Sometimes Han Solo wondered why he even bothered.
Being one of the Heroes of Yavin brought a few privileges and favors in the Alliance, but not as many as Han would have liked. He usually had a tough time squeezing the parts or equipment he needed for the Falconif others with "higher priority" needed them first. The quartermaster for Hoth Base--still under construction--had told him, "Sorry, sir, Rogue Squadron has first priority, and they are full-fledged members of the Alliance." Han next went to General Rieekan, the base's military commander, but to no avail. The Rogues were the Alliance's elite squadron, and even the great hero Han Solo couldn't compete with them.
Of course, he couldgo to Princess Leia Organa. She was the leader of this cell, the largest in the Alliance. If there was anyone on this ice cube who could get Han what he wanted with a snap of her aristocratic fingers, it was she. But the last thing he wanted to do was ask her for anything. Besides, it would be like extracting teeth from a rancor; Leia was probably the biggest Rebel radical in the entire sector, and wouldn't do anything more to change things other than to--again--hint that he should just become a full-fledged member of the Alliance. Sure, he could try to be nice; use his charms to sweet talk her. He'd done it before with some success. But Han frowned. He didn't feel like being charming to Her Royalness today. Chewie wouldn't be thrilled, but they'd have to make do with what they had.
Han shuffled across the packed ice and snow of the cavernous hanger, heading back to the Falcon.There he saw his large Wookiee companion, with the equipment he'd been seeking in Chewie's hands.
"Hey! Chewie! How'd you get that? Tear off a pilot's arm or something?"
Chewie shook his head, rippling the fur on his body.
"I spent all morning begging and pleading with the brass for that!" Han said incredulously. "Did you steal it?" he asked in a hushed, conspiratorial tone.
*No,* the Wookiee bellowed in his native tongue. *I went straight to the top.*
Right on cue, Chewie stepped aside, allowing Han a view of She Who Must Be Obeyed, Her Royal Worshipfulness. For once, the petite princess was in a good mood--why, she was even smiling!
The sarcasm faded from Han's mind as he watched Leia walk over to them. She's real attractive when she smiles,he thought. He indulged in appreciating her new form-fitting uniform. It definitely did more for her than the pure-as-springtime senatorial gown she had worn when they first met. A lot more.
Leia turned to Chewie. "Anything you need, just ask, all right?" The Wookiee responded with a warm hug, and Leia reached up to scratch his chest. The princess nodded toward Han. "Captain Solo," she greeted as she walked past him.
"How's it going, Your Majesty?" he replied just as coolly. He resisted the urge to lean forward a little bit so she'd brush up against him. She did just secure an item he really needed--he didn't want to risk setting her off. Not now, anyway. Instead, he contented himself with watching her walk on toward the command center.
Chewbacca interrupted Han's reverie with a deep laugh. Irritated, Han snapped, "What's this coziness between you and Her Holiness now? Don't forget she once called you a big walking carpet."
*And you once called me a big hairy oaf and a coward,* Chewie reminded Han. *What's the matter, are you jealous?*
"Jealous? Don't be ridiculous," Han sniffed.
*Am I being ridiculous? You're annoyed because she is friendly with me and with Luke, but she is defensive when it comes to you. Just admit it; you like her.*
"Yeah, I like her when she keeps that royal trap of hers shut for a minute or two."
Chewie just shook his head. *Sure you do, Han. Sure you do.*
Han always loved working on his ship; it kept his mind occupied, and he was the kind of person who enjoyed doing things with his hands. He was lost in his toils when movements at the periphery of his vision distracted him. He looked up to see a group of Rebels moving cargo off a ship. He thought he recognized Luke there. Leave it to the Kid to be helpful.And there, distinctive in her white uniform, was Leia.
Han smiled in spite of himself. Leia was never the kind of woman who was content to sit on the sidelines and let others do the dirty work for her. Even though she didn't have to, she pitched in with the regular guys to help if she could.
Han watched her pick up a crate that seemed to be almost as big as herself. A couple of other soldiers--including Luke--were apparently trying to assist her, but Leia refused them, undoubtedly insisting she could do it on her own. She turned to walk in the Falcon'sgeneral direction. "Stubborn woman," he muttered. "She can barely see where she's going with that thing." The fact she had to walk across ice and packed snow made him even more concerned. With an alacrity that surprised him, he dropped his tools and scrambled off the Falconto go help her. He had almost reached her when Leia abruptly lost her grip on the crate and it fell onto her foot.
"Ooooh!" Leia grunted, her eyes squeezed shut with pain. She hopped around on her good foot, muttering curses that would make a cantina bouncer blush. Han quickly took hold of her.
"Sweetheart, are you okay?"
"What do you think, flyboy? My foot hurts like a...ooh!"
Without hesitating, Han put his arms around her waist.
"Lean on me," he said. "That's right." He put Leia's arm around his shoulders and with the young Rebel leader shifting her weight on him, he helped her limp her way over to the Falcon.Chewbacca came forward and Han told him, "Get the med kit. I'm taking her to a bunk."
Without protest, her eyes still squeezed shut with pain, Leia allowed Han to pick her up in his arms. He carried her up the Falcon'sramp, following behind Chewie. He gently set her down on one of the bunks onboard, then turned to see Luke jogging up the ramp into the ship's entrance hatch.
"Is Leia all right?" he asked worriedly.
"I'm gonna check her foot here in a second," Han replied. Chewie reappeared with the med kit.
"Leia, sit up for me," Han told her. The princess complied and Han gingerly unfastened and removed her boot. Leia closed her eyes and turned away just as Han was removing her sock. "Well, nothing looks mangled. Can you wiggle your toes?"
Leia could move them somewhat, but not without grimacing.
"Let me feel each toe to see if any are broken," Han said. He noticed that now they were beginning to swell. He held onto her ankle and gently checked each toe for fractures. For a moment, he felt like he was playing This Little Gamorrean with a small child.
"I don't think any of them are," Leia said.
"No, me neither," Han said, finishing his inspection. "But it still hurts, doesn't it?"
Leia nodded, and Han turned to Chewie. "Get me an ice pack, will you?" He stood for a minute to stretch his legs. While he was turned away from the princess, Luke took advantage of the opportunity to sit beside her. Han didn't pay attention to their low-spoken conversation, but he had to hand it to the young Jedi-in-training; the Kid wasn't as wet behind the ears as he seemed.
Chewbacca returned with the ice pack, handing it to Han. He placed it on Leia's foot. "Better?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied with genuine gratitude in her tone. "Thank you."
Han glanced up at her, and he actually thought he saw a little bit of an appreciative smile.
"You'll have to stay off your foot until the swelling goes down," he said. "Then you should have someone at the med center look at it."
Leia frowned. "But they need my help out there..."
"It's all right," Luke said, touching her arm reassuringly. "We've got enough people." Chewbacca turned to Luke and spoke to him in his native language.
"Chewie says he can go help your guys. He's got enough strength for five people," Han translated.
"Great," Luke beamed. "Well, I guess we'd better get back to work then. I'll see you later, Leia."
"Of course," she said with a pretty smile, reaching out to touch Luke's shoulder. Envy gnawed at Han's gut; how come she smiled that way only for the Kid and not for him?
"Later, Luke," Han grunted as the former farm boy got up and left with Chewie. Once he and Leia were alone, he turned back to her and asked, "Are you comfortable here?"
"Yes, I'm fine," she sighed. "I just hate sitting here, doing nothing when I'm needed."
Han grinned. "Maybe if you weren't trying to haul a box bigger than you are..."
"Don't start," Leia snapped. "You don't need to rub my misfortune in my face."
"I'm not trying to do that, sweetheart. It's called 'making light of the situation.'"
"No," Leia said, "you were chastising me."
Han shrugged. "All right, maybe I was doing that, too."
"You don't need to stay, you know. You can go back to whatever it was you were doing," Leia said, reclining on the bunk.
"Won't you get bored being all alone?"
"Well, yes, but at least I can recover in peace."
"Am I bugging you?"
Leia turned to look at him with exasperation. "Yes!"
"Then I'm doing my job, sweetheart," Han said with a wink.
Leia rolled her eyes and shook her head.
Han went over and sat beside her on the bunk.
"Look, I just want you to get better," he said tenderly.
"So I can get off your ship?"
Han laughed. "That's part of it."
Leia chuckled. "I'll bet that's most of it! I don't think you like a woman invading your little bachelor's pad."
"The Falcon?A bachelor's pad?"
"It seems like you and Chewie, but especially you, keep to yourselves onboard, like this is your clubhouse or something."
"If I redecorated the head would you feel more welcome?"
Leia snorted. "Maybe if you'd at least clean it."
"Hey! I cleaned it myself not more than...uh, I can't remember when..."
Leia began laughing, and Han could do nothing but crack up himself. He was amazed he and Her Worship were actually laughing together.
"How's your foot doing?" Han asked, recovering himself.
"Because of the ice it now doesn't feel like anything."
Han lifted her foot, ice pack and all, into his lap. He began to gently rub her lower leg just above the ankle, ostensibly to encourage circulation. He didn't keep track of how long he massaged, but when he glanced up at her after a while, in her eyes was shock laced with arousal. But she didn't say anything, so Han continued his caresses, moving his other hand to her calf. They exchanged a look of softening rarely seen in each other's eyes. Slowly, tentatively, they leaned closer. Their eyes closed. Their lips neared, and then...
"Mistress Leia! There you are!"
Threepio's interruption ruined the moment. Exasperated and embarrassed, Han and Leia pulled away from each other as the protocol droid clambered into the lounge area, Artoo trailing behind him.
"Oh, hello, Threepio, Artoo," Leia said, blushing furiously.
Han fumed at the droids. "What do you two want, goldenrod?" he snapped.
"Artoo and I heard about Mistress Leia's injury and we wanted to make sure she was alright," Threepio explained.
"I'm fine," Leia said. "My foot's just a little swollen." She slid her legs over the bunk's edge. "In fact, I think I'm just going back to my quarters for a while." She started to put back on her socks and boots.
"I don't think you should be walking around yet," Han said.
"I'm fine," the princess insisted, her tone all-business. "Thank you for allowing me to use your bunk, Captain Solo." She limped as fast as she could toward the ship's ramp, avoiding any direct eye contact with Han as a chattering Threepio followed her. Artoo rolled along behind them, stopping briefly to emit some sympathetic beeps, whistles, and hoots.
Alone, the Corellian slumped onto the bunk. It still held Leia's warmth and Han wanted to savor it as long as possible. He was hopelessly frustrated with the entire situation, especially with Leia's ambivalence and his own. Women,he thought. Just when you think you've got 'em figured out, they confuse you all over again.
Releasing a deep sigh, Han got up and went to look for something to fix.
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