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“Hurry up, will you?”
Han paced. He stopped by the door, listening, and shifted from one foot to the other.
“This is taking too long…”
“It’s almost done ripping the data.”
“I can’t believe I agreed to this,” he muttered.
“Try to be patient.”
Han fingered his blaster. “And who came up with the stupid name? Rebel Intelligence, operative Princess. Operation RIP. Real cute. Does some chump get paid to sit around and make stuff like that up? I should be so lucky.”
Crouched in front of the equipment, Leia sighed with an air of long-suffering. “Will you please shut up.”
“Hey, it’s okay, Princess. I don’t really give a rip.”
She glared up at him. Mirth winked in his eyes despite his grumpy words. Her expression softened, and she allowed a smile to tug at the corners of her own mouth, to match his lazy one.
Suddenly serious, his attention locked on the door.
He listened, his hand automatically on his blaster.
Leia’s full attention returned to the data. “Almost-“
Han’s eyes darted frantically around. This wasn’t in the plan! Can’t go out the window fast enough, only one door, sparse room…How about…no, too low to get under…no closet…
The bed…or couch? Han wasn’t exactly versed in the finer points of Outer Rim furniture. Who cared, as long as they could squeeze underneath. Should be high enough off the floor, deep enough to hide in the shadows…
Leia hadn’t moved. She still crouched down, determined to get the data.
She grabbed the data card out of the computer; Han grabbed her arm and shoved her toward the bed.
He pushed her to the hard floor. She stashed the card into her shirt pocket while she squirmed under the bed on her back.
Han slid under on his stomach. Footsteps and voices just outside the door, now…
Not enough room! He could be seen. Too close to the edge, too much light—they’d spot him.
Han thought desperately. Moving back farther beside Leia wasn’t enough. Only one option…might not be enough room for that either, but no choice…
He crawled on top of her.
“What are you—?!”
Leia simultaneously wriggled and stiffened in protest, Han tried to shove them both back farther—
The door slid open.
“…concentrate enforcement duties in another sector.”
“Yes. I’ve considered that. Here, have a seat. Would you like a drink?”
I am stretched out on top of the Princess of Alderaan. On top of Her Worship.
I’m crammed in between the underside of this bed—or whatever—with the rigid Princess under me. My head is down near hers. I can’t see her face, but that’s just as well…I can practically feel her expression, anyway…I don’t think I’d want to see it right now…
“I can’t decide if I like it out here or not, comrade. There are certainly advantages to being away from the Core Worlds. However, it is harder to track those renegade groups here, and far fewer resources available.”
“I wonder what Tarkin did with his time out here.”
“Tarkin was a fool. Everyone knows that. There’s a rumor going around, you know. That he had plotted to turn his super weapon on Imperial Centre. He wanted to take out Palpatine, make a grab for himself.”
“Why didn’t he?”
“Like I said, he was a fool.”
On top of me. He got on top of me! What should I do with my hands? There’s nowhere to put them, except on him.
I’ll have to put them on his back. I’ll just rest them lightly here, by his shoulders. That won’t seem too intimate…will it?
I have been in this position before. Once. No, twice. The second time ended with a knee in a senator’s groin. Captain Solo is mighty lucky that I can’t move my leg right now.
There’s something fuzzy under here. I can barely see it out of the corner of my eye. Dust banthas? The Grand Moff must not employ many housekeeping droids. I hope nothing disgusting and crawly lurks nearby…besides these Imperials, that is.
I had housekeeping droids on Coruscant…
Coruscant. My apartment was on the uppermost level. I enjoyed the city. I loved my job, both the known and the secret. It was important to me, and I was important to it. It still is, and I still am.
Which is why I don’t need to think of the fact that Han Solo is on top of me…
His gun belt hurts my thigh. He is awfully heavy. Must be the muscles. He is rather well muscled. Why am I thinking about that? Oh yes, my hands just touched the muscles on his back, under his shirt…no, I don’t mean I am feeling his muscles…not on purpose…and my hands aren’t under his shirt, the muscles are…stop!!
“…a paper-pusher. Sparse population, spread-out area, you know.”
“What’s the ratio of humans to aliens?”
I’m modulating my breathing, slowing it, inhaling as quietly as possible. I’m good at it. You learn stuff like that when you have to avoid getting caught, which I’ve had to do a lot.
If we’re found, we’re dead. Wastril toast.
She’s pretty well hidden, though. Even if they drag me out, she’s still got a chance if she stays back.
Why do I care so much about that?
She’s got the data. Yeah, that’s it. She’ll save the data, then the mission won’t be wasted.
Yeah, that’s why I care.
“I’m sure you’re aware, the slave trade turns a tidy profit here, too.”
“Of course. We’ve had several problems of that nature. There’s been trouble of late with the liberated turning to crime…”
I notice he’s breathing carefully. Good idea. I would do the same, if I could pull air into my lungs at all.
This is ridiculous. There are a thousand strange ways in which I might die, maybe some of them in this very room…but a smuggler suffocating me under a piece of furniture is not going to be one of them!
Thankfully, his ear is right at my mouth. I’m going to slowly turn my head to get as close as possible, and then form the words into the barest of whispers.
“…harder to prosecute.”
“I see. What of the spice trade?”
“Ah, don’t get me started.”
Her lips brush the inside of my ear like a zoorif feather. It sends a tingle down my neck, into my arm and chest...branching into places I can’t think about right now if I’m going to survive. My greatest fantasy and worst nightmare combined.
Wait, did I just think of her as my greatest fantasy?
Did she actually say something? I can’t remember.
Can’t breathe. She said “can’t breathe.”
Oh, right. I’m probably squashing her into the floor. She’s small…nicely laid out too, gotta admit…but tense as duracrete. Almost forgot the size difference.
I’m gonna try to raise up just a tiny bit, put more weight on my elbows. Quite a trick. I’m crammed between a rock and a hard place, so to speak.
Real slow…no noise. There…that ought to be a little better, at least.
You know, it’s cold down here, and her head’s on the floor. Maybe I can do something about that, too.
I’m moving my arm. Gotta be careful. Under control.
The Imps haven’t noticed anything. Ha, they don’t call me Slick for nothing.
Okay. Her head’s in my hand, and I’m lifting it up off the floor.
But now it’s more like I’m... holding her. My cheek presses against hers. My fingers get lost in her hair.
“…transporting, selling, et cetera. Any number of illegal activities.”
“The traders and smugglers think they are beyond the control of the Empire here.”
“Ah, my friend. Let me tell you about the incident on Ord Radama last month.”
Why did he do that?
He lifted my head off the floor. His hand tangles in my hair and on my neck. I’m pulled even closer against him, and now it’s almost like we’re…cuddling.
I can breathe again. Not deeply, but well enough. We must lie still and quiet as possible. I can barely hear Han breathe, but we press together, and his chest moves against mine. I feel the rhythm of his thumping heart.
Or is that my heartbeat? I can’t tell. Fascinating, that they could blend like that. Disconcerting.
Sandwiched between us lies the data card. If we can get out of this room alive, we stand a good chance of successfully completing this mission.
There is almost no point where my body doesn’t touch his.
They are talking about subjects that could be vital. I should listen closely. Like I used to do at night, when I would open the transparisteel doors to let in the city. I could hear the voices of humans and aliens speaking their own languages. Sometimes distinct, sometimes blending together in a pattern, like a song. I would sit at my table, eat my dinner alone, and listen.
I wonder if Han is listening. I wonder what he thinks.
I can’t pay attention. Because of this scoundrel. This mercenary. Correction, should I choose to be embarrassingly honest…this brave scoundrel and mercenary. This very, very good-looking scoundrel and mercenary, whose legs twine around mine.
I don’t know if I choose to be that honest. I don’t know if I can.
He is long and lean, all the way down, beyond my feet.
The cold floor chills my back, but he grows hot on my front…
“Surely you have worked out a deal or two. If you haven’t, you’re as much a fool as Tarkin.”
She holds perfectly still.
That’s one thing about the Princess. She knows what she’s doing.
That’s my girl.
Some women cause you more trouble than they’re worth. Not that this one isn’t a pain in the ass. ‘Cause she is, and a lot of the time, too.
But I’m talking about doing runs like this. There’s not many women I trust enough to do stuff like this with. There’s not many women I trust, period.
And I’m not saying I trust the Princess…not saying anything mushy like that…I’m just thinking that I don’t really mind going on missions like this with her.
She’s professional. I know I can trust her not to screw anything up. I know she’ll have my back.
Unfortunately, I know it’s all for the Alliance.
Sometimes I wish it was for me. Because she’s become kind of a friend, you know.
Her cheek rests warm on my face. I’m wondering if it’s as smooth as it looks.
She’s gonna pummel me later. Maybe even yell. So I might not ever get this close again. Better find out while I’m here.
I mean, there’s nothing else to do, right?
So I’m going to move my cheek on hers. Just a little. Can’t do anything that will make her lose it, if I want to get out of here alive...
Oh yeah. It’s smooth. And soft. Just like it looks.
Okay, I admit. I’ve looked a lot. Kind of hard not to.
My hand is right there in her hair. So I rub her braid between my fingers, because I’ve wondered about that, too. A pattern of sleek bumps under my thumb.
I wonder what she’s thinking…
Stupid question. She’s analyzing what the Imps are saying, getting up a report for Mothma in her head, probably plotting the next crazy mission she’s gonna try to talk me into. She’s thinking about that data card.
Because that’s all she ever thinks about.
“…there is potential for a percentage of profits.”
“Commercial enterprises, shall we say.”
He is nuzzling my cheek.
Is he playing with my hair?
How typical. Only Han would try to put moves on in this kind of situation. We’re hiding from almost certain death on an Imperial outpost, and he’s flirting.
I hope he doesn’t stop.
I think my heart is pounding.
This is not exciting. It will take more than an extremely handsome and brave and secretly tender pirate holding and caressing me to excite me.
He smells like some kind of soap. I don’t know what kind.
Also the interior of the Falcon…and Wookiee…and nerf leather, and…
He smells like many scents mixed together, making me think of many places, a riot of geography. He smells like dinnertime used to, when the air would waft in, bringing the scents and sounds of a thousand cultures up from the levels below. I could close my eyes and smell the spices and flavors from a thousand different cooking pots—sweet and spicy, heady and mild, tangy and earthen, blended, served up on a breeze.
I suppose that makes sense. He’s been all over the galaxy.
His touch is gentle. He knows just how much he can move and get away with it. His fingers slide just slightly along my braid, his cheek nuzzles warm on mine.
I press into him, every warm part, all the way down.
How do I feel? I don’t know how I feel. I don’t have the luxury to feel. I never do.
But I want to.
“…working out a deal with the locals.”
“Yes. There is a species here…”
The longer we’re here like this, the less tense she gets.
My neck and back and arms start to ache, but I forget about that when I realize she grows warm and soft under me, molding into me.
She fits. Really well.
She still hasn’t moved a muscle or made a sound. But her heart beats fast.
I know it’s hers. I press my cheek on her neck and feel her pulse throb.
Could be because there’s two Imps a few feet away. Or maybe not.
I slide the hand on her braid to the side of her neck, brushing it real lightly.
She twitches. All over, just a quick little jolt. I’d miss it, if I looked at her. Instead, she’s pressed so tight into me I feel her muscles contract. She takes a small sharp breath that I wouldn’t hear if her mouth wasn’t right at my ear. Her thigh presses a little harder on mine.
And I grin.
“…should be able to stack the deck in our favor. Care for another drink?”
“No, no. We had a similar deal involving materials of interest. Turned quite a profit for awhile. But then…”
His fingers slide over my neck and something zings and sizzles downward, through my arm and side and leg and…
I want. I don’t know what I want.
This uncomfortable position is very, very comfortable, and I can’t pay attention to anything else. I give up trying. He presses down on me, and there’s nothing but this core of heat between us. I am a knot uncoiling, a coil melting, in a silent, unraveling smoulder.
I close my eyes. I might fantasize. No one but me will know. And there’s nothing else to do, after all.
“…made it clear that life will be difficult for them unless we have a cut.”
“How did you minimize outside entanglements?”
“All part of the deal, my friend.”
I want to do a lot more to her.
There’s a lot she hides. She hides the fire in her. Some of it’s deep down, and some of it’s right on the surface. Waiting underneath that beautiful skin, just needing someone to coax it out.
Thinking about it drives me crazy.
Before her hands were barely touching my back, but now she’s clinging to me.
I could almost swear she’s pushing herself into me.
I could just close my eyes and imagine. Since there’s still nothing else to do, you know.
“…not get suspicious.”
“Appear the pristine enforcers of Imperial law, wouldn’t you agree?”
What if we were a million light years from here?
What if I was not myself, and he and I were in a bed, not under one?
What if we were lovers?
On Coruscant, I would go to bed alone, hearing lovers everywhere. In buildings, in the upper streets, in rooms. I would absently stroke the fur of the stuffed baby Wookiee hidden under my pillow, that no one knew I still had, and listen. Sometimes I heard elaborate mating rituals; sometimes intimate conversation; sometimes laughing; sometimes kissing. I would fall asleep, listening.
I am there again, in my bed. But I am not alone.
The sound of lovers is not outside; it is here. It is he and I.
He nibbles my ear and whispers playful words. He teases me, and I love it.
I tease him back, coy. We lay there, lazy, with the city outside cool and alive, and a breeze washes over us. I stroke his warm brown hair and open under the touch of his eyes, glowing amber from the nighttime lights of the endless skyline. His scent is the essence and redolence of Corellia. I twine myself around him, and I slide my lips along his, because I want to.
He seizes my hair with his hands and my mouth with his fiery kiss, fiery like the stars he flies among, igniting heat, devouring thought. Long and lean above me, his need pours into me and I respond.
This is everything; there is nothing but this.
I burn under him.
He clutches me to him. Exhilaration, culmination…
I can imagine plenty. Most of it physical.
But not all.
That irritates me. I mean, I just want a nice, uncomplicated visual here.
I just want to imagine that we’re light-years away from here. In a bed, not under one. Just like this, only with a lot less clothing, and we can move all we want, and she’s writhing under me, because I’m performing acts that are illegal on at least nine planets.
That’s all I want to think about. Me and her just having some fun that doesn’t mean anything.
But I can’t.
Believe me, I’ve tried.
She makes me feel…ah, I don’t know what she makes me feel. But it’s too much. All she has to do is look at me with those big brown eyes and something in me twists. And now that she’s in my arms, pressed into me, I can’t keep it all cool and casual. I’m losing it because she gets to me and I can’t think about her like she’s any other woman because she’s not. She makes me need something that I’ve never needed before, or needed all along and didn’t know it, and if I ever got it I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to live without it again.
I want her like I’ve never wanted anybody.
It scares the hell out of me.
“…they’ve brought a formal murder charge.”
“For Tarkin’s demise?”
“No, I haven’t. Who?”
“Some two-bit smuggler named Han Solo.”
My eyes open.
I don’t know what I feel.
I screw them shut again, tight. I will forget my dream. I will forget how we are right now. I do not sense the exquisite heat, there is no current running through us, wonderful and alive. I recoil into myself.
We hide together out of necessity. I deny there is anything more.
Murder accusation. No surprise. I expect such from the Empire, like the charge against me for treason.
But…it reminds me of his other entanglements, of how complicated our lives are, and what I am here to do. I can’t be distracted beyond all reason.
I don’t know what I feel. I only know I feel too much, too deeply.
Therefore, I can’t. I simply won’t.
I will do as I should have done all along. I will only think of the data we have stolen, and of making it out of here alive.
The information is crucial in our war against the Empire. I am, as well.
I must think of myself as I think of the data. My reason for existing—the only reason—is to further the Alliance to Restore the Republic.
I can’t be distracted by emotion. I can’t feel what I want. I can’t feel what I do.
I am the data.
“Do you recognize the name?”
“No. But I understand he has used aliases in the past.”
“Well. Come, my friend. It’s getting late, and I’d like to show you more of our operations here before dinner, if you’ve no objection.”
“None at all.”
I can’t think about her anymore.
I have to leave, now.
A bounty on my head and a murder charge.
Great. Just what I need. How the hell did they come up with me for that one?
I always get blamed when it’s not my fault.
And somehow I don’t think I’ll get off with only a couple of years hard labor.
I have to leave. At least if I pay off Jabba, I’ll only have one major problem to worry about.
I can’t think about her anymore.
They’re still here, and we can’t make a run for it yet. So I’m just going to forget I heard that, for as long as I can.
I’m still holding her, and she’s still spooned warmly into me, and I can pretend for a minute that everything’s okay. That everything’s not so complicated. That we aren’t who we are.
I shut my eyes. I hold onto her and bury my face in her neck. And just for a minute, forget.
“You may get off me now, Captain.”
“I don’t think…”
“Give it a minute.”
“Will you please…”
“All right! Don’t get your nerfs in a stampede!”
The room had darkened into evening. Han, grateful for the cover, emerged from their hiding place, and took a second to stretch his cramped limbs before heading for the window.
Leia followed, more awkwardly. Han glanced at her while he jimmied the window with tools he carried for the purpose in his gun belt. Her dark hair and clothing blended into the shadows around them, but even in the dark he could see her face glowing crimson as she tried to look anywhere but at him.
She stood behind him silently as he worked. He concentrated, hands moving quickly. He held his mouth in a tight line, nervously—this was taking too long!
He finally disabled the alarm system and opened the window. Han readied his blaster, checking for any uninvited welcoming parties outside. It was a good thing they were on ground level; they had enough to worry about without a height factor.
“You still got the card?”
Satisfied that they were undetected, he climbed out the window, not noticing a protrusion on the sill…
His leg caught, throwing him off balance. Surprised, he jerked it to keep from falling, and heard the sound of tearing fabric as it yanked loose.
He swore under his breath in Corellian; a piece of his bloodstriped pants hung loose under a gaping hole.
Leia looked out of the window, her eyebrows quirking up in amusement as her manner eased. She smirked at him.
“Operation RIP, indeed.”
He was glad she teased him. It helped to lighten the awkwardness. They could hide behind that, as sure as they had disappeared under the furniture.
“Very funny, your Highnessness.”
He helped her out of the window.
“Come on, let’s get outta here.”
They escaped into the night.