm. Except she didn’t get the reaction she expected.
“Don’t think I’d freak out as much as you think.” He didn’t lean in again but kept her soft gaze. “I mean, I’d freak out but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
This time she pulled back, sat up a bit straighter. “You wouldn’t think it was the end of the world?”
He shook his head.
“You’re right, that’s not what I expected.”
“I think now wouldn’t be ideal. Or anytime soon, really. But I’m open to someday. Kinda like the idea of a little you.”
She laced their fingers together and placed her head on his shoulder.
“What are you thinking?” He kissed the top of her head.
“Oh, I find the idea of having children terrifying. Always have.” She squeezed his hand as he laughed. “I used to have nightmares when I was young. Hated that I was expected to have children. Thought they would prevent me from doing all the things I wanted to do. Hated that a princess was expected to produce heirs.”
He pressed his cheek against the top of her head. “If we want a kid, we can have a kid. If we don’t, I’m okay with that, too. I want you. If we decide we don’t want more, doesn’t mean we have less.”
Leia looked at her husband. Her hand moved to his chest as she started unbuttoning his shirt. “The thing is, now that we’re talking about it, I might like the idea of a little you, too.”
Her hand moved down his shirt.
“Not now.” He shifted so she could pull his shirt free of his pants.
“Maybe later.” She slid her hand along his bare mid-drift.
With both hands he took hold of her hips and pulled her up so she was straddling him, pulling her in close. That was one time he would definitely qualify as making love, taking their time in slow, gentle movements. Not that he was keeping score.
The bedroom door opened and Leia stepped out. She was wearing a thick bathrobe and her hair was pulled back in a tight bun. She looked surprised to see Lando still there and even more surprised when he quickly stood up to greet her.
“Leia.” He even gave a slight bow. “I hope you found everything you needed.”
“I couldn’t resist. I haven’t had a very long, very hot shower in quite some time.” She sat on the sofa beside Han, tucking her legs up beside her.
Han leaned back next to her and draped his arm over her shoulders. She took the glass from his hand and sipped.
“Han told me the happy news. Congratulations. To both of you, of course.” Lando leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.
“Thank you.” She put her hand on Han’s knee while taking another sip of whisky. They locked eyes for a brief moment, their happiness obvious.
“I should be on my way.” Lando stepped back, a hand resting on his stomach. “Give you some time to relax. Settle in.”
Han had to tear himself away from Leia—she really was extraordinary—to look at Lando. He was backing away, looking like he didn’t want to turn his back on them.
“Thanks, Lando.” Han nodded to his friend. “We appreciate the help.”
Han figured if he didn’t fall for any of Lando’s plans, kept away from the tables and casinos, they were good. Leia could dress up and they’d live a bit of the high life then he could undress her and they’d make the most of that extra wide bed. If they stuck to that plan there wasn’t much Lando could do to them.
Lando watched as Han wrapped his arms around her waist and hers went around his neck. Han kissed her forehead.
“I’ll let you both settle in.” Lando kept moving toward the door. “Why don’t I come by later? We can catch up over refreshments.”
“Sure, pal. Sounds good.” He didn’t turn to Lando but kept his gaze on Leia. “We’ll get started on the settling in.”
Leia was already laughing, more of a low, soft giggle, before Lando reached the door of the suite.
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
The cabin was in almost complete darkness. She had disabled whatever lights she could, certainly anything that threatened to flash, and dimmed the ones she couldn’t. She sat across from the bunk in a chair she pulled in from the workstation, her feet resting on a crate in front of her.
Leia tried lying beside him in the bunk but he thrashed about too much. He was running too hot and threw the covers off or freezing and needed them piled high. Besides, she had a better vantage point from her chair, could more easily observe how he was doing, and not get too lost in the comfort of his skin.
It was a hard thing to admit but releasing Han from carbonite in Jabba’s palace had its advantages. It was cool and dark and not such a shock to his system. She wasn’t with him after but Chewie said he was weak for the first while. He got sick and was a bit disoriented while he readjusted and Chewie filled him in on a few details. But then they were all running on instinct and adrenaline as they escaped, finishing off Jabba for good, and he seemed to be almost fully recovered.
When Leia and Luke landed on the skiff, she did what she was trained to do. A quick mission update ensured they had everyone on board, determined who needed medical attention, who was piloting and what other jobs needed to be done. The skiff had paused to pick the droids out of a sand dune when she heard a loud and almost angry, “Hey!” She dropped everything, the bag she was holding, the blanket Luke had just draped over her shoulders, and ran into his arms.
She hit him so hard he had to step back to maintain balance. For some moments they held on tightly, her head pressed against her chest, his cheek against the top of her head. He made the first move, taking her face in his hands and leaning his forehead against hers.
“I still can’t see you, Sweetheart.” His voice was hoarse, barely above a whisper. “But I can feel you. You’re here. This is real.” He kissed her forehead and down her cheeks, tasting her salty tears. “Say something, Leia. I need to hear your voice. Tell me you’re okay.”
She tightened her arms around his waist. “I’m here. This is real.”
He found her lips and kissed her softly, almost tentatively. Not being able to see her was unnerving him. He looked overwhelmed by everything rushing at him all at once.
Leia’s hands went to the back of his neck and she pulled him in for a deeper, longer, more passionate kiss. She leaned back, her hips pushed against his as one leg rose up along his thigh. By the time they parted, she was laughing and crying.
“I think you need a shower.” Her hand cupped his cheek as he tried to focus on her face. “You stink.”
Han chuckled. “Saying sweat and carbonite aren’t a good mix?”
“Don’t get me wrong, right now I am very grateful for it.” She ran her hands up and down his sides. She was trying to determine if he’d lost weight, checking on bruises left during those final hours on Cloud City, and revelling in the fact he was standing in front of her. They were together.
“But there’s always room for improvement.” He squinted against the suns and gave her his lopsided grin before swaying again.
Han would have tumbled to the deck if Chewie hadn’t grabbed him. They all reacted quickly. Got him in some shade, gave him water, kept him secure while he vomited the water back up. The extreme heat and sunlight meant the carbonite sickness, as his body tried to remove the toxins, moved into overdrive and hit him hard. Leia had a moment of panic, though she hid it well, that after everything, she was going to lose him now. He was going to die just as they escaped Jabba’s barge and were finally facing a future free of his death mark.
They were saved by a sandstorm—a sentence no one had likely uttered before—that knocked the temperature down and hid the suns. Han was able to walk from the skiff to the Falcon, and even managed a shower, got changed and into his bunk.
But then he was out cold and occasionally lost in fever dreams. There were hours on end when his only conscious moments were vomiting into a basin she kept beside the bunk. She refused to leave his side, too worried that something might happen if she wasn’t there, and only agreed to short refresher or food breaks if Chewie stayed with him.
He had finally calmed down. His fever was almost gone and he had been sleeping soundly for the last few hours. The room was too dark to see the rise and fall of his chest but she listened to his steady breathing, losing herself in its rhythm.
He wanted her to tell him that she was okay but couldn’t. She couldn’t say it to him because she didn’t know. She certainly wasn’t okay for the almost ten months he was gone and she didn’t know if it was true now that she had him back. She didn’t know if he was going to be alright. Or what would happen when they returned to the fleet. How she would reintegrate all these pieces back into her life.
For the majority of time he was gone, Leia’s life was fueled by anger and hatred. It was what got her up in the morning, kept her up at night. She was with the fleet and not on the rescue mission for her husband so she threw herself into work. Leia led campaigns, fought with renewed energy and focus, to bring down the Empire, to end Vader once and for all. He had caused enough pain, heartache and death. She would ensure no one else would suffer under his tyranny.
She had done the same thing after Alderaan—working tirelessly, endlessly for the cause—but that also had the element of hiding. Yes, she was a leader and didn’t shy away from that role but she tried to subsume herself in the Alliance. She wanted to be in perfect sync with the cause and deny herself anything that reminded her of Leia. That is until Luke and, especially, Han pulled her out.
This time she wanted her anger, her rage, to be felt full force. She wanted Vader, wherever he was, to feel it and know she was coming for him. He felt her hatred on Cloud City, he told her as much, and it was so much greater now.
On Cloud City, when they realized they had been betrayed, Leia experienced an intense mix of fear and anger. She had survived Imperial torture before and didn’t know how she would withstand it again. But this time she wasn’t touched. Her torture was watching someone she loved suffer. Lord Vader stood behind her, just as he did on the bridge of the Death Star, and gauged her response to Han screaming in pain. She could feel Vader feeding on her energy.
“I can sense anger, Your Highness. Hatred. It is growing steadily by the minute.”
She spoke through clenched teeth without looking at him. “I’m glad you can feel it because it’s all for you.”
But she didn’t experience the full weight, the full strength, of her anger until she was back with the fleet and the shock had worn off. Then she had a focal point, a target. It was Vader. It was his fault. She blamed him for every pain, every missing piece.
Why didn’t she take the time to make love to Han once more? They were together in the suite, on the sofa. He made her come with his fingers then his tongue but then said he needed to check on the Falcon. Why didn’t she insist? Why didn’t she demand he stay with her?
But she was worried, wanted them to leave as soon as possible. They said they would take more time when he returned. Spend the night treating themselves to a good meal. Pretend they were on vacation, that this was a life that could someday live.
And then Vader. Boba Fett. Betrayal on all sides. She and Han were the bait in a trap for Luke. Han was going to be sent off to Jabba.
As they waited in their cell, she raged against Vader and the Emperor. Promised revenge and retaliation when they made it back to the fleet. Han tried to make her sit with him, tried to talk to her.
He was in pain from the torture and Lando’s guards who landed several blows against his ribs.
“Listen, I know Vader’s got the trap but your best bet is Luke. When he gets here, stick with him. He’ll get you out.”
“You mean we.”
He shook his head. Tried to hold her face in his hand. “They got my number, Leia.”
“Not giving up. I’ll figure something out. Always do.”
[We aren’t leaving you here without you.]
Han turned to Chewie, almost angry. “Fight the fight you’re gonna win!”
“We’re not talking about this.” She stood up, walked a few paces from him.
“No one is more important than the mission, Sweetheart. That’s your rule. And this mission has always been to get you back to the fleet. That’s where we were heading out of Hoth and where we’d be if the hyperdrive didn’t crash.”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her close, kissed her when she tried to speak.
“You are the mission, Leia.” He held her in place. “Stay focused. Stay on point. Get back to the fleet and do your damage.”
In all the fights they’d had, over all the years they’d known each other, she had never wanted to punch him more. Shove him back against the wall. Tell him to fuck off.
“He is not going to take you from me.” Her throat was tight and her voice almost a hiss. “He will not take everything from me again.”
“This one might be more on me. If Fett’s taking me to Jabba then he’s the one that found us.”
“It’s Vader. It’s always Vader.”
Han leaned on the wall and pulled her in so her back rested against him. Wrapping his arms around her, he tucked his head close to her ear. “Promise me you’ll stick with Luke. That you’ll get out.” She shook her head and he pressed into her ear, holding her tight. “Stick with the mission, Leia. Promise me.”
It was a promise she couldn’t keep but it didn’t matter because they couldn’t save him anyway. They didn’t fully understand what was happening, that they were encasing him in carbonite, until they were at the chamber. And, once again, Vader made her watch.
Han was infuriatingly calm. Almost no quips. He didn’t wink. Didn’t throw any lop-sided grins. He stopped Chewie from rampaging, kissed her before being dragged off to the platform. He kept her gaze. He answered ‘I know’ so she understood he felt all her love. As he was lowered, she focused her energy, her love, toward him. She imagined it surrounding him, keeping him safe, warm against the rush of cold. She pictured him encased, not in carbonite but protected by her love.
When the carbon slab fell back with a thud, Leia thought she might be sick. It was a relief when Lando pronounced Han in perfect hibernation but her thoughts of escape, stopping Boba Fett from leaving with Han, were interrupted by Vader.
“Your husband.” Vader spoke to her from across the platform. “How very disappointing.”
Leia said nothing but Chewie howled.
“You’ve learned new tricks, Princess.” Vader beckoned for Lando to step closer but didn’t turn his gaze from Leia. “I wonder who has been teaching you?”
He ordered the guards to take them to his ship and their fate seemed sealed. But it wasn’t Luke who got them out but Lando. Luke suffered his own trauma that she didn’t fully understand. They all left Cloud City alive but broken, damaged in new ways.
Then she was alone. Chewie and Lando took the Falcon to go on the hunt and Leia felt like she lost her home and a near brother as well as her husband. For the better part of the past year, the Falcon had been her home. She slept on it almost every night. It was the first permanent home, even if it was a ship, since Alderaan. She didn’t have to live out of a bag or prepared to evacuate. She could leave hair pins scattered and clothes in a heap. Not that she ever would but there was a comfort in knowing that was an option. No more, though, because the Falcon was gone, too.
Luke was with her on Home One but not really. Before the evacuation from Hoth, he still had some of that farm boy enthusiasm from when they first met. His years with the Rebellion had hardened him some, that was true for anyone in wartime, but he was still eager and optimistic about the fight. But whatever happened on Bespin, or in the month they were apart, changed him. She knew some of it was his Jedi training but he was holding something back. There was something he wasn’t telling her.
“If you know he’s hurt, or in pain, you have to tell me.” Leia almost only had stern looks now. She felt like she hadn’t laughed, or cried, since Bespin.
“I don’t know that. I’ve tried reaching out, meditating, but I don’t sense or feel anything.”
“Are you telling me he might be dead?” Leia clenched her fists at her sides. If Han died, she would take the Empire down with her bare hands.
“No.” Luke put his hand on her arm, trying to sooth her but maybe agitating her more. “I can’t say for certain but I think if that were true I would know. My guess is that not sensing anything means he’s still in carbonite and not feeling anything.”
“But we don’t know how long that will last. We need to find him now.”
“Chewie will notify us as soon as they know anything.”
Luke didn’t want any part of her hatred. Whenever she spoke about Vader, expressed her anger, he grew distant. He looked almost guilty, like it was somehow his fault. She needed someone to get mad with her. Or let her get mad.
Whenever she was frustrated and furious about some turn of events with the Rebellion, some High Command move she didn’t agree with, Han shut the Falcon ramp, reclined in a chair and said, ‘Let ‘er rip, Sweetheart!’ She would pace and rant and shake her fists until she worked her anger out or came up with a solution, usually both.
But that wasn’t a role that Luke could fill. There were chunks of time when she didn’t see him. Didn’t even know if he was with the fleet or off on his own. Leia couldn’t really blame him. He wanted to save Han, too, and she knew he would be there when the time came. Until then, he needed to train and process in his own way. But it was further proof that she was alone.
After Bespin, on the cusp of losing everything once again, Leia thought it was her hatred and anger that gave her strength to keep on. She started out thinking she just needed to get to the finish line, to get Han back, but as the months stretched on and there was no real news or plan, her anger only became more focused. She took bigger risks in trying to make a dent against the Empire. Hope might let her down, leave her on her own, but anger could be her armor.
The only thing that slowed her down, almost nine months after Bespin was Mon Mothma and Rieekan effectively grounding her. They said her behaviour was too risky. She took too many chances.
“General, no one is more important than the mission.” She could hear the echo of Han’s voice. “My safety is not the most important factor.”
“Everyone’s safety is paramount,” Rieekan replied. “Facing danger doesn’t mean acting recklessly. We feel you are not in the right mindset to lead missions in the field at this time.”
They thought she had a death wish but it was far from it. At least she wasn’t wishing for her own death. More than anything, she wanted Han back. She wore the olivestem ring he gave her every day. It reminded her of his love and what she wanted so badly but could barely articulate. To have the life they had only started to plan. She wanted to restore that sense of hope, promise. Have a future. And if, in the meantime, Vader and the Empire suffered, all the better.
Leia was in the command center when they received word from Kochi. The news was almost a year old but someone broke under interrogation and revealed the names of everyone who worked in the cell. The Empire retaliated against the families and the message listed the dead in case any of the Rebels were still with the fleet.
She walked onto the Seven Stars and found Tuck in the lounge running a systems check on the environmental unit. Leia hadn’t seen much of the pilot since returning from Bespin. It was easier to focus on her anger and not let herself get distracted, especially by someone she considered a friend. She didn’t have time for friends anymore.
Leia was dreading giving Tuck the news but she also felt a rush of anticipation that there might be someone to share in her anger and pain.
“Hey, P!” Tuck smiled at Leia. “Been a while.”
Leia saw Tuck’s concerned look—she knew she looked exhausted, that she had lost weight—but chose to ignore it. There were more important things to focus on.
“Do you mind if I sit?”
Tuck nodded, already suspicious, indicating the bench beside them. “Something’s up? Did you hear anything about Solo?”
Leia tried not to noticeably flinch. She didn’t mind people asking, she wanted people to talk about him, to not forget he was alive and would return, but it still hurt whenever she heard his name.
“Nothing yet.” Leia sat down and folded her hands in her lap. “I need to talk to you about something else. We’ve heard news from Kochi. It’s about your father.”
Tuck’s hand went up to stop Leia’s words. They both paused as Tuck’s eyes closed.
“Do you know if it was fast?”
“I believe so.” Leia looked at her friend, waiting for them to explode. Leia wanted that release, too. “Our contact said the stormtroopers moved quickly through residences. They didn’t waste much time and didn’t seem too concern with who they hit.”
“So, blaster.” Tuck’s hand was still up, eyes closed, sitting perfectly still.
“Then fire to destroy evidence.” Why the Empire was concerned with destroying evidence when they were so brazen in their actions she’d never know. “I’m so sorry, Tuck. Truly.”
Tuck finally lowered their arm and turned to Leia. “Thanks for coming to tell me. I appreciate it.”
Maybe because they didn’t know what else to do in that moment, Tuck went back to the systems check. They restarted the sequence and waited for the reply.
“I’m going to talk to Rieekan.” Leia leaned forward, hoping to draw Tuck’s attention away from the monitor. “We’ll see about getting a squadron, maybe more, out there. I’ll lead it myself if I have to. They can’t keep me on desk duty forever.”
Tuck looked tired, like they’d aged a decade in the past five minutes. “Why would you do that? Going to Kochi makes no sense?”
“Because they can’t get away with this. They didn’t kill Rebels. They killed innocent civilians. And for what? Everyone from that cell is dead or gone. Or captured.” Leia sat up straight. She felt a warmth flush her cheeks. Her anger was rising and she felt energized.
“If it was worth it to attack Kochi it would have happened a long time ago.” Tuck’s voice was even, controlled. They looked Leia in the eyes, met her harsh gaze with a more reasoned and compassionate one. “The Alliance doesn’t have the resources to retaliate for every Imperial spiteful act. That’s not worth the potential loss of life or even the time wasted. You’re the one who always says we need to move forward.”
“I don’t want them to get away with this. This is a heinous and punishable offence.”
Tuck moved to sit beside Leia and took her hand.
“My father wasn’t like yours. He wasn’t involved in the war. He didn’t choose a side. He wanted to live his life in peace. Do his work. Marry as many women as he could. Spend time with kids and grandkids.” Tuck gave Leia’s hand a gentle squeeze. “The Empire, and Vader, deserve everything we’re going to give them. I wish I could have saved my father. And my brothers. But attacking an Imperial base, a training facility with a lot of eager young pilots, is not going to avenge them. It will only cause more senseless deaths.”
Leia’s jaw tightened and she took in a deep breath through her nose. She was trying to contain herself, hold the rage in while Tuck talked.
She wanted to scream. To grab Tuck by the collar and shake them. If we don’t move now, we’ll never stop them! They’ll continue to kill, imprison, steal. We can’t slow down. Vader will continue to take and take!
“Leia, don’t let him win.”
“That’s exactly my point, Tuck. I won’t let him win. We won’t let that happen.”
Tuck tried to blink back tears. “Doesn’t feel like it right now but we’re on the winning side. I know that. Everyone fighting believes that’s true.” The tears fell despite Tuck’s best effort. “But don’t lose you in it.”
Leia almost snapped her hand back, out of Tuck’s grip. Her eyes became hard. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Being angry is fair. It’s the right response. Doing everything you can, and sometimes sacrificing things and people, might be all a part of it. But don’t lose yourself to it. Vader wins if all you’ve got it is anger and hate. People need you. Leia. Not just the princess. Solo needs you.”
Leia didn’t know how to respond. She couldn’t find the words.
“Look, I’ll probably try to break something later. Hopefully not my hand. Right now, I’d like to sit here with my friend who understands. Maybe talk about my dad for a bit. My brothers. Your parents. Friends. Remember them as living beings. Let that be our strength.”
Leia’s tears were sudden. She wiped her cheeks but couldn’t slow them. Tuck’s arm went over Leia’s shoulders. She wanted to comfort Tuck but she was the one crying. It felt almost like a purge, like everything she’d held in for all that time was finally released.
“I miss him.” She tried not to sob but her breathing was choppy and it was turning into an ugly cry. “I don’t know how to sit and wait. I should be doing something. More than I am doing now.”
“When you get the word, you’ll get him out. You’ll have him back” Tuck smiled at Leia and took her hand again. “My question now is, did you get the good whisky off the Falcon before they left?”
Leia laughed through her tears and nodded. “Come to my quarters. We’re well stocked.”
Leia was thinking about the whisky, wishing she was had thought ahead and brought a bottle back on board before leaving for Tatooine. She smiled to herself wondering what that said about her mood if she drank alone in the dark.
“Why are you sitting over there?”
Leia almost jumped at the sound of his voice. She wondered how she missed the change in his breathing pattern or notice him turn to look at her.
“C’mere.” He lifted the blankets so she could slide in beside him. His voice was low, gruff. “And why you wearing so many clothes?”
She laughed him, placed her hand on his neck as he turned to wrap his arms around her.
“You’ve been asleep for almost eighteen hours. I had to leave the cabin sometime.”
He was still restless. He couldn’t decide where to place his hand. Her thigh. Her hip. Clutching the waist of her sleep pants. He decided on a combination and slipped his hand past the elasticized waistband and rested his hand on her bare hip bone. He nuzzled into the nape of her neck. “You smell like you.”
“How’s your eyesight?”
He pulled back to look at her. His eyelids still heavy with sleep. “Hard to tell in the dark but I think better. Less blurry anyway.”
Leia wished she had undressed some before climbing into the bunk. She wanted to press against his bare skin. She could feel his heat—more like Han and less like fever—and her body craved more.
“Maybe you should give me the full report on how you’re feeling so I don’t have to ask too many questions.”
He smiled slightly at her. Kissed her nose. “Tired. Not nauseous. Thirsty. Skin’s not so itchy anymore.”
“Those are all positives.” There were so many positives. She could feel hope starting to creep back in. “I’ll get you some water.”
He held her in place. “Not yet.” He kept his eyes closed. “I’m having…” He swallowed the end of his sentence. “We lost almost a whole year. I hate that you had to go through that. Be on your own. That I missed all that. You.”
“Did you know… Did you feel anything?”
He looked up at her. “It felt like this.” He hugged her tightly. “I watched you as I was going in and I don’t know. It was like I could feel you. Smell you.” He kissed her. “It was mostly nothing. I think. Some bits and pieces sometimes. Always you. But mostly nothing. Until you got me out.”
They laid in each other’s arm as her traced his lips, his cheek, jawline. She had lived through months of anger and hate. He had survived a hell that he was only beginning to understand. And somehow, there he was at the end of it, lying in her arms just as she remembered him. Just as he always was. Steady and true and all hers.
“Don’t do that to me again.” She gave his chest a slight shove and he slowly opened his eyes to look at her. It was all love and longing. Trust and comfort.
“Don’t plan on it.” He slid his hand under her t-shirt and ran it up and down her back. “Leia, are you okay?”
She smiled at her husband. They shared a pillow, on their bunk, in their cabin. Their breaths soft and warm against each other’s skin.
“I will be.”
He wanted to sleep on the Falcon but she convinced him to stay in the hut. She used the excuse that it was late and the Falcon was a bit of a hike and they had an early start in the morning. In truth, she had to talk about things she didn’t want to talk about and thought neutral ground might be better.
Leia had already shared the news that Luke was her brother and Han took it well. Much better than she anticipated.
“I’m a street kid who married a princess then spent a year frozen in carbonite. Luke being your brother is one part that actually makes a bit of sense.”
He had removed his vest, boots and holster and was lying on the sleeping pallet. He was a bit drunk, most of the Rebels were a bit to very drunk, and still feeling energized from the victory and celebrations.
“We’re heading to the other side first thing. See what the Imps left in that station.” His hands were clasped behind his head. “The troopers are already rounded up and they cleared the area but still need to do a final sweep through the building.”
The Rebel forces had control over Endor and taken any Imperial forces as prisoners. They were now beginning the long process of assessing damage and discovering what information could be mined from computers and databanks left behind. Leia was heading back up to Home One in the morning to discuss next steps in declaring their victory and reinstating the Republic government. The war wasn’t over—not by a long shot—but they were going to stake their claim amidst the chaos of the crumbling Empire.
But Leia’s thoughts were elsewhere. She needed to reveal the truth—her newfound truth—so they could move forward. She hoped. Once again, they were faced with a dilemma that seemed insurmountable. Once again, she had to test their love and commitment.
She stood beside the bed, slowing braiding her hair. She had removed the brown dress the Ewoks provided and was only wearing a thin shift. Leia wasn’t drunk, not even slightly tipsy. She had enjoyed herself by the fire and joined in on the celebration but felt a bit removed from it all. She and Luke spent some time on their own as he filled her in on many details.
“You’re taking your sweet time over there, Princess.” He patted the bed beside him. “Time to settle in.”
She sat at the end of the bed, facing him. “Sleeping in your clothes tonight, General?”
“Thought you might want to undress me.” He flashed her a particularly wicked grin.
Leia smiled and bit her lower lip. She took a deep breath before speaking. “Han…”
She couldn’t finish her thought. He lost that excited look and she knew he was suddenly worried.
“You’re using the we need to talk voice.”
She nodded. Placed a hand on his knee. Tried to make herself more comfortable but only succeeded in looking more tense.
“I have something else to tell you.”
“More stuff about you and Luke? Figure there’s got to be more to that story.” He gave her a small half-smile, trying to encourage her.
She was looking for the right words. Since Luke gave her the news the night before, Leia had run through dozens of speeches and openers. She’d been able to avoid it so far because they were in a battle for their lives and the fate of the galaxy and part of her hoped she might ignore it all together. But that’s not how things worked and not how she wanted to be with Han.
“Just say it, Leia. Nothing’s going to be as bad as you think.”
She almost laughed at that one. “I’m not so sure about that, Flyboy.”
Leia took another deep breath and locked eyes with him. She folded her hands in her lap and started talking.
“It’s about our parents. Our father.”
“Yes. And no. It’s what happened to Anakin.”
Han sat up so he was sitting directly in front of her. He took both her hands in his.
“Luke learned about Anakin’s fate when he was on Bespin. That’s what’s been troubling him this past year. Why he was so distant. He only learned about me, that we are twins, when he went to Dagobah again but he’s known about Anakin for a while.”
Han pressed into the center of her palms with his thumbs and she could feel the tension release throughout her body.
“Anakin didn’t die. He wasn’t a hero of the Clone Wars. Well, that’s not true. He was a hero during the war, a Jedi Knight, but he didn’t die. He turned. He went to the dark side.”
Leia’s voice caught in her throat. She couldn’t get those final words out. She couldn’t say that Darth Vader was her father. Her entire life was spent in opposition to the Emperor and Darth Vader. She had supported her father Bail in his opposition to the Emperor. She fought against them both during her time in the Senate. He had destroyed worlds, her life. Tortured her, her husband, her brother. Saying the words out loud made it true and she didn’t want it to be true.
Han kissed her. With a hand on her cheek, his lips pressed softly against hers. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say it.”
Her tears started to fall. Her voice was a rough whisper. “I do. I have to say it because it’s true.”
He wiped away her tears. Kissed each cheek then down her neck. “Bail is your father. That’s the only one that matters.”
She tried, not very hard, to pull away. “You don’t understand.”
He swung his legs around so he could lie her down on the bed then settled in beside her. He kept his hand on her cheek, a thumb ready to brush away tears, as he softly kissed along her hairline then neck.
“Han, you need to…”
He raised himself so he could look down on her. Swept strands of hair back from her forehead. “Doesn’t matter if Vader, or Anakin, or whatever you want to call him did the deed. He’s still a piece of shit and Bail is still your father.”
Han lived by very simple rules and didn’t let unwanted information cloud his judgement. It was something she loved most about him and one thing that often infuriated her. Depending on the circumstance, he was either generous or reductive. In this instance, it felt like a bit of both. She loved that he loved her without question but didn’t think this topic was one they should push aside.
“You don’t think this will change things?”
“Between us? Why would it?”
“What if people find out? How am I going to participate in the new government if everyone knows I’m Lord Vader’s seed?”
Han grimaced. “Seed? That’s a bit harsh even for me.”
“I’ll be a pariah. Luke, too. How will people react to the idea of him restarting the Jedi Order when he’s a Sith Lord’s son?”
“You and Luke have done more for this galaxy than most. People know that.”
He came from a world where actions spoke louder than words. You could say what you wanted, brag, lie, defend, deceive, but it all depended on what you did. Did you show up when you were supposed to? Did you take advantage of a situation, double cross? Did you give or take your fair share? But Leia knew she wouldn’t be judged on what she had done, her actions in the Rebellion. She knew what to expect if the truth came to light.
“We need to keep it a secret.” She had stopped crying and was feeling a different kind of desperation now.
“That’s a terrible idea.” He rested a hand on her hip, a favourite spot. “Gotta be someone out there who knows. Nothing’s ever really a secret.”
“If someone knew, don’t you think they would have said something by now? I was a public figure long before the war.”
“You said no one knew about you till a couple days ago.”
“Well, someone knew. Yoda, Ben, Bail. Maybe my mother.”
“And they seemed like a tight-lipped bunch.” He gave her a very small shake. “All I’m saying is, there’s got to be someone who figured out the Anakin Skywalker-Darth Vader thing. I know the Emperor destroyed records, tried to wipe everything out, but it was only twenty-something years ago.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you not know how old I am?”
“Not like anyone who did guess would share their theory. No one’s going to say anything that would piss off the Emperor.” His thumb worked in circles around her hipbone as he spoke. “But Vader and the Emperor are both gone and the big reason to keep in line just disappeared. And since they didn’t bother changing Luke’s last name and he’s spent the last three years talking about his Jedi hero dad Anakin, it’s gonna be pretty easy closing that loop.”
She knew he was right. She didn’t want him to be right—she wanted all of this to go away—but the truth was too easy to discover. Leia covered her face with her hands and groaned.
“So, I have to spend more time confessing to something I didn’t do and have no control over?”
“You got control if you take it.” He gave her an encouraging smile. “You know how to work this stuff. Get ahead of it. Make it your story. Run at the stormtroopers in the hallway. Make them react instead of plotting their first move.”
“Are you sure you aren’t built for politics?”
“I’d rather be back in carbonite.”
He turned her toward him. His tongue parted her lips and he took his time with a slow, gentle kiss. “Are we done talking now? Cos we got some more celebrating to do.”
She kissed him for a few moments more than pulled away. “We need to talk some more.”
His head dropped and he sighed. “Fine. What else you got, Princess?”
“Don’t be mocking. These are all serious subjects.”
He kissed her forehead. “I know. Not mocking you. I swear.” He propped his head back up on his bent elbow and settled in to listen.
She felt stuck. Leia wasn’t sure how to bring up the next subject, especially since they had barely cracked the surface. She sat up, trying to establish a place of control. He remained lying down.
“You need to consider how this will affect you.” She cut him off when he tried to speak. “There will be a lot of blow-back. It was already going to be difficult enough considering how much you’ll be in the public eye as my husband. Your life will be scrutinized. And now, if and when this Vader news comes out, who knows what that will mean for you. Keeping your commission could be hard.”
“That’s probably not going to last long anyway.”
“You’ve only just signed up.”
“Not running off. I’m here to do what I can and help with the clean-up but not sure if it’s a long-term thing. Working missions with you is one thing. Being sent out to the Outer Rim for months is something else.”
She nodded. The job still needed to be done but she understood his point. They had yet to assess the state of the remaining Imperial forces, who might be in charge, and who would vie for power but it was likely going to be a prolonged conflict with difficult to measure victories.
“Haven’t talked to Chewie much about it, definitely haven’t talked specifics but gotta see what happens with Kashyyyk.”
“Of course.” Leia gave his thigh a light squeeze. Why didn’t she think of it? “Let’s hope that’s also a priority of the New Republic.”
It wasn’t just that Chewie was one of her closest friends, a family member, or even that he had devoted years to the Rebellion. The Wookies of Kashyyyk fought in the Clone Wars, defended the Republic from the Separatists, were one of the last strongholds with the Jedi Order. The planet had been under strict Imperial control since the rise of the Empire, the Wookies enslaved. They deserved liberation.
“Still, anything that you try to do might be put into question because of your association with me. Even if you decided to be a professional gambler—and let me add, that’s my least favourite option—you’re going to face opposition.”
“Had to fight my way into every room, every job. No difference to me.”
“I get your point but you still can’t predict what will happen.”
“It’s like everything else, we’ll figure it out when we get there.”
“We need to talk about these things.”
“Isn’t this talking?”
He was bordering on irritating. She liked his can-do attitude. Liked that he had the confidence to handle any situation should it arise but a bit of foresight never hurt. A bit of pre-planning.
“What about children?”
“What about them?”
“How can we have children considering this bloodline?”
“You and Luke turned out.”
“There are no guarantees. We don’t know what can be passed down. Even Luke doesn’t know.”
“Is Luke telling you to not have kids?”
Leia threw up her hands in frustration. “Luke’s already forgiven Anakin. Said he returned to the light in the end. Saved them both. Suddenly loves me.”
Her brother. Although it felt natural and right that Luke was her twin, it was still going to take some getting used to. She was also going to have to adapt to this new version of Luke. This wise and thoughtful Luke opposed to the who whooped at the sight of his first Alliance-issued uniform and jumped out of his X-Wing to greet her. They had all changed, she knew that, and were going to have to figure out how their newer selves and new situations fit together.
She’d only recently discovered Tuck as a friend, had come to rely on their presence, humour and common sense, but they would likely be separated soon. Tuck worked transport and from her brief conversations with Command last night, Leia knew supplies were soon heading out for refugee camps. There were already reports of Imperial forces vacating some planets, anywhere that resistance was high and the situation dire.
“He’s had a lot more time to figure this out.” Han took her hand, trying to pull her back down on the bed but she stayed in place.
“I hate him. Vader. That is never going to change. I don’t want it to change. I don’t care what Luke says about the Force and anger, hatred. Fear.”
For a second, Han’s eyes went wide. He suddenly understood. “Right. The Force. This means you’ve got it, too?”
He looked shocked, slightly nervous. Leia chuckled and shook her head. “I didn’t think being Force-sensitive would be the tipping point for you. The piece that was finally too much.”
She closed her eyes and tried not to overreact in the moment.
“Don’t put words in my mouth.” He didn’t sound shocked anymore. He sounded angry. “Fuck Leia, why do you keep trying to come up with excuses for me to leave?”
“That’s not what I’m doing.” She loved him in a way she didn’t even know was possible. It was a joyful ache. A painful beauty. He filled her up and made her want more. “I’m just trying to be prepared.”
“Well, pay attention to what’s happening right in front of you. Not going anywhere. You know that already.”
She squeezed his leg again. “I know.”
“And look, Leia. If you don’t want kids, we don’t have kids. Real simple.”
Leia felt like she might start crying again. Her voice returned to an almost whisper. “You said you liked the idea. I said it. We were open to the idea.”
“Not if it’s going to freak you out. Give you this much anxiety.” He could see that she was close to tears again so lowered his voice. “Why you getting worked up about this stuff now? Not like we need to make a decision this second.”
“Everything is changing.” She started to rub his leg, not in a sensual way but as a means to calm her anxiety. “I’m going to be pulled from military duty. I won’t be in the action anymore. I’ll be back at the negotiating table. Luke has already resigned his position. He’ll be gone most the time looking for information on the Jedi, maybe finding actual Jedi. You’ll be gone for who knows how long whether you resign your commission or not. Anything could happen. Even Tuck will be gone.”
He listened without interrupting. His eyes, a bright green, were locked on her.
“Han, has everything about my life been a lie? I have a brother, my father was a monster. I don’t know what part is me, what part is the Force, or Vader. And now we’re off bases. The Emperor is gone. I fought so hard for this to happen but I don’t know it. I don’t recognize it. Everything is gone. Shifted. Is this like Alderaan? Do I have to start over again?”
“Things are different. Gonna take a while to figure some things out and maybe you never do. Luke needed to forgive Vader but that’s Luke. It doesn’t have to eat you up, though. You just need some time to decide what it is for you.”
“I don’t know if I recognize myself.” Her breathing had returned to normal. Her voice was gaining some strength. “I’m not sure I know who this Leia is.”
“I know you.” His eyes were bright, steady. “If you ever get confused, look this way.” He shoved a thumb against his chest. “I’ll remind you.”
Her hands covered her face again and she let out a low moan. “It feels like so much has happened all at once. That our world has changed so many ways, flipped, in the past week alone.”
“Okay, that’s it. We’re done here.” He pulled her down on the bed and rolled so his body covered hers. His elbows rested on either side of her and he held her face with both his hands.
“Listen to me, Leia Organa Solo. This conversation is over. Not saying for good. I know we’re going to cover it a lot more but you’re going to forget about it for the next, let’s say, thirty minutes. We’re gonna knock this stuff aside and you’ll need to concentrate on not making too much noise cos your loyal troops are only a few feet away and I’m gonna make you come, probably more than once, so hard you’re gonna see stars.”
She squirmed slightly beneath him and tried not to smile. “I don’t recall saying I was taking your name.”
He narrowed his eyes and gave her a hard stare. “Got a preference where I start? Top or bottom?”
Leia laughed. “What does top or bottom mean?”
He wiggled his eyebrows at her before sitting up and whipping off his shirt. He knelt between her legs and gave her a lustful smile as his hands slowly made their way up her thighs.
“Never mind.” He held her gaze while fingers turned soft circles along her thighs then brushed against her center. He bit his lower lip as he watched her back arch. She held her breath in anticipation, waiting for him to make contact. As his finger slipped in then pulled back out, she gave a slight gasp. He moved his hips closer as his fingers rubbed and swirled against her, inside her. “We’ll figure it out as we go. Lot more fun that way.”
Leia raised her legs, gripping his hips and squeezing as her excitement built. Han leaned in to suck and nibble at her breasts, her nipples hard and visible through her thin shift.
As predicted, she forgot all about their conversation and that she should concentrate on keeping quiet and only focused on the feel of Han between her legs, on her body, the rising rush of heat and fervour, and the promised stars.
And that's a wrap. Many thanks and I am very grateful for everyone who read this far (also grateful for anyone who tried this story, period) and an extra thanks to everyone who commented. This was my first serious attempt at writing a multi-chapter story and there were many mistakes, missteps and the occasional veer along the way. I'm not exactly happy with the finished product but it is finished (so I'm happy about that) and it's helped me plan the next story. Hoping that I make all new mistakes in that one!
Thanks again and take care!