Life of the Party
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It was a night for celebrating, but Leia wasn’t in the mood.
Once the initial elation had worn off, and the adrenaline had subsided to normal levels, she was still pleased about the Rebellion’s minor victory—any victory could only be minor, so long as the Emperor lived—but unabashed revelry wasn’t what she needed, now.
What she needed, what she needed, was a long, hot bath, and a good cry, and—
She felt a tear fall before she could stop it. She wiped furiously at her eyes, angry with herself. Crying was just one of the many things Princess Leia Organa didn’t do in public.
“Hey, Your Worship.”
Unfortunately, punching someone in the nose was another. She watched him advance toward her, his gun belt slung low on his hips, his white shirt dingy with sweat, his grin cocky as hell.
“Thought you could use a drink,” Han said, and held out a glass.
She took it warily, barely refrained from sniffing the red liquid before taking a sip. Spiced wine, from Dodonna’s private stash, no doubt. It warmed her as it went down, and the temptation was strong to finish off the rest of the glass with a gulp.
Unfortunately again, getting drunk was yet another thing Leia didn’t do in public. “Thank you,” she managed to bite out, hoping the sweaty smuggler would move along now that she’d sampled his wares. So to speak.
“You’re missing one hell of a party,” he said, with all the deductive reasoning of a lobotomized Gamorrean. He placed his palm against the wall, looming over her, and Leia wrinkled her nose, wondering when the Corellian had showered last. “Lots of people asking for you in there.” He jerked his head toward the cavernous space that was once a Massassi temple, now filled with scruffy pilots and aging diplomats and all too few Alderaanians…
“I just needed a moment to myself,” she said defensively. “What are you doing out here? If you’re hoping to hit me up for more money, you’re sorely out of luck, Captain. Your fee was paid in full. More than paid.” She suppressed the surprising anger that still needled her at the thought. Why did she care what this loser’s motivations were? It galled her, made her question herself.
“Hey, sweetheart, I just helped your friends here blow up that damn space station, remember?” he grumbled. “I think that entitles me to a little more civility on your part.”
“You’re right,” she conceded, trying to regain her dignified composure. Noblesse oblige and all. “If you hadn’t come back, the Rebellion would most likely be nothing but a scattering of dust motes by now.” Just like Father—
“Motes, huh? ‘Motes,’“ he repeated, trying out the word, mockery flavoring his voice. “I’m thinkin’ you’re right about that,” he drawled. “Yep, I’m a pretty good guy to have around, aren’t I?” He leaned against the wall and took a long quaff from his own glass.
She raised her eyebrows at him. “Occasionally. Sometimes. When you’re making yourself useful.”
“Well stop it, Princess, you’re gonna make me blush if you ain’t careful.”
“I find it hard to believe that anything could make you blush, Captain,” she said. “Blushing would imply embarrassment, and you don’t strike me as someone who gets embarrassed. Certainly your chosen mode of transport would indicate as much.”
“Hey, lay off my ship,” he said, his tone sharp. “Just saved the galaxy and all, remember?”
“Right.” She stared down at her glass, tried not to think about how the deep red liquid looked like blood.
He let out a loud exhale, then shrugged. “Whatever. Look, like I said, I just thought you could use a drink. Big day and all. Actually…” He placed his finger under her chin, tilted her face up toward him. “…you look really tired, you should maybe get some shut-eye while these jokers are having their fun.”
She flinched away from his touch, taken aback by his concern, but determined not to show it. “I’m fine,” she said, then took another gulp of wine to prove it.
“Well look at that,” Han said with frank amusement in his voice. “Turns out you’re the one who’s blushing.”
The comment only made her blush even more, her cheeks aflame with mortification. “Do you always enjoy making people uncomfortable?” she asked.
“Occasionally,” he said. “Sometimes. When they’re as easily riled as you are.”
Of all the insufferable… “If you’ll excuse me, Captain,” she said stiffly, “I think I’ll say my goodbyes and then retire for the evening.”
“Sure. Luke was hanging out over by the top brass, last I saw him,” Han said.
“Thank you.” Leia brushed past him and made her way toward the raucous, overcrowded hall, steeling herself for the sensory assault.
She turned to look at him. “Yes?”
Han looked uncomfortable for the first time since she’d met him. “I, uh, I’m sorry. You know. About Alderaan.”
A fresh rush of tears threatened and she dug her fingernails into her palms to keep it at bay. “Thank you,” she whispered. She gave herself one moment, just one moment, to feel a tug of pain, and then she reassembled her face into a visage of dignified happiness and rejoined the celebration.