Into the Fire

By Susan Zahn


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Chapter 12

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This story is rated NC-17. Please stop now if you're under 17 or sensitive to adult-themed material.


Chapter 12  — The vote  

Mug of steaming kaffe in hand, feeling exceptionally up-beat, Han strode down the short corridor leading to the cockpit.

If that unmade bunk next to yours is any indication, things are finally going your way. Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it!

“Morning, Sweetheart,” he called out as the cockpit hatch slid open. If that sounded more chipper than was decent for this early in the day, who could blame him?

Leia was concentrating on the comp screen in front of his usual seat, and from the way she jumped and reached to clear the screen, he guessed she was doing a little digging.

“Good morning.” Relaxing back in the pilot’s chair, she glanced at her chrono. “You’re early.”

“Yeah, but we’ve got some business first.” Dropping into the co-pilot’s seat, he triggered the ship’s intercom. “Chewie, get up here.” Flipping the link back off, he crossed a booted ankle over the opposite knee, and gazed at Leia with a pleased grin. Despite her long hair being pulled back in a simple single braid, the lack of make-up, and the unflattering clothing and snow boots, she looked awfully good this morning.

Although she remained silent, there was obvious curiosity in her expression now, and maybe a little trepidation, as if she expected him to broach the subject of her whereabouts last night. That was topped off with an arched eyebrow he swore was a silent challenge.

I don’t know what’s gotten into her since yesterday, but so far I like it.

They’d had staring matches in the past—mostly angry battles of will—but maybe this was the start of a new and better game. As if reading his thought, her other eyebrow rose as her head tipped to the side, communicating innocence of whatever he was implying by his grin.

Careful there, Solo. She’ll be fierce competition without that embarrassment handicap.

Their peaceful little stand-off was interrupted as Chewbacca arrived. “[What’s the matter?]”

“I’m calling a meeting because I’ve got a decision to make, and I figured I should put it up to a vote.”

“How democratic of you,” Leia mused, fielding with ease the light-weight scowl he tossed her way.

“I’m doing this for your benefit, Your Worship, so listen up. We’ve got a choice—we can either keep doing these damned shifts the rest of the way to Bespin, or we can stop the ship and try to repair whatever’s wrong with the sensor array.”

Leia finally broke eye contact to glance up at Chewie before returning to him. “How long do you think that will take?”

Han shrugged. “No idea. Won’t know until we’re out there. Could be a simple fix, or it could take a couple of days. Worst case, we tack on a few extra days for nothing if it still doesn’t work…Then again, if we can get the sensors up and running, at least we can switch to autopilot and quit the four-hour rotations.”

Leia nodded, appearing to appreciate why he sought their input rather than just make a decision as captain—this was comfort versus the extension of an already-long journey, and the possibility of rationing meant it had a direct affect on them all. “Do we have enough supplies?”

“For a few extra days? I think so.”

“Then I vote we at least try. I don’t like flying blind for so long in this region.”

They both looked up to Chewbacca, who gave a big shrug. “[I’m with the princess.]”

“Sure you are.” With a roll of his eyes, Han stood. “That’s settled. Let’s get to work.”


The audible, uncharacteristic unease in her voice made him stop short and turn back to her in concern.

“Do you need my help out there?”

Meeting her look, he was abruptly reminded of her dislike for spacewalks. Hell, dislike was too mild a term for the panic attack he’d witnessed weeks ago on Ord Mantell. That she was working up the nerve to offer assistance this morning despite her dread gave him a rush of affection.

She’s a real trouper, this one.

“Nope, I need you stay right here. Test the systems when we tell you to, and just keep an eye on things. You know where the quad cannon controls are.”

With clear relief, she accepted the assignment with a nod.

“Go take a break if you need one, Sweetheart. Then we’ll get suited up.”


She rose to her feet beside him, intending to pass by and follow the Wookiee out, but acting on an impulse, Han caught her arm and pulled her back until she butted up against him. As her face turned up to his in surprised curiosity, he took advantage of that to plant a kiss on those irresistible lips. His intention was to end it quick before Chewie could notice her absence, but Leia seemed to have other plans. Just as fast, she gripped his shoulders, pulling him down as her mouth opened against his with a passion that caught him off guard. More than happy to leave her at the controls this time, he savored the feeling as she indulged in their intimate embrace, then held him close a little while longer, her lips just brushing his. When she finally stopped, her eyes opened and she searched his face for something, as if she’d just administered a test and was analyzing the results. Maybe she had.

What exactly happened last night, and how the hell did you sleep through it?

His tactic for the past year had been to keep her off-balance with escalating innuendos and compliments and attention, an enjoyable game he hoped would someday tip her in his direction, but he got the distinct impression she’d just flipped the table on him.

“You’d better—” he started, loath to break the mood but dreading the inevitable criticism from Chewbacca if they were caught fooling around with kissing techniques while the Wookiee waited to get on with repairs.

“I’d better…” she agreed, releasing him. With obvious reluctance, she stepped away and palmed open the hatch.

Watching her petite figure until the cockpit door closed, Han drew a deep breath before letting it out with a sharp huff.

Why do I suddenly get the feeling four weeks won’t be nearly enough?



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