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Leia waited several hours before seeking out Han. She knew he deserved an explanation and perhaps some empathy, even though the whole fiasco was his fault in the first place. The ship had been silent since they had fled Sarscin’s ship. Even Threepio remained quiet and still.
The medical closet brought a measure of sanctuary. She went through the motions of cleaning her hand, bandaging the bruised knuckles that had so aptly brought down Sarscin. Her neck had minor cuts and abrasions from the blaster and Sarscin’s nails. The back of her head throbbed.
She spent more time than necessary cleaning herself off under the sprays of hot water. Anger towards Han for the whole encounter had surfaced initially and then it was mentally filed aside under those quirks and traits she knew would always manifest themselves in him. It did not lessen the attraction. It only made it more realistic.
You like me because I’m a scoundrel.
Yes. But she did not necessarily like everything a scoundrel did.
Han was in the lower circuitry bay, trying once again to fuse the shredded cables together of a dilapidated hyperdrive. He did not look up when she slid down next to him. The stiffness in his upper shoulder from the bruise was now healed. He moved with greater ease and balance. But she recognized rigidity in the way his lips pressed tight together; in the sharp, quick turns when he moved.
“I know.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “I keep telling myself that.”
“Then why – “
“I don’t know.” He let the tool in his hand drop with a deafening clank. “Maybe it’s because of what he wanted to do to you. That he hurt you, hurt me, and maybe that he was this close to taking my ship.”
She nodded, bringing her curved fingertips to her lips.
“I’ve killed men for less. Never gave it a second thought. And I’ve never thought of myself as a truly merciless man. So why do I suddenly feel guilty? Is this…is this how you see me? Since I wanted to shoot him?”
She unwrapped herself and rushed forward, coming close enough to feel his unique warmth around her, wrapping her hands around his wrists. “No, no, not at all. I’m actually very…grateful. Thank you for not shooting him down.”
“But if we would have shot him while trying to rescue you – “
“Then he would have been shot and I would never have looked back. But at a distance alone…cut off from all contact. In the end I felt so sorry for him.”
“And yet, it seems like it would have been more merciful to just end it for him, you know?”
“Yes. I...uh…I actually saved the coordinates. When we get to Bespin, would you mind giving them to Lando? See what they can do about sending a rescue squad?”
Han sighed and moved away, crossing the small enclosure for another tool. “Maybe. I’m really not in the mood to do anything to help him right now. In fact, I still don’t know why I listened to you back there. To tell you the truth, if I had to do it again, I don’t know if I would.”
“Fair enough.” She brushed a hand through her hair. “If it hadn’t have been for Threepio…”
“Yes,” he smiled, “good old Threepio. He interrupts a lot of things these days.”
She glanced down, a bright flush coming to her cheeks, a small smile edging at the corners of her mouth.
“We never should have boarded. I should have listened to you.”
“Well, that’s obvious.”
“Can’t really guarantee I’ll listen to you in the future though.” He hesitated. “What can I say? Guess we all make mistakes.”
Awkwardness and remorse hung between them. She wanted to erase her words of the previous night, but he noticed her bandage and moved too quickly.
“How’s your hand?”
“It’s fine. Really, it’s my head that hurts the most.”
His right hand reached up to cradle her jaw, moving gently to her scalp. “By the way, very impressive maneuvers from you back there. I don’t think you needed my help at all.”
“Sometimes I think I don’t need anyone’s help, but then you always seem to find me when I - .” She took her bottom lip between her teeth. “Han, I was wrong. The other night. I shouldn’t have said it.”
“About it being a mistake. That’s not what I meant.”
“Really?” He paused. “Then why did you say it?”
“I’m…scared. I don’t want anything to happen to you. I want you to come back.”
He reached out with his other hand, drawing his fingertips over her cheekbones. “Leia, I’d rather be here with you than anywhere else.”
She felt her eyes start to sting with unshed tears, but she fought them back, her gaze lingering on Han’s mouth. Her hands moved to his chest.
He stopped her. “But I can’t make you any promises. I have no guarantees to offer.”
“Do you want to come back?” She looked down, afraid to meet his gaze. “To me? Will you try? Can you promise me that?”
He said nothing, only brought his head to her forehead, and nodded solemnly against her. And then he kissed her, pulling her towards him while keeping her head in his hands, trying to promise in his kiss what he could not tell her verbally.
His other hand brushed lightly down her arms, her sides, briefly over her hips. He wanted to reassure himself she was safe and whole, that she had not been damaged.
Her hands reached up behind Han’s shoulders into his hair, tracing down the side of his face. She sought Han’s touch, his body against hers, eager to trade the feel of Sarscin’s polluted hands and mind with something pure and sincere.
When he opened his mouth slightly, Leia eagerly drew his tongue against her own, whimpering against his lips, savoring the contact. He pulled her up against his own body, her boots leaving the floor. They took their time tracing the outline of the other, finding relief and joy in their shared revelations.
Neither was quite sure how much, or what, all of this meant to the other.
Neither dared ask.
The evening hours came quickly. But Leia could not sleep. Her face felt flushed, her hands and arms in constant motion, her eyes that stayed closed forever but would not give into sleep.
Han was still leaving, and the inevitable heartache would come regardless. But if that path happened to be steeper or rockier than she had planned – if she gave in to this burning between them and then watched him fly away – it did not matter anymore.
She had already, even subconsciously, started down that path.
She threw the blankets aside and practically leapt to the adjacent sink. She splashed water on her face, rubbed the dark circles under her eyes. She brushed her hair, fingering it all behind her shoulders. Washed her hands, shook the water free and straightened the shirt around her frame.
Her heartbeats and breath seemed abnormally loud as she crept towards the spare bunks. She admitted she had no real thought of what she was doing. She just wanted to see Han, be with him, talk and relish in this time they had.
It suddenly occurred to her that in spite of their growing closeness, Han had not pushed her into anything more intimate than she was willing to push herself. He had respected her limitations and boundaries enough to wait. To wait for what and when – they both knew there was a chance it could end tomorrow. And Han was not the type to delay physical indulgence. No, he would have come to her by now if his image of her was that restricted.
He wanted more.
She stepped closer, coming to her knees in front of him. His eyes flew open the instant her bare knees touched the paneled floor. He sat up, alarmed.
“Leia, what’s wrong? You okay?”
She reached out with her fingertips, tracing his mouth, unable to keep a small smile from reaching her lips.
“Leia?” He was still confused.
She leaned closer, brushing her lips to his cheek and whispering in his ear.
“You are a nice man.”
He leaned back to look into her eyes, his brows knit together as if trying to solve a difficult puzzle. This was completely unexpected.
“You wanted tell me that now?”
He studied her for a minute, taking in her relaxed, clear eyes, her smile. He felt his own face soften.
“Come here.” The thick blanket was drawn up and she slipped inside with him, thinking she had never been this comfortable, this warm in her life.
They lay together in silence, her head pillowed in the crook of his upper arm, his hand drawing lazy circles at her back. He had never held her like this, and her small frame against his large one made him feel all the more protective and loving. She would never understand the mental battle he had fought almost every evening of this flight. Wanting to go to her, beating the idea down, reasoning for something better, it was entirely new territory for him.
At last Leia started to yawn, but Han was just beginning to wake up.
“We get to Bespin day after tomorrow.”
“That seafood is sounding better and better.”
He looked down at her. “Do you still have that weird feeling about us being followed?”
“Yes…no. It comes and goes.”
He shrugged the thought away. It did not matter regardless. They were nearly within the outer reaches of Bespin. They would get there safely.
“Do you remember when you were talking about…about being cut off from your family? About being adrift and deciding who you want to be?”
“Something like that.”
“I think you’re right. But I think while you’re adrift…if you’re lucky, you meet people or someone…who helps anchor you again, maybe keeps you secured until you figure out where you’re going.”
She kept her head down. “I guess that’s why the thought of you leaving is so hard.”
He paused, not sure if he meant to suggest the idea. “There’s always Luke.”
“It’s not the same. I just…don’t see myself becoming the person I want to be if I stopped knowing you.”
He put his hands on hers, sliding them down so their fingers could link, whispering softly against her hair. “Sweetheart.”
Their heads were close together, dark and darker, so they could smell each other’s hair, still full of the smells of a recent fresher, soap with clean fabric and slight miffs of grease. And underneath that, their own particular, separate human warmths.
They did not return to the passionate kissing they had embarked on before. He was more than willing, but hesitated. She was not ready. And so they tempered their passion into gentle touches, whispered glances and soft kisses that spoke more closeness then they could have imagined.