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Dedicated to Dant Solo – my fabulous, first author introduction into Star Wars fan fiction.
It is always difficult to decide where a story begins and where it ends
Junk fascinated Han Solo. Someone’s broken durasteel panel or leaky jet thruster was another man’s treasure. This time, however, Han was only interested in getting himself and his ship as far away as possible from the floating debris.
They were in poor shape, and he knew it. The nightmare explosions and shaking walls they had endured for hours had left their marks on the Falcon. She was barely hanging together.
He was also hesitant to tell his high maintenance passenger, Princess Leia, how long it would take to get to Bespin. It would be a tricky business of rationing food supplies as well as avoiding Imperial ships, pirates or other unwanted observers since outrunning them was out of the question.
He turned off the control panel and swiveled in his chair, a clever remark on the tip of his tongue until he saw her. Leia was completely asleep curled up in the passenger chair. Her gloved hand pillowed her cheek, her long lashes shading the dark circles under her eyes. The creaking of Han’s chair as he stood did not faze her. She was out cold.
Hardly understanding what he had in mind, he gently scooped the sleeping princess into his arms and carried her down the corridor to his cabin. He settled her amidst pillows and blankets and gingerly removed her boots. He towered above, his hands on his hips and studied her, the peaceful rise and fall of her chest. This was a rare moment. It had happened before, but only once or twice in the past three years he had known her. He savored them.
And yet he resisted the ever present pull to be near her, protecting her. He took one last look over his shoulder and left.
Leia awoke with a start, her head full of evacuation plans and long, white collapsing hallways.
She panicked for a few moments, nervously glancing around the room until she recognized where she was. And then just as abruptly and perplexing, she relaxed.
The room smelled of the ghost of white with hints of Han’s favorite carida soap. She lay in a charcoal and white nest under the shaded light of a heavy chrome lamp, dark above, creamy inside. This was not a heap of sleeping tubes and blankets but a genuine bed with fresh sheets and pillows tucked in soft, grey cases.
How had she gotten here? The last thing she remembered was detaching from the Star Destroyer. Perhaps Chewie had carried her. Not likely, and the thought made her feel hot. She pulled off her quilted vest and glanced down at her clothes; wrinkled, uncomfortable and stained with grease. She would have loved to strip down and sleep in something soft and light. But this was not her bed and even a locked door would not guarantee a surprise visitor, welcomed or not.
Lying back down, she thought over the past several hours before their escape. They had been running from the Empire for more than 36 hours, though it felt like three or four. The asteroid field, the cave, escaping Hoth, evacuating troops, that terrible night thinking Luke and Han were dead. When had she last slept?
Her breathing slowed, relaxing her and easing into sleep, drifting back to the circuitry bay with the damaged valve and Han’s arms. She knew she was too tired to analyze what had happened. Her last thought before finding oblivion was how wonderful and yet embarrassingly awkward it was to have something concrete to dream about instead of a fantasy.
She slept. Like a moth curled inside its cocoon, she did not appear outside Han’s cabin door for almost 12 standard hours, and when she did emerge, sleep hung to her frame like webs.
Chewie growled at Han who was suspended inside the ceiling panels of the Falcon. His head immediately popped down. “Hey, look who’s up.”
Her frown deepened. “How long have I been asleep?”
“I think I need something to eat.”
“You might need a change of clothes.” He swung his body down through the open panel and stood in front of her. “And definitely a fresher.”
She scowled at him, stumbling slightly towards the main hold. Her brain felt fuzzy.
Half way through a steamy second cup Han walked into the room, carrying several items of clothes over his arms.
“I think there’s some stuff here that might fit you.” When he noticed her confused look he added, “Well, it’s nothing regal, but since you’re not fond of dressing like a girl anyway, I don’t think you’ll mind.”
She accepted the bundle. “Wait. What? Why do I need all this?”
“Bespin. I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s pretty far.”
“But I thought when you said ‘far’ you were talking of a distance between…like Anoth to Ison.”
“No, more like Anoth to Rutan.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh.”
She looked down at her mug. At this rate she wondered if her rendezvous with the Alliance was in jeopardy. She mentally calculated the distance from Bespin to Sullust; abruptly realizing even that was useless since – in spite of Han’s assurances – she could not guarantee everything would go smoothly at Cloud City.
She glanced up and met Han’s dark eyes, realizing her second dilemma. Damn it! She’d kissed him. Now what? What was going to happen to them?
“Will we be okay?”
“We?” He looked taken back.
She blushed slightly. “I mean all of us. Do we have enough food, are the generators still working for warmth, that kind of thing?”
He sighed and looked down, his hands on his hips. “I think so. Although we’re a little low on fresh food supplies. You know, when I was planning my trip to Tatooine I had a working hyperdrive so the trip – “
“I remember.” Her askew glance spoke volumes.
He opened his mouth to reply but stopped himself. He shook his head and turned to leave.
“Wait! Where do you want me to sleep?”
He shrugged. “Take my cabin.”
“I can’t do that. It wouldn’t work.”
“Sure it will.”
“No, Han. I’m serious.” She ran to catch up. “What about the spare bunk?”
“You’ve seen it. It’s a disaster area.”
“I can clean it.”
He stopped and turned to face her, “What’s the problem? Correct me if I’m wrong, Highness, but didn’t you just come from my cabin?”
“Yes, I know. It wasn’t necessary.”
“But…where are you planning to sleep?” She colored.
“I’ll take the couch in the main hold.” When she opened her mouth to protest, he stopped her. “Look Leia, it’s not a big deal. You’ll probably need some privacy anyway.”
She seemed to consider this.
He leaned forward. “Let’s call it temporary. And in the meantime I’ll get to work clearing out the spare bunk room.”
The bundle of bunched clothes between them were soft, with fresh creases and a lingering clean smell. She breathed deeply, smelling Han’s unique scent mixed within the fabric.
“Okay.” She sighed and then glanced up to see him backing away. “But…wait.”
He looked annoyed. “What now?”
“The clothes. Thank you.”
He stared at her, surprised by her sudden softness. “Sure.”
Several nights later as Leia was finishing her watch in the cockpit a familiar, unnerving sensation returned. It felt like a sixth sense that drew from her body an image of something oval, something round, dark in the distant twilight. The radar and reports provided her with nothing to confirm her suspicions. And she was loathe to discuss this with Han. But what else could this be?
She had the distinct impression they were being followed.
The feeling persisted, and so when Chewie walked in to relieve her, the idea of a confidant was too appealing to pass up.
“Chewie…would you be able to tell if we were being followed?”
He barked his affirmation.
“What if we weren’t being followed. What if we were being tracked?”
He growled, knowing she already knew the answer.
“I know, I know. We would need to have some kind of tracking device on board the Falcon.” She paused, trying to figure out a way to vocalize her concerns.
Chewie grew impatient. His nightly shift occasionally centered around the evening meal, and by default Leia ended up bringing his food. The delay was making his stomach growl.
She heard the rumble and took the hint.
“Sorry. I just…I have this feeling something isn’t right. Would you mind checking the data just in case?”
He yelped his complaints.
“Please Chewie. Just this once?”
He tilted his head in thought and then nodded.
“And can we keep this…between us? I don’t want everyone to know.”
Chewbacca’s deep laugh was still ringing in her ears after she left.
True to his word, Han spent most of his spare time cleaning out the bunk room. It was surprising to Leia; although she had never known him not to keep his word before, it was perhaps her acknowledgment that was disturbing.
Her assumed expectations of his actions following their kiss had been happily discarded. He had not tried to seduce her, or pursued the pattern with further physical affection, though she had felt cravings for some small token on his part that he either remembered their kiss or was at least thinking about it. He seemed to be taking everything so casually.
It baffled her to believe he had not tried to take advantage of their solitary situation. Indeed, a pirate or smuggler would have known how to profit from this state of affairs, and would have assumed that it was natural for, even expected of, him to take advantage.
But Han did not.
She stood in the doorway. “Can I help?”
Without turning around, he gestured with his left hand. “Hand me that bracket?”
Stepping over piles of debris, she grabbed the tool and handed it to him, their fingertips touching over the cool metal.
“Thanks. What do you think of the room? Should be done in a few more days.”
“It actually looks worse than when you started. Where are you planning to put all this stuff?”
The muscles in his wrist tightened as he turned the handle. “Not quite sure. Maybe one of the smuggling compartments.”
The bed was littered with old tattered flimsies of Hyperdrive Mechanics and Quantum Chromodynamics. There were boxes of label-less bottles holding rich ruby liquids, packed away with transparent foam. Clothes, old fashioned, hard bound books, black cords, network cables, several squash balls, an old razor, the mess went on.
“Han, why do you keep all this stuff?”
“Don’t know really. Haven’t had the time to go through most of it and clear things out.” Turning around to look at her, he laughed. “Guess I’ve been working harder than you thought for the Alliance.”
“Oh…well we do appreciate all the time you’ve given us.”
He did not reply and a small silence followed. She felt a familiar tightness start in her chest.
Finally he spoke. “Why do you do that? Act like you’re some…formal committee?”
“I’m not doing anything. I just…wanted you to know you’re appreciated.”
He stepped off the lower bunk and walked towards her until he stood towering above her, his voice steady and low. His fingers caught her jaw softly and held her gaze. “Then thank me for you alone, and only you. I don’t need gratitude from that bureaucracy.”
She expected him to turn and leave. Instead his dark eyes remained steadfast and clear. He expected a response.
“I am grateful. You have done a tremendous amount for us – for me.” She paused, balancing on the edge of uncertainty, leaning towards him. “I...I still wish you would change your mind about leaving.”
He leaned back, looking over her head and breathing deep. Scratching the subtle growth on his chin, he turned back to the piles.
“I guess that’s the best I’m gonna get for now.”
His quick dismissal suddenly left her cold. She did not know what to say, but refused to give in to instinct and leave, the inevitable coward. She happened to look up just as he lifted a large crate onto the lower bunk when she caught the quick, painful grimace in his profile.
“Han, are you okay?”
He turned away from her, rubbing the back of his neck. “Couldn’t be better. Why don’t you go see what you can rummage up to eat and I’ll meet you there?”
“That can wait.” She moved closer, suddenly noticing a small black and blue smudge peaking out from the chord of his shirt. “What is that?”
He moved past her, gathering more items down below a lower cabinet, the collar now ridding too high on his neck for her inspection. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
But she was faster. Kneeling behind him she pushed the fabric down his neck, unknowingly stretching the fibers. It was when she placed her right palm against his shoulder blade and felt his sudden stiffness, heard his quick intake of breath, she knew it was bad.
Pulling him up, she grabbed his arm. “Medical bunk. No arguing!”
He wobbled carelessly behind her, rolling his eyes. “Now look, I was in perfect shape before you decided to start inspecting me.”
In the small medical closet, she had to shove him down onto a caster stool to keep him from walking away. Still he held up his hands in ignorance as she pulled at the hem of his shirt and lifted it up over his neck.
“You know the view below is much better than the one above.”
“Do all the women tell you that or just the cheap ones?”
And then she saw it. A large, nasty bruise covering the upper half of Han’s back, stretching slightly to his neck. It looked sore, his muscles visibly tight.
“How...When did this happen?”
He grinned. “Bet you didn’t know how hard ice can be when it falls?”
“Oh, Han, you shouldn’t have…you should have moved.” She brought her right hand to her face, rubbing her eyes.
“And let the ice fall on you instead?”
He started to move off the chair but she kept a grip around his shoulder. “Stay put. This is going to take some work.” She reached for a blue bottle on a nearby shelf and began pouring the cream-colored substance into her hands.
“Look I don’t want any fav - .” His words were drowned out by a sudden intake of breath and pleasure. She worked softly, avoiding direct pressure to the bruise, rolling her palms into his muscles. His beaten body was all in her behalf, and she felt useless, angry he had hidden it from her.
“You shouldn’t have done it.”
He did not reply, but kept his eyes closed, content to enjoy the moment, stretch out the feeling of her touch as long as possible. He loved her hands, loved seeing them most around a blaster or some random tool, maybe a smudge of grease on her cheekbone. His mind had replayed their kiss over and over again and the sudden reminder of it brought out a deep stir within him. He wanted to kiss her again.
He wanted to kiss her a lot.
She worked up into his neck, walking around the front of the stool to face him. He kept his head bent, eyes fixed on her boots. As she inched closer between his legs, his hands tightened into fists. It would have been so natural to reach up and span her hips with his palms, resting at her waist, draw his forehead against her. But her movements were too efficient, circling back to his opposite shoulder.
As her palms rotated over the bicep curve of his upper arm, it became clear her anger was more towards herself and her apparent ingratitude. She flinched thinking back to her harsh words towards him as they were all struggling to flee Hoth. He had saved her life.
She bent down to his warm shoulder, caressing it briefly before placing a lingering kiss and then another to the spot. Her voice a whisper. “Thank you.”
He looked back, and his eyes met hers, soft. “You don’t have to.”
His face was close, his right hand reached up to touch her chin, smooth along her jaw. She knew that if she stayed, he would kiss her, with no interruptions, no restraint, and her breathing grew heavy sensing those same desires in him.
But not yet. It was enough to know he wanted her - that buried beneath his casual demeanor – he was just as confused as she felt. She needed time.
When he saw the hesitation, the questions in her sudden frown, he motioned to his other shoulder and quipped. “You can kiss this one too while you’re at it.”